What’s ahead for Gen Z? ‘Creative destruction on steroids’

A student-moderated talk with columnist Thomas Friedman

What is creative destruction on steroids?

“Old will be replaced with new faster than ever,” predicted author, reporter and columnist Thomas Friedman at a special student event held in Wait Chapel as part of Wake Forest’s Face to Face Speaker Series on Nov.15.

“We are entering a period now where your generation will be shaped by two simultaneous supercycles in technology and climate,” Friedman said.

Using the self-driving car as an example, Friedman told students that the ability to sense, digitize, connect, process, learn, share and act will be built into nearly everything in the future. These sensors will provide immediate feedback, organize information, connect to the cloud, learn as data is collected and use what it learns to make decisions – accelerating change to a pace never before experienced and spinning out new jobs while destroying old ones.

Wake Forest senior Helen Haile was one of two student moderators who joined Friedman on stage to ask questions on topics most important to students. “The conversation with Mr. Friedman inspired me to remember that when the world seems to be unstable, somewhere in all the chaos is a silver lining: innovation.”

“Although destruction can seem so final, it is always met with opportunity.” Wake Forest senior Helen Haile

Haile is majoring in both economics and politics and international studies. The daughter of Eritrean immigrants, she said immigrants can be especially driven to contribute to the ‘creative’ part of creative destruction. 

“As people who tend to possess the virtue of resilience from having to endure extreme economic, political and religious adversity from their home countries, their unique experiences and admirable resilience make them exceptional candidates for entrepreneurship and innovation,” she said.

Friedman fielded questions on politics, the obligations developed countries have to developing countries regarding climate change (to create the next generation of clean, green technology and make it accessible and affordable) and the global rise of unhappiness as reported in a recent Gallup poll.

“Though we spent the night discussing serious topics – chaotic midterm elections, the war in Ukraine, energy shortages – Mr. Friedman ended the conversation on a hopeful note. How do we solve the global unhappiness trend? ‘Be a deep listener and be kind,” said junior politics major Cate Pitterle.

Haile and Pitterle moderated the talk with Friedman. Senior philosophy major Jordan Bramley was the host for the event. All three students are scholars in Wake Forest’s Program for Leadership and Character.

The Face to Face Speaker Forum invites speakers from four categories: political affairs, social justice global issues, arts and culture and innovation and business. The student-moderated Q&A took place prior to the keynote Face to Face Speaker Forum event featuring a conversation with Friedman and PBS NewsHour’s Nick Schifrin in Wait Chapel.

Students from Winston-Salem area institutes of higher learning including Wake Forest University, UNCSA,  Winston-Salem State, Forsyth Tech, and Salem College can attend the bot the student-led Face to Face Speaker Forum event and the keynote address at no charge.

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