Future Shock

Future Shock is a book first published in 1970 by Alvin Toffler. It was followed by two more similar books that refined the ideas first exposed in this book. Those books are The Third Wave which was published in 1980 and Power Shift in 1990.

There is also a documentary based on the book, narrated by none other than Orson Welles. I warn you that the AV quality is poor however.


Then there are some other Alvin Toffler videos I found which I consider to be interesting.

Change is the process by which the future invades our lives.

p. 1

Our psychologists and politicians alike are puzzled by the seemingly irrational resistance to change exhibited by certain individuals and groups.

p. 3

Future shock is the dizzying disorientation brought on by the premature arrival of the future.

p. 11

automation by itself represents “the greatest change in the whole history of mankind”

p. 13

Almost as much has happened since I was born as happened before.

p. 13

It is no longer resources that limit decisions. It is the decision that makes the resources.

p. 15

a stream of change so accelerated that it influences our sense of time, revolutionizes the tempo of daily life, and affects the very way we “feel” the world around us. We no longer “feel” life as men did in the past.

p. 17

All “things” – from the tiniest virus to the greatest galaxy – are, in reality, not things at all, but processes.

p. 20

Time is the currency of exchange that makes it possible to compare the rates at which very different processes play themselves out.

p. 21

technology feeds on itself.

p. 26

“Knowledge . . . is power.” […] “Knowledge is change”

p. 32

For while we tend to focus on only one situation at a time, the increased rate at which situations flow past us vastly complicates the entire structure of life, multiplying the number of roles we must play and the number of choices we are forced to make. This, in turn, accounts for the choking sense of complexity about contemporary life.

p. 34

To survive, to avert what we have termed future shock, the individual must become infinitely more adaptable and capable then ever before. […] He must, in other words, understand transience.

p. 35

This wound-up man-on-the-go was, and still is, a potent symbol of the people of the future

p. 36

richer, better educated, more mobile […] they also live longer

p. 38

That’s why people are always driving somewhere for no particular reason. Traveling is the drug of the Movement. Seemingly aimless, this driving about is a compensation mechanism. Understanding the powerful attraction that a certain pace of life can exert on the individual helps explain much otherwise inexplicable or “aimless” behavior.

p. 39

one of the most important forms of knowledge that we impart to a child is a knowledge of how long things last.

p. 42

assumptions about duration


adjusted his durational expectancies

p. 43

prepare people for fruitful roles in a super-industrial society.

p. 44

The five relationships – plus time – form the fabric of social experience. This is why, as suggested earlier, things, places, people, organizations and ideas are the basic components of all situations.

p. 45

it often becomes cheaper to replace than to repair.

p. 57

the ephemeralization of man’s links with the things that surround him.

p. 63

the rental revolution

p. 63

“lives based on having are less free then lives based either on doing or on being.”

p. 66 quote by William James

As affluence rises, however, human needs become less directly linked to biological survival and more highly individuated.

p. 70

the consumer has a vague feeling that he wants a change.

p. 70

pop culture

p. 72

Never in history has distance meant less.

p. 75

For millions, and particularly for the “people of the future,” home is where you find it.

p. 83

The license of the sixteen-year-old is a valid admission to adult society.

p. 84

Americans tend to admire travelers […] To travel is to gain status

p. 86

find work, make money and find shelter. These features are often accompanied by restlessness and increased psychomotor activity

p. 89

modular principle to human relationships.

p. 97

we plug into a module of his personality

p. 97

a critical dimension of all interpersonal relationships: their duration.

p. 99

We expect that certain kinds of relationships will endure longer than others.

p. 100

the introduction of advanced technology, whether we call it automation or not, is necessarily accompanied by drastic changes in the types of skills and personalities required by the economy.

p. 108

Thus instead of thinking in terms of a “career” the citizen of super-industrial society will think in terms of “serial careers.”

p. 110

the relative advantage of experience over knowledge seems to be rapidly decreasing.

p. 113

temporary help service

p. 115

“Every job I’m on is a crash job, and when the pressure is immense, I work better”

p. 116

They can work very much when and where they wish.

p. 116

break away from those who are liabilities and form relationships with those who can help them.


people who have literally and spiritually left home

p. 117

a minimum population of 1,000,000 is needed to provide a professional worker today with twenty interesting friends.

p. 120

rapid on-off clicks in our interpersonal lives we must be able to operate at a level of adaptability never before asked of human beings.

p. 122

tangible components of situations- people, places and things – the rate of turnover is rising.

p. 123

organization is an inescapable part of all our lives.

p. 125

table of organization […] T/O

p. 128

Titles change from week to week

p. 128

“self-renewing” organization, he defined as one that constantly changes its structure in response to changing needs.

p. 131

“project” or “task-force” management. Here teams are assembled to solve specific short-term problems.

p. 132

a revolutionary shift in power relationships.

p. 137

As machines take over routine tasks […] more and more of the energy of society (and organizations) must turn toward the solution of non-routine problems. This requires a degree of imagination and creativity

p. 141

we are moving toward a “working society of technical co-equals”

p. 142

there will be adaptive, rapidly changing temporary systems.

p. 144

“The loyalty of the professional man is to his profession and not to the organization that may house him at any given moment.”

p. 146

The old boundaries between specialties are collapsing.

p. 147

The new spirit in these transient organizations is closer to that of the entrepreneur than the organization man. The free-swinging entrepreneur who started up vast enterprises unafraid of defeat or adverse opinion, is a folk hero of industrialism, particularly in “adventurous souls, hungry for novelty . . . not at all alarmed at change.”

p. 148

Executives look at themselves as individual entrepreneurs who are selling their knowledge and skills.

p. 149

Nations advancing toward super-industrialism sharply step up their output of these “psycho-economic” products. Instant celebrities burst upon the consciousness of millions like an image-bomb – which is exactly what they are.

p. 152

Every person carries within his head a mental model of the world – a subjective representations of external reality.

p. 155

Events speed past us, compelling us to reassess our assumptions – our previous formed images of reality.

p. 177

the gap between what we believe and what really is


To maintain our adaptive balance […] we struggle to refresh our imagery, to keep it up-to-date, to relearn reality.

p. 179

Learning required energy; and relearning requires even more.

p. 179

relearning […] reclassifying imagery.

[…] the need for continuing education

p. 180

The problem, as we shall see, is whether he can survive freedom.

p. 187

climate control. What we call weather is largely a consequence of the interaction of sun, air and ocean.

p. 191

When we gradually get to know how nature makes these things, and when we can imitate nature, we will have processes of an entirely new kind.

p. 196

it will be possible at some point to do away with the female uterus altogether. Babies will be conceived, nurtured and raised to maturity outside the human body.

p. 199

“I don’t think there’s a task you can name that a machine can’t do – in principle. If you can define a task and a human can do it, then a machine can, at least in theory, also do it. The converse, however, is not true.”

p. 210

once a techno-society reaches a certain stage of industrial development, it begins to shift energies into the production of services


the growth of a strange new sector based on what can only be called the “experience industries.”

p. 221

The manufacturer adds a “psychic load” to his basic product, and the consumer gladly pays for this intangible benefit.

A classic example is the case of the appliance or auto manufacturer who adds buttons, knobs or dials to the control panel or dashboard, even when these have seemingly no significance. The manufacturer has learned that increasing the number of gadgets, up to a point, gives the operator of the machine the sense of controlling a more complex device, and hence a feeling of increased mastery. This psychological payoff is designed into the product.

Conversely, pains are taken not to deprive the consumer of an existing psychological benefit. Thus a large American food company proudly launched a labor-saving, add-water-only cake mix. The company was amazed when women rejected the product in favor of mixes that require extra labor – the addition of an egg along with the water. By inserting powdered egg in the factory, the company had oversimplified the task of the housewife, depriving her of the sense of creatively participating in the cake-baking process. The powdered egg was hastily eliminated, and women went happily back to cracking their own eggs. Once again a product was modified to provide a psychic benefit.

p. 222 The cake mix story is also included in the Influence book by Robert Cialdini and is the perfect example of how we tend to overcomplicate things

consumers begin to collect experiences

p. 226

Future experience designers will, for example, create gambling casinos in which the customer plays not for money, but for experiential payoffs

p. 230

magazine awarded one of its readers a week in Majorca with one of its “topless” models.

p. 231

Attention will be paid to the psychological overtones of every step or component of the product.

p. 233

“emphasis upon the inner as well as the material needs of individuals and groups.” This new emphasis, SRI (Stanford Research Institute) suggests, will arise not merely from the demands of the consumer, but from the very need of the economy to survive. “In a nation where all essential material needs can be filled by perhaps no more than three-fourths or even half of the productive capacity, a basic adjustment is required to keep the economy healthy.”

p. 234

We are moving from a “gut” economy to a “psyche” economy because there is only so much gut to be satisfied.

p. 236

experiences are the only products which , once bought by the consumer, cannot be taken away from him

p. 236

Indeed, the pursuit of love through family life has become, for many, the very purpose of life itself.
Love, however, is defined in terms of this notion of shared growth. […] Partners in successful marriages are said to “grow together.”
This “parallel development” theory of love carries endorsement from marriage counsellors, psychologists and sociologists. […] the quality of the relationship between husband and wife is dependent upon “the degree of matching in their phases of distinct but comparable development.”

p. 249-250

serial marriage is already the best kept family secret of the techno-societies.

p. 252

What will count will not be chronological age, but complementary values and interests and, above all, the level of personal development. To put it another way, partners will be interested not in age, but in stage.

p. 257

We may choose one future over another. We cannot, however, maintain the past.

p. 258

transience, novelty and diversity

p. 259

Ironically, the people of the future may suffer not from an absence of choice, but from a paralyzing surfeit of it. […] overchoice.

p. 264

diversity will cost no more than uniformity

p. 267

We are, in fact, racing toward “over-choice” – the point at which the advantages of diversity and individualization are cancelled by the complexity of the buyer’s decision-making process.

p. 269

Ever since the rise of industrialism, education in the West, and particularly in the United States, has been organized for the mass production of basically standardized educational packages.


personalized product

p. 272

A good deal of education will take place in the student’s own room at home or in a dorm, at hours of his own choosing. […] via computerized information retrieval systems

p. 275 – isn’t it crazy that this was written in the 1970s

every man can now be his own publisher.

p. 280

would store a consumer’s profile – data about his occupation and interests – in a central computer. […] match them against the individual’s interest profile

p. 282

choice turns into overchoice

p. 283

an identity


we, too, search for identity by attaching ourselves to informal cults, tribes or groups of various kinds.

p. 285

specialization breeds subcults.

p. 286

Even if technology were to free millions of people from the need to work in the future, we would find the same push toward diversity operating among those who are left free to play. For we are already producing large numbers of “fun specialists.”

p. 288

the axis of diversity shifts from a spatial . . . to a temporal or generational dimension.

p. 292

The individual searching for some sense of belonging […] social connection that confers some sens of identity.

p. 298

The level of personality disorder, neurosis, and just plain psychological distress in our society suggests that it is already difficult for many individuals to create a sensible, integrated, and reasonably stable personal style. […] We face a tempting and terrifying extension of freedom.

p. 299

face not choice but overchoice

p. 301

For if the early technology of industrialism required mindless, robot-like men to perform endlessly repetitive tasks, the technology of tomorrow takes over precisely these tasks, leaving for men only those functions that require judgement, interpersonal skills and imagination.

p. 302

America is tortured by uncertainty with respect to money, property, law and order, race, religion, God, family and self.

p. 303

They begin to “consume” life styles the way people of an earlier, less choice-chocked time consumed ordinary products.

p. 305

scan-and-select procedure

p. 306

To the subcult member, its heroes provide what Speicher calls the “crucial existential necessity of psychological identity.”

p. 309

This power stems from our almost universal desperation to “belong.”

p. 310

Subcults reach out to capture us and appeal to our most private fantasies in ways far more powerful and subtle than any yet devised by Madison Avenue.


They offer not a product, but a super-product. […] The “miracle ingredient,” the exclusive component, the one thing that subcults offer that other hawkers cannot, is a respite from the strain of over-choice.

p. 311

In the welter of conflicting moralities, in the confusion occasioned by over-choice, the most powerful, most useful “super-product” of all is an organizing principle of one’s life. This is what a life style offers.

p. 312

Most of us, in fact, do not think of our own lives in terms of life style, and we often have difficulty in talking about it objectively.

p. 313

psychologist Leon Festinger coined the term “cognitive dissonance”

p. 314

the choice of a life style model to emulate is a crucial strategy in our private war against the crowding pressure of over-choice.

p. 314

For the life style itself has become a throw-away item.

p. 317

“serial selves.”


a new theory of personality

p. 319

“right” life pace, the “right” sequence of subcults to join and life style models to emulate, the triumph is exquisite.

p. 320

Those who can adapt will

p. 325

Any major life change is major only because it forces us to make many little changes

p. 334

“orientation response”

p. 334

reticular activating system

p. 335

“No one can live without experiencing some degree of stress all the time”

p. 342

Change is not merely necessary to life; it is life. […] life is adaptation.

p. 342

Our image of reality is distorted. This may explain why, when we experience sensory overstimulation, we suffer confusion, a blurring of the line between illusion and reality.

p. 350

“Rational behavior always includes an intricate combination of routinization and creativity. Routine is essential . . . [because it] frees creative energies for dealing with the more baffling array of new problems for which routinization is an irrational approach.”


For unless we can extensively program our behaviour, we waste tremendous amounts of information-processing capacity on trivia.

p. 356-357 don’t waste time on trivia. I have my schedule for tomorrow ready today. I know what I will eat and do so I can let the creative juices roll out.

one widespread response to high-speed change is outright denial. […] “block out” unwelcome reality.[…] The Denier

p. 359

The Specialist […] he energetically attempts to keep pace with change – but only in a specific narrow sector of life.

p. 359

The Reversionist sticks to his previously programmed decisions and habits with dogmatic desperation.


Reversionism masquerades as revolution.

p. 360

The Super-Simplifier, groping desperately, invests every idea he comes across with universal relevance […] no, idea, not even mine or thine, is omni-insightful. But for the Super-Simplifier nothing less than total relevance suffices. Maximization of profits explains America. The Communits conspiracy explains race riots.

p. 361

the rich complexity of reality

p. 362

turn crises into opportunity

p. 374

Time and Emotion Forecast […] the percentage of time and emotional energy invested in various important aspects of life

p. 380

the way he distributes his time and emotional energies is a direct clue to his value system and his personality

p. 381

bringing together people who are sharing, or are about to share, a common adaptive experience

p. 384

Teenagers might be required to spend some time living in a typical early industrial community and to actually work in its mill or factory. Such living education would give them a historical perspective no book could ever provide.

p. 391 like those programs where you have teenagers going to live with the Amish community

“Whole societies, whatever their sizes and degrees of complexity, need controls to ensure the maintenance of equilibrium, and control comes in several forms. One is ritual.

p. 394

In the United States, the arrival of spring is marked for most urban dwellers not by sudden greenness but by the opening of the baseball season.

p. 395

large and pleasantly predictable events.

p. 395

Whatever happens to the stock markets, or to world politics, or to family life, the American League and the National League run through their expected motions. Outcomes of individual games vary. The standings of the teams go up and down. But the drama plays itself out within a set of reassuringly rigid and durable rules.

p. 395 I experienced this with tennis, seeing each season start “down under” which pretty much got my year started with a bang. See new players emerge and at the end of the season looking forward to the new season. It was something that gave me stability. I believe the same is true for long time ticket holders in the English Premier League where they even pass their seat number down from generation to generation.

Their vast energies are applied to cranking out Industrial Men – people tooled for survival in a system that will be dead before they are.

p. 399

Machines will increasingly perform the routine tasks; men the intellectual and creative tasks.

p. 402

Human work will move out of the factory and mass office into the community and the home.

p. 402 again can you believe this was written in 1970?

men who can make critical judgments, who can weave their way through novel environments, who are quick to spot new relationships in the rapidly changing reality.

p. 402 – 403

Johnny must learn to anticipate the directions and rate of change.

p. 403

life long education on a plug-in/plug-out basis.

p. 407

distinguish in education between “data,” as it were, and “skills.”

p. 411

people who must live in the super-industrial societies will need new skills in three crucial areas: learning, relating and choosing.

p. 414

They must, in short, learn how to learn.

p. 414

enhance human adaptability […] instructing students how to learn, unlearn and relearn

p. 414

Tomorrow’s illiterate will not be the man who can’t read; he will be the man who has not learned how to learn.

p. 414

“life know-how”

p. 418

“Thought is action in rehearsal.”

p. 419 a quote from Freud

the habit of anticipation

p. 419 works well for trading

The men who rise in management are expected, with each successive promotion, to concern themselves with events further in the future.

p. 420 – 421

the framework for the present, one might say, is created by the future.

p. 421

we find it easier to talk about the past than the future.

p. 423

a stronger future-consciousness

p. 424

write their own “future autobiographies”

p. 426

“My name is Charles Stein. I am a needle worker all my life. I am seventy-seven years old, and I want to get what I didn’t get in my youth. I want to know about the future. I want to die an educated man!

p. 427

OLIVER would thus become a kind of universal question-answerer for him.

p. 434 pretty much what Google is now

mathematical modeling

p. 439

“The rate of change increases at an accelerating speed, without corresponding acceleration in the rate at which further responses can be made”

p. 447

manager and worker, planner and plannee, with decision made by one for the other. This system, adequate while change unfolds at an industrial tempo, breaks down as the pace reaches super-industrial speeds. The increasingly unstable environment demands more and more non-programmed decisions down below

p. 449

fad machines […] The nostalgia business becomes a booming industry.

p. 450

the consequent sense of lost control also feed the philosophy of “now-ness”

p. 450

self-fulfillment, social responsibility, aesthetic achievement, hedonistic individualism

p. 452

the psychologization of both goods and services

p. 453

what goes on in their heads becomes much more important than in the past

p. 453

social indicators idea

p. 455

Forecasts tend to become self-fulfilling

p. 461

certain unique events – assassinations, for example – are, for all intents and purposes, unpredictable at present (although we can forecast classes of such events)

p. 461

mind-stretching speculation about possibilities

p. 463

even impossibility is often temporary

p. 465

“when a whole system is composed of a number of subsystems, the one that tends to dominate is the one that is least stable.”

p. 476

What was naive under industrialism may be realistic under super-industrialism; what was practical may be absurd.

p. 480