Future Shock is a 1970 book by the futurist Alvin Toffler, written together with his spouse Adelaide Farrell, in which the authors define the term “future shock” as a certain psychological state of individuals and entire societies — Wikipedia
I read this book and my first reaction was a sheer wonder! I never thought to date a title called “Futurist” can exist and nevermore had a very clear view on how our future holds for us. We as humans like certainty and as a race, we are always like to know our path in advance to plan our life. Awareness about our historical learning and current intellectual society more or less influences our brain to know things in advance so that we are prepared. To that extent, I was also in the same coup as everybody else and always thought technology and the changes are gradual and compliment humans in his path to prosperity. To that degree, I was shallow in my vision about our futurity.
This book was written in 1970 but most of what was discussed and predicted has come true. Fast forward to 2020 — We have some unprecedented diversity and novelty all around our life. Case in point — Click to book a taxi, Alexa to make decisions for us when we are confused, great migration by people to every corner of the world as the job demands so, highly customized google search to see what you like, gaming and media advancement where you can simulate and almost have real-time gaming and fun experiences, on & on.
This is not a prediction book. Rather a scientific manuscript which details 3 important things
1. How do changes, novelty, and technology disruptions would happen?
2. What happens to humans, their psychic, communities, even countries who undergo such drastic, unprecedented, and often thrust on us without any warnings
3. How can we avoid future shocks and what steps we odd to take?
And finally, irrespective of the steps we take, the very nature of the reforms will be inevitably poured on us and it is every country’s responsibility to regulate and trickle-down developments in a more planned way.
To that degree, the author does support innovations that are good but argues that those developments need a framework so that it benefits humankind for a long time to come.
The first part of the book is all about “Novelty”, “Changes” and a multitude of advancements happening across different industries. He gives numerous and well-researched examples to prove the general directions of such a change. It is no doubt massive but also scary. He coins a term called “Super Industrialisation” and describes in detail the harmful effects on humans, communities, countries, and other stakeholders. He even digs deep into the cultural values of the past, present, and the future and explains how those pillars are shattered into pieces as the flood of technology occupies every space in our society including the human psyche. I specifically liked the example of the marriage system. The author beautifully articulates the belief of the marriage system which when exposed to advancement in society, changes from Stability to experimental. He even coins a word called “Serial Polygamy” where people in their lifetime would have a series of short term relationship and walks out as and when their priority and circumstances changes. While this is either good or bad, such a variance is unavoidable in a world-changing every second like the river shifting its path as and when it finds the track to flow. There are many such examples which kind of intrigues me to think that the future is scary and a bad place to live!
The second part gives a disturbing scenario of how it impacts human life, the communities they live in and nations as a whole that undergo necessary progression. Constant adjustments with the flow cause tremendous pressure to adapt and hence causes stress in everybody’s life. Larger communities are divided into smaller cohorts or cults who wish to pursue their interest rather than the group or society that they belong to. Companies would envision an even narrow focus on technology to benefits these cultisms. A case in point being- Netflix no doubt gives access to everyone to the program, it even enables everyone to see what they like unlike in the 1970s or 80s where the TV was more of a broadcast and funnels out the same program for everyone in general. So technology seems to work in tandem to create a more isolated world where everyone lives by their notions and imaginations. Towards the end, it does impact humans as they are social creatures but the very fact of these variances pulls them away from everyone else and sort of makes them live in a bubble. So it invariably creates tension and stress for everybody. Therefore it’s a very dampening story to envision such a destiny.
But as soon as I sweep through the third part of the book, not only my assumptions about the future are proved wrong, but also swings me to take an opposite view that the prospect indeed is bright provided we have some right process and systems in place. The author argues intensely that we need to regulate the massive changes and take a balanced outlook on how we can benefit from the novelty. What kind of social structure we need to place so that everyone benefits and we have a society with happy faces. He goes on to define that a multidisciplinary view is the need of the hour. For ex: What kinds of city planning we need to have for future generations who are always on the run. He even argues that we need to take help from not just city planners but artists, creative film directors, and others who could bring the city planners a world view which they would miss otherwise while planning. Furthermore, we need our legislations set for likely trends by creating futuristics labs where we can simulate certain events and expose a small set of people who are willing to undergo and experiences these phenomena. It is like launching a set of people to an unknown planet, record and observe them so that the scientist can make adjustments to make their life easier to live on that planet. There are numerous data points given by the author and is well backed by research writings.
To Conclude, I would like to take a deep sigh and imagine a future which is not shocking but a life which is interesting, abundant, co-existing with nature and yet take all those novelty and technological changes with ease and make this planet a green planet once again with sustainable development!