Future Shock by Alvin Toffler
Writing back in 1971, Toffler looks at some possible implications of three trends (transience, novelty, diversity) and how we [can] cope with ever-increasing amounts of change. Reading it in 2009, I started off by instinctively eval'ing his statements; after a bit, I gave up and just read it slowly, day-dreaming about the future and what I could do now to avoid foreseeable incoming stupidities.
In the three short decades between now and then twenty-first century, millions of ordinary, psychologicall normal people will face an abrupt colision with the fugure. Citizens of the world's riches and most technologically advanced nations, many of them will find it increasingly painful to keep up with the incessant demand for change that characterizes our time. For them, the future will have arrived too soon.
Only during the last seventy lifetimes has it been possible to communicate effectively from one lifetime to another -- as writing made it possible to do. Only during the last six lifetimes did masses of men ever see a printed word. Only during the last four has it been possible to measure time with any precision. Only in the last two has anyone anywhere used an electric motor. And the overwhelming majority of all the material goods we use in daily life today have been developed within the present, the 800th, lifetime.
The central stupendous truth about developed economics today is that tehy can have -- in anything but the shortest run -- the kind and scale of resources they decde to have .. It is no longer resources that limit decisions. It is the decision that limits the resources. This is the fundamental revolutionary change -- perhaps the most revolutionary man has ever known.
Moreover, in the measurement of change, we are today far more advanced with respect to physical processes than social processes. We know far better, for example, how to measure the rate at which blood flows through the body than the rate at which a rumor flows through society.
Populations sometimes actively resist a change of pace. This explains the pathological antagonism toward what many regard as the "Americaniszation" of Europe. The new technology on which super-industrialism is based, much of it blue-printed in American research laboratories, brings with it an inevitable acceleration of change in society and a concomitant speed-up of the pace of individual life as well. While anti-American orators single out computers or Coca-Cola for their barbs, their real objection may well be to the invasion of Europe by an alien time sense. America, as the spearhead of super-industrialism, represents a new, quicker, and very much unwanted tempo.
That man-thing relationships are growing more and more temporary may be illustrated by examining the culture surrounding the little girl who trades in her doll. This child soon learns that Barbie dolls are by no means the only physical objects that pass into and out of her young life at a rapid clip. Diapers, bibs, paper napkins, Kleenex, towels, non-returnable soda botles -- all are used up quickly in her home and ruthlessly eliminated. Corn muffins come in baking tins that are thrown away after one use. Spinach is encased in plastic sacks that can be dropped into a pan of boiling water for heating, and then thrown away. TV dinners are cooked an often served on throw-away trays. her home is a large processing machine through which objects flow, entering and leaving, at a faster and faster rate of speed.
It might be noted that millions of American home "owners", having purchased a home with a down payment of 10 percent or less, are actually no more than surrogate owners for banks and other lending institutions. For these families, the monthly check to the bank is no different from the rent check to the landlord. Their ownership is essentially metaphorical, and since they lack a strong financial stake in their property, they also frequently lack the homeowner's strong psychological commitment to it.unnecessary over-reaching
Wiliam James once wrote that "lives based on having are less free than lives based on either doing or being." The rise of rentalism is a move away from lives based on having and it reflects the increase in doing and being. If the people of the future live faster than the people of the past, they must also be far more flexible.
Thus it has been estimated by Professor Sargant Florence in Britain that a minimum population of 1,000,000 is needed to provide a professional worker with twenty interesting friends. The woman who sought temporary work as a strategy for finding friends was highly intelligent. By increasing the number of different people with whom she was thrown into work contact, she increased the mathematical probabilities of finding a few who share her interests and aptitudes.highly intelligent and she assumed people assort randomly? how about highly rationalizing? ;)
The kinds of organizations these critics (orthodox social critics) project unthinkingly into the future are precisely those least likely to dominate tomorrow. For we are witnessing not the triumph, but the breakdown of bureaucracy. We are, in fact, witnessing the arrival of a new organizational system that will increasingly challenge and ultimately supplant bureaucracy. This is the organization of the future. I call it "Ad-hocracy".
Bureaucracy thrives in a higly competitive undifferentiated and stable environment, such as the climate of its youth, the Industrial Revolution. A pyramidal structute of authority, with power concentrated in the hands of a few ... was, and is, an eminently suitable social arrangement for routinized tasks. However, the environment has changed in just those ways which make the mechanism most problematic. Stability has vanished.he needs to explain why Prussian military academies only seemed to work...
The new spirit in these transient organizations is closer to that of the entrepreneur than the organization man. The free-swinging entrepreneur who started up vast enterprises unafraid of defeat or adverse opinion, is a folk hero of industrialism, particularly in the United States.
New knowledge either extends or outmodes the old. In either case, it compels those for whom it is relevant to reorganize their store of images. It forces them to relearn today what they thought they knew yesterday.
The incredible expansion of knowledge implies that each book (alas, this once included) contains a progressively smaller fraction of all that is known. And the paperback revolution, by making inexpensive editions everywhere, lessens the scarcity value of the book at precisely the very moment that the increasingly rapid obsolescence of knowledge lessens its long-term informational value.Wait, wait, don't buy this book, borrow it. ;)
While most colleges and universities have greatly broadened the variety of their course offerings, they are still wedded to copmlex standardizing systems based on degrees, majors, and the like. These systems lay down basic tracks along which all the students must progress. While educators are rapidly multiplying the number of alternative paths, the pace of diversification is by no means swift enough for the students.... Long before the year 2000, the entire antiquated structure of degrees, majors, and credits will be a shambles. No two students will move along the same educational track. For the students now pressuring higher education to destandardize, to move towards super-industrial diversity, will win their battle.Not every college wants to be New College. ;)
We can anticipate the formation of subcults built around space activity, holography, mind-control, deep-sea diving, submarining, computer gaming, and the like. We can even see on the horizon the creation of certain anti-social leisure cults -- tightly organized groups of people who will disrupt the workings of society not for material gain, but for the sheer sport of "beating the system" -- a development foreshadowed in such films as Duffy and The Thomas Crown Affair. Such groups may attempt to tamper with government or corporate computer programs, re-route mail, intercept and alter radio and television broadcasts, perform elaborately theatrical hoaxes, tinker with the stock market, corrupt the random samples upon which political or other polls are based, and even, perhaps, commit complexly plotted robberies and assassinations.
In the United States and Japan, among servicemen and civilians, among pregnant women and the families of leukemia victims, among college athletes and retirees, the same striking pattern was present: those with high life change scores were more likely than their fellows to be ill in the following year.
When we combine the effects of decisional stress with sensory and cognitive overload, we produce several common forms of individual maladaption...
The Denier's strategy is to block out unwelcome reality...
The Specialist doesn't block out all novel ideas or information. Instead, he energetically attempts to keep pace with change -- but only in a specific narrow sector of life...
The Reversionist sticks to his previously programmed decisions and habits with dogmatic desperation...
the Super-Simplifier. With old heroes and institutions toppling, with strikes, riots, and demonstrations stabbing at his conscioiusness, he seeks a single neat equation that will explain all the complex novelties threatening to engulf him. Grasping erratically at this idea or that, he becomes a temporary true believer.
Yet close analysis of such people (frenetic change addicts) often reveals the existence of what might be called "stability zones" in their lives -- certain enduring relationships that are carefully maintained despite all kinds of other changes.
We can no longer afford to let such secondary social and cultural effects just "happen". We must attempt to anticipate them in advance, estimating, to the degree possible, their nature, strength and timing. Where these effects are likely to be seriously damaging, we must also be prepared to block the new technology. It is as simple as that. Technology cannot be permitted to rampage through the society.
The challenge however is not solely intellectual; it is political as well. In addition to designing new research tools -- new ways to undertsand our environment -- we mut also design creative new political institutions for guaranteeing that these questions are, in fact, investigated; and for promoting or discouranging (perhaps even banning) certain proposed technologies. We need, in effect, a machinery for screening machines.
By contrast, we have no such measures, no set of comparable "social indicators" to tell us whether society, as distinct from the economy, is also healthy. We have no measures of "the quality of life". We have no systematic indices to tell us whether men are more or less alienated from one another...
"but we have no environmental index, no census statistics to measure whether the country is more livable from year to year." Udall was apparently no Geoffrey Moore (Bureau of Labor Statistics, not the one from the Bureau of Lame Business Books).
Most of today's "intentional communities" or utopian colonies, however, reveal a powerful preference for the past. These may be of value to the individuals in them, but the society as a whole would be better served by utopian experiments based on super- rather than pre-industrial forms. Instead of a communal farm, why not a computer software company whose program writers live and work communally? Why not an education technology company whose members pool their money and merge their families?....