Future Shock, Avlin Toffler, 1970

Future Shock is a book written by the futurist Alvin Toffler in 1970. In the book, Toffler defines the term “future shock” as a certain psychological state of individuals and entire societies. His shortest definition for the term is a personal perception of “too much change in too short a period of time“. The book, which became an international bestseller, grew out of an article “The Future as a Way of Life” in Horizonmagazine, Summer 1965 issue.[1][2][3][4] The book has sold over 6 million copies and has been widely translated.

documentary film based on the book was released in 1972 with Orson Welles as on-screen narrator.

 

Term

Toffler argued that society is undergoing an enormous structural change, a revolution from an industrial society to a “super-industrial society“. This change overwhelms people, he believed, the accelerated rate of technological and social change leaving people disconnected and suffering from “shattering stress and disorientation”—future shocked. Toffler stated that the majority of social problems are symptoms of future shock. In his discussion of the components of such shock he popularized the term “information overload.”

His analysis of the phenomenon of information overload is continued in his later publications, especially The Third Wave and Powershift.

[edit]Broad cultural impact

Curtis Mayfield‘s song “Future Shock” on the album “Back to the World” took its name from this book, and was in turn covered by Herbie Hancock as the title track for his 1983 recording Future Shock. That album was considered groundbreaking for fusing jazz and funk withelectronic musicDarren Hayes name checks the phrase many times in his song “Me Myself And I“. At least two more releases have been named for the book, a 1981 album by Gillan and a 1988 single by Stratovarius.

Other works taking their title from the book include: the Futurama episode “Future Stock“; a segment on the Daily Show starring Samantha Bee; Kevin Goldstein’s recurring column on the Baseball Prospectus website; a Magic: The Gathering pre-constructed deck; and the National Wrestling Alliance‘s 1989 Starrcade event.

UK Comic 2000 AD ran a series of short stories called Future Shocks based on this concept, some of which were written by Alan Moore. The abbreviated derogatory term Futzies was applied to citizens in 2000 AD stories (mainly in the Judge Dredd universe) who had been driven insane by Future Shock.

Voiceworks #62 (Summer 2005), edited by Tom Doig, was themed Future Shock: ‘The future is here. Are you ready for it? Increasing computing power and nanotechnology will usher in an era of artificial intelligence, electronic telepathy and virtual immortality within a matter of years…’

Works deriving themes and elements from Future Shock include the science fiction novels The Forever War (1974) by Joe HaldemanThe Shockwave Rider (1975) by John Brunner, the RPG Transhuman Space (2002) by Steve Jackson Games, and the indie RPG Shock: Social Science Fiction (2006) by designer Joshua A.C. Newman.

Doomtree recording artist Sims referenced the phenomenon of future shock with a song named after it on his album Bad Time Zoo (2011).

In 2011, the Unsound Music Festival in Krakow, Poland, used the name “Future Shock” as their theme.

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