It breeds odd personalities, too: children who at twelve are no longer childlike; adults who at fifty are children of twelve. There are rich men who playact poverty, computer programmers who turn on with LSD. There are anarchists who, beneath their dirty denim shirts, are outrageous conformists, and conformists who, beneath their button-down collars, are outrageous anarchists. There are married priests and atheist ministers and Jewish Zen Buddhists…There are Playboy Clubs and homosexual movie theaters…amphetamines and tranquilizers . . . anger, affluence, and oblivion. Much oblivion.
Alvin Toffler (1970) Futureshock, Chapter 1, The 800th Lifetime
Computer programmers taking LSD? As the Bible notes, “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.”
Well, there are a few new quirks under the sun. These days the fashion is for a micro-dose rather than a full tab.
Alvin Toffler was a journalist turned futurologist whose book Futureshock sold in the millions.
I’m going to revisit his claims forty-seven years on from the original publication date.
The purpose is not so much to see what he ‘got right’ as to pick up on lasting themes, perhaps we have all become convinced that life is changing so fast that we have missed that it is not changing as fast as it seems.
Or perhaps not.
What this post amounts to is a quote collection with a few sarcastic, tart, or sardonic remarks from me before each quote.
I could almost be writing for Buzzfeed, no?
- No underground cities, but London’s rich have multi-storey basements: “…French urban planners are sketching subterranean cities — stores, museums, warehouses and factories to be built under the earth, and why a Japanese architect has blueprinted a city to be built on stilts out over the ocean.”
- But are today’s future people in San Francisco or Shanghai?: “The remaining two or three percent of the world’s population, however, are no longer people of either the past or present. For within the main centers of technological and cultural change, in Santa Monica, California and Cambridge, Massachusetts, in New York and London and Tokyo, are millions of men and women who can already be said to be living the way of life of the future. Trendmakers often without being aware of it, they live today as millions more will live tomorrow. And while they account for only a few percent of the global population today, they already form an international nation of the future in our midst. They are the advance agents of man, the earliest citizens of the world-wide super-industrial society now in the throes of birth.”
- I do not want to be re-educated in old age: “Whatever the reasons, any acceleration of change that has the effect of crowding more situations into the experiential channel in a given interval is magnified in the perception of the older person. As the rate of change in society speeds up, more and more older people feel the difference keenly. They, too, become dropouts, withdrawing into a private environment, cutting off as many contacts as possible with the fast-moving outside world, and, finally, vegetating until death. We may never solve the psychological problems of the aged until we find the means — through biochemistry or re-education — to alter their time sense, or to provide structured enclaves for them in which the pace of life is controlled, and even, perhaps, regulated according to a “sliding scale” calendar that reflects their own subjective perception of time.”
- France has always been in protest against American modernity, slow food is not so new: “Precisely this issue is symbolized by the angry outcry that has greeted the recent introduction of American-style drugstores in Paris. To many Frenchmen, their existence is infuriating evidence of a sinister “cultural imperialism” on the part of the United States. It is hard for Americans to understand so passionate a response to a perfectly innocent soda fountain. What explains it is the fact that at Le Drug store the thirsty Frenchman gulps a hasty milkshake instead of lingering for an hour or two over an aperitif at an outdoor bistro. It is worth noticing that, as the new technology has spread in recent years, some 30,000 bistros have padlocked their doors for good, victims, in the words of Time magazine, of a ‘short-order culture.’”
- The age of transience is the age of anxiety — ironically many people are anxious that their social media footprint is permanent. We fear permanence more than transience: “Transience is the new “temporariness” in everyday life. It results in a mood, a feeling of impermanence. Philosophers and theologians, of course, have always been aware that man is ephemeral. In this grand sense, transience has always been a part of life. But today the feeling of impermanence is more acute and intimate. Thus Edward Albee’s character, Jerry, in The Zoo Story, characterizes himself as a “permanent transient.” And critic Harold Clurman, commenting on Albee, writes: “None of us occupy abodes of safety — true homes. We are all the same ‘people in all the rooming houses everywhere,’ desperately and savagely trying to effect soul-satisfying connections with our neighbors.” We are, in fact, all citizens of the Age of Transience.”
- Whatever happened to paper clothes?: “The recent introduction of paper and quasi-paper clothing carried the trend toward disposability a step further. Fashionable boutiques and working-class clothing stores have sprouted whole departments devoted to gaily colored and imaginatively designed paper apparel. Fashion magazines display breathtakingly sumptuous gowns, coats, pajamas, even wedding dresses made of paper. The bride pictured in one of these wears a long white train of lace-like paper that, the caption writer notes, will make “great kitchen curtains” after the ceremony.”
- Virtual university: “Nor are mobile classrooms a purely American phenomenon. In England, architect Cedric Price has designed what he calls a “thinkbelt” — an entirely mobile university intended to serve 20,000 students in North Staffordshire. “It will,” he says, “rely on temporary buildings rather than permanent ones.” It will make “great use of mobile and variable physical enclosures” — classrooms, for example, built inside railroad cars so that they may be shunted anywhere along the four- mile campus.”
- Mortgage crisis, a footnote. Before we decided a mortgage was the same as ownership: “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.”
- Memes before memes: “Here, too, the present already provides us with a foretaste of the future. It lies in an unexpected quarter: the fads now sweeping over the high technology societies in wave after wave. In the past few years alone, in the United States, Western Europe and Japan, we have witnessed the sudden rise or collapse in popularity of “Bardot hairdos,” the “Cleopatra look,” James Bond, and Batman, not to speak of Tiffany lampshades, Super-Balls, iron crosses, pop sunglasses, badges and buttons with protest slogans or pornographic jokes, posters of Allen Ginsberg or Humphrey Bogart, false eyelashes, and innumerable other gim- cracks and oddities that reflect — are timed into — the rapidly changing pop culture.”
- Before digital nomads there were the new analogue nomads: “Four nights a week Robe lives at a hotel in Manhattan. The other three he spends with his wife and children in Columbus, 500 miles away. Claiming the best of two worlds, a job in the frenetic financial center of America and a family life in the comparatively tranquil Midwest countryside, he shuttles back and forth some 50,000 miles a year.”
- European migration problems: “They come by the thousands from Algeria, Spain, Portugal, Yugoslavia and Turkey. Every Friday after-noon 1000 Turkish workers in Istanbul clamber aboard a train heading north toward the promised lands. The cavernous rail terminal in Munich has become a debarkation point for many of them, and Munich now has its own Turkish-language newspaper. In Cologne, at the huge Ford factory, fully one-quarter of the workers are Turks. Other foreigners have fanned out through Switzerland, France, England, Denmark and as far north as Sweden. Not long ago, in the twelfth-century town of Pangbourne in England, my wife and I were served by Spanish waiters. And in Stockholm we visited the Vivel, a downtown restaurant that has become a meeting place for transplanted Spaniards who hunger for flamenco music with their dinner. There were no Swedes present; with the exception of a few Algerians and ourselves, everyone spoke Spanish. It was no surprise therefore to find that Swedish sociologists today are tom by debate over whether foreign worker populations should be assimilated into Swedish culture or encouraged to retain their own. cultural traditions — precisely the same “melting pot”.”
- Movement of young people before coachsurfing. What Toffler shows is that many trends associated with the web or social media are merely pre-existing industrial processes sped up: “An extreme manifestation of this urge to move is found among the female hitch-hikers who are beginning to form a recognizable sociological category of their own. Thus a young Catholic girl in England gives up her job selling advertising space for a magazine and goes off with a friend intending to hitchhike to Turkey. In Hamburg the girls split up. The first girl, Jackie, cruises the Greek Islands, reaches Istanbul, and at length returns to England, where she takes a job with another magazine. She stays only long enough to finance another trip. After that she comes back and works as a waitress, rejecting promotion to hostess on grounds that “I don’t expect to be in England very long.” At twenty-three Jackie is a confirmed hitch-hiker, thumbing her way indefatigably all over Europe with a gas pistol in her rucksack, returning to England for six or eight months, then starting out again. Ruth, twenty-eight, has been living this way for years, her longest stay in any one place having been three years. Hitchhiking as a way of life, she says, is fine because while it is possible to meet people, “you don’t get too involved.””
- The Brexit divide before Brexit, before the UK entered the European Community: “…a British trade-union official, R. Clark, not long ago told an international manpower conference that mobility might well be a habit formed in student days. He pointed out that those who spent their college years away from home move in less restricted circles than uneducated and more home-bound manual workers. Not only do these college people move more in later life, but he suggested, they pass on to their children attitudes that facilitate mobility. While for many worker families relocation is a dreaded necessity, a consequence of unemployment or other hardships, for the middle and upper classes moving is most often associated with the extension of the good life. For them, traveling is a joy, and moving out usually means moving up.”
- Short-term friendships, Facebook ‘friends’: “Most of us can cite some “service” relationship that has lasted longer than some friendship, job or neighbor relationship. Moreover, most of us can cite a number of quite long-lasting relationships in our own lives — perhaps we have been going to the same doctor for years or have maintained extremely close ties with a college friend. Such cases are hardly unusual, but they are relatively few in number in our lives. They are like long-stemmed flowers towering above a field of grass in which each blade represents a short-term relationship, a transient contact. It is the very durability of these ties that makes them noticeable. Such exceptions do not invalidate the rule. They do not change the key fact that, across the board, the average interpersonal relationship in our life is shorter and shorter in duration.”
- But Facebook strangely transcends this trend. We can keep up with each other forever: “John Barth has captured the sense of turnover among friendships in a passage from his novel The Floating Opera: “Our friends float past; we become involved with them; they float on, and we must rely on hearsay or lose track of them completely; they float back again, and we must either renew our friendship — catch up to date — or find that they and we don’t comprehend each other any more.” The only fault in this is its unspoken suggestion that the current upon which friendships bob and float is lazy and meandering. The current today is picking up speed. Friendship increasingly resembles a canoe shooting the rapids of the river of change. “Pretty soon,” says Professor Eli Ginzberg of Columbia University, an expert on manpower mobility, “we’re all going to be metropolitan-type people in this country without ties or commitments to long time friends and neighbors.” In a brilliant paper on “Friendships in the Future,” psychologist Courtney Tall suggests that “Stability based on close relationships with a few people will be ineffective, due to the high mobility, wide interest range, and varying capacity for adaptation and change found among the members of a highly automated society . . . Individuals will develop the ability to form close ‘buddy-type relationships on the basis of common interests or sub-group affiliations, and to easily leave these friendships, moving either to another location and joining a similar interest group or to another interest group within the same location…”
- Middle class administrators were obsolete long before AI: “But perhaps the most dramatic change has over- taken the ranks of management, once well insulated from the jolts of fate that afflicted the less fortunate. “For the first time in our history,” says Dr. Harold Leavitt, professor of industrial administration and psychology, “obsolescence seems to be an imminent problem for management because for the first time, the relative advantage of experience over knowledge seems to be rapidly decreasing.”
- The premature prediction of the death of the entrepreneur predicted by Toffler has not happened. The entrepreneur has become a minor god instead:“It is conventional wisdom to assert that the age of the entrepreneur is dead, and that in his place there now stand only organization men or bureaucrats. Yet what is happening today is a resurgence of entrepreneurialism within the heart of large organizations.”
- Death of hierarchy before everyone stopped wearing ties at work: “It is no accident, in light of the above, that the term “associate” seems suddenly to have become extremely popular in large organizations. We now have “associate marketing directors” and “research associates,” and even government agencies are filled with “associate directors” and “associate administrators.” The word associate implies co-equal, rather than sub-ordinate, and its spreading use accurately reflects the shift from vertical and hierarchical arrangements to the new, more lateral, communication patterns.”
- The curious permanence of impermanence. Twiggy expected to be forgotten. Toffler expects her to be forgotten. But even I, born seventeen years after Twiggydom, know about Twiggy. The future has more quiddity than Toffler thought: “Within less than one year from the time a Cockney girl-child nicknamed “Twiggy” took her first modelling job, millions of human beings around the globe stored mental images of her in their brain. A dewy-eyed blonde with minimal mammaries and pipestem legs, Twiggy exploded into celebrityhood in 1967. Her winsome face and malnourished figure suddenly appeared on the covers of magazines in Britain, America, France, Italy and other countries. Overnight, Twiggy eyelashes, mannikins, perfumes and clothes began to gush from the fad mills. Critics pontificated about her social significance. Newsmen accorded her the kind of coverage normally reserved for a peace treaty or a papal election. By now, however, our stored mental images of Twiggy have been largely erased. She has all but vanished from public view. Reality has confirmed her own shrewd estimate that “I may not be around here for another six months.”
- Negro, white, black — and back. How long have we been playing Scrabble for social equality?: “A more significant example of language turnover can be seen in the sudden shift of meaning associated with the ethnic term “black.” For years, dark-skinned Americans regarded the term as racist. Liberal whites dutifully taught their children to use the term “Negro” and to capitalize the “N.” Shortly after Stokely Carmichael proclaimed the doctrine of Black Power in Greenwood, Mississippi in June, 1966, however, “black” became a term of pride among both blacks and whites in the movement for racial justice. Caught off guard, liberal whites went through a period of confusion, uncertain as to whether to use Negro or black. Black was quickly legitimated when the mass media adopted the new meaning. Within a few months, black was “in,” Negro “out.””
- Words that last, everyone still knows what a hippy is: “As new words sweep in, old words vanish. A picture of a nude girl nowadays is no longer a “pin-up” or a “cheesecake shot,” but a “playmate.” “Hep” has given way to “hip”; “hipster” to “hippie.” “Go-go” rushed eagerly into the language at breakneck speed, but it is already gone-gone among those who are truly “with it.”
- Hamster gills. I saw this pictured in a science book I had when I was a child, but still no practical applications as far as I know: “If all this sounds too far off, it is sobering to note that Dr. Walter L. Robb, a scientist at General Electric, has already kept a hamster alive under water by enclosing it in a box that is, in effect, an artificial gill — a synthetic membrane that extracts air from the surrounding water while keeping the water out. Such membranes formed the top, bottom and two sides of a box in which the hamster was submerged in water. Without the gill, the animal would have suffocated. With it, it was able to breathe under water. Such membranes, G.E. claims, may some day furnish air for the occupants of underwater experimental stations. They might eventually be built into the walls of undersea apartment houses, hotels and other structures, or even — who knows? — into the human body itself.”
- Man and dolphin:“Research into communication between man and the dolphin may prove to be extremely useful if, and when, man makes contact with extra-terrestrial life — a possibility that many reputable astronomers regard as almost inevitable. In the meantime, dolphin re-search is yielding new data on the ways in which man’s sensory apparatus differs from that of other animals. It suggests some of the outer limits within which the human organism operates — feelings, moods, perceptions not available to man because of his own biological make-up can be at least analyzed or described.”
- Singularity before singularity: “One might even conceive of biological components in machines — in computers, for example. “It is quite
obvious,” Tiselius continued, “that computers so far are just bad imitations of our brains. Once we learn more about how the brain acts, I would be surprised if we could not construct a sort of biological com-
puter . . . Such a computer might have electronic components modeled after biological components in the real brain. And at some distant point in the future it is conceivable that biological elements themselves
might be parts of the machine.” Precisely such ideas have led Jean Fourastie, the French economist and planner, to state flatly: “Man is on the path toward integrating living tissue in the processes of physical. mechanisms . . . We shall have in the near future machines constituted at one and the same time of metal and of living substances . . .” In the light of his, he says, “The human body itself takes on new
- Artificial wombs are still MGTOW dreams: “Indeed, it will be possible at some point to do away with the female uterus altogether. Babies will be conceived, nurtured and raised to maturity out-side the human body. It is clearly only a matter of years before the work begun by Dr. Daniele Petrucci in Bologna and other scientists in the United States and the Soviet Union, makes it possible for women to have babies without the discomfort of pregnancy.”
- Anecdote: “At a major Midwest hospital not long ago a patient appeared at the emergency room in the middle of the night. He was hiccupping violently, sixty times a minute. The patient, it turned out, was an early pacemaker wearer. A fast-thinking resident realized what had happened: a pacemaker wire, instead of stimulating the heart, had broken loose and become lodged in the diaphragm. Its jolts of electricity were causing. the hiccupping. Acting swiftly, the resident inserted a needle into the patient’s chest near the pacemaker, ran a wire out from the needle and grounded it to the hospital plumbing. The hiccupping stopped, giving doctors a chance to operate and reposition the faulty wire. A foretaste of tomorrow’s medicine?”
- Robots are always on the march: “In a quite different field of robotology there is progress, too. Technicians at Disneyland have created extremely life-like computer-controlled humanoids capable of moving their arms and legs, grimacing, smiling, glowering, simulating fear, joy and a wide range of other emotions. Built of clear plastic that, according to one reporter, “does everything but bleed,” the robots chase girls, play music, fire pistols, and so closely resemble human forms that visitors routinely shriek with fear, flinch and otherwise react as though they were dealing with real human beings. The purposes to which these robots are put may seem trivial, but the technology on which they are based is highly sophisticated. It depends heavily on knowl- edge acquired from the space program — and this knowledge is accumulating rapidly.”
- Don’t trust the experts: “On the very day that the Wright brothers took wing, newspapers refused to report the event because their sober, solid, feet-on-the-ground editors simply could not bring themselves to believe it had happened. After all, a famous American astronomer, Simon Newcomb, had not long before assured the world that “No possible combination of known substances, known forms of machinery and known forms of force, can be united in a practical machine by which man shall fly long distances.” Not long after this, another expert announced publicly that it was “nothing less than feeblemindedness to expect anything to come of the horseless carriage movement.” Six years later the one-millionth Ford rolled off an assembly line. And then there was the. great Rutherford, himself, the discoverer of the atom, who said in 1933 that the energy in the atom’s nucleus would never be released. Nine years later: the first chain reaction.”
- “Beautiful Singles of London” (as selected by computer). How long have the computers been managing our fertility?: “The experience may, in fact, soon go beyond theater. British Overseas Airways Corporation recently pointed a wavering finger at the future when it announced a plan to provide unmarried American male passengers with “scientifically chosen” blind dates in London. In the event the computer-selected date failed to show up, an alternate would be provided. Moreover, a party would be arranged to which “several additional Londoners of both sexes of varying ages” would be invited so that the traveler, who would also be given a tour of discotheques and restaurants, would under no circumstances be alone. The program, called “The Beautiful Singles of London,” was abruptly called off when the government-owned airline came under Parliamentary criticism. Nevertheless, we can anticipate further colorful attempts to paint a psychic coating on many consumer service fields, including retailing.
- Gay marriage, gay parents: “As homosexuality becomes more socially acceptable, we may even begin to find families based on homosexual “marriages” with the partners adopting children. Whether these children would be of the same or opposite sex remains to be seen. But the rapidity with which homosexuality is winning respectability in the techno-societies distinctly points in this direction. In Holland not long ago a Catholic priest “married” two homosexuals, explaining to critics that “they are among the faithful to be helped.”
- It works until it doesn’t work: “In point of fact, of course, something has already cracked — and it is the old insistence on permanence. Millions of men and women now adopt what appears to them to be a sensible and conservative strategy. Rather than opting for some offbeat variety of the family, they marry conventionally, they attempt to. make it “work,” and then, when the paths of the partners diverge beyond an acceptable point, they divorce or depart. Most of them go on to search for a new partner whose developmental stage, at that moment, matches their own.”
- Unremarried: “In one sense, serial marriage is already the best kept family secret of the techno-societies. According to Professor Jessie Bernard, a world-prominent family sociologist, “Plural marriage is more extensive in our society today than it is in societies that permit polygamy — the chief difference being that we have institu- tionalized plural marriage serially or sequentially rather than contemporaneously.” Remarriage is already so prevalent a practice that nearly one out of every four bridegrooms in America has been to the altar before. It is so prevalent that one IBM personnel man reports a poignant incident involving a divorced woman, who, in filling out a job application, paused when she came to the question of marital status. She put her pencil in her mouth, pondered for a moment, then wrote: “Unremarried.””
- Choice. Choice. Choice. Choice. Choice: “A generation ago, American movie-goers saw almost nothing but Hollywood-made films aimed at capturing the so-called mass audience. Today in cities across the country these “mainstream” movies are supplemented by foreign movies, art films, sex movies, and a whole stream of specialized motion pictures consciously designed to appeal to sub-markets — surfers, hot-rodders, motorcyclists, and the like. Output is
so specialized that it is even possible, in New York at least, to find a theater patronized almost exclusively by homosexuals who watch the antics of transvestites and “drag queens” filmed especially for them.”
- YouTube before YouTube: “Meanwhile, hand-held cameras and new video-tape equipment are similarly revolutionizing the ground
rules of cinema. New technology has put camera and film into the hands of thousands of students and amateurs, and the underground movie — crude, colorful, perverse, highly individualized and localized — is flourishing even more than the underground press.”
- So it came to pass: “Thus in the mid-sixties, Joseph Naughton, a mathematician and computer specialist at the University of Pittsburgh, suggested a system that would store a consumer’s profile — data about his occupation and interests — in a central computer. Machines would then scan newspapers, magazines, video tapes, films and other material, match them against the individual’s interest profile, and instantaneously notify him when something appears that concerns him.”
- Old tribes, new tribes, and our tribes: “The techno-societies, far from being drab and homogenized, are honeycombed with just such colorful groupings — hippies and hot rodders, theosophists and flying saucer fans, skin-divers and sky- divers, homosexuals, computemiks, vegetarians, body-builders and Black Muslims.”
- Did anybody ever want to be white?: “Anybody who still thinks of Wall Street in these terms, however, is getting his ideas from the novels of Auchincloss or Marquand rather than from the new, fast-changing reality. Today, Wall Street has splintered, and a young man entering the business has a choice of a whole clutch of competing subcultural affiliations. In investment banking the old conservative WASP grouping still lingers on. There are still some old-line “white shoe” firms of which it is said “They’ll have a black partner before they hire a Jew.” Yet in the mutual fund field, a relatively new specialized segment of the financial industry, Greek, Jewish and Chinese names abound, and some star salesmen are black. Here the entire style of life, the implicit values of the group, are quite different. Mutual fund people are a separate tribe. Not everyone even wants to be a WASP any more,” says a leading financial writer. Indeed, many young, aggressive Wall Streeters, even when they do happen to be WASP in origin, reject the classical Wall Street subcult and identify themselves instead with one or more of the pluralistic social groupings that now swarm and sometimes collide in the canyons of Lower Manhattan.”
- Sub-culture predictions quite accurate as far as computer gamers go and deep sea divers. But we’re still waiting on mind-control and holography: “We can anticipate the formation of subcults built
around space activity, holography, mind-control, deep-sea diving, submarining, computer gaming and the like.”
- Divisions before Trump. The second US civil war has deep roots: “Most previous societies have operated with a broad central core of commonly shared values. This core is now contracting, and there is little reason to an-ticipate the formation of a new broad consensus within the decades ahead. The pressures are outward toward diversity, not inward toward unity. This accounts for the fantastically discordant propaganda that assails the mind in the techno-societies. Home, school, corporation, church, peer group, mass media — and myriad subcults — all advertise varying sets of values. The result for many is an “anything goes” attitude — which is, itself, still another value position. We are, declares Newsweek magazine, “a society that has lost its consensus … a society that cannot agree on standards of conduct, language and manners, on what can be seen and heard.”
- Multiple selves: “The hippie becomes the straight-arrow executive, the executive becomes the skydiver without noting the exact steps of transition. In the process, he discards not only the externals of his style, but many of his underlying attitudes as well. And one day the question hits him like a splash of cold water in a sleep-sodden face: “What remains?” What is there of “self’ or “personality” in the sense of a continuous, durable internal structure? For some, the answer is very little. For they are no longer dealing in “self” but in what might be called “serial selves.” The Super-industrial Revolution thus requires a basic change in man’s conception of himself, a new theory of personality that takes into account the discontinuities in men’s lives, as well as the continuities. The Super-industrial Revolution also demands a new conception of freedom — a recognition that freedom, pressed to its ultimate, negates itself. Society’s leap to a new level of differentiation necessarily brings with it new opportunities for individuation, and the new technology, the new temporary organizational forms, cry out for a new breed of man. This is why, despite “backlash” and temporary reversals, the line of social advance carries us toward a wider tolerance, a more easy acceptance of more and more diverse human types.”
- In praise of the techno-society: “Thus, despite all the anti-technological rhetoric of the Elluls and Fromms, the Mumfords and Marcuses, it is precisely the super-industrial society, the most advanced technological society ever, that extends the range of freedom. The people of the future enjoy greater opportunities for self-realization than any previous group in history. The new society offers few roots in the sense of truly enduring relationships. But it does offer more varied life niches, more freedom to move in and out of these niches, and more opportunity to create one’s own niche, than all earlier societies put together. It also offers the supreme exhilaration of riding change, cresting it, changing and growing with it — a process infinitely more exciting than riding the surf, wrestling steers, playing “knock hubcaps” on an eight-lane speedway, or the pursuit of pharmaceutical kicks. It presents the individual with a contest that requires self-mastery and high intelligence. For the individual who comes armed with these, and who makes the necessary effort to understand the fast-emerging super- industrial social structure, for the person who finds the “right” life pace, the “right” sequence of subcults to join and life style models to emulate, the triumph is exquisite.”
- America’s diverse breakdown: “When diversity, however, converges with transience and novelty, we rocket the society toward an historical crisis of adaptation. We create an environment so ephemeral, unfamiliar and complex as to threaten millions with adaptive breakdown. This breakdown is future shock.”
- Information sickness. Our condition is now chronic: “One of the men who has pioneered in information studies, Dr. James G. Miller, director of the Mental Health Research Institute at the University of Michigan, states flatly that “Glutting a person with more information than he can process may . . . lead to disturbance.” He suggests, in fact, that information overload may be related to various forms of mental illness.”
- 4Chan before 4Chan: “Another way of stating this is that, as the number of social components grows and change makes the whole system less stable, it becomes less and less possible to ignore the demands of political minorities — hippies, blacks, lower-middle-class Wallacites, school teachers, or the proverbial little old ladies in tennis shoes. In a slower-moving, industrial context, America could turn its back on the needs of its black minority; in the new, fast-paced cybernetic society, this minority can, by sabotage, strike, or a thousand other means, disrupt the entire system. As interdependency grows, smaller and smaller groups within society achieve greater and greater power for critical disruption. Moreover, as the rate of change speeds up, the length of time in which they can be ignored shrinks to near nothingness. Hence: “Freedom now!””
[Note to readers: In the spirit of Toffler, I scan read the book from the Internet Archive. Already the words are telescoping away from me — nothing lasts, or does it?]