Future Shock


Future Shock is a book written by the futurist Alvin Toffler in 1970.

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Future Shock
Future shock.png
Author(s) Alvin Toffler
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) Futurology
Publisher Random House
Publication date 1970
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
ISBN ISBN 0-394-42586-3 (Original hardcover)

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 Horizon magazine, 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.




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.

In the introduction to an essay entitled “Future Shlock” in his book, Conscientious ObjectionsNeil Postman wrote: “Sometime about the middle of 1963, my colleague Charles Weingartner and I delivered in tandem an address to the National Council of Teachers of English. In that address we used the phrase “future shock” as a way of describing the social paralysis induced by rapid technological change. To my knowledge, Weingartner and I were the first people ever to use it in a public forum. Of course, neither Weingartner nor I had the brains to write a book called Future Shock, and all due credit goes to Alvin Toffler for having recognized a good phrase when one came along” (p. 162).

Pop culture references[edit]

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 with electronic music.

The American pop group Hello People opened their 1974 release “The Handsome Devils” with a track titled “Future Shock”. The song was a minor hit, peaking on Billboard’s Hot 100 at #71. The album was produced by Todd Rundgren.

Darren 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“; The Gordons 1981 EP on Flying Nun Records; 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 RPGTranshuman 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, a song titled “Future Shock” by Darwin, Obie, and Mr-E appeared on the album Nu Nrg 100, the final installment of the world-renowned label Nu Energy, while Brooklyn-based band TV on the Radio included a song titled “No Future Shock” on their album Nine Types of Light. The same year, the Unsound Music Festival in Krakow, Poland took the concept of ‘future shock’ as its theme.

The sense of future shock is an integral aspect of cyberpunk.

The Canadian band Oromocto Diamond named their first album Le Choc Du Futur (2009) in direct reference to the book.

Alvin Toffler distinguished three stages in development of society and production:[edit]

• agrarian,

• industrial,

• post-industrial.

The first stage began in the period of the Neolithic Era when people invented agriculture therefore people passed from barbarity to a civilization. The second stage began in England in New Time where people invented the machine tool and the steam engine. The third stage began in the second half of the 20th century in the West where people invented automatic production, robotics and the computer.Services sector received the great value.

Toffler named criterion by means of which it is possible to distinguish industrial society from post-industrial society. This criterion is the share of the population occupied in agriculture and the share of city labor occupied in a services sector. The share of the people occupied in agriculture doesn’t exceed 15%, and the share of the people occupied in a services sector, exceeds 50% from city labor in post-industrial society. Thus, the share of the people occupied with brainwork exceeds a share of the people occupied with physical work in post-industrial society.

Fear before the future.[edit]

Midtown Manhattan in New York City, the largest central business district in the United States

Alvin Toffler’s main thought consists that the modern man feels shock from fast changes, fear before the future. For example, daughter of Toffler went to shop in New York and she couldn’t find shop on old place as though shop have to fail under the earthas builders break and build buildings within one night in this city. New York is the city without history. The urban population increases twice every 11 years. There is an increase twice the general production of goods and services each 50 years in the developed countries. More and more events flashes before eyes under storm fire of changes. Old foundations (religion, a family, a national identity, a profession) have reeled.The desire to accelerate life is shown in “brain drain” – emigration of the European scientists to the USA.

Features of post-industrial society:[edit]

A generic, disposable lighter.

• Many goods became one-time as the cost of manual repair or washing of goods became more expensive than the cost of production with help of theconveyor. Examples of one-time goods: ballpoint penlighterplastic bottleschewing gumrockets and so on.

• The design of goods becomes outdated quickly therefore the second generation of computers appears instead of the first generation and so indefinitely. It is possible to hire almost everything: from a ladder to a wedding dress. Firms change each other in the market so often that it became the main problem foradvertizing in the USA.

• Americans turned into new nomads. Residence change became a habit at Americans. It is shown, for example, in the form of tourist travel and holiday romances. Immigrants from AlgeriaTurkey and other countries come to Europe. The driver’s license, received in 16 years, become the admission to the world of adults for the teenager. Whole branches of industry die off and new branches of industry arise today therefore unskilled workers are compelled to change a residence, thus this workers endure the tragedy.

• People change a residence, phone number, school, friends, car, a family, things often. People try to support superficial contacts with a large number of people instead of penetrating into characteristics of each person met by them.

• People of post-industrial society change a profession and a work place often. People should change professions since professions quickly become outdated. People of post-industrial society do some careers instead of one career during the life. Knowledge of the diplomaed engineer becomes outdated in ten years. People look for temporary job often