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The RoBlog
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Starting Future Shock

Inspired by having finished (at long last) Arthur C. Clarke's Profiles of the Future, I decided to pull another book out of my futures-of-the-past library: Future Shock, by Alvin Toffler, written in 1970.

I’ve been avoiding reading this book for quite some time (although it should be said that I’ve not read ANY book in quite some time) primarily because it seemed to fall into my least favorite of three broad categories of predicting the future.  As I see it, those categories are:
•         Theories and How-Tos about predicting the future
•         Predictions of the SOCIAL future
•         Predictions of the TECHNOLOGICAL future

Future Shock seemed to fall into the category of social future predictions.

Social futurism is much less interesting to me as it tends to be based on how we SHOULD behave and why they way that we DO behave will lead us to overpopulation, mass starvation, environmental collapse, and the like; all this from a heavily moralistic point of view.

It’s not that these aren’t valid, or even interesting problems, and I can easily imagine modern books on these topics being a fascinating read.  It is a peculiarity of what I like to read (books more than 20 years old that attempt to predict the future) that means that most books that I’d pick up about social future predictions are typically written in the 1960’s or ‘70’s, and are very preachy and/or impenetrable.

Based on the book cover summary, this is what I thought I was in for when I finally decided that it was too well known a book to ignore.

I’m happy to say that, SO FAR, I’ve been pleasantly surprised.  I’ll let you know if that changes over time, but here are a couple of things that I thought were interesting:
•         Introduction (p5): “Writers have had a harder and harder time keeping up with reality.  We have not yet learned to conceive, research, write and publish in “real time.””  Perhaps this is now a skill that modern writers may more readily possess?
•         I forget where this was and how specifically he addressed it and how much I just wandered into it myself, but it seems that we should probably get good at making broad predictions as a way to help improve how we get to more specific predictions.  The pace of any technology or field of study does seem to begin with a coarse understanding and get finer as we learn more.  I suppose there’s no reason that making predictions of the future shouldn’t go through this same series of refinements except that it is so much more fun to come up with (and read about) very specific predictions.

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