3 Takeaways from WSJ Tech Live

October 25, 2019

Being welcomed to WSJ TechLive by @MistyRobotics 

 

I had the good fortune of being invited to participate in Wall Street Journal’s WSJ Tech Live Conference at the beautiful Montage Laguna Beach, CA. Billed as a tech conference that digs into topics making headlines and disrupting the industry, it did not fail to deliver. I left with a head spinning about driverless cars (Zoox), life-saving drone deliveries (Zipline), nimble robots (Boston Dynamics), and, most exciting, XPRIZE (a foundation awarding millions of dollars to anyone who can solve world problems, like climate change).

 

During my MasterClass, Better Living With Tech, a tech exec/parent asked, "Working in the tech industry I see things changing so frighteningly quickly, how do I prepare my kids?"

 

I hope I adequately answered her question, but just in case I didn't, I'm going to try again. In order to prepare your children for the certainty of technological change, prepare yourself with knowledge. 

 

"Working in the tech industry, I see things changing so frighteningly quickly, how do I prepare my kids?"

 

 

Know What's Coming 

 

Michael Wolfe, the CEO of the consulting firm Activate, presented his company's annual report on the state of the Internet, technology, media, and entertainment (available on SlideShare and www.activate.com). Here are some highlights:

 

Time Spent Online Is On The Rise. Everyone will be spending more time than ever online! Multitasking (doing two or more digital things simultaneously) will lead to a 31-hour day for the average American adult, 12 of these hours will be spent consuming technology and media. By 2023, Americans will spend an additional 16 minutes each day with Internet and media. Which begs the question, when will one have time for parenting anyway?

 

See that ascending black line? That’s Tik Tok, one of the fastest growing social media networks used by kids.

 

There Will Be a Social Splinter. Behemoth social media networks (looking at you FaceBook), will give way to smaller ones that play an important role in people’s lives by providing authentic communities built around users’ specific interests and needs (sure explains my Strava-obsession). Going forward, the average number of social networks used (per person) will increase from 5.8 today to 10.2 by 2023.

 

Here’s a good example pertaining to kids… Amino (heard of it?) targets Gen Z with 2.5M unique micro-communities centered around common interests, like Anime (2.2M users) and Doki Doki Literature Club (165K users). Activate predicts significantly increased usage of social networks like this one because of an increased hankering for deep communities of interest and the need for people to connect and meet each other.


Which Brings Us To Video Gaming. It should be no surprise to any parent that video gaming is exploding! Look for this industry to be as large as the music industry, film industry, and the subscription video markets combined. Every major gaming and technology company will race to develop their own cloud service so that users can play together across all devices… mobile, PC and console.

Gaming is social. 

 

Gamers Want To Connect! Look for more opportunities for social connections and more social mechanics being built into games. The primary reasons users (aged 18+) play Fortnite? Because “it is fun” (39%) and “to stay connected with friends/family and to meet new people” (34%). Likewise, Discord users (46%) say “staying connected with friends/meeting new people” is the primary reason they use Discord, while many (33%) say they use it “to communicate with people about other topics besides video games." As gaming becomes more social, the gaming community will be at the center of a connected and multi-media experience.

 

Do You Know About VSCO Girls and YouTubers?

 

The term “VSCO girl” generally refers to a white girl who posts trendy pictures of herself edited on the app VSCO (a photo editing app). Because I’ve often seen/heard the term used derogatorily, I really enjoyed the presentation by the decidedly not a VSCO-girl co-founder and CEO Joel Flory who reminded us that it is time to stop talking about Gen Z and start talking with them (vigorous head-nodding). By 2020, Gen Z will be the largest generation of consumers and, according to Flory, their activism will carry over into other areas of their lives, like their purchasing decisions. So when youth post about issues like environmentalism, immigration, or gun control, do not dismiss them, take note. They are dead serious about these causes.

 

From the VSCO presentation

Adults also tend to dismiss YouTubers, or to think very little of (or about) them. So you might be as pleased to learn about former NASA engineer-turned-YouTuber Mark Rober as I was. He is one of the most popular YouTubers today. His science and do-it-yourself videos receive some 27M views (for context, an episode of “Game of Thrones” doesn’t even achieve that number). So if you assume your kids might be mindlessly binge-watching unsuitable content on this streaming network, maybe just maybe they are one of millions of viewers consuming an entirely entertaining education in STEM.

 

You've got to see it for yourself 

 

Much like VSCO’s users, youthful Youtube viewers care about their causes. So at the WSJTechLive event Rober announced that he and the top 1,000 Youtube creators, who together have a direct line to 1.3B followers (yes, the B is for billion), are fighting environmental destruction by planting 20 MILLION trees before Jan 1, 2020. You can learn more by following #TeamTrees project.

 

3 Takeaways

 

This is a very cursory summary of all the amazing things that went on at WSJTechLive. But you’re busy, so here are just three take-aways:

 

  1. Technology use will increase, even for your kids.

  2. Community matters. Like all of us, young people will increasingly go online to talk about and connect over shared interests and passions.

  3. Youth are very serious about their causes and this will spill over to their online lives. Be ready.

 

At the end of his presentation, Flory said he has great hope about this generation. So do I. As he suggests, start talking to your kids, not just about their tech future, but about their tech NOW.

 

See all the WSJTechLive highlights here: https://www.wsj.com/livecoverage/wsjtechlive

 

Yep, I guess I said this.

 

 

Diana Graber is the author of "Raising Humans in a Digital World" Helping Kids Build a Healthy Relationship with Technology" (HarperCollins Leadership), the founder of Cyber Civics, and co-founder of Cyberwise.