I so wish that I had something intellectual to say about Toffler and Future Shock. After reading the other Future Shock posts on this blog, I wish it even more. Difficult acts to follow. But here is how I feel in a nutshell, and I can’t change that… C’mon Man! The idea that our human brains and emotions, so frail and pathetic, cannot handle an increased pace of change is insulting and preposterous. I have spent the past 48+ hours trying to figure out what genius I am missing in this book, and I surrender. Anyone? Help please. I am perhaps too naive, too pea-brained, or too unimaginative to get it.
Toffler argues the dangers of a transient society in which relationships with both people and things lack depth or permanency. Let’s address things first, as I find that the easiest to instantly dismiss. Toffler, I believe, would somehow argue that my grandmother had a stronger relationship with her “tools” than I do with mine. C’mon man! I doubt that my grandmother’s relationship with her pen and paper was any stronger than my mother’s relationship with her typewriter. And I’m almost 100% sure that neither of them had a more in-depth relationship with these tools than I have with my Dell laptop or my Android. I also don’t think that I have somehow suffered or been brought to the brink of insanity given the fact that my grandmothers pen lasted until the ink ran dry, while my Dell laptop is replaced within weeks, if not days, by a newer model or, heaven forbid, a newer technology.
OK, maybe the concept of throw-away things isn’t about “relationships.” Perhaps it is about devious marketers making my 17-year-old neighbor think that her jeans from last year are no longer cool. Or, the Apple folks making the iPhone groupies think that the iPhone 4S is so superior to the iPhone 4 that they have to have it immediately. Dubious marketers surly have these consumers at the brink of a psychological break if they don’t get this year’s jeans or this week’s smart phone. C’mon man! I’m rather sure that my iPhone junkie friend isn’t going postal over the new iPhone release. If he does by chance… I’m not going to blame the Apple marketing gurus for making him think that he has to have it or the R&D smarty-pants for developing it so quickly; I’m going to blame an imbalance in his genetic make-up.
Let’s now address the transient relationships we have with people. I can’t argue that we do indeed have these relationships, and that it is in part because of social and technological change. HOWEVER, The fact that I now stay in touch, although very faintly and superficially, with hundreds of people who I would not absent technology and social media does not mean that I don’t have a husband, mom, dad, brother, in-laws, a BFF, bowling league buddies, and doggie play date compadres. I can indeed travel to Cabo at the drop of a hat, meet a new “friend,” and know two years later, after having never had another conversation with him, that he will be back in Cabo at the same time as my husband and me. We can plan to meet for drinks and spend an entire night laughing and getting re-acquainted (superficially of course). But wait, I still have a husband, mom, dad, brother, in-laws, a BFF, bowling league buddies, and doggie play date compadres. Amazing… I can maintain superficial, transient relationships with some people and deep, meaningful relationships (to widely varying degrees) with others. How do I do it while the rest of the world is deciding between locking themselves in a closet, committing armed larceny, or joining the nearest cult?
Seriously though, according to Toffler “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 break-down” (p. 2). C’mon man! First off, doesn’t that seem a bit Chicken Little in nature? Second, doesn’t man have control? I can choose to embrace change at a different rate than others. In fact, Toffler mentions this truth, explaining that some rush to change while others sleepwalk through it (p. 18).
Toffler spends a great deal of time and exerts a great deal of effort to prove that change has accelerated and that the results are bleak. For example, he explains that it took man millions of years to reach 100 mph, and only 58 years to quadruple that (p. 24). This accelerative thrust, along with the increased pace of life, create transient people with “temporariness” in everyday life (p. 39). Because the things, people, places, and so on in our lives get used up so quickly, we now have an altered reality, lack of commitment, and inability to cope (p. 41). Seriously? Trading in a Barbie doll for an upgraded version teaches young girls that relationships with things are temporary (p. 45)? C’mon man! First, does it? Second, does it matter? I don’t have children, but if I did, I wouldn’t want them having a permanent relationship with a Barbie doll.
OK, it is here that I must stop, or this blog post will be a 100 page rant. Plus, it is here that I had to start seriously skimming in order to search desperately for the genius in this book. I know, I know. I was only 50 pages into it. But, as I skimmed through discussions about airline miles and nomads, a lecture on just how long is long enough to have a good friendship and why anything less is bad, how instant stardom existed long before reality television thanks to Twiggy, and how my childless marriage is an “experiment” (p. 212), I had to accept that I would never get to the coping strategies. After all, Future Shock, at 417 pages, is way too permanent of a commitment. C’mon man!