Book Review: Future Shock

Future Shock Book Spine

One of the things, Oh Dear Reader, you will come to find out about me is that I have a disease called biblomaniacism. I argue however as with most things indulgence, not compulsion is the order of the day. However, I also argue if you are going to have a vice or let us say an issue as it were, then obsessive reading or collecting of books is not such a bad thing to have unless they fall on you or if you have to move them. I wanted to give the reader a full context for future meanderings in the realm of book reviews and general book discussions.

As of late, I have been having discussions on several fronts concerning the sharing economy and how transients and complexity add to the perception of less time in our lives. Humans also ask me to recommend books. Given these discussions, I have been recommending a book entitled “Future Shock” by Alvin Toffler. Here are the particulars:

Book Title: Future Shock
Author: Alvin Toffler
Publisher: Random House
ISBN: 0-394-42586-3 (Original hardcover)
Copyright: 1970

I have the original hardback version. I love the black cloth cover with the red letter embossed writing. I also love the perforated edges on the pages. The dedicated page is classic:

Dedication Page

The book’s premise is the presupposes that we as humans are moving into an area of “information overload” as far as I know this is the first mention of the terminology. Once again this book was published in 1970. The book argues that we as a society are facing enormous structural change, a revolution from an industrial society to a “super-industrial society”. As such the underlying delta in our perceptual makeup from moving to “atoms to bits” is that our sense of ownership and therefore our sense of time is greatly affected. The sense of ownership is affected by moving from having and owning to renting and sharing. The tome goes into great detail we are ever more transient in our behavior much in the same aspect our ancestors where nomadic. However, the major differentiation is that the cultural break from the past now comes at a price.

An excerpt from page 11:

“Future Shock is a time phenomenon a product of the greatly accelerated rate of change in our society. It arises from the superposition of a new culture on an old one. It is a culture shock in one’s own society. But its impact is far worse. For most Peace Corpsmen, in fact, most travelers, have the comforting knowledge that the culture they left behind will be there to return to. The victim of the future shock does not.”

The underlying thesis is that we as a society are processing more information in a shorter amount of time which results in all aspects of our being and relationships with life compressed and transient. For example, take an individual out of his/her own culture and set them down in an environment where there are different rules both written and unwritten which apply to conceptions of time, sex, religion, work, personal space and cut off from any hope of retreating back to a more familiar social landscape. This can be exacerbated if the culture has different value systems which it probably does then what is considered rational behavior under these circumstances for the individual? The book takes this view and applies it to entire societies and generations. Thus this incurs future shock on a massive scale.

One very cogent aspect that resonated with me is the concept of fetishizing anything and everything. The execution of this fetishization comes through the application of sub-cultures. Whereas any little modification results in a new genre of the individual with respect to the sub-culture. Maybe one reason this resonated with me was his illustration of surfers being a sub-culture. Toffler does an amazing job of mapping this sub-culture fetish to having styles automatically chosen for us whereas we thereby adopting the lifestyle without having to really perform the machinations associated with say paddling out in an ocean. If you adopt the style the percetion you are part of the culture is enough due to the transient nature of changing sub-cultures.

Toffler also goes into depth addressing the needs for our educational system especially k-12 needing to address thinking in the future instead of rank and file history which he does mention in most cases is variational and filtered as a function of the teacher’s belief system. He proposes a complete overhaul of the educational system on how we now have a static teaching agenda based on 17th-century rote memorization skills to a more adaptive system of learning. He also emphasizes how education will be more of a distributed individualized auto-didactic process. I consider myself to be an auto-didactic and relish the ability to sign up for Udemy or Coursera classes ergo I completely believe he nailed this assumption for the future classroom.

Oh, dear reader, if you made it this far fear not, this book is not a nihilistic or dystopian view of that which will inevitability come to pass. Toffler has a litany of suggestions for how we can overcome the future shock malaise or in fact he suggests it could be a new medical condition. I, however, will not list these in a cookbook fashion as I do not want to be a spoiler. Suffice to say we are seeing some people exercise their future thought to change future shock.

Caveat Emptor: This book will stretch and at the same time bind what you thought was good or bad for our western society. While you will probably pay a premium for the hardback original edition the paperback edition can easily be purchased for a very reasonable price. For those that work in the areas of dealing with humans or creating new technolgy I highly recommend adding this to your reading list. Your neurons will thank you for it.

If you happen to have read the book or are reading the book I would appreciate any comments you care to share.

Blogging Music: “Entre Dos Aquas” by Paco de Lucia, 1981.

Until then,

I wish you water,

tctjr.

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Until Then Remember!

$$\ H(X) = -\sum p(X)\log p(X)\\Information\ Gain\; I(X,Y)= H(X)-H(X|Y)$$