Digital natives are repopulating the world — and they’re putting a new spin on parenting.
After all, the average age of a first-time mother in the U.S. is 26.4 years old, roughly the same age as the internet. As the first generation of parents steeped in digital technology from birth, millennials are at ease with the idea that tech will be enmeshed in their children’s lives in ways we can’t yet imagine. In fact, millennial moms and dads expect digital technology — from robo-nannies to virtual best friends — to be woven into every aspect of their kids' existence.
Companies aren’t missing any opportunity to woo tech-loving young parents. The four-day Baby Tech Summit exhibit at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month featured a bluetooth-enabled baby bottle, a sensor-laden car seat that alerts parents to unsafe conditions when their child is with a caregiver, and strollers with GPS. Wordl, one of the summit’s award winners, uses machine learning, a phone app and a (waterproof) clip-on device to monitor a baby’s learning environment and offer parents personalized tips for brain development.
The technologies that millennials expect to deliver the most benefits are artificial intelligence, ubiquitous sensors and Big Data analytics, according to a recent survey of 600 young parents sponsored by the Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers (IEEE).
Some 80 percent of the respondents expect AI tutors to help their children learn faster than they did. Around 39 percent have “a great deal” or “complete” trust in AI’s ability to diagnose and treat their kids when they get sick. Nearly half said they’d bring home a robotic pet for their child instead of a real one.
“We can see a lot of optimism woven into this survey,” says Kayne McGladrey, a cybersecurity expert and IEEE member. “Things that were unthinkable 10 years ago are being accepted as commonplace. And that trend will continue.”
Broad hope for a better future
This rosy outlook is at odds with the concerns of a number of tech luminaries who’ve gone public about the dangers of AI. Tesla and SpaceX chief Elon Musk and AI expert Michael Vassar are among those who warn that, unchecked, AI could spell the end of the human race. Along with Y Combinator founder Sam Altman, Musk created a billion-dollar nonprofit dedicated to making AI safer by ensuring that humans don’t lose control of systems that could become smarter than us.
Still, the sunny sentiment displayed in the IEEE’s survey appears to be widespread. A PwC survey of AI experts and 2,500 consumers and business leaders last year found broad hope for a better future because of the technology. Almost two-thirds said AI “will help solve complex problems that plague modern society,” such as improving education and finding cures for diseases.