June 30, 2016

"We who explore the future are like those ancient mapmakers, and it is in this spirit that the concept of future shock and the theory of the adaptive range are presented here..."

"... not as final word, but as a first approximation of the new realities, filled with danger and promise, created by the accelerative thrust."

Wrote Alvin Toffler, quoted in his NYT obituary.

He wrote some big bestsellers that affected how many people felt about plunging into the future. "Future Shock" (1970). "The Third Wave" (1980).

The NYT is standoffish: "Critics were not sure what to make of Mr. Toffler’s literary style or scholarship. The mechanical engineering scholar and systems theorist Richard W. Longman wrote in The New York Times that Mr. Toffler 'sends flocks of facts and speculation whirling past like birds in a tornado.' In Time magazine, the reviewer R. Z. Sheppard wrote, 'Toffler’s redundant delivery and overheated prose turned kernels of truth into puffed generalities.' Mr. Toffler’s work nevertheless found an eager readership among the general public, on college campuses, in corporate suites and in national governments. Newt Gingrich, the former Republican speaker of the House, met the Tofflers in the 1970s and became close to them. He said 'The Third Wave' had immensely influenced his own thinking and was “one of the great seminal works of our time.' Prime Minister Zhao Ziyang of China convened conferences to discuss 'The Third Wave' in the early 1980s, and in 1985 the book was the No. 2 best seller in China. Only the speeches of the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping sold more copies."

IN THE COMMENTS: Eric the Fruit Bat said:
I think they might have made "Future Shock" into some kind of an educational film and we watched it when I was in 8th grade science class. All I remember is something about disposability and some little girl throwing her doll into the trash can.

Later on I read "Mega Trends," and whatever came after it, and I would go to the library to read some magazine that I think was called "The Futurist." Pretty dull, useless stuff, it turned out.

I really miss the feeling I got back when I was a little kid watching stuff like the 3M TV commercials during Jacques Cousteau. The future seemed like it was going to be wonderful.

But, you know, you can't go home again.
Oh? Maybe you can. Here:

24 comments:

MisterBuddwing said...

I once took a stab at reading "Future Shock" while in high school. I didn't get very far. But at least somebody made a movie hosted by Orson Welles:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVJrJk3q3MA

Laslo Spatula said...

I think Leonard Cohen nailed The Future better.

Give me back the Berlin wall
Give me Stalin and St Paul
Give me Christ
or give me Hiroshima
Destroy another fetus now
We don't like children anyhow
I've seen the future, baby:
it is murder

I am Laslo.

madAsHell said...

I read "Future Shock". I didn't find it very enlightening.

Kate said...

In all the decades since I discovered him, I haven't once considered re-reading Toffler. And I'm not considering it now.

EDH said...

I remember when Future Shock was all the rage in the news: those damn tampons.

Sebastian said...

We need a good history of futures past. If one already exists, I'd appreciate a reference.

Ann Althouse said...

1970 was also the year of "The Greening of America."

It was the year I was 19. The 2 current best sellers I read that year were "Sexual Politics" and "The Female Eunuch."

buwaya puti said...

Meh.

mikee said...

Using the supposed sales figures from a totalitarian regime, where being non-PC literally meant punishment from deprivation of rights on down to death sentences, amuses me for its subtle understanding of how things are, apparently, meant to work worldwide. At least in the opinions of some people. With whom I disagree.

I'd argue that the political utility of the book to a totalitarian regime is a reason to discount its entirety, and to do the opposite of whatever it suggests.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

I think they might have made "Future Shock" into some kind of an educational film and we watched it when I was in 8th grade science class. All I remember is something about disposability and some little girl throwing her doll into the trash can.

Later on I read "Mega Trends," and whatever came after it, and I would go to the library to read some magazine that I think was called "The Futurist." Pretty dull, useless stuff, it turned out.

I really miss the feeling I got back when I was a little kid watching stuff like the 3M TV commercials during Jacques Cousteau. The future seemed like it was going to be wonderful.

But, you know, you can't go home again.

JAORE said...

Books by futurists are best read when one is 19 and then never opened again.

Fernandinande said...

Eric the Fruit Bat said...
All I remember is something about disposability and some little girl throwing her doll into the trash can.


Little Margaret Sanger.

Ann Althouse said...

"Books by futurists are best read when one is 19 and then never opened again."

I didn't read "Greening" or "Future Shock." I think these books were more aimed at the older generation who were trying to adjust to the disturbing Boomer kids they made.

cubanbob said...

"The future ain’t what it used to be."

Kirk Parker said...

Eric,

"
Later on I read "Mega Trends," and whatever came after it...
"

The sequel was titled In Search Of The One Minute Megatrend.

Ann Althouse said...

"All I remember is something about disposability and some little girl throwing her doll into the trash can."

I found your movie for you. See the post update.

The doll drama begins around 7:00.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

Thank you.

Joe said...

My parents had a copy of Future Shock on one of their many bookshelves. I assume it was a gift. I starting reading it as a very young teenager, probably three or four years after it was published. Even in that short time, it had become laughably dated and the parts that weren't were just silly. It wasn't even good science fiction.

I now find all so-called futurists to be a bore.

Howard said...

Future shock occurred for my Grandparent's generation born in the pre-electricity, pre-internal combustion engine last decade of the 19th Century and seeing a man walk on the moon. Being born into the jet age and rocket age, the future shock of internet and phone apps is pretty boring, especially since these technologies were invented in the 40's and 50's at Bell Labs.

The masses of people in the west don't believe in the future anymore, they believe in bourgeois consumer goods and gourmet fast food made cheap on the backs of Asian labor and their ability to tolerate noxious pollution for peanut wages.

Sharc said...

"I think they might have made "Future Shock" into some kind of an educational film and we watched it when I was in 8th grade science class."

Me too. All I remember is a scene (sorry, couldn't find it scanning here) in which the camera slowly backs out from a very tight shot of a couple holding hands while vows are being said, until the viewer realizes with shock that it's two men getting married. That's right -- men! An absolute howler for my class. Preposterous!

Sharc said...

Hey, found the gay marriage at 27:07. Not nearly as cinematically interesting as in my 35-year old memory of it.

David said...

Orson Wells must have been shocked by his own future as it unfolded.

JamesB.BKK said...

Ah, the child abuse from an earlier era. The Christians, even at their firiest, and brimstoniest, offer redemption. Attainable redemption. The future shockers, and their spawn the AGW end-of-the-worlders, offer none. Only despair and depressing downsizing - and rites, the most annoying of which is hassling all those around you about their plastic bags, auto use, and how much air conditioning they consume (but never does fuel for heating come up). There's even the old socialist cry, "Too many choices! Too many pitchmen!" Bernie still has that "too many shampoos" rant. Might have made for a good Seinfeld episode, except it's not funny. Variety, change, improvement, mobility, modular buildings made to factory precision specifications, and renewal: all lamentable. What a croc. Ray Kroc, who turned a corner burger business into a global real estate holding company that also sells good quality foods at low prices during an overlapping period covered and forecasted in this depressing film.

JamesB.BKK said...

Here's a good site for examining what may be coming our way:

http://nextbigfuture.com/

Eg.: http://nextbigfuture.com/2016/07/uranium-seawater-extraction-makes.html

Uranium extraction from seawater? What's not to love?