Help! The Future Has Arrived – Greg Albrecht
Omnia mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis (Latin)— all things change, and we change with them.
Fifty-two years ago, in his bestselling book Future Shock, Alvin Toffler depicted and defined the anxiety produced by too much turbulence and disruption in too short a period of time. For Toffler, Future Shock is the premature arrival of the future before humans are ready for it. His assessment is now becoming a disconcerting reality, a trauma our world at large is currently enduring.
In his remarkably accurate descriptions of life in this second decade of the 21st century, Toffler described a culture produced by a post-industrial machine-age society in which the old, traditional world would be uncoupled from a new, “progressive” and enlightened era. Many of his prognostications were right on target—we are indeed discovering that human beings are ill equipped to adjust to tsunami-like change.
In the wake of tidal waves of societal change, some respond by emotionally withdrawing, suffering stress and depression. Other reactions include anger and fear which fuel resentment-laden aggressive behavior. When humans are unable to cope with and adapt to increasingly profound and seemingly endless innovations, upheaval begets more upheaval.
In so many ways, our world today is adrift, as accelerating streams of social change have undermined and unhinged historic foundational building blocks. Traditional values embedded by church and family are being swept away by a volcanic eruption of progressive enlightenment. Whether fully known and realized or not, all of us, at one level, are struggling with the pace at which our world seems to be revolving—so fast that some report they feel emotionally dizzy and disoriented.
OUTDATED DEFINITIONS OF IDENTITY?
One byproduct of disconcerting and bewildering hyper-change is a loss of identity. At sea in an ocean of instability, people cling to life preservers that offer some promise of survival given the impact of the flash flood that threatens to engulf them. Grappling with challenges and questions to the fundamental nature of their existence many, in particular the younger generation, are finding new ways to be anchored and tethered to reality.
Many now speak of how they “identify” as a way of letting others know their sexual preference differs from their biology. Some even adopt a new name that differs from their given name on their birth certificate.
In the torrent and trauma of foundational upheaval many no longer find meaning and recognition in their work and career. Work, as a fundamental value, is under siege, increasingly perceived as a necessary evil to be endured in order that other goals might be achieved. North Americans are now less inclined to value work while assigning greater esteem to consumption. Work is perceived as tasks to be discarded as quickly as other means of support can be found—such as family, state and other resources. The pandemic of the past few years has hastened the practice of working from home—in so doing blurring the boundaries between work and home.
The ability to read and write was once valued as an essential skill imparting social status. Today, electronic skills and dexterity with devices are seen as a priority and standard of literacy. A work force largely unskilled in this new wave of electronic proficiency and the digital culture is now finding itself disenfranchised and if not literally homeless, constantly on the move to find sources of income, housing and survival. Responding to this deluge of alienation, governments both small and large find themselves under the gun to find ways to take care of geographical nomads and how to describe them—homeless, impoverished, nomads and vagabonds, underemployed? Who are these left behind people, and how might they be identified? Are such people virtually obsolete?