Future Shock

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For other uses, see Future Shock (disambiguation).
Future Shock
Future shock.png
Author Alvin Toffler
Country United States
Language English
Genre Futurology
Publisher Random House
Publication date
1970
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
ISBN ISBN 0-394-42586-3 (Original hardcover)
Followed by The Third Wave

Future Shock is a book written by the futurist Alvin Toffler in 1970. In the book, Toffler defines the term "future shock" as a certain psychological state of individuals and entire societies. His shortest definition for the term is a personal perception of "too much change in too short a period of time". The book, which became an international bestseller, grew out of an article "The Future as a Way of Life" in Horizon magazine, Summer 1965 issue.[1][2][3][4] The book has sold over 6 million copies and has been widely translated.

A documentary film based on the book was released in 1972 with Orson Welles as on-screen narrator.

Term[edit]

Toffler argued that society is undergoing an enormous structural change, a revolution from an industrial society to a "super-industrial society". This change overwhelms people. He believed the accelerated rate of technological and social change left people disconnected and suffering from "shattering stress and disorientation"—future shocked. Toffler stated that the majority of social problems are symptoms of future shock. In his discussion of the components of such shock, he popularized the term "information overload."

His analysis of the phenomenon of information overload is continued in his later publications, especially The Third Wave and Powershift.

In the introduction to an essay entitled "Future Shlock" in his book, Conscientious Objections, Neil Postman wrote:

"Sometime about the middle of 1963, my colleague Charles Weingartner and I delivered in tandem an address to the National Council of Teachers of English. In that address we used the phrase "future shock" as a way of describing the social paralysis induced by rapid technological change. To my knowledge, Weingartner and I were the first people ever to use it in a public forum. Of course, neither Weingartner nor I had the brains to write a book called Future Shock, and all due credit goes to Alvin Toffler for having recognized a good phrase when one came along" (p. 162).

Development of society and production[edit]

Alvin Toffler distinguished three stages in development of society and production: agrarian, industrial and post-industrial.

The first stage began in the period of the Neolithic Era when people invented agriculture, thereby passing from barbarity to a civilization. The second stage began in England with the Industrial Revolution during which people invented the machine tool and the steam engine. The third stage began in the second half of the 20th century in the West when people invented automatic production, robotics and the computer. The services sector attained great value.

Toffler proposed one criterion for distinguishing between industrial society and post-industrial society: the share of the population occupied in agriculture versus the share of city labor occupied in the services sector. In a post-industrial society, the share of the people occupied in agriculture does not exceed 15%, and the share of city laborers occupied in the services sector exceeds 50%. Thus, the share of the people occupied with brainwork greatly exceeds the share of the people occupied with physical work in post-industrial society.

Fear of the future[edit]

Midtown Manhattan in New York City, the largest central business district in the United States

Alvin Toffler's main thought consists of the fact that modern man feels shock from rapid changes. For example, Toffler's daughter went to shop in New York and she couldn't find a shop in its previous location. Thus New York has become a city without a history. The urban population doubles every 11 years. The overall production of goods and services doubles each 50 years in developed countries. Society experiences an increasing number of changes with an increasing rapidity, while people are losing the familiarity that old institutions (religion, family, national identity, profession) once provided. The so-called "brain drain" - the emigration of European scientists to the United States - is both an indicator of the changes in society and also one of their causes.

Features of post-industrial society[edit]

A generic, disposable lighter.

• Many goods have become disposable as the cost of manual repair or cleaning has become greater than the cost of making new goods due to mass production. Examples of disposable goods include ballpoint pens, lighters, plastic bottles, and rockets.

• The design of goods becomes outdated quickly. (And so, for example, a second generation of computers appears before the end of the expected period of usability of the first generation). It is possible to rent almost everything (from a ladder to a wedding dress), thus eliminating the need for ownership.

• Whole branches of industry die off and new branches of industry arise. This impacts unskilled workers who are compelled to change their residence to find new jobs. The constant change in the market also poses a problem for advertisers who must deal with moving targets.

• People of post-industrial society change their profession and their workplace often. People have to change professions because professions quickly become outdated. People of post-industrial society thus have many careers in a lifetime. The knowledge of an engineer becomes outdated in ten years. People look more and more for temporary jobs.

• To follow transient jobs, people have become nomads. For example, immigrants from Algeria, Turkey and other countries go to Europe to find work. Transient people are forced to change residence, phone number, school, friends, car license, and contact with family often. As a result, relationships tend to be superficial with a large number of people, instead of being intimate or close relationships that are more stable. Evidence for this is tourist travel and holiday romances.

• The driver's license, received at age 16, has become the teenager's admission to the world of adults, because it symbolizes the ability to move independently.

Reprints[edit]

The book has been reprinted several times. ISBNs include:

In popular culture[edit]

Curtis Mayfield's song "Future Shock" on the album "Back to the World" took its name from this book, and was in turn covered by Herbie Hancock as the title track for his 1983 recording Future Shock. That album was considered groundbreaking for fusing jazz and funk with electronic music.

Other works taking their title from the book include: the Futurama episode "Future Stock"; The Gordons 1981 EP on Flying Nun Records; a segment on The Daily Show starring Samantha Bee; Kevin Goldstein's recurring column on the Baseball Prospectus website; a Magic: The Gathering pre-constructed deck; and the National Wrestling Alliance's 1989 Starrcade event.

Since 1977, UK Comic 2000 AD has run a series of short stories called Future Shocks based on this concept, some of which were written by Alan Moore. The abbreviated derogatory term Futsies was applied to citizens in 2000 AD stories (mainly in the Judge Dredd universe) who had been driven insane by Future Shock.

Works deriving themes and elements from Future Shock include the science fiction novels The Forever War (1974) by Joe Haldeman, The Shockwave Rider (1975) by John Brunner, the RPG Transhuman Space (2002) by Steve Jackson Games, and the indie RPG Shock: Social Science Fiction (2006) by designer Joshua A.C. Newman.

In 2011, a song titled "Future Shock" by Darwin, Obie, and Mr-E appeared on the album Nu Nrg 100, the final installment of the world-renowned label Nu Energy, while Brooklyn-based band TV on the Radio included a song titled "No Future Shock" on their album Nine Types of Light. The same year, the Unsound Music Festival in Krakow, Poland took the concept of 'future shock' as its theme.

The sense of future shock is an integral aspect of cyberpunk.

Futureshock were also an electronic music duo recording for Junior Boys Own and Parlophone / EMI. The members were Phil Dockerty and Alex Tepper

Major works[edit]

  • Тоффлер А. Футурошок. - СПб, 1997
  • Toffler, Alvin. Future Shock, Random House, 1970.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Toffler, Alvin, "The Future as a Way of Life", Horizon magazine, Summer 1965, Vol VII, Num 3
  2. ^ Horizon magazine: master index"
  3. ^ Eisenhart, Mary, "Alvin And Heidi Toffler: Surfing The Third Wave: On Life And Work In The Information Age", MicroTimes #118, January 3, 1994
  4. ^ "Alvin Toffler: still shocking after all these years: New Scientist meets the controversial futurologist", New Scientist, 19 March 1994, pp. 22-25. "What led you to write Future Shock? -- While covering Congress, it occurred to us that big technological and social changes were occurring in the United States, but that the political system seemed totally blind to their existence. Between 1955 and 1960, the birth control pill was introduced, television became universalized, commercial jet travel came into being and a whole raft of other technological events occurred. Having spent several years watching the political process, we came away feeling that 99 per cent of what politicians do is keep systems running that were laid in place by previous generations of politicians. Our ideas came together in 1965 in an article called 'The future as a way of life', which argued that change was going to accelerate and that the speed of change could induce disorientation in lots of people. We coined the phrase 'future shock' as an analogy to the concept of culture shock. With future shock you stay in one place but your own culture changes so rapidly that it has the same disorienting effect as going to another culture"

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]