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It’s Too Late for “Future Shock”

In 1970, Alvin Toffler’s book “Future Shock” predicted a world in which technology evolved so quickly society was stunned, unable to adjust, succumbing to “shattering stress and disorientation”. A decade later, John Naisbitt took a less cataclysmic look, focused on the next decade, with “Megatrends – Ten New Directions Transforming Our Lives”; he updated that in 1990 with “Megatrends 2000”.

Toffler proved to be both right and wrong. “Future Shock” did attack millions of people, but primarily those in the newly freed nations of the former Soviet Bloc, especially Russia itself. Hundreds of immigrants pouring out of those nations to the United States in the 1990s reportedly returned complaining about “too much choice”.

Even a worldly British author and high tech consultant who spent the 1990s living and working in Southern California and Washington, DC, will soon publish a book about his American experience that includes a chapter on how even Western Europeans can be overwhelmed by American-style consumerism. The working title? “A Cornucopia of Confusing Consumer Choices: Forty-Five Types of Shredded Wheat?”

What Toffler failed to foresee was the ease with which Americans, Canadians and, within the dominion of their own societies, the rest of the “developed” world not only would accept but often demand faster implementation of new technologies. Generations raised on Star Trek and Star Wars did not merely anticipate desktop computers, instant global information access, hand-held global “communicators” and robots, they built them.

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