Tom Critchlow

The Lost Generation

The Coming Sub-prime Identity Crash

My brother was born in ‘79 and I was born in ‘83. My brother has memories of learning how to shelter under tables at school - in case of a nuclear war. A hangover from a warming cold war. I don’t have those memories. Four short years separate us but in the blink of an eye a generational change is manifested.

Not long ago I woke from a dream where I could feel another generational undercurrent: the coming identity crash.

There’s a certain generation (my generation!) that grew up with dialup and pioneered the digital frontier. We put ourselves online and we boomed as a result.

A significant effect of this for me is the idea of digital identity. I’ve been Very Online since my teenage years in a variety of handles, guises and forms and although my handle, username and identity has changed over that time there’s been one constant.

Interactions online have been mostly 1:1 between digital identity and real identity. i.e. when you’re interacting

But as I look at my daughter and son (3.5 and 0) it occurs to me that there’s something changing.

Where I have invested time in my identity (tomcritchlow.com / @tomcritchlow) the next generation will not understand what this means. They won’t even understand how or why it could have happened.

Machine Learning and AI will take our jobs, yes, but it’ll undermine our sense of identity too. Every interaction will come with a vague sense of unease as it’s faked (russian bots), augmented (gmail smart replies) and substituted (chatbots) by machines and state actors. Individual identites will become hard to prove and hard to defend, hard to stomach in the face of organized identity machines.


This blog is written by Tom Critchlow, an independent strategy consultant living and working in Brooklyn, NY. If you like what you read please leave a comment below in disqus or sign up for my Tinyletter.
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