Alvin Toffler is not currently open to receiving Introductions or InMail™. Grrr. Not very futuristic of you Mr. Toffler.

So, you see, when I get stumped I go straight to the source. When we were faced with our first challenge of deciphering Cognitive Cultural Studies, I emailed the author. I asked her opinion. Sometimes I find that sifting through some of this academic literature can be down right exhausting (gasp!) so I cut to the chase, sift through the bullshit and get it straight from the horses mouth. So, I went to LinkedIn, looked up Toffler and thought I’d explore this through the eyes of the man himself. Does he still hold true to his beliefs surrounding information overload? What does he think of Facebook? Am I a bad parent because my preschooler can use Google? I wanted to have this type of exchange with the man who is known for the examination and reaction to futuristic and ever changing technology. Instead. I got the above message. Shot down. WTF. I tried to “friend” him on LinkedIn anyway thinking at a minimum my small irritation would translate to a piece of spam in his inbox.

In reading Toffler’s bio and doing the Phd skim of his most famous works, I wonder if he is simply academically restless. The more academic individuals I encounter the more I believe that some of the most brilliant minds are those who simply refuse for ideas to get stagnant so they search for ways to stay relevant, to remain stimulated and to have some sort of voice in world where people are constantly seeking answers to difficult questions. In his well-documented career he has been a student, a welder, a columnist, a correspondent, an author, a researcher, a lecturer, a consultant and according to Wikipedia (yes, yes I’m citing Wikipedia) was named by People’s Daily as “among the 50 foreigners that shaped modern China.” Really? He’s in good company. Michael Jordan, Steven Spielberg and get this the Colonel himself Harland Sanders also get the honor. Man., Future Shock and KFC in the same paragraph. That’s when you know this is good.

Toffler seems to me to be simply a very well educated product of the 60s. When others were tripping over war and peace and love, he was taking a magic carpet ride down the information superhighway. Toffler says that “tomorrows illiterate will not be the man who can’t read;he will be the man who has not learned how to learn.” Now isn’t this ironic. Here I sit. Completely and utterly uninspired by this Toffler fellow yet I am connecting the dots between his prophecy (actually quoted by Herbert Gerjuoy) and the subtle undertones of this class. Hmmmm…that sneaky Dr. Partridge is asking us to think and to learn how to learn and to synthesize knowledge in a way where the incomprehensible makes sense because we recognize it as such. Craziness.

Clearly I’m in the minority here because a lot of people revere Toffler as a visionary but a lot of what Toffler says seems to me to be common sense. Yes, people evolve so do their methods for communicating, for surviving, for working and playing. Seems reasonable. No longer do we have to hunt for our dinners, you can create your own pizza on your Ipad and have it delivered to your door. Dude that’s just progress. It happens and will continue to happen. And yes, if the world evolves and you refuse the world will move on without you. You can’t claim future shock on that. That’s just being difficult. Move forward or don’t get your pizza.

Wouldn’t it be beautiful if you could overlay the concept of future shock with that of the Diffusion of Innovation and somehow warn the laggards and late adopters that they were setting themselves up for this futuristic, technological surprise due to their inability or unwillingness to move forward? “Hey Jed…you better plant those hybrid seeds cause in 5 years your profits and your farm is going to suffer.” sounds eerily close to a conversation I had with my mother about why she needs to set up the voicemail on her cell phone. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see if early adopters are less affected by the seemingly sensationalistic sexiness of the next new thing and simply want to stay ahead of the curve? What happens to those in the middle?

I will never allow an opportunity to slip through my hands to put a plug in for the study and exploration of public relations and persuasion. Perhaps the focus shouldn’t be on predicting the unpredictable. Maybe it should be focused more on the Army Ranger mentality of “Never Leaving a Man Behind”. Maybe we need to explore in greater detail how to AVOID future shock by persuading those shallower on the adoption continuum to move forward with progress.

Futurology is a pretty sweet academic gig if you ask me. Complete job security for the academically restless. The future will never, ever get here and you can continue to keep preparing for the obvious and the inevitable. Predicting and studying the responses of people to the future? Awesome. Why didn’t I think of that? When’s that genre going to dry up?

Toffler, A. (nd). Wikipedia. Accessed November 26, 2011.
Rogers, Everett M. (1983). Diffusion of Innovations. New York: Free Press.

Advertisements