Friday, April 19, 2013

Five Years of Forgotten Books: Day 19

Jeff Meyerson

Alvin Toffler, Future Shock (Random House, 1970)

The terms "future shock" and "information overload" are commonplace now, but in 1970 when Toffler's book came out it had a pretty big impact. As Wikipedia puts it Toffler's shortest definition of future shock is a personal perception of "too much change in too short a period of time".
Also Toffler argues that 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."
I don't think any of us who had reached maturity (at least chronologically) by 1970 could argue that the changes since then have not been disorienting, to say the least. Just think in terms of popular culture - music going from records to tapes to CDs. The revolutions brought on by the advent of VCRs, DVDs, DVRs and especially hundreds of channels of television and the "24 hour news cycle" have arguably changed the world. 
I worked at a job in the late 1960's where we often had to go down to the "computer room" where there was an enormous, room-sized "thing" turning out computer programs we needed to do our work. In the days where most people seem to have a personal computer the changes are amazing to behold. And please do not even get me started on cell phones.
As I remember it, Future Shock was also one of the first books whose mass market edition came out in six different colored covers, but I can't swear to this.
All in all it would be interesting to reread this book, which had a major impact on me at the time, and see how well Toffler did in predicting where we are now from where we were then.


Unknown said...

The president of the college where I started teaching in 1971 asked the faculty and staff to read FUTURE SHOCK. I still have my copy in the green cover, but I don't remember much about it. It's in storage, but I might look for it just for fun.

Erik Donald France said...

The Future is Now and We Are in Shock ~~

Charles Gramlich said...

Read Future Shock long ago. Don't remember much about it either these days.