Tag: Future Shock

We have been future shocked


In the future, as technological advancement accelerates, the speed of change in human society will increase exponentially. And according to futurologist Alvin Toffler, this breeds a society built upon transience, novelty and diversity, and as humans struggle to cope with the increasing speed of change, they will experience “future shock”.

In this new world, our relationships with one another and things is drastically changed to something ephemeral. Permanence and loyalty are no longer desired because there is always something better, either a improved or a brand new version, just around the corner. Just think of how some people are constantly upgrading their mobile phones. The latest trends aside, the fact is, more often than not, the economic cost of buying something new instead of repairing it is just much lower. Thus, this creates what Toffler calls “The Throw-Away Society”.

The coming of this “super-industrial” society also heralds novelty as technology gives us the possibility and freedom to fashion anything we can fathom. The possibilities are indeed endless, from the option to pre-design our babies through genetics, to customising the design of that pair of sneakers we buy from Nike. The only restraints left to these possibilities are really ethical questions of should we and not the reality of can we. Such freedom paralyses us with “overchoice”.

Our response to “overchoice” is “lifestyles”. To be indie or corporate — “lifestyles” give us a set of values and behaviour to help us manage our choices as they tell us what to eat, how to dress and even think! As a result of the different choices we each make, a much more diverse world is created and this explains the rise of subcultures.

Strange that his future sounds very much like the world today? Well, Alvin Toffler wrote Future Shock in 1970. Now, that’s really shocking.


In the book, four symptoms of victims of future shock are profiled,
see if you display any of them

  1. [Denial]
    The victim blocks out unwelcome changes by concluding that any change is really superficial and the truth is, nothing much has changed since the dawn of mankind
  2. [Specialising]
    The victim attempts to manage change by keeping track with change only in a narrow sector of life and assuming nothing changes in the other parts of life
  3. [Revising]
    The victim hangs on to his previous way of life and demands the return of the glory of yester-year
  4. [Super-simplifing]
    The victim searches for a idea that has universal relevance and can explain all the change that he sees


The future of family and romance


Published in 1970, browsing through some chapters of this book literally gave me a shock.

Firstly, the trends he predicted have been fairly accurate.

Secondly, I was shocked.

The fracturing of the concepts of motherhood, parenthood and the family model in view of technological changes (e.g. purchasing embryos), diversification of gender (e.g. homosexuals) are some issues that are emerging problems for governments today.

What really struck a chord with me was “The odds against love”, where he challenged the notion of a marriage that lasts forever, as both husband and wife would need to develop equally in life to make successful marriages. In short, the fast-moving pace of society today meant that it was difficult for both husband and wifes to continue to match their developments at comparable rates because changes happened quickly and often.

Instead, “serial marriages” — short, temporary marriages — would become common and people would “marry” a few times based on which junctures they were in life. The would start off with a “trial” marriage, then decide to formalize it by actually getting married, and when they enter parenthood have to decide again if it is working out. At each of these three junctures, it becomes a mathematical challenge to ensure their developments at that stage are comparable and thus people often separate at these junctures.