Do You Have Future Shock?

When I think about change, I almost always think of my grandfather – or as I knew him, Grandpa. Grandpa lived almost 100 years. As he got older his eyes got worse, so he had trouble seeing, but the last time I talked to him – when he was 98 – he still had a sharp (able to think and understand) mind and a long memory.

It was always fun to talk to Grandpa about change because he had seen a lot of it. The list of things that didn’t exist when he was born but had become an integral (necessary) part of life when he died is very long – things like cars, telephones, airplanes, radio, television, movies, computers, satellites, men on the moon, and space stations.

Grandpa wasn’t threatened by change (didn’t believe it would hurt him). In fact, I think he enjoyed it. I know he enjoyed talking about it. He read a lot and always seemed to be aware of (know) what was happening in the world around him. However, not everyone is as comfortable with change as he was.

Forty years ago, writer Alvin Toffler worried about the speed of change in a book he wrote called Future Shock. He defined future shock as too much change in too short a period of time.

Toffler was afraid that change would overwhelm people (be too difficult for them), and that the speed of change would cause them to feel like they weren’t connected to the world they lived in. He feared that people would suffer from stress (feelings of worry) and disorientation (confusion). In other words, they would be “future shocked.”

Rapid (fast) change has become a constant (happening all the time) in our world. A recent article in Newsweek magazine used an interesting infographic (a picture or image of facts) to illustrate some of the changes that have taken place since 2000. Here are some of the changes you’ll find in the infographic:

  • Daily letters mailed – 208 billion in 2000 | 175 billion in 2010
  • Daily e-mails – 12 billion in 2000 | 247 billion in 2010
  • Text messages – 400,000 in 2000 | 4.5 billion in 2010
  • Books published – 282,242 in 2000 | 1,052,803 in 2010 (Are you surprised?)
  • Daily newspapers – 1,480 in 2000 | 1,302 in 2010
  • CD sales – $943 million in 2000 | $427.9 million in 2010
  • iTunes downloads – 0 in 2000 | 10 billion in 2010
  • Time spent online – 2.7 hours per week in 2000 | 18 hours per week in 2010

Do you feel like you have future shock?  If so, what do you do about it?

~ Warren Ediger – ESL tutor and coach; creator of Successful English where you can always learn more about how to improve your English.

photo by w. ediger

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25 Responses to Do You Have Future Shock?

  1. Paulo Lopes Ferreira says:

    Hi for all

    These change worry us too much. We need to think about the nature and every things we doing against it´s. nature is a organism live than reacts when is mistreated.

    Let´s think about it.

    a Hug.

  2. Peter says:

    this article defenetly is ur subtle way of challenging your students to come up with the best they can,linguestically

    it is like you r saying ” bring it on baby” :))))))

    my only future shock I guess is on-lone dating,tweater, in short, all the social web pages out there

    You know what,It effected us in so many levels
    take Eslpod for example , I m communicating right now with Jeff and other gang memebers world wide through an advance yet simple phone set called iPhone at the comfort of a local drug store.
    if this is not a future shock then what it is
    admit it,we are all in a way addicted to what advanced technologhy has brought upon us
    just imagine yourself without cell phones, cars,Internet ,and most importantly Jeff website:)

    I am telling guys we are all slaved by modernized world we live in
    let just pray that God transfers all these ultra advanced technolegy to the after world otherwise up there probably we would go back to the horse back riding age:)))

  3. emiliano says:

    No, I do not.

    Yes, my life has changed very very fast, and I think I am one of the persons refereed above who has downloaded all kind of interesting things through ITunes, sent thousands of mails, read papers and books by internet, listened to music and PODCAST by the web, paid and bought lot of things by line, and spent several hours by day online.
    Yes, I am, and I´m happy about the matter.

    When I was free from work at the bank, 1995, nothing of these events were in my life, but now they are and my mind is more
    open and sharp now that when I was younger, funny, and I think it´s a consequence of the changes.

    When I was young I like to read science-fiction books, in fact I love them, so I was looking forward all these changes along the past years.
    May be some of the changes have been bigger than on the books.

    A single remark, when I was ten years old we haven´t a phone, a tv., a fridge, a washing machine, a pick-up, an L.P. vinyl, a casette,
    a walkman, …… home. Some of these things didn´t exist at that moment, but it didn´t matter we haven´t any.
    A few books, a radio, and imagination…….nothing more.

    Thank you Warren, and interesting infographic that explain lot of new human habits.
    Excelent Post.

  4. Julio says:

    I think the question is to get used to the new invents, devices and so. Whenever one can’t accomplish such an achievement, then one would have to start worrying, because one would be shrinking oneself regarding the current way of life.
    So, the aim, in my view, must always be to dive into the new technological advances, unless one wants to miss the train, because would be very difficult to get on later.
    I believe, as Emiliano does, that one begins to get older when one is unable to get by in such advances.
    Best regards from Spain,

  5. emiliano says:

    That´s the point Julio, you are right and it is an idea I have always, the first moment I can´t accomplish with so many devices or new ways of communication it would be the time of sitting under the sun and relax waiting to die sooner or later and just feeling myself outside at least of this new world.
    Then I would like to read, paint or listen to English ESL and some music…….possible?. I hope some way.

    Of course I want to delay it as much as possible, so I try to learn how to manage new iphones, ipad, kindle, ipod, mac, ebooks, new audio or video files, how see them by wifi on the tv.screen. Everything is changing, the way of reading books or papers, how to
    see the tv. device, the cds. are dissapearing and music goes by the air at home……just incredible.

    All is new and amusing and keeps my mind outside from other real and serious problems in my life.
    Yes, I like to be in not out from the changes while I can.

  6. Rezaul Karim says:

    This is really shocking to think that very soon we’ll get old and gradually lose senses we’re given at the time of our birth by the Almighty. But what is fact is that very few of us care to think of our being old very soon. We are mostly busy doing things which indicate that we are here in this world for ever

    The factor what changes us and our civilization is Time. An English poet very skilfully personified time and said that time is an old gipsy man who never stays at a particular place.
    He moves and moves on creating new civilization and history destroying the old ones. Things like cars, telephones, airplanes, radio, television, movies, computers, satellites, men on the moon, and space stations are nothing but the miraculous and mysterious charisma of Time.

    Thanks for this wonderful post.

  7. Ali says:

    I totally agree with Emiliano. Changes aren’t necessrily bad or good. Think of the life just at 3 decades ago. Many thing has changed since then and you can enjoy using new technologies.
    Take the ways you could and you can learn english language, for example. I can remember we had to go to english teaching classes three days a week here in Tehran. It took us a lot time and it was hard to find some audio tapes on english conversations. There were only limited resources for people like me who were interested in learning english. You can imagine how the new technology has brought us such great resources lik ESLPod. This is true about the other aspects of life in such an advanced technologic era.
    May be you, like me, are worried about the effects of new technologies on environment and the way that human being is destroying its nature and using the limited resources of the Earth. I am really worried about them ang get nevous when I am thinking about them. But, I am sure we will solve these problems and find new resourses. Technology will not stop and this is a good news not a shocking news.
    The shocking news, as Rezaul Karim says, is that we all are getting older and loose our abilities and get disabiliy, instead. That’s a very bad news. It always make me sad. But, let’s forget about it and live in the present and enjoy our lives.


  8. Braziliano says:

    I think we have better things to be worried about.
    I myself for example have to worry about a Calculus II exam.

  9. Talal says:

    well, I am 18 years old , so I dont know what has been changed and the developments that took place, however I know somethings that has been invented recently , for instance ,take the laptop , when I was in first grade , no body knew it , now , here I am , typing a comment by it, the point is , I have experienced shallow changes but not like Emiliano experienced for example.
    anyway , I am happy with any change that happens in the present or in the future.

  10. Peter says:

    I m just reporting in one not cultural but future shop

    right now at this very moment I am having a western omlet with my bib on:))

    I m messy all over still interacting with this page with the state of the art called iPhone 4

    guys ,
    don’t see it as a shock; see it as a privilage
    as luck would have it,we live in the area when we as intellrctual entities are bestowed the luxuory of living a sophiticated,advanced,yet intricate life
    man ,I feel like a hobo
    for last couple of months ,the whole summmer time ,I was like a nomad roaming around the country
    I m loosing my mother tongue ,words scaping me ,You mother tongue instead taking over. And ,this the invasion I embarace willingly:)
    I m piece of work ,aren’t I?

  11. Peter says:

    Ali do u stil live in Iran
    your English command is impressive for a person who lives in a non-speaking English Language like the back-home of yours

    I know what I m talking about bro . I have been around( not a bad way:))

  12. Peter says:

    Non-speaking English country
    my English skills suck
    believe you me ,when it comes to English ability, I stink man
    in fact, I reek up the whole place
    Jeff smells the odour fully
    and you guys partially:)))
    life officially sucks
    I feel empty man,I feel hallow
    life has no purpose

  13. Peter says:

    I do agree with u Ali
    we must live in the moment and let future figure itself out

  14. Peter says:

    Dear Jeff

    I have problem using the expression” odds-on favourit ” or the odds on itself

    I use it instictly
    not accademicly
    u know what I mean
    could u extend my horizen on the matter

  15. Ali says:

    Thanks Peter for the agreement. Yes, now I’m living in Tehran, Iran. I lived for around 1 year in the united States and passed my fellowship course over there. After completing my course, I came back to my country.
    I follow your posts all the time and enjoy reading them. Actually, to me, your posts are a little bit hard to underestand. Your comments are look like posting from a native speaker. I remember you were living in Canada. Am I right Peter. Enjoy your life.



  16. emiliano says:

    All the morning I have been with the pc of Cuca, my wife, because it´s going bad and collapsed once and again without any
    She couldn´t mail our daughter who is now at the Canarias Islands, as a rule Cuca mails her everyday and Eva, my daughter,
    did the same to her.
    All this along the last seven years….thousands of mails.
    Yes, I know all this is rather incredible but it´s true.

    I have change the computer from the windows vista to wind. seven for the third time already, just from the moment it started
    to fail till now.
    But nothing about the pc. is going well. A virus?….yes I think so, but it has an antivirus, so what is happening?
    Yes, this morning I was remembering the post and felt the “future shock”? I think so because it was impossible for me to find a good
    Cuca needs the pc. and I can´t do anything?, she doesn´t like Mac and I couldn´t do a good change with her, my Mac.
    for her and a new one for me?. No, I don´t think she likes this arrangement, just a pity, it would be perfect to me
    but not for her.

    At the end, the pc. is going on again, till when?., that´s the question.
    I have passed the antivirus to the startup program and two virus have been founded over there.
    Why don´t think this before?…..I knew nothing about it, I thought that having the antivirus and scaning all the pc. was enough.
    It would be possible that the good solution has been found at last? or still I have reasons to be scared of the future shock about pc.
    or similar informatic problems?
    No, please, with the mac. nothing of these problems use to happen.
    Well, I don´t know but this morning I was fed up of informatic problems and I hated the pc. strongly.
    Sorry for so long and boring story but it fits with the post.

  17. Peter says:

    Dear Warren,

    speaking of which, what is the difernce between integral and cog integral

    you brought up another good point
    I feel threatened
    I feel intimitated
    could you point out the difference
    I don’t feel intimitated by you
    I don’t feel threatened by the fact…
    Are they interchangable
    could you discuss the matter
    sorry that I reffered to you as Jeff
    an honest mistake
    As you know, English language is a brain teaser
    there are lots of words with subtle peractical differences and knowing that disparety make a huge difference. Knowing those rather trival differences is the fine line beteween being articulate and talking gibberish
    so ,I apeal to you guys DRAW THAT LINE FOR US


    Hi. evereone. I see a big problem about technology and is that the people are every time more and more alone because they spend very much time in your ” tecnological hobbies ” and they do not have time to family or friends. Your contacts are ” virtual “, people who not know, you can not look into the ayes, much less touched. It is important, for me , to know how to distribute the time between technology and people who love us

  19. Gaurav says:

    Change is good, always.

  20. Karl, Austria says:

    Change is accelerating more and more. So five years in time now make more difference than 200 years in the middle ages.

    And yes, I AM SURPRISED. 1,052,803 Books published in 2010 ??? That is as astonishing as it is encouraging. Good to know. Thanks Warren.

  21. emiliano says:

    Warren, I was reading again the infographic and thinking about the same of Karl, so many books published?, yes I am very surprised.
    But, have the people time to read them?
    Spending so long time on line, downloading music or videos, sending millions of mails…..where is the time to read books?
    It´s really difficult of assimilate, at least for me.

  22. kuongdv says:

    I like changes. I need changes. I love changes. There is a famous saying said that “there is no one can swim twice on the same river”. I support and hope on the slogan of Obama’s presidential race “we need changes”.

  23. Farahnaz says:

    As everyone knows most things have been changed from their birthday till now. If life stays fix without any changes, it will be boring and people gets fed up with it.
    Moreover some changes isn’t appropriate in life. For example: changing in dietary. People are changing their habits of eating. Nowadays they use more fast foods instead of healthy food, so it makes a lot of health problems, especially fatness. Improving in technology makes more sedentary jobs with no movement that have serious consequences for health and so on. But we can’t ignore the advantages of the changing.
    Briefly changing is good. I think most people used to it, actually you don’t stop it.
    Thank you Warrent, it was a good question.

  24. BAKHTIAR says:

    For me i am not too much worry about my future, in my material life have my house i mean i have my own house so economically i do not pay for a rent, in addition i have a good job as profession translator, and International Human Rights specialist, this is in one hand , in the another hand i mean morally i am happily married person i have two nice and well behaved boys. In relation to the question,yes it is true sometimes we have to be worry about changes that will come and challenge my family in areas such as economy, education, social life and lifeskills, but techincally i do believe we should not give up or give in ourselves to future shocks we have to use efforts and do our best to provide much rich life for ourselves and our families.


  25. Sanaz says:

    Warren, many thanks for this post.
    these changes don’t worry me at all. I think they make us to be active in another way. We should keep fresh our knowledge all the time.
    I want to say Ali, don’t worry about the future. Because you’ve forgotten the point that in parallel with improving the technology, the medicine and pharmacy sciences are improving and changing too.
    So the new sciences can come up with the new ways to increase the abilities of humans along with increasing their ages. I mean an individual who is 70 today has more medical choices for overcoming with his/her physical disabilities than a seventy-year-old one in fifty years ago.
    I like changes. I need changes.

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