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시사 'Future Shock' team issues predictions for next 40 years

admin 2010.10.15 17:42 read.6264 vote.51

'Future Shock' team issues predictions for next 40 years  

   Information overload. Power shifts. Rate of change. Digital revolution. Knowledge age.
It has been 40 years since Alvin Toffler popularized the terms in his jolting portrait of things to come in the landmark book Future Shock. Six million copies have sold, and the phrases from it now are part of the lexicon. If future shock is now, what does the future hold?

Today, Toffler Associates releases "40 For The Next 40" — trends it says will shape our world from now to 2050. What the changes could bring:

• Politics. New leaders around the globe (80 nations will hold presidential elections in the next three years), an unprecedented increase in female leaders and a push by religious groups to get into government. "Philanthro-capitalists" such as Microsoft's Bill Gates will have more global influence.

• Technology. Rapid access to specialists across the globe. Successful organizations will link "answer seekers" and "problem solvers."

Chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and meteorological sensors will be part of everyday devices such as cellphones.

Mass production will be replaced by on-demand, custom manufacturing.

Invasion of privacy will spread — the result of cheaper, smaller and widely available surveillance devices. Data may be collected faster than it can be analyzed, resulting in "cyberdust."

• Social ways. Consumers will be the most important source of innovation. Social networks will gain influence.

• Economics. Corporations will be nimble enough to maneuver in and out of countries very quickly. Technological advances will give poor nations the opportunity for economic power. "Obsoledge" will be knowledge that becomes obsolete — a process that will happen faster because change is so rapid.

Where work is done will matter much less. White-collar workers will be freed from their cubicles.

• Environment. Better water filtration will eliminate many diseases from developing countries and fill the need for drinkable water.

A whirlwind of change

The relentless pace of change wearies some Americans.

Vernon Wease, 50, a fundraiser for a non-profit group in Portland, Ore., uses a smartphone, the Internet, e-mails, texts and Facebook.

"I would give up most of the convenience in a minute," he says. "I have adapted and given in, in part due to my kids."

His three children — ages 23, 19 and 15 — have no difficulty with the information overload Future Shock warned the world about.

Wease, who speaks longingly of his dad's Underwood manual typewriter, struggles. He tried to explain to his daughter the importance of face-to-face communication. "Because of Facebook, she could not grasp it," he says.

"What has really come to pass is this idea that we would be going through massive revolutionary change in society, and we are," says Deborah Westphal, managing partner of Toffler Associates, a management consulting firm founded by Toffler and his wife, Heidi (her name wasn't on the bookbecause publishers thought a male author would sell better). "Time would become almost instantaneous. Space doesn't matter anymore. There's no boundary."

The Tofflers are appearing this week at a forum in Washington, D.C., that marks the 40th anniversary of Future Shock. Business and government leaders are meeting to discuss the book's impact and hear Toffler Associates' predictions for the next 40 years.

How many of the Tofflers' warnings have been realized?

"Look at the arguments we're having about border control, privacy," Westphal says. "We're trying to solve these problems. ... The shock is still occurring."

Has the shock worn off?

Some analysts suggest the shock wasn't so shocking.

"If you says things in a general enough way, they will always be true," says Cheryl Russell, editorial director at New Strategist Publications, a publisher of books on demographics, and former editor in chief of American Demographics. "Everybody had this sense that something was coming, and nobody could really put their finger on it, and then, of course, the Internet emerged."

Have technology and the speed of information created the "shock" the Tofflers predicted by overwhelming people and leaving them disconnected?

The book "kind of popularized an angst that a lot of people feel," says Robert Lang, urban sociologist at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. "The reality is that people are quite adaptable. I have a son who walks around with an iPad and iPod Touch, wondering why there's not Wi-Fi everywhere. ... Kids adapt to technology quickly, but there's a core of traditional values that remains."

Wease longs for the days of snail mail and telephone calls. "I believe he (Toffler) was probably right," Wease says. "The future has delivered things to us that radically change our lifestyle, and not always for the better."

Toffler's view of the future need not be feared, Westphal says. "What's on the other end is very exciting," she says. "You ask Alvin Toffler now about the future, and he says it's bright. He's an optimist. ... We are in the midst of this massive change, and we're figuring it out."

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