Whether it was the recent Presidential Debate, this past Independence Day, or my ‘quarter-life crisis’ that prompted these notes, I couldn't tell you.

Here are some unstructured thoughts about issues on my mind, some American-specific and others not. This piece may come across as ‘complainy’ and a laundry list of problems with no tactical solutions—that may be so. Folks should feel free to message me with thoughts, rebuttals, and ideally proposals on how we can tackle these issues as a country. At the end of the day, who is expected to address the risks that our posterity face if not us?

I feel obliged to caveat that there are several more severe problems that I won’t be writing about explicitly, mostly due to the complexity of each issue (a few sentences would hardly do them justice), but also since I do not yet have a developed stance on each. Climate change, Middle East conflicts, war, and homelessness are just some that would fit into this category.

1. I fear our youth will not grow up with a set of values or a moral compass in the ways that previous generations did.

For most families (first-generation immigrant or not), this was influenced by religion. Hindu, Buddhist, or Christian—most children grew up with stories of sacrifice, brotherhood, and love. Most of these stories didn’t have plots that we were expected to remember, but the affirmations were simple and promoted good behavior. I grew up in a Hindu household but candidly didn’t touch the Gita until I was 19. I found my values through observations and other communities—the Boy Scouts of America played a large role.

I found the BSA incredibly powerful. Community leaders as professors, the wilderness as the classroom, and kids in a similar age range as classmates. Between seeing first-generation parents working to provide for their kids and being taught survival skills in the Great Outdoors, I built my initial set of values and formed stances on the qualities that made people I looked up to: curiosity, integrity, hard work, confidence, and kindness. Religion has its problems. Organizations like the Scouts have their problems. However, the decline we’re seeing in these establishments where our youth learn how to become good people is deeply concerning.

2. I fear that Americans pride individuality too much, to the point where labels are creating micro-groups—this creates a more divided America.

Social media perpetuates these bubbles due to a “yes-man”-like algorithm, which fosters more radicalism. This may go back to my earlier point about the lack of a community or set of values to ascribe to, but for many, it’s easy to feel lost and rejected by society. To feel alone. Then, as an example, it’s comforting (and easy) to find a community that promotes uncertainty and fluidity, then feel victimized. I believe transgenderism is a very real thing that people can ascribe to, but as with any collection, folks tend to scoff when they see the rates skyrocket, logic being unclear, etc. Our people care far too much about what makes each of us unique, rather than our shared experiences.

This devout need to be ‘special’ eventually results in a lot of the violence, miscommunication, and bipartisan thinking that separates us more from each other than we think.

3. I fear we have a growing elderly population, and no plans to care for them.

For those who haven’t read Being Mortal by Atul Gawande, I’d recommend at least skimming it. I think about people like my Nani (maternal grandmother), who in her late 80s is struggling to perform the basic conditions needed to be human. She, like most elders in an Eastern family, splits time residing with my mother and her brothers. Gawande talks about this dynamic and trends in his book, but this is increasingly uncommon. We respect our elders less—sure, my Nani lived through the British Revolution… “but her experience is Google-able’...so why would I ask her?”

Our seniors are living longer. Western medicine has prolonged lifespan but not greatly changed the timespan for quality of life. In other worlds, we may now live till 90 (relative to 80), but our ability to be autonomous individuals still declines at roughly the same age (say, 75)—it’s just a less steep decline.

Regardless, where will our elders go? Who will care for them? Have we made a silent decision that on their 75th birthday, we’ll all take a one-way flight to Boca Raton, FL, and find the highest-rated senior living home on Yelp? Or do we hope that we can keep pushing the retirement age such that we can punt the problem?

4. I fear that technology, social media, and AI are damaging social skills in ways that have severe implications.

Sixty percent of folks born before 1990 were married by 30. Now (after 1990), the statistic hovers around 40%. Starting in the 2000s, we’ve seen a substantial decline in the rate of relationships that started due to mutual friends.

A quick aside—New York City is a terrifying city for dating; out of the dozens/hundreds of people I know in the city, less than 10% of them have met their partner in the city, and even fewer have gotten married.

This era of meeting a prospective partner through mutual friends isn’t happening like it used to. Fixing up friends feels awkward (side note: it shouldn’t be, matchmaking has been a thing since...ever, asking friends for prospective partners should be more of a norm, IMO).

From my own surveys, I’ve found most of my happy couple friends met through a house party that a mutual friend hosted. So if online dating yields worse results, and mutual-friend-originated dating is very successful but happening far less…it’s no surprise that relationships are less common.

5. College educations are becoming quickly worthless, but we may not have a great alternative yet—resulting in a lot of ‘generalist’ labor entering the workforce with not as much of a need for them.

To avoid devolving into a separate thread on AI, a few pithy points. AI will not replace engineering, it will not replace copywriters. Those who think it will have little context on what these occupations do (hint: these engineers/technical workers spend more time architecting solutions, call it ‘product work’, than working in their technical language). More automations will arise—companies will realize they can be more productive with fewer resources. Massive bloated corporations will be trimmed or fall to the wayside as PE firms and otherwise race to the bottom to create value for shareholders.

The trades will boom again as we scale infrastructure and need boots on the ground. There have been several incidents in the last decade where a few railroad/light rail/transportation workers were killed in various accidents that resulted in widespread delays to a metropolitan area due to a shortage of staff. Some sources say we are short nearly half a million workers in the automobile, manufacturing, and construction industries, each.

In 2024, we had ~4M Americans graduate from a university. I’m confident many of them may never pay off their student loans.


Two last unrelated thoughts.

For our posterity, I hope folks remember that life is about:
1. People, and the relationships in our lives
2. Craft, and our personal dedications to what we decide to be our mission
3. The Earth, and caring for it and enjoying the blessed planet we are privileged to live on.

Lastly, a quote that I find to be increasingly relevant.

“A society grows great when old men plant trees, the shade of which they know they shall never sit in.”

I hope our country and world is unified when we work to maintain a world where we can all chase happiness.


- YG July’24