The Most Important Key to Thriving In a Digital Age

When considering the digital age, I feel like I won the birth year lottery. I was born into what some people call The Xennial Generation, or the Star Wars Generation, in reference to the original trilogy release years of 1977 and 1983.

Some people consider the idea of a micro generation between Gen X and Millenials to be a non-starter. However, I don’t really feel like I fit wholly in either generation.

I grew up during the transition from analog to digital. I bought my first albums on cassette and was in my teens when dial-up internet came in the form of free trial hours on AOL CDs that seemed to be delivered to the house every other week. I played outside and all over town without parents present and my first gaming console was an Atari.

Having grown up during the transition, I feel like a bit of a bridge between the past and the future. I’m able to understand the perspective of people born on both sides of my generation and I feel at home in both the analog and the digital.

While we might not KNOW what the future holds, I’ve done my best to listen to experts and  continually extrapolate trends so that I can see what is probably coming. As a father, I feel as though I owe it to my kids.

One of the biggest issues I see when people try to forecast the future is the tendency to get caught in spirals or feedback loops.

For example, if you went to Reddit and skimmed the subreddit r/collapse, which I used to frequent, you’d find people who search out information about a looming collapse. When they find it, they search out more, so that they can be more prepared. Eventually, it seems as if anyone who offers an alternative to the world ending tomorrow is downvoted as someone who is clearly naive.

People can gain such an intimate understanding of the problems we face that they cease using that understanding to help them find solutions. Instead, they glorify the problem and make it bigger than anyone or any group of people could ever work together to solve.

There’s a giant problem with that. We are great problem solvers. You’re a problem solver. I’m a problem solver.

The key to thriving in the digital age is being able to adapt.

  • It might feel like the iPhone has been around forever, but in 2019 it’s only 11 years old.
  • Bitcoin just turned 10.
  • “Big Data” collected from people all over the world by Google, Facebook, and others, has been getting plenty of press lately and it is changing the way decisions are made.
  • Artificial Intelligence has made some gigantic strides in recent years.
  • Self-driving cars are here.
  • I can put on some VR goggles and watch a movie with a friend a thousand miles away and it’s crudely like we’re in the same room together.
  • The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing and smart devices are entering our homes at greater rates.
  • 3D printing might even live up to the hype here sometime soon (Although a NASA team I was working with printed a very specific camera shield to the exact specifications needed to protect our camera during some Orion CPAS testing in 2013 or so, 3D printing has continued growing by leaps and bounds since the hype train came and left a couple years ago.).

The moment someone stops adapting is the moment they start falling behind.

living in a digital age | Matt Rainey quote

Things are now changing so rapidly that it doesn’t make as much sense anymore to ask a child what they want to be when they grow up. Why? Because that job might not exist by the time they become an adult.

It’s not just entry-level and blue collar jobs that are going through automation, white collar jobs like stock traders are being replaced by high-frequency trading algorithms and smartphone apps that allow  users to trade stocks commission-free.

Jaime Casap (JayMe Cassup), a Google’s Chief Education Evangelist, suggests that the better question to ask children is what problem they want to solve so that they can learn the required skills to solve it.

He talks about how it’s predicted that by 2030, over half of all jobs will be gone and remaining jobs will continue to change.

Predictions like that have a way of scaring the heck out of people. It might even propel one to seek shelter in the subreddit r/collapse. However, we don’t have to follow in the Luddites’ path of destroying the machines that threaten our jobs.

Change is coming. Prepare yourself for it. If you have them, prepare your kids for it. (My podcast for parents, Evolving Parent, is found on iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, and probably whatever app you use to enjoy podcasts.)

The future doesn’t have to look like some Ready Player One dystopy.

We will continue to create our future in the digital age, just as we did in the analog age and before.

the Most Important Key to Thriving in a Digital Age
About the communicator


In addition to contributing to The Epoch, Matt is currently the host of the Evolving Parent Podcast and he coaches any youth sport his kids will play. He's a former US Marine journalist and public affairs specialist who has worked as a contractor in the tech sector for numerous companies. He recently earned a BS in Freshwater Science and Sustainability, but continues learning in multiple fields every day.