Many Futurists Look at 2020-2070 in After Shock Essays

After Shock is a collection of essays by Futurists. It is published in 2020 which is the 50 year anniversary of Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock book.

There are many essays reviewing and framing the key developments of the internet, social media, artificial intelligence, smartphones and computers over the past fifty years.

There are essays that discussed Future Shock missing climate change and societal cultural changes from television and other technology.

Aubrey de Grey is known as a key advocate for antiaging technology and he has set up the SENS Institute which has raised tens of millions in support of this. SENS has helped launch many antiaging companies. Aubrey writes about concerns about overpopulation ignore that population growth has flattened, is declining in all places except Africa and some parts of Asia. Asia population growth will rapidly hit peaks in countries like India that are stilling growing.

There is 28 page summary of the 2015 Foresight Guide by John Smart.

17 thoughts on “Many Futurists Look at 2020-2070 in After Shock Essays”

  1. correct. Predicting global warming accurately has the same probability as predicting people will buy pet rocks.

    Looking ahead, how many will accurately predict Earth won’t warm as much in the next 20 years? Probably no scientists given they don’t want to end up like Galileo. And if Earth doesn’t warm as predicted, the answer will be all that hard work (not) decarbonizing has paid off. Mere thought and willpower by some small minority will be enough to change the laws of physics.

  2. @glockman: “I disagree that he missed global warming, just that global warming wasn’t a predictable variable back then (and some argue still isn’t).”

    Toffler didn’t catch on to Globull Worming because it wasn’t on anyone’s radar screen back then. In fact, just a short time later (approx. 1974) there were articles in Time and Newsweek that said that scientists were worried about a new Ice Age (that, at least, is what the articles said…who knows the rigor with which they were written). Anyway, how could Toffler have caught on to the “trend” of “global warming” when, in fact, the entire “hockey stick” (and the data behind it) were an outright fraud?

    But let’s assume, just for the moment, that the hockey stick is valid, genuine science – when it came out in the 1990s, it was “groundbreaking” – IOW, no one until then was aware of the phenomenon…so how could Toffler have possibly been aware of it, 20-odd years earlier?

    So, while you and I likely disagree on the issue of whether Mankind has caused global warming (or whether it even exists or, if so, whether it is actually a bad thing), we are definitely on the same page that Toffler didn’t miss it (whatever “it” may or may not be).

  3. Sorry, when looking at an interstellar scale, I was thinking of the human race in the Solar System as a single people (and on that scale it is, as almost any group of people can be broken up into smaller groups).

    I don’t know that I would call them luddites. Certain religions, for example, seek to avoid the use and/or ownership of various advances in technology that they feel are detrimental to their way of life, while being perfectly willing to both invest in and use advances that stop just short of that, and sometimes, advances that are considerably further along than some of the ones they won’t.

    Check out the Amish view on cell phones, for example, it may surprise you (given, there are many communities of Amish and rules differ from one to another).

    I can certainly imagine very large groups of people who would be fine with using self-aware computers, as well as advanced propulsion and life support systems, but who would be dead set again having their minds directly connected to, or augmented by, any sort of manufactured device (e.g. mental prostheses), even while they might be fine with advanced forms of physical prostheses.

    Consider that, even as human cloning becomes a reality in terms of capability, to actually get one grown will probably require going to a clinic in one of the 150 countries that have not banned it (if you are in one of the 46 countries that has), additionally, even some of the ones that have banned it have only banned it for reproduction.

  4. Yes, easy networking is the key. So much easier to fall into whatever corner of life that floats your boat. The question in my mind is where is this mini-tribalism trend heading? Will the “big picture” themes still be around like nationalism, baseball, the political system, etc? Stuff that has so far been the glue holding societies together? Seems to me that “common fabric” is being hacked into a thousand pieces but the institutions designed around them still exists (mainstream media, representative democracy, top-steered society). This disconnect will only get worse because returning to the “old ways” doesn’t seem possible. I dunno. Maybe I just need some more coffee.

  5. Nothing is really new, you always had village idiots.
    However with the internet they get some focus because people like freak shows and also connect to other village idiots.

    So you get more conspiracy nuts around up to flat earth.
    An trend in that you get loads of sub cultures as they connect more easy. Facebook is probably the ruler here.
    Sub cultures was always an thing, an benefit of cities over villages.
    But its so much easier now.

  6. Even just “kicking off”, there can be multiple waves of emigration getting kicked off by different groups, possibly in different directions and at different times.

    I wouldn’t pretend to know what a hive mind may decide to do. But I wouldn’t preclude it wanting to spread itself, or offshoots from itself.

    AFAIK, there is significant correlation between people who are interested in the latest and future tech and those who are interested in space. So I also wouldn’t count them out of any space development efforts, both inside and outside of our solar system.

    If the luddites lead the way to space, they will be doing it with tech developed by the techies.

  7. Right. By “driven by” I only meant those kicking it off. The definition of a diaspora kinda precludes having more than one as it never really stops, unless the people that started it no longer exist or had changed enough to put a stop to it.

    A hive mind in the home system, for example, would likely have little interest in seeding the cosmos with more hive minds.

    And yes, people on the forefront of mainstream humanity (or what we are changing into) would have little interest in leaving the Solar System, just as New York City executives and Broadway stars have little interest in moving to Peoria, Battle Creek, or Lubbock. (Once they did that, they could likely never come back and resume their former positions at the top of the game.)

  8. Concur. There are way too many non-fiction books for laymen out there that pump a few ideas (or even one) into a full book.

    When I spring for something in that vein, it’s usually because every chapter is essentially a new article, all grouped together in a single volume by a theme.

  9. yes, but is that a small slice of the general population? At least right now. There will always be outliers. Just that sensationalism gets a lot of clicks but this outlier behavior isn’t representative of the whole. However, could be the forebearer of what is to come. Governed by plethora of tribal minority rulers.

    Maybe what you are describing is symptomatic of decentralized hierarchies. The traditional governing hierarchies (except for China) are gone and replaced by ever-changing movements. The old media, the old governmental governance, the old “you can have any color you want as long as it’s black”.

    Bottom line, humans like being told what to do and how to think and behave. The messengers are changing, sporadically and frequently.

  10. I expect any interstellar diaspora, if there is one, will be driven by those seeking to escape the direction of mainstream humanity’s sci-tech, not by those embracing it.

    There may be multiple streams of both. And there’s a conflicting influence: On the one hand, higher tech makes space easier. On the other hand, given limited communication speed, tech can advance much faster back home.

  11. I doubt I could make myself read anything other than the Cliff Notes for Future Shock at this point.

    I was recently discussing this in the context of another book (The Halflife of Facts).

    There are a whole bunch of airport bookshop type non-fiction books that apparently started life as a long form magazine article or maybe an internet post that got carried away.
    And as a magazine article it was great. It took one idea, developed it a bit, was though provoking and so on.

    But the author’s not going to make any money from a magazine article. So they take that article and expand on it, come up with more examples, add some pictures or illustrations.

    Take any numbers, put them in a table. Spread it over a page. Then graph it and that takes up another page.

    Have an entire page for each chapter heading. Take the most pithy sentence in each page and print it in large font in a little box somewhere else on that page.

    Put in blank pages at every opportunity. With a self contradictory “This page intentionally left blank”.

    And before you know it it’s 680 pages and you can charge $35 for it in the First Class lounge.

    But it’s still only worth a single magazine article. So look it up in wikipedia and read the synopsis. That’s all the data it actually contains.

  12. Then there’s the proliferation of yoga trends – hot, animal, paddleboard, naked, weed, aerial – and pretty much anything else anyone can imagine.

    Once again, I encounter mention of some internet trend where I don’t understand a single word of the description. Some big drama that drifts past like an iceberg. You just catch a glimse of the tip poking out of the water and you are really quite glad that you have no idea of what you are not seeing under the water.

  13. Future Shock got a lot of things right , imho. That is, the speed of change overwhelms humans. Our brains are exactly like they were 100,000 years ago but society moves at very different speeds. Disposable goods, jobs, and so on. The impact of the internet. Some stuff he got wrong (the end of the business cycle), but generally not a bad track record. I disagree that he missed global warming, just that global warming wasn’t a predictable variable back then (and some argue still isn’t).

    Haven’t read the new essays, but there is a concept that usually isn’t covered by futurists. That is the Lindy Effect (look it up). Ie the older something is, the longer it will last. We still have the pyramids, classic books, timeless restaurants etc. Futurists tend to ignore that “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”, which is foundational for human character. Despite our throwaway and attention-span-of-a-gerbil society.

  14. I doubt I could make myself read anything other than the Cliff Notes for Future Shock at this point.

    Much more fun to take ten or so of what we consider the main areas of sci-tech, project each of them forward five years, look at how they impact on each other, and then take them forward another five years, repeat. Things get weird pretty quick.

    Of course, those of us that live through it won’t see it that way. Consider that there was purportedly an actual witness to Lincoln’s assassination that appeared on a television game-show in the 1950’s (Samuel Seymour on I’ve Got a Secret).

    What was really striking to me is that, when I did this exercise, a lot of the areas began to effectively merge towards the middle of this century, especially after DNA, or its follow-on, becomes virtualized, and true man-machine mental interfaces and augmentations become mainstream.

    And I expect any interstellar diaspora, if there is one, will be driven by those seeking to escape the direction of mainstream humanity’s sci-tech, not by those embracing it. Of course, in the long run that won’t help because, wherever they settle, it will eventually start pushing forward again, regardless of any checks and limitations they attempt to impose.

  15. Well, their core projection was that many people would not be able to handle the complexities future technologies and resulting civilization would present to them.

    Is that perhaps what lies under the proliferation of so many unusual certainties or obsessions people have developed?

    Chem-trails was an early internet phenomenon that just keeps going. Anti-vaxers. Antifa. Alt-right. Radical anti-civilization Greens. Climate skeptics and believers. MAGA/Trump believers who think Trump plays 4 (or is it 5?) -D chess – but also Trump Derangement Syndrome. Non-binary pronouns. Gamer-gate. Incels. Anonymous. Radical Islamic terrorism, to a degree. Transhumanism. Many more, I’m sure.

    Note: I’m not saying “these are crazy”. My focus is on the proliferation of ideas/ideals people consider essential in defining themselves.

    Future Shock also pointed to the rise of much more transient trends – and we see various crazy internet meme fads that zip by – cinnamon challenge, eating dish tablets, duck faces, etc. Then there’s the proliferation of yoga trends – hot, animal, paddleboard, naked, weed, aerial – and pretty much anything else anyone can imagine.

  16. Don’t we have to start with an analysis of how good the predictions in Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock book turned out to be?

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