Future Shock is now. So read it.

by Bob Schwartz

In 1970, Alvin Toffler published the book Future Shock. It was an immediate and long-time bestseller, with substantial influence on public conversations. Less so on action.

The premise, in my oversimplified summary: The rate of technological change is accelerating at an uncontrolled pace. But there are limits to our adaptability to change. The outcome is what he called “future shock.” There may be something we can do about it. Maybe if we study, learn and try:

This is a book about what happens to people when they are overwhelmed by change. It is about the ways in which we adapt—or fail to adapt—to the future. Much has been written about the future. Yet, for the most part, books about the world to come sound a harsh metallic note. These pages, by contrast, concern themselves with the “soft” or human side of tomorrow. Moreover, they concern themselves with the steps by which we are likely to reach tomorrow. They deal with common, everyday matters—the products we buy and discard, the places we leave behind, the corporations we inhabit, the people who pass at an ever faster clip through our lives. The future of friendship and family life is probed. Strange new subcultures and life styles are investigated, along with an array of other subjects from politics and playgrounds to skydiving and sex.

What joins all these—in the book as in life—is the roaring current of change, a current so powerful today that it overturns institutions, shifts our values and shrivels our roots. Change is the process by which the future invades our lives, and it is important to look at it closely, not merely from the grand perspectives of history, but also from the vantage point of the living, breathing individuals who experience it.

The acceleration of change in our time is, itself, an elemental force. This accelerative thrust has personal and psychological, as well as sociological, consequences. In the pages ahead, these effects of acceleration are, for the first time, systematically explored. The book argues forcefully, I hope, that, unless man quickly learns to control the rate of change in his personal affairs as well as in society at large, we are doomed to a massive adaptational breakdown.

Alvin Toffler, Future Shock

Is this relevant, more than fifty years later? Have you heard the news? Have you lived life in 2022? Read or reread Future Shock.