A Belated Tribute to Late Alvin Toffler
By his admirer: Ashit K Sarkar
3E Palmtree Place, 23 Palmgrove Road, Bengaluru 560047
As a prolific reader and an upcoming manager addicted to going through most of the then best seller lists, I was absolutely fascinated with the futurologist Alvin Toffler's book "Future Shock" a little over forty years ago, and in particular, with the very first chapter 'THE 800TH LIFETIME' of this book, and the 'information overload' aftereffects. His 1970 predictions made 46 years ago staggered my imagination then, and continued to remain as a very vital issue that I referred to in my articles or talks, even though his further analysis in his trilogy with the latter books "The Third Wave" & "Powershift" (in 1980 & 1990), that amplifed so well the surges in human development and the profound effects of information technology and biotechnology on the economy with the 'digital & communication revolution'. Finally he explored in detail with his wife Heidi Toffler what he calls "de-massification," and the increasing power of 21st-century military hardware and the proliferation of new technologies in much acclaimed "Powershift".
Nevertheless, to me the following remained a most strong fundamental reasoning:
"In the three short decades between now and the twenty-first century, millions of ordinary, psychologically normal people will face an abrupt collision with the future. Citizens of the world's richest and most technologically advanced nations, many of them will find it increasingly painful to keep up with the incessant demand for change that characterizes our time. For them, the future will have arrived too soon.
This book is about change and how we adapt to it. It is about those who seem to thrive on change, who crest its waves joyfully, as well as those multitudes of others who resist it or seek flight from it. It is about our capacity to adapt. It is about the future and the shock that its arrival brings.
If the last 50,000 years of man's existence were divided into lifetimes of approximately sixty-two years each, there have been about 800 such lifetimes. Of these 800, fully 650 were spent in caves. Only during the last seventy lifetimes has it been possible to communicate effectively from one lifetime to another—as writing made it possible to do. Only during the last six lifetimes did masses of men ever see a printed word. Only during the last four has it been possible to measure time with any precision. Only in the last two has anyone anywhere used an electric motor. And the overwhelming majority of all the material goods we use in daily life today have been developed within the present, the 800th, lifetime.
This 800th lifetime marks a sharp break with all past human experience because during this lifetime man's relationship to resources has reversed itself. This is most evident in the field of economic development. Within a single lifetime, agriculture, the original basis of civilization, has lost its dominance in nation after nation.
This lifetime is also different from all others because of the astonishing expansion of the scale and scope of change. Clearly, there have been other lifetimes in which epochal upheavals occurred. Wars, plagues, earthquakes, and famine rocked many an earlier social order. But these shocks and upheavals were contained within the borders of one or a group of adjacent societies. It took generations, even centuries, for their impact to spread beyond these borders".
This book was an eye-opener to me in dealing with the accelerated changes that all have to face in so many different aspects of our lives, that are getting tougher and tougher to tackle. His very detailed discussions in latter chapters, and in the later books, at least helps those willing to at least prepare, even if so many may not be successful, and which could not even be imagined or considered as likely by most. I certainly consider him to be the one of the best forecaster in the '800th lifetime', and his recent death two months ago on June 27th, 2016 has lost us a great thinker and an admired author. My belated salutes to him….
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