Saturday, November 30, 2013

Future Stunned: Earlier reality flux in the post-material world

When I was a child, I read Alvin Toffler's 1970 book Future Shock...

... Toffler argued that society is undergoing an enormous structural change, a revolution from an industrial society to a "super-industrial society". This change overwhelms people. He believed the accelerated rate of technological and social change left people disconnected and suffering from "shattering stress and disorientation"—future shocked...

For Toffler Future Shock came from physical changes, like a store that moved, or disposable lighters. In the 1970s we went from owning things for decades to owning them for months. We were a long way from the world of possessing a photo for seconds.

Toffler is still alive. I wonder what he thinks of Beijing.

Of course Future Shock turned out to be a relatively mild ailment. Even in China, we seem able to adapt to rapid change. Of course one day we may have more trouble; we may yet fall off the exponential curve.

I had a small taste of the latest version of Future Shock when my daughter accidentally downloaded a 1.5 GB movie and ran up a $136 AT&T data charge (which they reversed).

No, I'm not yet that old. The Future Shock didn't come because iOS 7 changed the rules about the location of our movies. Sure it's mildly disorienting that one day they were all on the phone and could be safely viewed, the next they were in the Cloud and could be viewed anywhere -- for a price. Call that Future Ouch.

The shock came because one day there were no iOS cellular settings on my iPhone (picture is from Emily's screen this morning as she still doesn't have the option):

IMG 2653

and 12 hours later there are (this is from my phone)...


Over at some people have this option, some don't.  Our current theory is that my family is in the midst of an AT&T/Apple service transition. One or the other or both are newly enabling movie download to iOS 7 devices. As the feature rolls out, phones quietly gain a new setting - albeit with odd delays.

As a "happy accident" the setting defaults to On, so some AT&T customers are going to run up big data charges during the transition.

This, as you might have guessed, is Future Shock 2013. It's when people with 50 yo brains aren't sure whether they just missed seeing something, or whether it really wasn't there. It's a state of reality flux that used to start around age 80, but is steadily moving downwards. Call it Future Stunned, or less kindly, premature dementia.

It's going to get worse.

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