Monday, March 2, 2009

He saw it coming

"Society is undergoing an enormous structural change, a revolution from an industrial society to a "super-industrial society". This change will overwhelm people, the accelerated rate of technological and social change leaving them disconnected and suffering from "shattering stress and disorientation". One of the components of such shock is information overload."

These thoughts were written in 1970. 39 freakin' years ago. Before the fax. Before FedEx. Before Xerox. Before the PC. Before cell phones and PDAs. Before cable and satellite TV. Before video conferencing. Before the internet. Before outsourcing. Before Tivo.

Alvin Toffler published a book in 1970 called Future Shock. And guess what. Now is the future he was writing about.

He forecast the acceleration of daily life, the decline of the nuclear family, the spread of loneliness and rise of religion. Toffler also anticipated cloning, virtual reality, niche markets, work-at-home, product customization, the "de-massification" of the mass media, and the threat of terrorism.

Forget Nostradamus. Alvin Toffler is a futurist you can track. He is still alive, still writing, still predicting with his wife Heidi who is also a futurist.

I did a book report on Future Shock as a senior in high school. I had to present it to the PTA. I remember my overall reaction to the book. "It makes me tired just reading it. I will need to figure out how to escape and find a place to relax."

I still feel the same way. There is no escape from work, if you have it. Your employer plugs you into a 24/7 umbilical cord that sucks the life out of you. By the time you figure out how to work your phone, it is outdated. Your work may well be in three different time zones, including one on the other side of the world.

We hate to admit it, but we are disoriented, overwhelmed, and scrambling to keep up.

Here is some good news from Mr. Toffler. "Society needs people who take care of the elderly and who know how to be compassionate and honest. Society needs people who work in hospitals. Society needs all kinds of skills that are not just cognitive; they're emotional, they're affectional. You can't run the society on data and computers alone." Maybe there is a place for me.

Why didn't we listen, Mr. Toffler? Not that we could have changed anything. But maybe we could have been better prepared.

Instead of only studying history, why don't we spend more time studying the future?

And by the way, Mr. Toffler, can you give me the winning numbers in this week's Powerball?

1 comment:

  1. Thus millions have grasped for simple comfort in a... snuggie.