Back in the 1990s I read Alvin Toffler, an American Author and futurist, and was quite taken by his view of the world and his description of his vision of the post-industrial society, as he named it. He had actually been writing since the ‘70s, but hadn’t really registered on my radar before I got involved in the whole personal technology revolution as opposed to the Corporate computer processing that was the norm in the ‘80s.
With hindsight, the post-industrial society we might today call the technological society, since it paved the way for rapid changes and introduction of more and more technology to do the drudge work, at least at first.
The scientific advances and technology combined has had enormous impact on the economy resulting in a shift from a manufacturing and labour based economy to an information and a data based knowledge economy.
Toffler foresaw such changes and wrote: “The illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn”. He also foresaw that “Advanced technology and information systems make it possible for much of the work of society to be done at home via computer-telecommunications hook-ups”.
The changes brought about by the introduction of robotics and computer based mass production to our economy are well known. One example is the shift to disposable everything, e.g. ballpoint pens, lighters, paper tissues and towels, plastic bottles, and not forgetting the ‘best before’ date and goods not being repaired when failing, simply replaced. We see this clearly with our computers and computing devices when the next generation of computers is marketed before the expected period of usability of the previous one has been reached.
We are also getting close to the end of ownership of most things, you can now rent almost anything from furniture to a wedding dress, motor cars and before long you won’t even need one, just call Uber or similar for a self-driving car.
The effect of such changes results in whole branches of industry dying off and making room for new ones. Think of the recent changes in the retail industry here, long standing companies closing their doors making room for net shopping and new ways of interacting with displays on their websites to give you a similar experience to going to a store.
The effect on people in those jobs often means having to shift house or abode to find work, and the advertisers now have a moving target to deal with, so the new society means changing both professions and workplace often, i.e. more temporary work and fewer careers lasting a life time. As an example, the knowledge of an engineer becomes outdated in 10 years. In turn this affects relationships and families, becoming less stable. Even your phone number may change making contact a little more cumbersome. Toffler also said: “The illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn”.
However, “a man has a limited biological capacity for change. When this capacity is overwhelmed, the capacity is in future shock”.
Future shock is the shattering stress and disorientation that we induce in individuals by subjecting them to too much change in too short a time.
We all enjoy our computing devices, be they desktop, laptop, tablets or smartphones and we know that advanced technology and information systems make it possible for much of the work of society to be done at home via computer-telecommunications hook-ups.
We now have so much choice in this age of Amazon, TradeMe and online market places and share economies that the in the years to come we may turn out to be the victims of that peculiar super-industrial dilemma: the overchoice. Just look at advertising and tech articles in the weekend newspapers and see how technology feeds on itself. Technology makes more technology possible.
Toffler got a lot of things right in what he predicted might be our future, and of course also some things did not happen such as space explorations, but at the time he wrote I guess it was a reasonable view since we had already managed to get to the Moon in 1969.
Many people have a fear as we face an as yet uncertain future. At Kapiti SeniorNet they know that we need to be equipped to deal with technology, and that means keeping abreast with the changes thrown at them so that they in turn can keep you updated and happy to use your tech equipment. Not always easy for them or for you, but the surest way to meet the challenges of tomorrow.