I think this is a pretty important article/editorial about the US’s reaction to the pace of accelerating change in the world.
I think we actually had two paperback copies of Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock floating around the house when I was a kid – at least, I can remember its “computerized” type running against both pale yellow and pale blue covers.
Between the ages of six and fourteen, roughly, you could have wrapped just about anything from Sunday-matinee dystopia to extra-farty prog rock in that particular typeface, and I would have at least given it a look-see; I was a future-oriented kid. So even though this Toffler book seemed conspicuously lacking in sentient starships, lunar bases and the like, I flipped it down from its place on the top shelf and spent a few days paging through it.
Most of it sailed over my head at that age. What I do remember sticking with me was the notion of accelerating change, an idea which did then and still does make the hairs at the back of my neck tingle. I also quite clearly remember Toffler’s most succinct definition of the syndrome which gave the book its name, a definition which didn’t even necessarily refer to anything technological: to suffer from future shock was simply to be paralyzed by “too much change experienced in too short a period of time.”
For a long, long time thereafter, I’d sit in idle moments and wonder just when future shock was going to happen. In my childish conception, it was something that would happen all at once, be precipitated by some obvious event – the proverbial straw – and stand out just as vividly and obviously as an outbreak of the flu when it did roll across the land. It took me years to understand the words as pointing toward something more poetic and metaphoric than clinically diagnostic. It’s a thought I’ve had occasion to dig up and reconsider this last week. Because this is what I’ve come to understand: Here we are. This is it.