toffler future shock (2023)

Pobierz cały dokument
toffler future shock.docx
Rozmiar 1 MB

toffler future shock (2)


This is a book about what happens to people when they are overwhelmedby change. It is about the ways in which we adapt – or fail toadapt – to the future. Much has been written about the future. Yet,for the most part, books about the world to come sound a harshmetallic note. These pages, by contrast, concern themselves with the"soft" or human side of tomorrow. Moreover, they concernthemselves with the steps by which we are likely to reach tomorrow.They deal with common, everyday matters – the products we buy anddiscard, the places we leave behind, the corporations we inhabit, thepeople who pass at an ever faster clip through our lives. The futureof friendship and family life is probed. Strange new subcultures andlife styles are investigated, along with an array of other subjectsfrom politics and playgrounds to skydiving and sex.

What joins all these – in the book as in life – is the roaringcurrent of change, a current so powerful today that it overturnsinstitutions, shifts our values and shrivels our roots. Change is theprocess by which the future invades our lives, and it is important tolook at it closely, not merely from the grand perspectives ofhistory, but also from the vantage point of the living, breathingindividuals who experience it.

The acceleration of change in our time is, itself, an elementalforce. This accelerative thrust has personal and psychological, aswell as sociological, consequences. In the pages ahead, these effectsof acceleration are, for the first time, systematically explored. Thebook argues forcefully, I hope, that, unless man quickly learns tocontrol the rate of change in his personal affairs as well as insociety at large, we are doomed to a massive adaptational breakdown.

In 1965, in an article in Horizon, I coined the term "futureshock" to describe the shattering stress and disorientation thatwe induce in individuals by subjecting them to too much change in tooshort a time. Fascinated by this concept, I spent the next five yearsvisiting scores of universities, research centers, laboratories, andgovernment agencies, reading countless articles and scientific papersand interviewing literally hundreds of experts on different aspectsof change, coping behavior, and the future. Nobel prizewinners,hippies, psychiatrists, physicians, businessmen, professionalfuturists, philosophers, and educators gave voice to their concernover change, their anxieties about adaptation, their fears about thefuture. I came away from this experience with two disturbingconvictions.

First, it became clear that future shock is no longer a distantlypotential danger, but a real sickness from which increasingly largenumbers already suffer. This psycho‑biological condition can bedescribed in medical and psychiatric terms. It is the disease ofchange.

Second, I gradually came to be appalled by how little is actuallyknown about adaptivity, either by those who call for and create vastchanges in our society, or by those who supposedly prepare us to copewith those changes. Earnest intellectuals talk bravely about"educating for change" or "preparing people for thefuture." But we know virtually nothing about how to do it. Inthe most rapidly changing environment to which man has ever beenexposed, we remain pitifully ignorant of how the human animal copes.

Our psychologists and politicians alike are puzzled by the seeminglyirrational resistance to change exhibited by certain individuals andgroups. The corporation head who wants to reorganize a department,the educator who wants to introduce a new teaching method, the mayorwho wants to achieve peaceful integration of the races in his city –all, at one time or another, face this blind resistance. Yet we knowlittle about its sources. By the same token, why do some men hunger,even rage for change, doing all in their power to create it, whileothers flee from it? I not only found no ready answers to suchquestions, but discovered that we lack even an adequate theory ofadaptation, without which it is extremely unlikely that we will everfind the answers.

The purpose of this book, therefore, is to help us come to terms withthe future – to help us cope more effectively with both personaland social change by deepening our understanding of how men respondto it. Toward this end, it puts forward a broad new theory ofadaptation.

It also calls attention to an important, though often overlooked,distinction. Almost invariably, research into the effects of changeconcentrate on the destinations toward which change carries us,rather than the speed of the journey. In this book, I try to showthat the rate of change has implications quite apart from, andsometimes more important than, the directions of change. Noattempt to understand adaptivity can succeed until this fact isgrasped. Any attempt to define the "content" of change mustinclude the consequences of pace itself as part of that content.

William Ogburn, with his celebrated theory of cultural lag, pointedout how social stresses arise out of the uneven rates of change indifferent sectors of society. The concept of future shock – and thetheory of adaptation that derives from it – strongly suggests thatthere must be balance, not merely between rates of change indifferent sectors, but between the pace of environmental change andthe limited pace of human response. For future shock grows out of theincreasing lag between the two.

The book is intended to do more than present a theory, however. It isalso intended to demonstrate a method. Previously, men studied thepast to shed light on the present. I have turned the time‑mirroraround, convinced that a coherent image of the future can also showerus with valuable insights into today. We shall find it increasinglydifficult to understand our personal and public problems withoutmaking use of the future as an intellectual tool. In the pages ahead,I deliberately exploit this tool to show what it can do.

Finally, and by no means least important, the book sets out to changethe reader in a subtle yet significant sense. For reasons that willbecome clear in the pages that follow, successful coping with rapidchange will require most of us to adopt a new stance toward thefuture, a new sensitive awareness of the role it plays in thepresent. This book is designed to increase the future‑consciousnessof its reader. The degree to which the reader, after finishing thebook, finds himself thinking about, speculating about, or trying toanticipate future events, will provide one measure of itseffectiveness.

With these ends stated, several reservations are in order. One has todo with the perishability of fact. Every seasoned reporter has hadthe experience of working on a fastbreaking story that changes itsshape and meaning even before his words are put down on paper. Todaythe whole world is a fast‑breaking story. It is inevitable,therefore, in a book written over the course of several years, thatsome of its facts will have been superseded between the time ofresearch and writing and the time of publication. Professorsidentified with University A move, in the interim, to University B.Politicians identified with Position X shift, in the meantime, toPosition Y.

While a conscientious effort has been made during writing to updateFuture Shock, some of the facts presented are no doubt alreadyobsolete. (This, of course, is true of many books, although authorsdon't like to talk about it.) The obsolescence of data has a specialsignificance here, however, serving as it does to verify the book'sown thesis about the rapidity of change. Writers have a harder andharder time keeping up with reality. We have not yet learned toconceive, research, write and publish in "real time."Readers, therefore, must concern themselves more and more withgeneral theme, rather than detail.

Another reservation has to do with the verb "will." Noserious futurist deals in "predictions." These are left fortelevision oracles and newspaper astrologers. No one even faintlyfamiliar with the complexities of forecasting lays claim to absoluteknowledge of tomorrow. In those deliciously ironic words purported tobe a Chinese proverb: "To prophesy is extremely difficult –especially with respect to the future."

This means that every statement about the future ought, by rights, beaccompanied by a string of qualifiers – ifs, ands, buts, and on theother hands. Yet to enter every appropriate qualification in a bookof this kind would be to bury the reader under an avalanche ofmaybes. Rather than do this, I have taken the liberty of speakingfirmly, without hesitation, trusting that the intelligent reader willunderstand the stylistic problem. The word "will" shouldalways be read as though it were preceded by "probably" or"in my opinion." Similarly, all dates applied to futureevents need to be taken with a grain of judgment.

The inability to speak with precision and certainty about the future,however, is no excuse for silence. Where "hard data" areavailable, of course, they ought to be taken into account. But wherethey are lacking, the responsible writer – even the scientist –has both a right and an obligation to rely on other kinds ofevidence, including impressionistic or anecdotal data and theopinions of well‑informed people. I have done so throughout andoffer no apology for it.

In dealing with the future, at least for the purpose at hand, it ismore important to be imaginative and insightful than to be onehundred percent "right." Theories do not have to be "right"to be enormously useful. Even error has its uses. The maps of theworld drawn by the medieval cartographers were so hopelesslyinaccurate, so filled with factual error, that they elicitcondescending smiles today when almost the entire surface of theearth has been charted. Yet the great explorers could never havediscovered the New World without them. Nor could the better, moreaccurate maps of today been drawn until men, working with the limitedevidence available to them, set down on paper their bold conceptionsof worlds they had never seen.

We who explore the future are like those ancient mapmakers, and it isin this spirit that the concept of future shock and the theory of theadaptive range are presented here – not as final word, but as afirst approximation of the new realities, filled with danger andpromise, created by the accelerative thrust.


Chapter 1


In the three short decades between now and the twenty‑firstcentury, millions of ordinary, psychologically normal people willface an abrupt collision with the future. Citizens of the world'srichest and most technologically advanced nations, many of them willfind it increasingly painful to keep up with the incessant demand forchange that characterizes our time. For them, the future will havearrived too soon.

This book is about change and how we adapt to it. It is about thosewho seem to thrive on change, who crest its waves joyfully, as wellas those multitudes of others who resist it or seek flight from it.It is about our capacity to adapt. It is about the future and theshock that its arrival brings.

Western society for the past 300 years has been caught up in a firestorm of change. This storm, far from abating, now appears to begathering force. Change sweeps through the highly industrializedcountries with waves of ever accelerating speed and unprecedentedimpact. It spawns in its wake all sorts of curious social flora –from psychedelic churches and "free universities" toscience cities in the Arctic and wife‑swap clubs in California.

It breeds odd personalities, too: children who at twelve are nolonger childlike; adults who at fifty are children of twelve. Thereare rich men who playact poverty, computer programmers who turn onwith LSD. There are anarchists who, beneath their dirty denim shirts,are outrageous conformists, and conformists who, beneath theirbutton‑down collars, are outrageous anarchists. There aremarried priests and atheist ministers and Jewish Zen Buddhists. Wehave pop ... and op ... and art cinétique ... There arePlayboy Clubs and homosexual movie theaters ... amphetamines andtranquilizers ... anger, affluence, and oblivion. Much oblivion.

Is there some way to explain so strange a scene without recourse tothe jargon of psychoanalysis or the murky clichés of existentialism?A strange new society is apparently erupting in our midst. Is there away to understand it, to shape its development? How can we come toterms with it?

Much that now strikes us as incomprehensible would be far less so ifwe took a fresh look at the racing rate of change that makes realityseem, sometimes, like a kaleidoscope run wild. For the accelerationof change does not merely buffet industries or nations. It is aconcrete force that reaches deep into our personal lives, compels usto act out new roles, and confronts us with the danger of a new andpowerfully upsetting psychological disease. This new disease can becalled "future shock," and a knowledge of its sources andsymptoms helps explain many things that otherwise defy rationalanalysis.


The parallel term "culture shock" has already begun tocreep into the popular vocabulary. Culture shock is the effect thatimmersion in a strange culture has on the unprepared visitor. PeaceCorps volunteers suffer from it in Borneo or Brazil. Marco Poloprobably suffered from it in Cathay. Culture shock is what happenswhen a traveler suddenly finds himself in a place where yes may meanno, where a "fixed price" is negotiable, where to be keptwaiting in an outer office is no cause for insult, where laughter maysignify anger. It is what happens when the familiar psychologicalcues that help an individual to function in society are suddenlywithdrawn and replaced by new ones that are strange orincomprehensible.

The culture shock phenomenon accounts for much of the bewilderment,frustration, and disorientation that plagues Americans in theirdealings with other societies. It causes a breakdown incommunication, a misreading of reality, an inability to cope. Yetculture shock is relatively mild in comparison with the much moreserious malady, future shock. Future shock is the dizzyingdisorientation brought on by the premature arrival of the future. Itmay well be the most important disease of tomorrow.

Future shock will not be found in Index Medicus or in anylisting of psychological abnormalities. Yet, unless intelligent stepsare taken to combat it, millions of human beings will find themselvesincreasingly disoriented, progressively incompetent to dealrationally with their environments. The malaise, mass neurosis,irrationality, and free‑floating violence already apparent incontemporary life are merely a foretaste of what may lie ahead unlesswe come to understand and treat this disease.

Future shock is a time phenomenon, a product of the greatlyaccelerated rate of change in society. It arises from thesuperimposition of a new culture on an old one. It is culture shockin one's own society. But its impact is far worse. For most PeaceCorps men, in fact most travelers, have the comforting knowledge thatthe culture they left behind will be there to return to. The victimof future shock does not.

Take an individual out of his own culture and set him down suddenlyin an environment sharply different from his own, with a differentset of cues to react to – different conceptions of time, space,work, love, religion, sex, and everything else – then cut him offfrom any hope of retreat to a more familiar social landscape, and thedislocation he suffers is doubly severe. Moreover, if this newculture is itself in constant turmoil, and if – worse yet – itsvalues are incessantly changing, the sense of disorientation will bestill further intensified. Given few clues as to what kind ofbehavior is rational under the radically new circumstances, thevictim may well become a hazard to himself and others.

Now imagine not merely an individual but an entire society, an entiregeneration – including its weakest, least intelligent, and mostirrational members – suddenly transported into this new world. Theresult is mass disorientation, future shock on a grand scale.

This is the prospect that man now faces. Change is avalanching uponour heads and most people are grotesquely unprepared to cope with it.


Is all this exaggerated? I think not. It has become a cliché to saythat what we are now living through is a "second industrialrevolution." This phrase is supposed to impress us with thespeed and profundity of the change around us. But in addition tobeing platitudinous, it is misleading. For what is occurring now is,in all likelihood, bigger, deeper, and more important than theindustrial revolution. Indeed, a growing body of reputable opinionasserts that the present movement represents nothing less than thesecond great divide in human history, comparable in magnitude onlywith that first great break in historic continuity, the shift frombarbarism to civilization.

This idea crops up with increasing frequency in the writings ofscientists and technologists. Sir George Thomson, the Britishphysicist and Nobel prizewinner, suggests in The ForeseeableFuture that the nearest historic parallel with today is not theindustrial revolution but rather the "invention of agriculturein the neolithic age." John Diebold, the American automationexpert, warns that "the effects of the technological revolutionwe are now living through will be deeper than any social change wehave experienced before." Sir Leon Bagrit, the British computermanufacturer, insists that automation by itself represents "thegreatest change in the whole history of mankind."

Nor are the men of science and technology alone in these views. SirHerbert Read, the philosopher of art, tells us that we are livingthrough "a revolution so fundamental that we must search manypast centuries for a parallel. Possibly the only comparable change isthe one that took place between the Old and the New Stone Age ..."And Kurt W. Marek, who under the name C. W. Ceram is best‑knownas the author of Gods, Graves and Scholars, observes that "we,in the twentieth century, are concluding an era of mankind fivethousand years in length ... We are not, as Spengler supposed, in thesituation of Rome at the beginning of the Christian West, but in thatof the year 3000 B.C. We open our eyes like prehistoric man, we see aworld totally new."

One of the most striking statements of this theme has come fromKenneth Boulding, an eminent economist and imaginative socialthinker. In justifying his view that the present moment represents acrucial turning point in human history, Boulding observes that "asfar as many statistical series related to activities of mankind areconcerned, the date that divides human history into two equal partsis well within living memory." In effect, our century representsThe Great Median Strip running down the center of human history. Thushe asserts, "The world of today ... is as different from theworld in which I was born as that world was from Julius Caesar's. Iwas born in the middle of human history, to date, roughly. Almost asmuch has happened since I was born as happened before."

This startling statement can be illustrated in a number of ways. Ithas been observed, for example, that if the last 50,000 years ofman's existence were divided into lifetimes of approximatelysixty‑two years each, there have been about 800 such lifetimes.Of these 800, fully 650 were spent in caves.

Only during the last seventy lifetimes has it been possible tocommunicate effectively from one lifetime to another – as writingmade it possible to do. Only during the last six lifetimes did massesof men ever see a printed word. Only during the last four has it beenpossible to measure time with any precision. Only in the last two hasanyone anywhere used an electric motor. And the overwhelming majorityof all the material goods we use in daily life today have beendeveloped within the present, the 800th, lifetime.

This 800th lifetime marks a sharp break with all past humanexperience because during this lifetime man's relationship toresources has reversed itself. This is most evident in the field ofeconomic development. Within a single lifetime, agriculture, theoriginal basis of civilization, has lost its dominance in nationafter nation. Today in a dozen major countries agriculture employsfewer than 15 percent of the economically active population. In theUnited States, whose farms feed 200,000,000 Americans plus theequivalent of another 160,000,000 people around the world, thisfigure is already below 6 percent and it is still shrinking rapidly.

Moreover, if agriculture is the first stage of economic developmentand industrialism the second, we can now see that still another stage– the third – has suddenly been reached. In about 1956 the UnitedStates became the first major power in which more than 50 percent ofthe non‑farm labor force ceased to wear the blue collar offactory or manual labor. Blue collar workers were outnumbered bythose in the socalled white‑collar occupations – in retailtrade, administration, communications, research, education, and otherservice categories. Within the same lifetime a society for the firsttime in human history not only threw off the yoke of agriculture, butmanaged within a few brief decades to throw off the yoke of manuallabor as well. The world's first service economy had been born.

Since then, one after another of the technologically advancedcountries have moved in the same direction. Today, in those nationsin which agriculture is down to the 15 percent level or below, whitecollars already outnumber blue in Sweden, Britain, Belgium, Canada,and the Netherlands. Ten thousand years for agriculture. A century ortwo for industrialism. And now, opening before us –super‑industrialism.

Jean Fourastié, the French planner and social philosopher, hasdeclared that "Nothing will be less industrial than thecivilization born of the industrial revolution." Thesignificance of this staggering fact has yet to be digested. PerhapsU Thant, Secretary General of the United Nations, came closest tosummarizing the meaning of the shift to super‑industrialismwhen he declared that "The central stupendous truth aboutdeveloped economies today is that they can have – in anything butthe shortest run – the kind and scale of resources they decide tohave.... It is no longer resources that limit decisions. It is thedecision that makes the resources. This is the fundamentalrevolutionary change – perhaps the most revolutionary man has everknown." This monumental reversal has taken place in the 800thlifetime.

This lifetime is also different from all others because of theastonishing expansion of the scale and scope of change. Clearly,there have been other lifetimes in which epochal upheavals occurred.Wars, plagues, earthquakes, and famine rocked many an earlier socialorder. But these shocks and upheavals were contained within theborders of one or a group of adjacent societies. It took generations,even centuries, for their impact to spread beyond these borders.

In our lifetime the boundaries have burst. Today the network ofsocial ties is so tightly woven that the consequences of contemporaryevents radiate instantaneously around the world. A war in Vietnamalters basic political alignments in Peking, Moscow, and Washington,touches off protests in Stockholm, affects financial transactions inZurich, triggers secret diplomatic moves in Algiers.

Indeed, not only do contemporary events radiateinstantaneously – now we can be said to be feeling the impact ofall past events in a new way. For the past is doubling back on us. Weare caught in what might be called a "time skip."

An event that affected only a handful of people at the time of itsoccurrence in the past can have large‑scale consequences today.The Peloponnesian War, for example, was little more than a skirmishby modern standards. While Athens, Sparta and several nearbycitystates battled, the population of the rest of the globe remainedlargely unaware of and undisturbed by the war. The Zapotec Indiansliving in Mexico at the time were wholly untouched by it. The ancientJapanese felt none of its impact.

Yet the Peloponnesian War deeply altered the future course of Greekhistory. By changing the movement of men, the geographicaldistribution of genes, values, and ideas, it affected later events inRome, and, through Rome, all Europe. Today's Europeans are to somesmall degree different people because that conflict occurred.

In turn, in the tightly wired world of today, these Europeansinfluence Mexicans and Japanese alike. Whatever trace of impact thePeloponnesian War left on the genetic structure, the ideas, and thevalues of today's Europeans is now exported by them to all parts ofthe world. Thus today's Mexicans and Japanese feel the distant,twice‑removed impact of that war even though their ancestors,alive during its occurrence, did not. In this way, the events of thepast, skipping as it were over generations and centuries, rise up tohaunt and change us today.

When we think not merely of the Peloponnesian War but of the buildingof the Great Wall of China, the Black Plague, the battle of the Bantuagainst the Hamites – indeed, of all the events of the past – thecumulative implications of the time‑skip principle take onweight. Whatever happened to some men in the past affects virtuallyall men today. This was not always true. In short, all history iscatching up with us, and this very difference, paradoxically,underscores our break with the past. Thus the scope of change isfundamentally altered. Across space and through time, change has apower and reach in this, the 800th lifetime, that it never didbefore.

But the final, qualitative difference between this and all previouslifetimes is the one most easily overlooked. For we have not merelyextended the scope and scale of change, we have radically altered itspace. We have in our time released a totally new social force – astream of change so accelerated that it influences our sense of time,revolutionizes the tempo of daily life, and affects the very way we"feel" the world around us. We no longer "feel"life as men did in the past. And this is the ultimate difference, thedistinction that separates the truly contemporary man from allothers. For this acceleration lies behind the impermanence – thetransience – that penetrates and tinctures our consciousness,radically affecting the way we relate to other people, to things, tothe entire universe of ideas, art and values.

To understand what is happening to us as we move into the age ofsuper‑industrialism, we must analyze the processes ofacceleration and confront the concept of transience. If accelerationis a new social force, transience is its psychological counterpart,and without an understanding of the role it plays in contemporaryhuman behavior, all our theories of personality, all our psychology,must remain pre‑modern. Psychology without the concept oftransience cannot take account of precisely those phenomena that arepeculiarly contemporary.

By changing our relationship to the resources that surround us, byviolently expanding the scope of change, and, most crucially, byaccelerating its pace, we have broken irretrievably with the past. Wehave cut ourselves off from the old ways of thinking, of feeling, ofadapting. We have set the stage for a completely new society and weare now racing toward it. This is the crux of the 800th lifetime. Andit is this that calls into question man's capacity for adaptation –how will he fare in this new society? Can he adapt to itsimperatives? And if not, can he alter these imperatives?

Before even attempting to answer such questions, we must focus on thetwin forces of acceleration and transience. We must learn how theyalter the texture of existence, hammering our lives and psyches intonew and unfamiliar shapes. We must understand how – and why –they confront us, for the first time, with the explosive potential offuture shock.

Chapter 2


Early in March, 1967, in eastern Canada, an eleven‑year‑oldchild died of old age.

Ricky Gallant was only eleven years old chronologically, but hesuffered from an odd disease called progeria – advanced aging –and he exhibited many of the characteristics of a ninety‑year‑oldperson. The symptoms of progeria are senility, hardened arteries,baldness, slack, and wrinkled skin. In effect, Ricky was an old manwhen he died, a long lifetime of biological change having been packedinto his eleven short years.

Cases of progeria are extremely rare. Yet in a metaphorical sense thehigh technology societies all suffer from this peculiar ailment. Theyare not growing old or senile. But they are experiencingsuper‑normal rates of change.

Many of us have a vague "feeling" that things are movingfaster. Doctors and executives alike complain that they cannot keepup with the latest developments in their fields. Hardly a meeting orconference takes place today without some ritualistic oratory about"the challenge of change." Among many there is an uneasymood – a suspicion that change is out of control.

Not everyone, however, shares this anxiety. Millions sleepwalk theirway through their lives as if nothing had changed since the 1930's,and as if nothing ever will. Living in what iscertainly one of themost exciting periods in human history, they attempt to withdraw fromit, to block it out, as if it were possible to make it go away byignoring it. They seek a "separate peace," a diplomaticimmunity from change.

One sees them everywhere: Old people, resigned to living out theiryears, attempting to avoid, at any cost, the intrusions of the new.Already‑old people of thirty‑five and forty‑five,nervous about student riots, sex, LSD, or miniskirts, feverishlyattempting to persuade themselves that, after all, youth was alwaysrebellious, and that what is happening today is no different from thepast. Even among the young we find an incomprehension of change:students so ignorant of the past that they see nothing unusal aboutthe present.

The disturbing fact is that the vast majority of people, includingeducated and otherwise sophisticated people, find the idea of changeso threatening that they attempt to deny its existence. Even manypeople who understand intellectually that change is accelerating,have not internalized that knowledge, do not take this criticalsocial fact into account in planning their own personal lives.


How do we know that change is accelerating? There is, after all, noabsolute way to measure change. In the awesome complexity of theuniverse, even within any given society, a virtually infinite numberof streams of change occur simultaneously. All "things" –from the tiniest virus to the greatest galaxy – are, in reality,not things at all, but processes. There is no static point, nonirvana‑like un‑change, against which to measure change.Change is, therefore, necessarily relative.

It is also uneven. If all processes occurred at the same speed, oreven if they accelerated or decelerated in unison, it would beimpossible to observe change. The future, however, invades thepresent at differing speeds. Thus it becomes possible to compare thespeed of different processes as they unfold. We know, for example,that compared with the biological evolution of the species, culturaland social evolution is extremely rapid. We know that some societiestransform themselves technologically or economically more rapidlythan others. We also know that different sectors within the samesociety exhibit different rates of change – the disparity thatWilliam Ogburn labeled "cultural lag." It is precisely theunevenness of change that makes it measurable.

We need, however, a yardstick that makes it possible to comparehighly diverse processes, and this yardstick is time. Without time,change has no meaning. And without change, time would stop. Time canbe conceived as the intervals during which events occur. Just asmoney permits us to place a value on both apples and oranges, timepermits us to compare unlike processes. When we say that it takesthree years to build a dam, we are really saying it takes three timesas long as it takes the earth to circle the sun or 31,000,000 timesas long as it takes to sharpen a pencil. Time is the currency ofexchange that makes it possible to compare the rates at which verydifferent processes play themselves out.

Given the unevenness of change and armed with this yardstick, westill face exhausting difficulties in measuring change. When we speakof the rate of change, we refer to the number of events crowded intoan arbitrarily fixed interval of time. Thus we need to define the"events." We need to select our intervals with precision.We need to be careful about the conclusions we draw from thedifferences we observe. Moreover, in the measurement of change, weare today far more advanced with respect to physical processes thansocial processes. We know far better, for example, how to measure therate at which blood flows through the body than the rate at which arumor flows through society.

Even with all these qualifications, however, there is widespreadagreement, reaching from historians and archaeologists all across thespectrum to scientists, sociologists, economists and psychologists,that, many social processes are speeding up – strikingly, evenspectacularly.


Painting with the broadest of brush strokes, biologist Julian Huxleyinforms us that "The tempo of human evolution during recordedhistory is at least 100,000 times as rapid as that of pre‑humanevolution." Inventions or improvements of a magnitude that tookperhaps 50,000 years to accomplish during the early Paleolithic erawere, he says, "run through in a mere millennium toward itsclose; and with the advent of settled civilization, the unit ofchange soon became reduced to the century." The rate of change,accelerating throughout the past 5000 years, has become, in hiswords, "particularly noticeable during the past 300 years."

C. P. Snow, the novelist and scientist, also comments on the newvisibility of change. "Until this century ..." he writes,social change was "so slow, that it would pass unnoticed in oneperson's lifetime. That is no longer so. The rate of change hasincreased so much that our imagination can't keep up." Indeed,says social psychologist Warren Bennis, the throttle has been pushedso far forward in recent years that "No exaggeration, nohyperbole, no outrage can realistically describe the extent and paceof change.... In fact, only the exaggerations appear to be true."

What changes justify such super‑charged language? Let us lookat a few – change in the process by which man forms cities, forexample. We are now undergoing the most extensive and rapidurbanization the world has ever seen. In 1850 only four cities on theface of the earth had a population of 1,000,000 or more. By 1900 thenumber had increased to nineteen. But by 1960, there were 141, andtoday world urban population is rocketing upward at a rate of 6.5percent per year, according to Edgar de Vries and J. P. Thysse of theInstitute of Social Science in The Hague. This single stark statisticmeans a doubling of the earth's urban population within eleven years.

One way to grasp the meaning of change on so phenomenal a scale is toimagine what would happen if all existing cities, instead ofexpanding, retained their present size. If this were so, in order toaccommodate the new urban millions we would have to build a duplicatecity for each of the hundreds that already dot the globe. A newTokyo, a new Hamburg, a new Rome and Rangoon – and all withineleven years. (This explains why French urban planners are sketchingsubterranean cities – stores, museums, warehouses and factories tobe built under the earth, and why a Japanese architect hasblueprinted a city to be built on stilts out over the ocean.)

The same accelerative tendency is instantly apparent in man'sconsumption of energy. Dr. Homi Bhabha, the late Indian atomicscientist who chaired the first International Conference on thePeaceful Uses of Atomic Energy, once analyzed this trend. "Toillustrate," he said, "let us use the letter 'Q' to standfor the energy derived from burning some 33,000 million tons of coal.In the eighteen and one half centuries after Christ, the total energyconsumed averaged less than one half Q per century. But by 1850, therate had risen to one Q per century. Today, the rate is about ten Qper century." This means, roughly speaking, that half of all theenergy consumed by man in the past 2,000 years has been consumed inthe last one hundred.

Also dramatically evident is the acceleration of economic growth inthe nations now racing toward super‑industrialism. Despite thefact that they start from a large industrial base, the annualpercentage increases in production in these countries are formidable.And the rate of increase is itself increasing.

In France, for example, in the twenty‑nine years between 1910and the outbreak of the second world war, industrial production roseonly 5 percent. Yet between 1948 and 1965, in only seventeen years,it increased by roughly 220 percent. Today growth rates of from 5 to10 percent per year are not uncommon among the most industrializednations. There are ups and downs, of course. But the direction ofchange has been unmistakable.

Thus for the twenty‑one countries belonging to the Organizationfor Economic Cooperation and Development – by and large, the "have"nations – the average annual rate of increase in gross nationalproduct in the years 1960‑1968 ran between 4.5 and 5.0 percent.The United States grew at a rate of 4.5 percent, and Japan led therest with annual increases averaging 9.8 percent.

What such numbers imply is nothing less revolutionary than a doublingof the total output of goods and services in the advanced societiesabout every fifteen years – and the doubling times are shrinking.This means, generally speaking, that the child reaching teen age inany of these societies is literally surrounded by twice as much ofeverything newly manmade as his parents were at the time he was aninfant. It means that by the time today's teenager reaches agethirty, perhaps earlier, a second doubling will have occurred. Withina seventy‑year lifetime, perhaps five such doublings will takeplace – meaning, since the increases are compounded, that by thetime the individual reaches old age the society around him will beproducing thirty‑two times as much as when he was born.

Such changes in the ratio between old and new have, as we shall show,an electric impact on the habits, beliefs, and self‑image ofmillions. Never in previous history has this ratio been transformedso radically in so brief a flick of time.


Behind such prodigious economic facts lies that great, growlingengine of change – technology. This is not to say that technologyis the only source of change in society. Social upheavals can betouched off by a change in the chemical composition of theatmosphere, by alterations in climate, by changes in fertility, andmany other factors. Yet technology is indisputably a major forcebehind the accelerative thrust.

To most people, the term technology conjures up images of smoky steelmills or clanking machines. Perhaps the classic symbol of technologyis still the assembly line created by Henry Ford half a century agoand made into a potent social icon by Charlie Chaplin in ModernTimes. This symbol, however, has always been inadequate, indeed,misleading, for technology has always been more than factories andmachines. The invention of the horse collar in the middle ages led tomajor changes in agricultural methods and was as much a technologicaladvance as the invention of the Bessemer furnace centuries later.Moreover, technology includes techniques, as well as the machinesthat may or may not be necessary to apply them. It includes ways tomake chemical reactions occur, ways to breed fish, plant forests,light theaters, count votes or teach history.

The old symbols of technology are even more misleading today, whenthe most advanced technological processes are carried out far fromassembly lines or open hearths. Indeed, in electronics, in spacetechnology, in most of the new industries, relative silence and cleansurroundings are characteristic – even sometimes essential. And theassembly line – the organization of armies of men to carry outsimple repetitive functions – is an anachronism. It is time for oursymbols of technology to change – to catch up with the quickeningchanges in technology, itself.

This acceleration is frequently dramatized by a thumbnail account ofthe progress in transportation. It has been pointed out, for example,that in 6000 B.C. the fastest transportation available to man overlong distances was the camel caravan, averaging eight miles per hour.It was not until about 1600 B.C. when the chariot was invented thatthe maximum speed was raised to roughly twenty miles per hour.

So impressive was this invention, so difficult was it to exceed thisspeed limit, that nearly 3,500 years later, when the first mail coachbegan operating in England in 1784, it averaged a mere ten mph. Thefirst steam locomotive, introduced in 1825, could muster a top speedof only thirteen mph, and the great sailing ships of the time laboredalong at less than half that speed. It was probably not until the1880's that man, with the help of a more advanced steam locomotive,managed to reach a speed of one hundred mph. It took the human racemillions of years to attain that record.

It took only fifty‑eight years, however, to quadruple thelimit, so that by 1938 airborne man was cracking the 400‑mphline. It took a mere twenty‑year flick of time to double thelimit again. And by the 1960's rocket planes approached speeds of4000 mph, and men in space capsules were circling the earth at 18,000mph. Plotted on a graph, the line representing progress in the pastgeneration would leap vertically off the page.

Whether we examine distances traveled, altitudes reached, mineralsmined, or explosive power harnessed, the same accelerative trend isobvious. The pattern, here and in a thousand other statisticalseries, is absolutely clear and unmistakable. Millennia or centuriesgo by, and then, in our own times, a sudden bursting of the limits, afantastic spurt forward.

The reason for this is that technology feeds on itself. Technologymakes more technology possible, as we can see if we look for a momentat the process of innovation. Technological innovation consists ofthree stages, linked together into a self‑reinforcing cycle.First, there is the creative, feasible idea. Second, its practicalapplication. Third, its diffusion through society.

The process is completed, the loop closed, when the diffusion oftechnology embodying the new idea, in turn, helps generate newcreative ideas. Today there is evidence that the time between each ofthe steps in this cycle has been shortened.

Thus it is not merely true, as frequently noted, that 90 percent ofall the scientists who ever lived are now alive, and that newscientific discoveries are being made every day. These new ideas areput to work much more quickly than ever before. The time betweenoriginal concept and practical use has been radically reduced. Thisis a striking difference between ourselves and our ancestors.Appollonius of Perga discovered conic sections, but it was 2000 yearsbefore they were applied to engineering problems. It was literallycenturies between the time Paracelsus discovered that ether could beused as an anaesthetic and the time it began to be used for thatpurpose.

Even in more recent times the same pattern of delay was present. In1836 a machine was invented that mowed, threshed, tied straw intosheaves and poured grain into sacks. This machine was itself based ontechnology at least twenty years old at the time. Yet it was notuntil a century later, in the 1930's, that such a combine wasactually marketed. The first English patent for a typewriter wasissued in 1714. But a century and a half elapsed before typewritersbecame commercially available. A full century passed between the timeNicholas Appert discovered how to can food and the time canningbecame important in the food industry.

Today such delays between idea and application are almostunthinkable. It is not that we are more eager or less lazy than ourancestors, but we have, with the passage of time, invented all sortsof social devices to hasten the process. Thus we find that the timebetween the first and second stages of the innovative cycle –between idea and application – has been cut radically. Frank Lynn,for example, in studying twenty major innovations, such as frozenfood, antibiotics, integrated circuits and synthetic leather, foundthat since the beginning of this century more than sixty percent hasbeen slashed from the average time needed for a major scientificdiscovery to be translated into a useful technological form. Today avast and growing research and development industry is consciouslyworking to reduce the lag still further.

But if it takes less time to bring a new idea to the marketplace, italso takes less time for it to sweep through the society. Thus theinterval between the second and third stages of the cycle – betweenapplication and diffusion – has likewise been sliced, and the paceof diffusion is rising with astonishing speed. This is borne out bythe history of several familiar household appliances. Robert B. Youngat the Stanford Research Institute has studied the span of timebetween the first commercial appearance of a new electrical applianceand the time the industry manufacturing it reaches peak production ofthe item.

Young found that for a group of appliances introduced in the UnitedStates before 1920 – including the vacuum cleaner, the electricrange, and the refrigerator – the average span between introductionand peak production was thirty‑four years. But for a group thatappeared in the 1939‑1959 period – including the electricfrying pan, television, and washerdryer combination – the span wasonly eight years. The lag had shrunk by more than 76 percent. "Thepost‑war group," Young declared, "demonstratedvividly the rapidly accelerating nature of the modern cycle."

The stepped‑up pace of invention, exploitation, and diffusion,in turn, accelerates the whole cycle still further. For new machinesor techniques are not merely a product, but a source, of freshcreative ideas.

Each new machine or technique, in a sense, changes all existingmachines and techniques, by permitting us to put them together intonew combinations. The number of possible combinations risesexponentially as the number of new machines or techniques risesarithmetically. Indeed, each new combination may, itself, be regardedas a new supermachine.

The computer, for example, made possible a sophisticated spaceeffort. Linked with sensing devices, communications equipment, andpower sources, the computer became part of a configuration that inaggregate forms a single new super‑machine – a machine forreaching into and probing outer space. But for machines or techniquesto be combined in new ways, they have to be altered, adapted, refinedor otherwise changed. So that the very effort to integrate machinesinto super‑machines compels us to make still furthertechnological innovations.

It is vital to understand, moreover, that technological innovationdoes not merely combine and recombine machines and techniques.Important new machines do more than suggest or compel changes inother machines – they suggest novel solutions to social,philosophical, even personal problems. They alter man's totalintellectual environment – the way he thinks and looks at theworld.

We all learn from our environment, scanning it constantly – thoughperhaps unconsciously – for models to emulate. These models are notonly other people. They are, increasingly, machines. By theirpresence, we are subtly conditioned to think along certain lines. Ithas been observed, for example, that the clock came along before theNewtonian image of the world as a great clock‑like mechanism, aphilosophical notion that has had the utmost impact on man'sintellectual development. Implied in this image of the cosmos as agreat clock were ideas about cause and effect and about theimportance of external, as against internal, stimuli, that shape theeveryday behavior of all of us today. The clock also affected ourconception of time so that the idea that a day is divided intotwenty‑four equal segments of sixty minutes each has becomealmost literally a part of us.

Recently, the computer has touched off a storm of fresh ideas aboutman as an interacting part of larger systems, about his physiology,the way he learns, the way he remembers, the way he makes decisions.Virtually every intellectual discipline from political science tofamily psychology has been hit by a wave of imaginative hypothesestriggered by the invention and diffusion of the computer – and itsfull impact has not yet struck. And so the innovative cycle, feedingon itself, speeds up.

If technology, however, is to be regarded as a great engine, a mightyaccelerator, then knowledge must be regarded as its fuel. And we thuscome to the crux of the accelerative process in society, for theengine is being fed a richer and richer fuel every day.


The rate at which man has been storing up useful knowledge abouthimself and the universe has been spiraling upward for 10,000 years.The rate took a sharp upward leap with the invention of writing, buteven so it remained painfully slow over centuries of time. The nextgreat leap forward in knowledge – acquisition did not occur untilthe invention of movable type in the fifteenth century by Gutenbergand others. Prior to 1500, by the most optimistic estimates, Europewas producing books at a rate of 1000 titles per year. This means,give or take a bit, that it would take a full century to produce alibrary of 100,000 titles. By 1950, four and a half centuries later,the rate had accelerated so sharply that Europe was producing 120,000titles a year. What once took a century now took only ten months. By1960, a single decade later, the rate had made another significantjump, so that a century's work could be completed in seven and a halfmonths. And, by the mid‑sixties, the output of books on a worldscale, Europe included, approached the prodigious figure of 1000titles per day .

One can hardly argue that every book is a net gain for theadvancement of knowledge. Nevertheless, we find that the accelerativecurve in book publication does, in fact, crudely parallel the rate atwhich man discovered new knowledge. For example, prior to Gutenbergonly 11 chemical elements were known. Antimony, the 12th, wasdiscovered at about the time he was working on his invention. It wasfully 200 years since the 11th, arsenic, had been discovered. Had thesame rate of discovery continued, we would by now have added only twoor three additional elements to the periodic table since Gutenberg.Instead, in the 450 years after his time, some seventy additionalelements were discovered. And since 1900 we have been isolating theremaining elements not at a rate of one every two centuries, but ofone every three years.

Furthermore, there is reason to believe that the rate is still risingsharply. Today, for example, the number of scientific journals andarticles is doubling, like industrial production in the advancedcountries, about every fifteen years, and according to biochemistPhilip Siekevitz, "what has been learned in the last threedecades about the nature of living beings dwarfs in extent ofknowledge any comparable period of scientific discovery in thehistory of mankind." Today the United States government alonegenerates 100,000 reports each year, plus 450,000 articles, books andpapers. On a worldwide basis, scientific and technical literaturemounts at a rate of some 60,000,000 pages a year.

The computer burst upon the scene around 1950. With its unprecedentedpower for analysis and dissemination of extremely varied kinds ofdata in unbelievable quantities and at mind‑staggering speeds,it has become a major force behind the latest acceleration inknowledge‑acquisition. Combined with other increasinglypowerful analytical tools for observing the invisible universe aroundus, it has raised the rate of knowledge‑acquisition todumbfounding speeds.

Francis Bacon told us that "Knowledge ... is power." Thiscan now be translated into contemporary terms. In our social setting,"Knowledge is change" – and acceleratingknowledge‑acquisition, fueling the great engine of technology,means accelerating change.


Discovery. Application. Impact. Discovery. We see here a chainreaction of change, a long, sharply rising curve of acceleration inhuman social development. This accelerative thrust has now reached alevel at which it can no longer, by any stretch of the imagination,be regarded as "normal." The normal institutions ofindustrial society can no longer contain it, and its impact isshaking up all our social institutions. Acceleration is one of themost important and least understood of all social forces.

This, however, is only half the story. For the speed‑up ofchange is a psychological force as well. Although it has been almosttotally ignored by psychology, the rising rate of change in the worldaround us disturbs our inner equilibrium, altering the very way inwhich we experience life. Acceleration without translates intoacceleration within.

This can be illustrated, though in a highly oversimplified fashion,if we think of an individual life as a great channel through whichexperience flows. This flow of experience consists – or isconceived of consisting – of innumerable "situations."Acceleration of change in the surrounding society drastically altersthe flow of situations through this channel.

There is no neat definition of a situation, yet we would find itimpossible to cope with experience if we did not mentally cut it upinto these manageable units. Moreover, while the boundary linesbetween situations may be indistinct, every situation has a certain"wholeness" about it, a certain integration. Everysituation also has certain identifiable components. These include"things" – a physical setting of natural or man‑madeobjects. Every situation occurs in a "place" – a locationor arena within which the action occurs. (It is not accidental thatthe Latin root "situ" means place.) Every socialsituation also has, by definition, a cast of characters – people.Situations also involve a location in the organizational network ofsociety and a context of ideas or information. Any situation can beanalyzed in terms of these five components.

But situations also involve a separate dimension which, because itcuts across all the others, is frequently overlooked. This isduration – the span of time over which the situation occurs. Twosituations alike in all other respects are not the same at all if onelasts longer than another. For time enters into the mix in a crucialway, changing the meaning or content of situations. Just as thefuneral march played at too high a speed becomes a merry tinkle ofsounds, so a situation that is dragged out has a distinctly differentflavor or meaning than one that strikes us in staccato fashion,erupting suddenly and subsiding as quickly.

Here, then, is the first delicate point at which the accelerativethrust in the larger society crashes up against the ordinary dailyexperience of the contemporary individual. For the acceleration ofchange, as we shall show, shortens the duration of many situations.This not only drastically alters their "flavor," buthastens their passage through the experiential channel. Compared withlife in a less rapidly changing society, more situations now flowthrough the channel in any given interval of time – and thisimplies profound changes in human psychology.

For while we tend to focus on only one situation at a time, theincreased rate at which situations flow past us vastly complicatesthe entire structure of life, multiplying the number of roles we mustplay and the number of choices we are forced to make. This, in turn,accounts for the choking sense of complexity about contemporary life.

Moreover, the speeded‑up flow‑through of situationsdemands much more work from the complex focusing mechanisms by whichwe shift our attention from one situation to another. There is moreswitching back and forth, less time for extended, peaceful attentionto one problem or situation at a time. This is what lies behind thevague feeling noted earlier that "Things are moving faster."They are. Around us. And through us.

There is, however, still another, even more powerfully significantway in which the acceleration of change in society increases thedifficulty of coping with life. This stems from the fantasticintrusion of novelty, newness into our existence. Each situation isunique. But situations often resemble one another. This, in fact, iswhat makes it possible to learn from experience. If each situationwere wholly novel, without some resemblance to previously experiencedsituations, our ability to cope would be hopelessly crippled.

The acceleration of change, however, radically alters the balancebetween novel and familiar situations. Rising rates of change thuscompel us not merely to cope with a faster flow, but with more andmore situations to which previous personal experience does not apply.And the psychological implications of this simple fact, which weshall explore later in this book, are nothing short of explosive.

"When things start changing outside, you are going to have aparallel change taking place inside," says Christopher Wright ofthe Institute for the Study of Science in Human Affairs. The natureof these inner changes is so profound, however, that, as theaccelerative thrust picks up speed, it will test our ability to livewithin the parameters that have until now defined man and society. Inthe words of psychoanalyst Erik Erikson, "In our society atpresent, the 'natural course of events' is precisely that the rate ofchange should continue to accelerate up to the as‑yet‑unreachedlimits of human and institutional adaptability."

To survive, to avert what we have termed future shock, the individualmust become infinitely more adaptable and capable than ever before.He must search out totally new ways to anchor himself, for all theold roots – religion, nation, community, family, or profession –are now shaking under the hurricane impact of the accelerativethrust. Before he can do so, however, he must understand in greaterdetail how the effects of acceleration penetrate his personal life,creep into his behavior and alter the quality of existence. He must,in other words, understand transience.

Chapter 3


His picture was, until recently, everywhere: on television, onposters that stared out at one in airports and railroad stations, onleaflets, matchbooks and magazines. He was an inspired creation ofMadison Avenue – a fictional character with whom millions couldsubconsciously identify. Young and clean‑cut, he carried anattaché case, glanced at his watch, and looked like an ordinarybusinessman scurrying to his next appointment. He had, however, anenormous protuberance on his back. For sticking out from between hisshoulder blades was a great, butterfly‑shaped key of the typeused to wind up mechanical toys. The text that accompanied hispicture urged keyed‑up executives to "unwind" – toslow down – at the Sheraton Hotels. This wound‑upman‑on‑the‑go was, and still is, a potent symbol ofthe people of the future, millions of whom feel just as driven andhurried as if they, too, had a huge key in the back.

The average individual knows little and cares less about the cycle oftechnological innovation or the relationship betweenknowledge‑acquisition and the rate of change. He is, on theother hand, keenly aware of the pace of his own life – whateverthat pace may be.

The pace of life is frequently commented on by ordinary people. Yet,oddly enough, it has received almost no attention from eitherpsychologists or sociologists. This is a gaping inadequacy in thebehavioral sciences, for the pace of life profoundly influencesbehavior, evoking strong and contrasting reactions from differentpeople.

It is, in fact, not too much to say that the pace of life draws aline through humanity, dividing us into camps, triggering bittermisunderstanding between parent and child, between Madison Avenue andMain Street, between men and women, between American and European,between East and West.


The inhabitants of the earth are divided not only by race, nation,religion or ideology, but also, in a sense, by their position intime. Examining the present populations of the globe, we find a tinygroup who still live, hunting and food‑foraging, as men didmillennia ago. Others, the vast majority of mankind, depend not onbear‑hunting or berry‑picking, but on agriculture. Theylive, in many respects, as their ancestors did centuries ago. Thesetwo groups taken together compose perhaps 70 percent of all livinghuman beings. They are the people of the past.

By contrast, somewhat more than 2.5 percent of the earth's populationcan be found in the industrialized societies. They lead modern lives.They are products of the first half of the twentieth century, moldedby mechanization and mass education, brought up with lingeringmemories of their own country's agricultural past. They are, ineffect, the people of the present.

The remaining two or three percent of the world's population,however, are no longer people of either the past or present. Forwithin the main centers of technological and cultural change, inSanta Monica, California and Cambridge, Massachusetts, in New Yorkand London and Tokyo, are millions of men and women who can alreadybe said to be living the way of life of the future. Trendmakers oftenwithout being aware of it, they live today as millions more will livetomorrow. And while they account for only a few percent of the globalpopulation today, they already form an international nation of thefuture in our midst. They are the advance agents of man, the earliestcitizens of the world‑wide super‑industrial society nowin the throes of birth.

What makes them different from the rest of mankind? Certainly, theyare richer, better educated, more mobile than the majority of thehuman race. They also live longer. But what specifically marks thepeople of the future is the fact that they are already caught up in anew, stepped‑up pace of life. They "live faster" thanthe people around them.

Some people are deeply attracted to this highly accelerated pace oflife – going far out of their way to bring it about and feelinganxious, tense or uncomfortable when the pace slows. They wantdesperately to be "where the action is." (Indeed, somehardly care what the action is, so long as it occurs at a suitablyrapid clip.) James A. Wilson has found, for example, that theattraction for a fast pace of life is one of the hidden motivatingforces behind the much publicized "brain‑drain" –the mass migration of European scientists to the United States andCanada. After studying 517 English scientists and engineers whomigrated, Wilson concluded that it was not higher salaries or betterresearch facilities alone, but also the quicker tempo that luredthem. The migrants, he writes, "are not put off by what theyindicate as the 'faster pace' of North America; if anything, theyappear to prefer this pace to others." Similarly, a whiteveteran of the civil rights movement in Mississippi reports: "Peoplewho are used to a speeded‑up urban life ... can't take it forlong in the rural South. That's why people are always drivingsomewhere for no particular reason. Traveling is the drug of TheMovement." Seemingly aimless, this driving about is acompensation mechanism. Understanding the powerful attraction that acertain pace of life can exert on the individual helps explain muchotherwise inexplicable or "aimless" behavior.

But if some people thrive on the new, rapid pace, others are fiercelyrepelled by it and go to extreme lengths to "get off themerry‑go‑round," as they put it. To engage at allwith the emergent super‑industrial society means to engage witha faster moving world than ever before. They prefer to disengage, toidle at their own speed. It is not by chance that a musical entitledStop the World – I Want to Get Off was a smash hit in Londonand New York a few seasons ago.

The quietism and search for new ways to "opt out" or "copout" that characterizes certain (though not all) hippies may beless motivated by their loudly expressed aversion for the values of atechnological civilization than by an unconscious effort to escapefrom a pace of life that many find intolerable. It is no coincidencethat they describe society as a "ratrace" – a term thatrefers quite specifically to pacing.

Older people are even more likely to react strongly against anyfurther acceleration of change. There is a solid mathematical basisfor the observation that age often correlates with conservatism: timepasses more swiftly for the old.

When a fifty‑year‑old father tells his fifteen‑year‑oldson that he will have to wait two years before he can have a car ofhis own, that interval of 730 days represents a mere 4 percent of thefather's lifetime to date. It represents over 13 percent of the boy'slifetime. It is hardly strange that to the boy the delay seems threeor four times longer than to the father. Similarly, two hours in thelife of a four‑year‑old may be the felt equivalent oftwelve hours in the life of her twenty‑four‑year‑oldmother. Asking the child to wait two hours for a piece of candy maybe the equivalent of asking the mother to wait fourteen hours for acup of coffee.

There may be a biological basis as well, for such differences insubjective response to time. "With advancing age," writespsychologist John Cohen of the University of Manchester, "thecalendar years seem progressively to shrink. In restrospect everyyear seems shorter than the year just completed, possibly as a resultof the gradual slowing down of metabolic processes." In relationto the slowdown of their own biological rhythms, the world wouldappear to be moving faster to older people, even if it were not.

Whatever the reasons, any acceleration of change that has the effectof crowding more situations into the experiential channel in a giveninterval is magnified in the perception of the older person. As therate of change in society speeds up, more and more older people feelthe difference keenly. They, too, become dropouts, withdrawing into aprivate environment, cutting off as many contacts as possible withthe fast‑moving outside world, and, finally, vegetating untildeath. We may never solve the psychological problems of the ageduntil we find the means – through biochemistry or re‑education– to alter their time sense, or to provide structured enclaves forthem in which the pace of life is controlled, and even, perhaps,regulated according to a "sliding scale" calendar thatreflects their own subjective perception of time.

Much otherwise incomprehensible conflict – between generations,between parents and children, between husbands and wives – can betraced to differential responses to the acceleration of the pace oflife. The same is true of clashes between cultures.

Each culture has its own characteristic pace. F. M. Esfandiary, theIranian novelist and essayist, tells of a collision between twodifferent pacing systems when German engineers in the pre‑WorldWar II period were helping to construct a railroad in his country.Iranians and Middle Easterners generally take a far more relaxedattitude toward time than Americans or Western Europeans. WhenIranian work crews consistently showed up for work ten minutes late,the Germans, themselves super‑punctual and always in a hurry,fired them in droves. Iranian engineers had a difficult timepersuading them that by Middle Eastern standards the workers werebeing heroically punctual, and that if the firings continued therewould soon be no one left to do the work but women and children.

This indifference to time can be maddening to those who arefast‑paced and clockconscious. Thus Italians from Milan orTurin, the industrial cities of the North, look down upon therelatively slow‑paced Sicilians, whose lives are still gearedto the slower rhythms of agriculture. Swedes from Stockholm orGöteborg feel the same way about Laplanders. Americans speak withderision of Mexicans for whom mañana is soon enough. In theUnited States itself, Northerners regard Southerners as slow‑moving,and middle‑class Negroes condemn working‑class Negroesjust up from the South for operating on "C.P.T." –Colored People's Time. In contrast, by comparison with almost anyoneelse, white Americans and Canadians are regarded as hustling,fast‑moving go‑getters.

Populations sometimes actively resist a change of pace. This explainsthe pathological antagonism toward what many regard as the"Americanization" of Europe. The new technology on whichsuper‑industrialism is based, much of it blue‑printed inAmerican research laboratories, brings with it an inevitableacceleration of change in society and a concomitant speed‑up ofthe pace of individual life as well. While anti‑Americanorators single out computers or Coca‑Cola for their barbs,their real objection may well be to the invasion of Europe by analien time sense. America, as the spearhead of super‑industrialism,represents a new, quicker, and very much unwanted tempo.

Precisely this issue is symbolized by the angry outcry that hasgreeted the recent introduction of American‑style drugstores inParis. To many Frenchmen, their existence is infuriating evidence ofa sinister "cultural imperialism" on the part of the UnitedStates. It is hard for Americans to understand so passionate aresponse to a perfectly innocent soda fountain. What explains it isthe fact that at Le Drugstore the thirsty Frenchman gulps a hastymilkshake instead of lingering for an hour or two over an aperitif atan outdoor bistro. It is worth noticing that, as the new technologyhas spread in recent years, some 30,000 bistros have padlocked theirdoors for good, victims, in the words of Time magazine, of a"shortorder culture." (Indeed, it may well be that thewidespread European dislike for Time , itself, is not entirelypolitical, but stems unconsciously from the connotation of its title.Time, with its brevity and breathless style, exports more thanthe American Way of Life. It embodies and exports the American Paceof Life.)


To understand why acceleration in the pace of life may provedisruptive and uncomfortable, it is important to grasp the idea of"durational expectancies."

Man's perception of time is closely linked with his internal rhythms.But his responses to time are culturally conditioned. Part of thisconditioning consists of building up within the child a series ofexpectations about the duration of events, processes orrelationships. Indeed, one of the most important forms of knowledgethat we impart to a child is a knowledge of how long things last.This knowledge is taught, in subtle, informal and often unconsciousways. Yet without a rich set of socially appropriate durationalexpectancies, no individual could function successfully.

From infancy on the child learns, for example, that when Daddy leavesfor work in the morning, it means that he will not return for manyhours. (If he does, something is wrong; the schedule is askew. Thechild senses this. Even the family dog – having also learned a setof durational expectancies – is aware of the break in routine.) Thechild soon learns that "mealtime" is neither a one‑minutenor a five‑hour affair, but that it ordinarily lasts fromfifteen minutes to an hour. He learns that going to a movie lasts twoto four hours, but that a visit with the pediatrician seldom lastsmore than one. He learns that the school day ordinarily lasts sixhours. He learns that a relationship with a teacher ordinarilyextends over a school year, but that his relationship with hisgrandparents is supposed to be of much longer duration. Indeed, somerelationships are supposed to last a lifetime. In adult behavior,virtually all we do, from mailing an envelope to making love, ispremised upon certain spoken or unspoken assumptions about duration.

It is these durational expectancies, different in each society butlearned early and deeply ingrained, that are shaken up when the paceof life is altered.

This explains a crucial difference between those who suffer acutelyfrom the accelerated pace of life and those who seem rather to thriveon it. Unless an individual has adjusted his durational expectanciesto take account of continuing acceleration, he is likely to supposethat two situations, similar in other respects, will also be similarin duration. Yet the accelerative thrust implies that at leastcertain kinds of situations will be compressed in time.

The individual who has internalized the principle of acceleration –who understands in his bones as well as his brain that things aremoving faster in the world around him – makes an automatic,unconscious compensation for the compression of time. Anticipatingthat situations will endure less long, he is less frequently caughtoff guard and jolted than the person whose durational expectanciesare frozen, the person who does not routinely anticipate a frequentshortening in the duration of situations.

In short, the pace of life must be regarded as something more than acolloquial phrase, a source of jokes, sighs, complaints or ethnicput‑downs. It is a crucially important psychological variablethat has been all but ignored. During past eras, when change in theouter society was slow, men could, and did, remain unaware of thisvariable. Throughout one's entire lifetime the pace might varylittle. The accelerative thrust, however, alters this drastically.For it is precisely through a step‑up in the pace of life thatthe increased speed of broad scientific, technological and socialchange makes itself felt in the life of the individual. A great dealof human behavior is motivated by attraction or antagonism toward thepace of life enforced on the individual by the society or groupwithin which he is embedded. Failure to grasp this principle liesbehind the dangerous incapacity of education and psychology toprepare people for fruitful roles in a super‑industrialsociety.


Much of our theorizing about social and psychological change presentsa valid picture of man in relatively static societies – but adistorted and incomplete picture of the truly contemporary man. Itmisses a critical difference between the men of the past or presentand the men of the future. This difference is summed up in the word"transience."

The concept of transience provides a long‑missing link betweensociological theories of change and the psychology of individualhuman beings. Integrating both, it permits us to analyze the problemsof high‑speed change in a new way. And, as we shall see, itgives us a method – crude but powerful – to measure inferentiallythe rate of situation flow.

Transience is the new "temporariness" in everyday life. Itresults in a mood, a feeling of impermanence. Philosophers andtheologians, of course, have always been aware that man is ephemeral.In this grand sense, transience has always been a part of life. Buttoday the feeling of impermanence is more acute and intimate. ThusEdward Albee's character, Jerry, in The Zoo Story,characterizes himself as a "permanent transient." Andcritic Harold Clurman, commenting on Albee, writes: "None of usoccupy abodes of safety – true homes. We are all the same 'peoplein all the rooming houses everywhere,' desperately and savagelytrying to effect soul‑satisfying connections with ourneighbors." We are, in fact, all citizens of the Age ofTransience.

It is, however, not only our relationships with people that seemincreasingly fragile or impermanent. If we divide up man's experienceof the world outside himself, we can identify certain classes ofrelationships. Thus, in addition to his links with other people, wemay speak of the individual's relationship with things. We can singleout for examination his relationships with places. We can analyze histies to the institutional or organizational environment around him.We can even study his relationship to certain ideas or to theinformation flow in society.

These five relationships – plus time – form the fabric of socialexperience. This is why, as suggested earlier, things, places,people, organizations and ideas are the basic components of allsituations. It is the individual's distinctive relationship to eachof these components that structures the situation.

And it is precisely these relationships that, as acceleration occursin society, become foreshortened, telescoped in time. Relationshipsthat once endured for long spans of time now have shorter lifeexpectancies. It is this abbreviation, this compression, that givesrise to the almost tangible feeling that we live, rootless anduncertain, among shifting dunes.

Transience, indeed, can be defined quite specifically in terms of therate at which our relationships turn over. While it may be difficultto prove that situations, as such, take less time to pass through ourexperience than before, it is possible to break them down into theircomponents, and to measure the rate at which these components moveinto and out of our lives – to measure, in other words, theduration of relationships.

It will help us understand the concept of transience if we think interms of the idea of "turnover." In a grocery store, forexample, milk turns over more rapidly than, say, canned asparagus. Itis sold and replaced more rapidly. The "through‑put"is faster. The alert businessman knows the turnover rate for each ofthe items he sells, and the general rate for the entire store. Heknows, in fact, that his turnover rate is a key indicator of thehealth of the enterprise.

We can, by analogy, think of transience as the rate of turnover ofthe different kinds of relationships in an individual's life.Moreover, each of us can be characterized in terms of this rate. Forsome, life is marked by a much slower rate of turnover than forothers. The people of the past and present lead lives of relatively"low transience" – their relationships tend to belonglasting. But the people of the future live in a condition of"high transience" – a condition in which the duration ofrelationships is cut short, the through‑put of relationshipsextremely rapid. In their lives, things, places, people, ideas, andorganizational structures all get "used up" more quickly.

This affects immensely the way they experience reality, their senseof commitment, and their ability – or inability – to cope. It isthis fast through‑put, combined with increasing newness andcomplexity in the environment, that strains the capacity to adapt andcreates the danger of future shock.

If we can show that our relationships with the outer world are, infact, growing more and more transient, we have powerful evidence forthe assumption that the flow of situations is speeding up. And wehave an incisive new way of looking at ourselves and others. Let us,therefore, explore life in a high transience society.


Chapter 4


"Barbie," a twelve‑inch plastic teen‑ager, isthe best‑known and best‑selling doll in history. Sinceits introduction in 1959, the Barbie doll population of the world hasgrown to 12,000,000 – more than the human population of Los Angelesor London or Paris. Little girls adore Barbie because she is highlyrealistic and eminently dress‑upable. Mattel, Inc., makers ofBarbie, also sells a complete wardrobe for her, including clothes forordinary daytime wear, clothes for formal party wear, clothes forswimming and skiing.

Recently Mattel announced a new improved Barbie doll. The new versionhas a slimmer figure, "real" eyelashes, and atwist‑and‑turn waist that makes her more humanoid thanever. Moreover, Mattel announced that, for the first time, any younglady wishing to purchase a new Barbie would receive a trade‑inallowance for her old one.

What Mattel did not announce was that by trading in her old doll fora technologically improved model, the little girl of today, citizenof tomorrow's super‑industrial world, would learn a fundamentallesson about the new society: that man's relationships with thingsare increasingly temporary.

The ocean of man‑made physical objects that surrounds us is setwithin a larger ocean of natural objects. But increasingly, it is thetechnologically produced environment that matters for the individual.The texture of plastic or concrete, the iridescent glisten of anautomobile under a streetlight, the staggering vision of a cityscapeseen from the window of a jet – these are the intimate realities ofhis existence. Man‑made things enter into and color hisconsciousness. Their number is expanding with explosive force, bothabsolutely and relative to the natural environment. This will be evenmore true in super‑industrial society than it is today.

Anti‑materialists tend to deride the importance of "things."Yet things are highly significant, not merely because of theirfunctional utility, but also because of their psychological impact.We develop relationships with things. Things affect our sense ofcontinuity or discontinuity. They play a role in the structure ofsituations and the foreshortening of our relationships with thingsaccelerates the pace of life.

Moreover, our attitudes toward things reflect basic value judgments.Nothing could be more dramatic than the difference between the newbreed of little girls who cheerfully turn in their Barbies for thenew improved model and those who, like their mothers and grandmothersbefore them, clutch lingeringly and lovingly to the same doll untilit disintegrates from sheer age. In this difference lies the contrastbetween past and future, between societies based on permanence, andthe new, fast‑forming society based on transience.


That man‑thing relationships are growing more and moretemporary may be illustrated by examining the culture surrounding thelittle girl who trades in her doll. This child soon learns thatBarbie dolls are by no means the only physical objects that pass intoand out of her young life at a rapid clip. Diapers, bibs, papernapkins, Kleenex, towels, non‑returnable soda bottles – allare used up quickly in her home and ruthlessly eliminated. Cornmuffins come in baking tins that are thrown away after one use.Spinach is encased in plastic sacks that can be dropped into a pan ofboiling water for heating, and then thrown away. TV dinners arecooked and often served on throw‑away trays. Her home is alarge processing machine through which objects flow, entering andleaving, at a faster and faster rate of speed. From birth on, she isinextricably embedded in a throw‑away culture.

The idea of using a product once or for a brief period and thenreplacing it, runs counter to the grain of societies or individualssteeped in a heritage of poverty. Not long ago Uriel Rone, a marketresearcher for the French advertising agency Publicis, told me: "TheFrench housewife is not used to disposable products. She likes tokeep things, even old things, rather than throw them away. Werepresented one company that wanted to introduce a kind of plasticthrow‑away curtain. We did a marketing study for them and foundthe resistance too strong." This resistance, however, is dyingall over the developed world.

Thus a writer, Edward Maze, has pointed out that many Americansvisiting Sweden in the early 1950's were astounded by itscleanliness. "We were almost awed by the fact that there were nobeer and soft drink bottles by the roadsides, as, much to our shame,there were in America. But by the 1960's, lo and behold, bottles weresuddenly blooming along Swedish highways ... What happened? Swedenhad become a buy, use and throw‑away society, following theAmerican pattern." In Japan today throw‑away tissues areso universal that cloth handkerchiefs are regarded as old fashioned,not to say unsanitary. In England for sixpence one may buy a"Dentamatic throw‑away toothbrush" which comesalready coated with toothpaste for its one‑time use. And evenin France, disposable cigarette lighters are commonplace. Fromcardboard milk containers to the rockets that power space vehicles,products created for short‑term or one‑time use arebecoming more numerous and crucial to our way of life.

The recent introduction of paper and quasi‑paper clothingcarried the trend toward disposability a step further. Fashionableboutiques and working‑class clothing stores have sprouted wholedepartments devoted to gaily colored and imaginatively designed paperapparel. Fashion magazines display breathtakingly sumptuous gowns,coats, pajamas, even wedding dresses made of paper. The bridepictured in one of these wears a long white train of lace‑likepaper that, the caption writer notes, will make "great kitchencurtains" after the ceremony.

Paper clothes are particularly suitable for children. Writes onefashion expert: "Little girls will soon be able to spill icecream, draw pictures and make cutouts on their clothes while theirmothers smile benignly at their creativity." And for adults whowant to express their own creativity, there is even a"paint‑yourself‑dress" complete with brushes.Price: $2.00.

Price, of course, is a critical factor behind the paper explosion.Thus a department store features simple A‑line dresses made ofwhat it calls "devil‑may‑care cellulose fiber andnylon." At $1.29 each, it is almost cheaper for the consumer tobuy and discard a new one than to send an ordinary dress to thecleaners. Soon it will be. But more than economics is involved, forthe extension of the throw‑away culture has importantpsychological consequences.

We develop a throw‑away mentality to match our throw‑awayproducts. This mentality produces, among other things, a set ofradically altered values with respect to property. But the spread ofdisposability through the society also implies decreased durations inman‑thing relationships. Instead of being linked with a singleobject over a relatively long span of time, we are linked for briefperiods with the succession of objects that supplant it.


The shift toward transience is even manifest in architecture –precisely that part of the physical environment that in the pastcontributed mostly heavily to man's sense of permanence. The childwho trades in her Barbie doll cannot but also recognize thetransience of buildings and other large structures that surround her.We raze landmarks. We tear down whole streets and cities and put newones up at a mind‑numbing rate.

"The average age of dwellings has steadily declined,"writes E. F. Carter of the Stanford Research Institute, "frombeing virtually infinite in the days of caves to ... approximately ahundred years for houses built in United States colonial days, toabout forty years at present." And Michael Wood, an Englishwriter comments: The American "... made his world yesterday, andhe knows exactly how fragile, how shifting it is. Buildings in NewYork literally disappear overnight, and the face of a city can changecompletely in a year."

Novelist Louis Auchincloss complains angrily that "The horror ofliving in New York is living in a city without a history ... Alleight of my great‑grandparents lived in the city ... and onlyone of the houses they lived in ... is still standing. That's what Imean by the vanishing past." Less patrician New Yorkers, whoseancestors landed in America more recently, arriving there from thebarrios of Puerto Rico, the villages of Eastern Europe or theplantations of the South, might voice their feelings quitedifferently. Yet the "Vanishing past" is a real phenomenon,and it is likely to become far more widespread, engulfing even manyof the history‑drenched cities of Europe.

Buckminster Fuller, the designer‑philosopher, once describedNew York as a "continual evolutionary process of evacuations,demolitions, removals, temporarily vacant lots, new installations andrepeat. This process is identical in principle to the annual rotationof crops in farm acreage – plowing, planting the new seed,harvesting, plowing under, and putting in another type of crop ...Most people look upon the building operations blocking New York'sstreets ... as temporary annoyances, soon to disappear in a staticpeace. They still think of permanence as normal, a hangover from theNewtonian view of the universe. But those who have lived in and withNew York since the beginning of the century have literallyexperienced living with Einsteinian relativity."

That children, in fact, internalize this "Einsteinianrelativity" was brought home to me forcibly by a personalexperience. Some time ago my wife sent my daughter, then twelve, to asupermarket a few blocks from our Manhattan apartment. Our littlegirl had been there only once or twice before. Half an hour later shereturned perplexed. "It must have been torn down," shesaid, "I couldn't find it." It hadn't been. New to theneighborhood, Karen had merely looked on the wrong block. But she isa child of the Age of Transience, and her immediate assumption –that the building had been razed and replaced – was a natural onefor a twelve‑year‑old growing up in the United States atthis time. Such an idea would probably never have occurred to a childfaced with a similar predicament even half a century ago. Thephysical environment was far more durable, our links with it lesstransient.


In the past, permanence was the ideal. Whether engaged inhandcrafting a pair of boots or in constructing a cathedral, allman's creative and productive energies went toward maximizing thedurability of the product. Man built to last. He had to. As long asthe society around him was relatively unchanging each object hadclearly defined functions, and economic logic dictated the policy ofpermanence. Even if they had to be repaired now and then, the bootsthat cost fifty dollars and lasted ten years were less expensive thanthose that cost ten dollars and lasted only a year.

As the general rate of change in society accelerates, however, theeconomics of permanence are – and must be – replaced by theeconomics of transience.

First, advancing technology tends to lower the costs of manufacturemuch more rapidly than the costs of repair work. The one isautomated, the other remains largely a handcraft operation. Thismeans that it often becomes cheaper to replace than to repair. It iseconomically sensible to build cheap, unrepairable, throwawayobjects, even though they may not last as long as repairable objects.

Second, advancing technology makes it possible to improve the objectas time goes by. The second generation computer is better than thefirst, and the third is better than the second. Since we cananticipate further technological advance, more improvements coming atever shorter intervals, it often makes hard economic sense to buildfor the short term rather than the long. David Lewis, an architectand city planner with Urban Design Associates in Pittsburgh, tells ofcertain apartment houses in Miami that are torn down after only tenyears of existence. Improved air conditioning systems in newerbuildings hurt the rentability of these "old" buildings.All things considered, it becomes cheaper to tear down theten‑year‑old buildings than to modify them.

Third, as change accelerates and reaches into more and more remotecorners of the society, uncertainty about future needs increases.Recognizing the inevitability of change, but unsure as to the demandsit will impose on us, we hesitate to commit large resources forrigidly fixed objects intended to serve unchanging purposes. Avoidingcommitment to fixed forms and functions, we build for short‑termuse or, alternatively, attempt to make the product itself adaptable.We "play it cool" technologically.

The rise of disposability – the spread of the throw‑awayculture – is a response to these powerful pressures. As changeaccelerates and complexities multiply, we can expect to see furtherextensions of the principle of disposability, further curtailment ofman's relationships with things.


There are other responses besides disposability that also lead to thesame psychological effect. For example, we are now witnessing thewholesale creation of objects designed to serve a series ofshort‑term purposes instead of a single one. These are notthrow‑away items. They are usually too big and expensive todiscard. But they are so constructed that they may be dismantled, ifnecessary, and relocated after each use.

Thus the board of education of Los Angeles has decided that fully 25percent of that city's classrooms will, in the future, be temporarystructures that can be moved around as needed. Every major UnitedStates school district today uses some temporary classrooms. More areon the way. Indeed, temporary classrooms are to the schoolconstruction industry what paper dresses are to the clothing industry– a foretaste of the future.

The purpose of temporary classrooms is to help school systems copewith rapidly shifting population densities. But temporary classrooms,like disposable clothes, imply manthing relationships of shorterduration than in the past. Thus the temporary classroom teachessomething even in the absence of a teacher. Like the Barbie doll, itprovides the child with a vivid lesson in the impermanence of hersurroundings. No sooner does the child internalize a thoroughknowledge of the classroom – the way it fits into the surroundingarchitecture, the way the desks feel on a hot day, the way soundreverberates in it, all the subtle smells and textures thatindividualize any structure and lend it reality – than thestructure itself may be physically removed from her environment toserve other children in another place.

Nor are mobile classrooms a purely American phenomenon. In England,architect Cedric Price has designed what he calls a "thinkbelt"– an entirely mobile university intended to serve 20,000 studentsin North Staffordshire. "It will," he says, "rely ontemporary buildings rather than permanent ones." It will make"great use of mobile and variable physical enclosures" –classrooms, for example, built inside railroad cars so that they maybe shunted anywhere along the four‑mile campus.

Geodesic domes to house expositions, air‑inflated plasticbubbles for use as command posts or construction headquarters, awhole array of pick‑up‑and‑move temporarystructures are flowing from the drawing boards of engineers andarchitects. In New York City, the Department of Parks has decided tobuild twelve "portable playgrounds" – small, temporaryplaygrounds to be installed on vacant city lots until other uses arefound for the land, at which time the playgrounds can be dismountedand moved elsewhere. There was a time when a playground was areasonably permanent fixture in a neighborhood, when one's childrenand even, perhaps, one's children's children might, each in theirturn, experience it in roughly the same way. Super‑industrialplaygrounds, however, refuse to stay put. They are temporary bydesign.


The reduction in the duration of man‑thing relationshipsbrought about by the proliferation of throw‑away items andtemporary structures is further intensified by the rapid spread of"modularism." Modularism may be defined as the attempt tolend whole structures greater permanence at the cost of making theirsub‑structures less permanent. Thus Cedric Price's "thinkbelt"plan proposes that faculty and student apartments consist ofpressed‑steel modules that can be hoisted by crane and pluggedinto building frames. The frames become the only relatively permanentparts of the structure. The apartment modules can be shifted aroundas needed, or even, in theory, completely discarded and replaced.

It needs to be emphasized here that the distinction betweendisposability and mobility is, from the point of view of the durationof relationships, a thin one. Even when modules are not discarded,but merely rearranged, the result is a new configuration, a newentity. It is as if one physical structure had, in reality, beendiscarded and a new one created, even though some or all of thecomponents remain the same.

Even many supposedly "permanent" buildings today areconstructed on a modular plan so that interior walls and partitionsmay be shifted at will to form new enclosure patterns inside. Themobile partition, indeed, might well serve as a symbol of thetransient society. One scarcely ever enters a large office todaywithout tripping over a crew of workers busily moving desks andrearranging interior space by reorganizing the partitions. In Swedena new triumph of modularism has recently been achieved: in a modelapartment house in Uppsala all walls and closets are movable.The tenant needs only a screwdriver to transform his living spacecompletely, to create, in effect, a new apartment.

Sometimes, however, modularity is directly combined withdisposability. The simple, ubiquitous ballpoint pen provides anexample. The original goose‑quill pen had a long lifeexpectancy. Barring accident, it lasted a long time and could beresharpened (i.e., repaired) from time to time to extend its life.The fountain pen, however, was a great technological advance becauseit gave the user mobility. It provided a writing tool that carriedits own inkwell, thus vastly increasing its range of usefulness. Theinvention of the ball point consolidated and extended this advance.It provided a pen that carried its own ink supply, but that, inaddition, was so cheap it could be thrown away when empty. The firsttruly disposable pen‑and‑ink combination had beencreated.

We have, however, not yet outgrown the psychological attitudes thataccompany scarcity. Thus there are still many people today who feel atwinge of guilt at discarding even a spent ball‑point pen. Theresponse of the pen industry to this psychological reality was thecreation of a ball‑point pen built on the modular principle –an outer frame that the user could keep, and an inner ink module orcartridge that he could throw away and replace. By making the inkcartridge expendable, the whole structure is given extended life atthe expense of the sub‑structure.

There are, however, more parts than wholes. And whether he isshifting them around to create new wholes or discarding and replacingthem, the user experiences a more rapid through‑put of thingsthrough his life, a generalized decline in the average duration ofhis relationship with things. The result is a new fluidity, mobilityand transience.

One of the most extreme examples of architecture designed to embodythese principles was the plan put forward by the English theatricalproducer Joan Littlewood with the help of Frank Newby, a structuralengineer, Gordon Pask, a systems consultant, and Cedric Price, the"thinkbelt" architect.

Miss Littlewood wanted a theater in which versatility might bemaximized, in which she might present anything from an ordinary playto a political rally, from a performance of dance to a wrestlingmatch – preferably all at the same time. She wanted, as the criticReyner Banham has put it, a "zone of total probability."The result was a fantastic plan for "The Fun Palace,"otherwise known as the "First Giant Space Mobile in the World."The plan calls not for a multi‑purpose building, but for whatis, in effect, a larger than life‑sized Erector Set, acollection of modular parts that can be hung together in an almostinfinite variety of ways. More or less "permanent" verticaltowers house various services – such as toilets and electroniccontrol units – and are topped by gantry cranes that lift themodules into position and assemble them to form any temporaryconfiguration desired. After an evening's entertainment, the cranescome out, disassemble the auditoria, exhibition halls andrestaurants, and store them away.

Here is the way Reyner Banham describes it: "... the Fun Palaceis a piece of ten‑yearexpendable urban equipment ... Day by daythis giant neo‑Futurist machine will stir and reshuffle itsmovable parts – walls and floors, ramps and walks, steerableescalators, seating and roofing, stages and movie screens, lightingand sound systems – sometimes with only a small part walled in, butwith the public poking about the exposed walks and stairs, pressingbuttons to make things happen themselves.

"This, when it happens (and it is on the cards that it will,somewhere, soon) will be indeterminacy raised to a new power: nopermanent monumental interior space or heroic silhouette against thesky will survive for posterity ... For the only permanently visibleelements of the Fun Palace will be the 'life‑support' structureon which the transient architecture will be parasitic."

Proponents of what has become known as "plug‑in" or"clip‑on" architecture have designed whole citiesbased on the idea of "transient architecture." Extendingthe concepts on which the Fun Palace plan is based, they propose theconstruction of different types of modules which would be assigneddifferent life expectancies. Thus the core of a "building"might be engineered to last twenty‑five years, while theplug‑in room modules are built to last only three years.Letting their imaginations roam still further, they have conjured upmobile skyscrapers that rest not on fixed foundations but on gigantic"ground effect" machines or hovercraft. The ultimate is anentire urban agglomeration freed of fixed position, floating on acushion of air, powered by nuclear energy, and changing its innershape even more rapidly than New York does today.

Whether or not precisely these visions become reality, the fact isthat society is moving in this direction. The extension of thethrow‑away culture, the creation of more and more temporarystructures, the spread of modularism are proceeding apace, and theyall conspire toward the same psychological end: the ephemeralizationof man's links with the things that surround him.


Still another development is drastically altering the man‑thingnexus: the rental revolution. The spread of rentalism, acharacteristic of societies rocketing toward super‑industrialism,is intimately connected with all the tendencies described above. Thelink between Hertz cars, disposable diapers, and Joan Littlewood's"Fun Palace," may seem obscure at first glance, but closerinspection reveals strong inner similarities. For rentalism, too,intensifies transience.

During the depression, when millions were jobless and homeless, theyearning for a home of one's own was one of the most powerfuleconomic motivations in capitalist societies. In the United Statestoday the desire for home ownership is still strong, but ever sincethe end of World War II the percentage of new housing devoted torental apartments has been soaring. As late as 1955 apartmentsaccounted for only 8 percent of new housing starts. By 1961 itreached 24 percent. By 1969, for the first time in the United States,more building permits were being issued for apartment constructionthan for private homes. Apartment living, for a variety of reasons,is "in." It is particularly in among young people who, inthe words of MIT Professor Burnham Kelly, want "minimum‑involvementhousing."

Minimum involvement is precisely what the user of a throw‑awayproduct gets for his money. It is also what temporary structures andmodular components foster. Commitments to apartments are, almost bydefinition, shorter term commitments than those made by a homeownerto his home. The trend toward residential renting thus underscoresthe tendency toward ever‑briefer relationships with thephysical environment. (It might be noted that millions of Americanhome "owners," having purchased a home with a down paymentof 10 percent or less, are actually no more than surrogate owners forbanks and other lending institutions. For these families, the monthlycheck to the bank is no different from the rent check to thelandlord. Their ownership is essentially metaphorical, and since theylack a strong financial stake in their property, they also frequentlylack the homeowner's strong psychological commitment to it.)

More striking than this, however, has been the recent upsurge ofrental activity in fields in which it was all but unknown in thepast. David Riesman has written: "People are fond of their cars;they like to talk about them – something that comes out veryclearly in interviews – but their affection for any one inparticular rarely reaches enough intensity to become long‑term."This is reflected in the fact that the average car owner in theUnited States keeps his automobile only three and a half years; manyof the more affluent trade in their automobiles every year or two. Inturn, this accounts for the existence of a twentybillion‑dollarused car business in the United States. It was the automotiveindustry that first succeeded in destroying the traditional notionthat a major purchase had to be a permanent commitment. The annualmodel changeover, high‑powered advertising, backed by theindustry's willingness to offer trade‑in allowances, made thepurchase of a new (or new used) car a relatively frequent occurrencein the life of the average American male. In effect, it shortened theinterval between purchases, thereby shortening the duration of therelationship between an owner and any one vehicle.

In recent years, however, a spectacular new force has emerged tochallenge many of the most deeply ingrained patterns of theautomotive industry. This is the auto rental business. Today in theUnited States millions of motorists rent automobiles from time totime for periods of a few hours up to several months. Many big‑citydwellers, especially in New York where parking is a nightmare, refuseto own a car, preferring to rent one for weekend trips to thecountry, or even for in‑town trips that are inconvenient bypublic transit. Autos today can be rented with a minimum of red tapeat almost any US airport, railroad station or hotel.

Moreover, Americans have carried the rental habit abroad with them.Nearly half a million of them rent cars while overseas each year.This figure is expected to rise to nearly a million by 1975, and thebig American rental companies, operating now in some fifty countriesaround the globe, are beginning to run into foreign competitors.Simultaneously, European motorists are beginning to emulate theAmericans. A cartoon in Paris Match shows a creature fromouter space standing next to his flying saucer and asking a gendarmewhere he can rent an auto. The idea is catching on.

The rise of auto rentals, meanwhile, has been paralleled by theemergence in the United States of a new kind of general store – onewhich sells nothing but rents everything. There are now some 9000such stores in the United States with an annual rental volume on theorder of one billion dollars and a growth rate of from 10 to 20percent per year. Virtually 50 percent of these stores were not inbusiness five years ago. Today, there is scarcely a product thatcannot be rented, from ladders and lawn equipment to mink coats andoriginals Rouaults.

In Los Angeles, rental firms provide live shrubs and trees for realestate developers who wish to landscape model homes temporarily."Plants enhance – rent living plants," says the sign onthe side of a truck in San Francisco. In Philadelphia one may rentshirts. Elsewhere, Americans now rent everything from gowns,crutches, jewels, TV sets, camping equipment, air conditioners,wheelchairs, linens, skis, tape recorders, champagne fountains, andsilverware. A West Coast men's club rented a human skeleton for ademonstration, and an ad in the Wall Street Journal evenurges: "Rent‑a‑Cow."

Not long ago the Swedish women's magazine Svensk Damtidningran a five‑part series about the world of 1985. Among otherthings, it suggested that by then "we will sleep in built‑insleeping furniture with buttons for when we eat breakfast or read, orelse we will rent a bed at the same place that we rent the table andthe paintings and the washing machine."

Impatient Americans are not waiting for 1985. Indeed, one of the mostsignificant aspects of the booming rental business is the rise offurniture rental. Some manufacturers and many rental firms will nowfurnish entire small apartments for as little as twenty to fiftydollars per month, down to the drapes, rugs and ashtrays. "Youarrive in town in the morning," says one airline stewardess,"and by evening you've got a swinging pad." Says a Canadiantransferred to New York: "It's new, it's colorful, and I don'thave to worry about carting it all over the world when I'mtransferred."

William James once wrote that "lives based on having are lessfree than lives based either on doing or on being." The rise ofrentalism is a move away from lives based on having and it reflectsthe increase in doing and being. If the people of the future livefaster than the people of the past, they must also be far moreflexible. They are like broken field runners – and it is hard tosidestep a tackle when loaded down with possessions. They want theadvantage of affluence and the latest that technology has to offer,but not the responsibility that has, until now, accompanied theaccumulation of possessions. They recognize that to survive among theuncertainties of rapid change they must learn to travel light.

Whatever its broader effects, however, rentalism shortens stillfurther the duration of the relationships between man and the thingsthat he uses. This is made clear by asking a simple question: Howmany cars – rented, borrowed or owned – pass through the hands ofthe average American male in a lifetime? The answer for car ownersmight be in the range of twenty to fifty. For active car renters,however, the figure might run as high as 200 or more. While thebuyer's average relationship with a particular vehicle extends overmany months or years, the renter's average link with any oneparticular car is extremely short‑lived.

Renting has the net effect of multiplying the number of people withsuccessive relationships to the same object, and thus reducing, onaverage, the duration of such relationships. When we extend thisprinciple to a very wide range of products, it becomes clear that therise of rentalism parallels and reinforces the impact of throw‑awayitems, temporary structures and modularism.


It is important here to turn for a moment to the notion ofobsolescence. For the fear of product obsolescence drives businessmento innovation at the same time that it impels the consumer towardrented, disposable or temporary products. The very idea ofobsolescence is disturbing to people bred on the ideal of permanence,and it is particularly upsetting when thought to be planned. Plannedobsolescence has been the target of so much recent social criticismthat the unwary reader might be led to regard it as the primary oreven exclusive cause of the trend toward shorter relationaldurations.

There is no doubt that some businessmen conspire to shorten theuseful life of their products in order to guarantee replacementsales. There is, similarly, no doubt that many of the annual modelchanges with which American (and other) consumers are increasinglyfamiliar are not technologically substantive. Detroit's autos todaydeliver no more mileage per gallon of gasoline than they did tenmodel changes back, and the oil companies, for all the additivesabout which they boast, still put a turtle, not a tiger, in the tank.Moreover, it is incontestable that Madison Avenue frequentlyexaggerates the importance of new features and encourages consumersto dispose of partially worn‑out goods to make way for the new.

It is therefore true that the consumer is sometimes caught in acarefully engineered trap – an old product whose death has beendeliberately hastened by its manufacturer, and the simultaneousappearance of a "new improved" model advertised as thelatest heaven‑sent triumph of advanced technology.

Nevertheless, these reasons by themselves cannot begin to account forthe fantastic rate of turnover of the products in our lives. Rapidobsolescence is an integral part of the entire accelerative process –a process involving not merely the life span of sparkplugs, but ofwhole societies. Bound up with the rise of science and the speed‑upin the acquisition of knowledge, this historic process can hardly beattributed to the evil design of a few contemporary hucksters.

Clearly, obsolescence occurs with or without "planning."With respect to things, obsolescence occurs under three conditions.It occurs when a product literally deteriorates to the point at whichit can no longer fulfill its functions – bearings burn out, fabricstear, pipes rust. Assuming the same functions still need to beperformed for the consumer, the failure of a product to perform thesefunctions marks the point at which its replacement is required. Thisis obsolescence due to functional failure.

Obsolescence also occurs when some new product arrives on the sceneto perform these functions more effectively than the old productcould. The new antibiotics do a more effective job of curinginfection than the old. The new computers are infinitely faster andcheaper to operate than the antique models of the early 1960's. Thisis obsolescence due to substantive technological advance.

But obsolescence also occurs when the needs of the consumer change,when the functions to be performed by the product are themselvesaltered. These needs are not as simply described as the critics ofplanned obsolescence sometimes assume. An object, whether a car or acan opener, may be evaluated along many different parameters. A car,for example, is more than a conveyance. It is an expression of thepersonality of the user, a symbol of status, a source of thatpleasure associated with speed, a source of a wide variety of sensorystimuli – tactile, olfactory, visual, etc. The satisfaction aconsumer gains from such factors may, depending upon his values,outweigh the satisfaction he might receive from improved gasconsumption or pickup power.

The traditional notion that each object has a single easily definablefunction clashes with all that we now know about human psychology,about the role of values in decisionmaking, and with ordinary commonsense as well. All products are multi‑functional.

An excellent illustration of this occurred not long ago when Iwatched a little boy purchase half a dozen pink erasers at a littlestationery store. Curious as to why he wanted so many of them, Ipicked one up for closer examination. "Do they erase well?"I asked the boy. "I don't know,." he said, "but theysure smell good!" And, indeed, they did. They had been heavilyperfumed by the Japanese manufacturer perhaps to mask an unpleasantchemical odor. In short, the needs filled by products vary bypurchaser and through time.

In a society of scarcity, needs are relatively universal andunchanging because they are starkly related to the "gut"functions. As affluence rises, however, human needs become lessdirectly linked to biological survival and more highly individuated.Moreover, in a society caught up in complex, high‑speed change,the needs of the individual – which arise out of his interactionwith the external environment – also change at relatively highspeed. The more rapidly changing the society, the more temporary theneeds. Given the general affluence of the new society, he can indulgemany of these short‑term needs.

Often, without even having a clear idea of what needs he wantsserved, the consumer has a vague feeling that he wants a change.Advertising encourages and capitalizes on this feeling, but it canhardly be credited with having created it single‑handedly. Thetendency toward shorter relational durations is thus built moredeeply into the social structure than arguments over plannedobsolescence or the manipulative effectiveness of Madison Avenuewould suggest.

The rapidity with which consumers' needs shift is reflected in thealacrity with which buyers abandon product and brand loyalty. IfAssistant Attorney General Donald F. Turner, a leading critic ofadvertising, is correct, one of the primary purposes of advertisingis to create "durable preferences." If so, it is failing,for brand‑switching is so frequent and common that it hasbecome, in the words of one food industry publication, "one ofthe national advertiser's major headaches."

Many brands drop out of existence. Among brands that continue toexist there is a continual reshuffling of position. According toHenry M. Schachte, "In almost no major consumer goods category... is there a brand on top today which held that position ten yearsago." Thus among ten leading American cigarettes, only one, PallMall, maintained in 1966 the same share of the market that it held in1956. Camels plunged from 18 to 9 percent of the market; Lucky Strikedeclined even more sharply, from 14 to 6 percent. Other brands movedup, with Salem, for example, rising from 1 to 9 percent. Additionalfluctuations have occurred since this survey.

However insignificant these shifts may be from the long‑runview of the historian, this continual shuffling and reshuffling,influenced but not independently controlled by advertising,introduces into the short‑run, everyday life of the individuala dazzling dynamism. It heightens still further the sense of speed,turmoil and impermanence in society.


Fast‑shifting preferences, flowing out of and interacting withhigh‑speed technological change, not only lead to frequentchanges in the popularity of products and brands, but also shortenthe life cycle of products. Automation expert John Diebold neverwearies of pointing out to businessmen that they must begin to thinkin terms of shorter life spans for their goods. Smith Brothers' CoughDrops, Calumet Baking Soda and Ivory Soap, have become Americaninstitutions by virtue of their long reign in the market place. Inthe days ahead, he suggests, few products will enjoy such longevity.Every consumer has had the experience of going to the supermarket ordepartment store to replace some item, only to find that he cannotlocate the same brand or product. In 1966 some 7000 new productsturned up in American supermarkets. Fully 55 percent of all the itemsnow sold there did not exist ten years ago. And of the productsavailable then, 42 percent have faded away altogether. Each year theprocess repeats itself in more extreme form. Thus 1968 saw 9,500 newitems in the consumer packaged‑goods field alone, with only onein five meeting its sales target. A silent but rapid attrition killsoff the old, and new products sweep in like a ride. "Productsthat used to sell for twenty‑five years," writes economistRobert Theobald, "now often count on no more than five. In thevolatile pharmaceutical and electronic fields the period is often asshort as six months." As the pace of change accelerates further,corporations may create new products knowing full well that they willremain on the market for only a matter of a few weeks.

Here, too, the present already provides us with a foretaste of thefuture. It lies in an unexpected quarter: the fads now sweeping overthe high technology societies in wave after wave. In the past fewyears alone, in the United States, Western Europe and Japan, we havewitnessed the sudden rise or collapse in popularity of "Bardothairdos," the "Cleopatra look," James Bond, andBatman, not to speak of Tiffany lampshades, Super‑Balls, ironcrosses, pop sunglasses, badges and buttons with protest slogans orpornographic jokes, posters of Allen Ginsberg or Humphrey Bogart,false eyelashes, and innumerable other gimcracks and oddities thatreflect – are tuned into – the rapidly changing pop culture.

Backed by mass media promotion and sophisticated marketing, such fadsnow explode on the scene virtually overnight – and vanish just asquickly. Sophisticates in the fad business prepare in advance forshorter and shorter product life cycles. Thus, there is in SanGabriel, California, a company entitled, with a kind of cornballrelish, Wham‑O Manufacturing Company. Wham‑O specializesin fad products, having introduced the hula hoop in the fifties andthe so‑called Super‑Ball more recently. The latter – ahigh‑bouncing rubber ball – quickly became so popular withadults as well as children that astonished visitors saw several ofthem bouncing merrily on the floor of the Pacific Coast StockExchange. Wall Street executives gave them away to friends and onehigh broadcasting official complained that "All our executivesare out in the halls with their Super‑Balls." Wham‑O,and other companies like it, however, are not disconcerted whensudden death overtakes their product; they anticipate it. They arespecialists in the design and manufacture of "temporary"products.

The fact that fads are generated artificially, to a large extent,merely underscores their significance. Even engineered fads are notnew to history. But never before have they come fleeting across theconsciousness in such rapid‑fire profusion, and never has therebeen such smooth coordination between those who originate the fad,mass media eager to popularize it, and companies geared for itsinstantaneous exploitation.

A well‑oiled machinery for the creation and diffusion of fadsis now an entrenched part of the modern economy. Its methods willincreasingly be adopted by others as they recognize the inevitabilityof the ever‑shorter product cycle. The line between "fad"and ordinary product will progressively blur. We are moving swiftlyinto the era of the temporary product, made by temporary methods, toserve temporary needs.

The turnover of things in our lives thus grows even more frenetic. Weface a rising flood of throw‑away items, impermanentarchitecture, mobile and modular products, rented goods andcommodities designed for almost instant death. From all thesedirections, strong pressures converge toward the same end: theinescapable ephemeralization of the man‑thing relationship.

The foreshortening of our ties with the physical environment, thestepped‑up turnover of things, however, is only a small part ofa much larger context. Let us, therefore, press ahead in ourexploration of life in high transience society.

Chapter 5


Every Friday afternoon at 4:30, a tall, graying Wall Street executivenamed Bruce Robe stuffs a mass of papers into his black leatherbriefcase, takes his coat off the rack outside his office, anddeparts. The routine has been the same for more than three years.First, he rides the elevator twenty‑nine floors down to streetlevel. Next he strides for ten minutes through crowded streets to theWall Street Heliport. There he boards a helicopter which depositshim, eight minutes later, at John F. Kennedy Airport. Transferring toa Trans‑World Airlines jet, he settles down for supper, as thegiant craft swings out over the Atlantic, then banks and heads west.One hour and ten minutes later, barring delay, he steps briskly outof the terminal building at the airport in Columbus, Ohio, and entersa waiting automobile. In thirty more minutes he reaches hisdestination: he is home.

Four nights a week Robe lives at a hotel in Manhattan. The otherthree he spends with his wife and children in Columbus, 500 milesaway. Claiming the best of two worlds, a job in the freneticfinancial center of America and a family life in the comparativelytranquil Midwest countryside, he shuttles back and forth some 50,000miles a year.

The Robe case is unusual – but not that unusual. In Califomia,ranch owners fly as much as 120 miles every morning from their homeson the Pacific Coast or in the San Bernardino Valley to visit theirranches in the Imperial Valley, and then fly back home again atnight. One Pennsylvania teen‑ager, son of a peripateticengineer, jets regularly to an orthodontist in Frankfurt, Germany. AUniversity of Chicago philosopher, Dr. Richard McKeon, commuted 1000miles each way once a week for an entire semester in order to teach aseries of classes at the New School for Social Research in New York.A young San Franciscoan and his girlfriend in Honolulu see each otherevery weekend, taking turns at crossing 2000 miles of Pacific Ocean.And at least one New England matron regularly swoops down on New Yorkto visit her hairdresser.

Never in history has distance meant less. Never have man'srelationships with place been more numerous, fragile and temporary.Throughout the advanced technological societies, and particularlyamong those I have characterized as "the people of the future,"commuting, traveling, and regularly relocating one's family havebecome second nature. Figuratively, we "use up" places anddispose of them in much the same that we dispose of Kleenex or beercans. We are witnessing a historic decline in the significance ofplace to human life. We are breeding a new race of nomads, and fewsuspect quite how massive, widespread and significant theirmigrations are.

THE 3,000,000‑MILE CLUB

In 1914, according to Buckminster Fuller, the typical Americanaveraged about 1,640 miles per year of total travel, counting some1,300 miles of just plain everyday walking to and fro. This meantthat he traveled only about 340 miles per year with the aid of horseor mechanical means. Using this 1,640 figure as a base, it ispossible to estimate that the average American of that period moved atotal of 88,560 miles in his lifetime. (* This is based on a lifeexpectancy of 54 years. Actual life expectancy for white males in theUnited States in 1920 was 54.1 years.)Today, by contrast, theaverage American car owner drives 10,000 miles per year – and helives longer than his father or grandfather. "At sixty‑nineyears of age," wrote Fuller a few years ago, "... I am oneof a class of several million human beings who, in their lifetimes,have each covered 3,000,000 miles or more" – more than thirtytimes the total lifetime travel of the 1914 American.

The aggregate figures are staggering. In 1967, for instance,108,000,000 Americans took 360,000,000 trips involving an overnightstay more than 100 miles from home. These trips alone accounted for312,000,000,000 passenger miles.

Even if we ignore the introduction of fleets of jumbo jets, trucks,cars, trains, subways and the like, our social investment in mobilityis astonishing. Paved roads and streets have been added to theAmerican landscape at the incredible rate of more than 200 miles perday, every single day for at least the last twenty years. This addsup to 75,000 miles of new streets and roads every year, enough togirdle the globe three times. While United States populationincreased during this period by 38.5 percent, street and road mileageshot up 100 percent. Viewed another way, the figures are even moredramatic: passenger miles traveled within the United States have beenincreasing at a rate six times faster than population for at leasttwenty‑five years.

This revolutionary step‑up in per capita movement through spaceis paralleled, to greater or lesser degree, throughout the mosttechnological nations. Anyone who has watched the rush hour trafficpileup on the once peaceful Strandvëg in Stockholm cannot help butbe jolted by the sight. In Rotterdam and Amsterdam, streets built asrecently as five years ago are already horribly jammed: the number ofautomobiles has multiplied faster than anyone then thought possible.

In addition to the increase in everyday movement between one's homeand various other nearby points, there is also a phenomenal increasein business and vacation travel involving overnight stays away fromhome. Nearly 1,500,000 Germans will vacation in Spain this summer,and hundreds of thousands more will populate beaches in Holland andItaly. Sweden annually welcomes more than 1,200,000 visitors fromnon‑Scandinavian nations. More than a million foreigners visitthe United States, while roughly 4,000,000 Americans travel overseaseach year. A writer in Le Figaro justifiably refers to"gigantic human exchanges."

This busy movement of men back and forth over the landscape (andsometimes under it) is one of the identifying characteristics ofsuper‑industrial society. By contrast, preindustrial nationsseem congealed, frozen, their populations profoundly attached to asingle place. Transportation expert Wilfred Owen talks about the "gapbetween the immobile and the mobile nations." He points out thatfor Latin America, Africa and Asia to reach the same ratio of roadmileage to area that now prevails in the European Economic Community,they would have to pave some 40,000,000 miles of road. This contrasthas profound economic consequences, but it also has subtle, largelyoverlooked cultural and psychological consequences. For migrants,travelers and nomads are not the same kind of people as those whostay put in one place.


Perhaps the most psychologically significant kind of movement that anindividual can make is geographical relocation of his home. Thisdramatic form of geographical mobility is also strikingly evident inthe United States and the other advanced nations. Speaking of theUnited States, Peter Drucker has said: "The largest migration inour history began during World War II; and it has continued eversince with undiminished momentum." And political scientistDaniel Elazar describes the great masses of Americans who "havebegun to move from place to place within each [urban] belt ...preserving a nomadic way of life that is urban without beingpermanently attached to any particular city ..."

Between March 1967 and March 1968 – in a single year – 36,600,000Americans (not counting children less than one year old) changedtheir place of residence. This is more than the total population ofCambodia, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, Iraq, Israel, Mongolia,Nicaragua and Tunisia combined. It is as if the entire population ofall these countries had suddenly been relocated. And movement on thismassive scale occurs every year in the United States. In each yearsince 1948 one out of five Americans changed his address, picking uphis children, some household effects, and starting life anew at afresh place. Even the great migrations of history, the Mongol hordes,the westward movement of Europeans in the nineteenth century, seempuny by statistical comparison.

While this high rate of geographical mobility in the United States isprobably unmatched anywhere in the world (available statistics,unfortunately, are spotty), even in the more tradition‑bound ofthe advanced countries the age‑old ties between man and placeare being shattered. Thus the New Society, a social sciencejournal published in London, reports that "The English are amore mobile race than perhaps they thought ... No less than 11percent of all the people in England and Wales in 1961 had lived intheir present usual residence less than a year ... In certain partso€ England, in fact, it appears that the migratory movements arenothing less than frenetic. In Kensington over 25 percent had livedin their homes less than a year, in Hampstead 20 percent, in Chelsea19 percent." And Anne Lapping, in another issue of the samejournal, states that "new houseowners expect to move house manymore times than their parents. The average life of a mortgage iseight to nine years ..." This is only slightly different than inthe United States.

In France, a continuing housing shortage contrives to slow downinternal mobility, but even there a study by demographer Guy Pourchersuggests that each year 8 to 10 percent of all Frenchmen shift homes.In Sweden, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, the rate of domesticmigration appears to be on the rise. And Europe is experiencing awave of international mass migration unlike anything since thedisruptions of World War II. Economic prosperity in Northern Europehas created widespread labor shortages (except in England) and hasattracted masses of unemployed agricultural workers from theMediterranean and Middle Eastern countries.

They come by the thousands from Algeria, Spain, Portugal, Yugoslaviaand Turkey. Every Friday afternoon 1000 Turkish workers in Istanbulclamber aboard a train heading north toward the promised lands. Thecavernous rail terminal in Munich has become a debarkation point formany of them, and Munich now has its own Turkish‑languagenewspaper. In Cologne, at the huge Ford factory, fully one‑quarterof the workers are Turks. Other foreigners have fanned out throughSwitzerland, France, England, Denmark and as far north as Sweden. Notlong ago, in the twelfth‑century town of Pangbourne in England,my wife and I were served by Spanish waiters. And in Stockholm wevisited the Vivel, a downtown restaurant that has become a meetingplace for transplanted Spaniards who hunger for flamenco music withtheir dinner. There were no Swedes present; with the exception of afew Algerians and ourselves, everyone spoke Spanish. It was nosurprise therefore to find that Swedish sociologists today are tornby debate over whether foreign worker populations should beassimilated into Swedish culture or encouraged to retain their owncultural traditions – precisely the same "melting pot"argument that excited American social scientists during the greatperiod of open immigration in the United States.


There are, however, important differences between the kind of peoplewho are on the move in the United States and those caught up in theEuropean migrations. In Europe most of the new mobility can beattributed to the continuing transition from agriculture to industry;from the past to the present, as it were. Only a small part is as yetassociated with the transition from industrialism tosuper‑industrialism. In the United States, by contrast, thecontinuing redistribution of population is no longer primarily causedby the decline of agricultural employment. It grows, instead, out ofthe spread of automation and the new way of life associated withsuper‑industrial society, the way of life of the future.

This becomes plain if we look at who is doing the moving in theUnited States. It is true that some technologically backward anddisadvantaged groups, such as urban Negroes, are characterized byhigh rates of geographical mobility, usually within the sameneighborhood or county. But these groups form only a relatively smallslice of the total population, and it would be a serious mistake toassume that high rates of geographical mobility correlate only withpoverty, unemployment or ignorance. In fact, we find that men with atleast one year of college education (an ever increasing group) movemore, and further, than those without. Thus we find that theprofessional and technical populations are among the most mobile ofall Americans. And we find an increasing number of affluentexecutives who move far and frequently. (It is a house joke amongexecutives of the International Business Machine Corporation that IBMstands for "I've Been Moved.") In the emergingsuper‑industrialism it is precisely these groups –professional, technical and managerial – who increase in bothabsolute number and as a proportion of the total work force. Theyalso give the society its characteristic flavor, as the denim‑cladfactory worker did in the past.

Just as millions of poverty‑stricken and unemployed ruralworkers are flowing from the agricultural past into the industrialpresent in Europe, so thousands of European scientists, engineers andtechnicians are flowing into the United States and Canada, the mostsuperindustrial of nations. In West Germany, Professor RudolfMossbauer, a Nobel prizewinner in physics, announces that he isthinking of migrating to America because of disagreements overadministrative and budgetary policies at home. Europe's politicalministers, worried over the "technology gap," have lookedon helplessly as Westinghouse, Allied Chemical, Douglas Aircraft,General Dynamics and other major American corporations sent talentscouts to London or Stockholm to lure away everyone fromastrophysicists to turbine engineers.

But there is a simultaneous "brain‑drain" inside theUnited States, with thousands of scientists and engineers moving backand forth like particles in an atom. There are, in fact, wellrecognized patterns of movement. Two major streams, one from theNorth and the other from the South, both converge in California andthe other Pacific Coast states, with a way station at Denver. Anothermajor stream flows up from the South toward Chicago and Cambridge,Princeton and Long Island. A counter‑stream carries men back tothe space and electronics industries in Florida.

A typical young space engineer of my acquaintance quit his job withRCA at Princeton to go to work for General Electric. The house he hadpurchased only two years before was sold; his family moved into arented house just outside Philadelphia, while a new one was built forthem. They will move into this new house – the fourth in about fiveyears – provided he is not transferred or offered a better jobelsewhere. And all the time, California beckons.

There is a less obvious geographical pattern to the movement ofmanagement men, but, if anything, the turnover is heavier. A decadeago William Whyte, in The Organization Man, declared that "Theman who leaves home is not the exception in American society but thekey to it. Almost by definition, the organization man is a man wholeft home and ... kept on going." His characterization, correctthen, is even truer today. The Wall Street Journal refers to"corporate gypsies" in an article headlined "HowExecutive Family Adapts to Incessant Moving About Country." Itdescribes the life of M. E. Jacobson, an executive with theMontgomery Ward retail chain. He and his wife, both forty‑sixat the time the story appeared, had moved twenty‑eight times intwenty‑six years of married life. "I almost feel likewe're just camping," his wife tells her visitors. While theircase is atypical, thousands like them move on the average of onceevery two years, and their numbers multiply. This is true not merelybecause corporate needs are constantly shifting, but also because topmanagement regards frequent relocation of its potential successors asa necessary step in their training.

This moving of executives from house to house as if they werelife‑size chessmen on a continent‑sized board has led onepsychologist to propose facetiously a money‑saving systemcalled "The Modular Family." Under this scheme, theexecutive not only leaves his house behind, but his family as well.The company then finds him a matching family (personalitycharacteristics carefully selected to duplicate those of the wife andchildren left behind) at the new site. Some other itinerant executivethen "plugs into" the family left behind. No one appears tohave taken the idea seriously – yet.

In addition to the large groups of professionals, technicians andexecutives who engage in a constant round of "musical homes,"there are many other peculiarly mobile groupings in the society. Alarge military establishment includes tens of thousands of familieswho, peacetime and wartime, move again and again. "I'm notdecorating any more houses," snaps the wife of an army colonelwith irony in her voice: "The curtains never fit from one houseto the next and the rug is always the wrong size or color. From nowon I'm decorating my car." Tens of thousands of skilledconstruction workers add to the flow. On another level are the morethan 750,000 students attending colleges away from their home state,plus the hundreds of thousands more who are away from home but stillwithin their home state. For millions, and particularly for the"people of the future," home is where you find it.


Such tidal movements of human beings produce all sorts ofseldom‑noticed side effects. Businesses that mail direct to thecustomer's home spend uncounted dollars keeping their address listsup to date. The same is true of telephone companies. Of the 885,000listings in the Washington, D. C., telephone book in 1969, over halfwere different from the year before. Similarly, organizations andassociations have a difficult time knowing where their members are.Within a single recent year fully one‑third of the members ofthe National Society for Programmed Instruction, an organization ofeducational researchers, changed their addresses. Even friends havetrouble keeping up with each other's whereabouts. One can sympathizewith the plaint of poor Count Lanfranco Rasponi, who laments thattravel and movement have destroyed "society." There is nosocial season any more, he says, because nobody is anywhere at thesame time – except, of course, nobodies. The good Count has beenquoted as saying: "Before this, if you wanted twenty for dinner,you'd have to ask forty – but now you first ask 200."

Despite such inconveniences, the overthrow of the tyranny ofgeography opens a form of freedom that proves exhilarating tomillions. Speed, movement and even relocation carry positiveconnotations for many. This accounts for the psychological attachmentthat Americans and Europeans display toward automobiles – thetechnological incarnation of spatial freedom. Motivational researcherErnest Dichter has unburdened himself of abundant Freudian nonsensein his time, but he is shrewdly insightful when he suggests that theauto is the "most powerful tool for mastery" available tothe ordinary Western man. "The automobile has become the modernsymbol of initiation. The license of the sixteen‑year‑oldis a valid admission to adult society."

In the affluent nations, he writes, "most people have enough toeat and are reasonably well housed. Having achieved thisthousand‑year‑old dream of humanity, they now reach outfor further satisfactions. They want to travel, discover, be at leastphysically independent. The automobile is the mobile symbol ofmobility ..." In fact, the last thing that any family wishes tosurrender, when hardpressed by financial hardship, is the automobile,and the worst punishment an American parent can mete out to ateen‑ager is to "ground" him – i.e., deprive him ofthe use of an automobile.

Young girls in the United States, when asked what they regard asimportant about a boy, immediately list a car. Sixty‑sevenpercent of those interviewed in a recent survey said a car is"essential," and a nineteen‑year‑old boy,Alfred Uranga of Albuquerque, N. M., confirmed gloomily that "Ifa guy doesn't have a car, he doesn't have a girl." Just how deepthis passion for automobility runs among the youth is tragicallyillustrated by the suicide of a seventeen‑year‑oldWisconsin boy, William Nebel, who was "grounded" by hisfather after his driver's license was suspended for speeding. Beforeputting a .22 caliber rifle bullet in his brain, the boy penned anote that ended, "Without a license, I don't have my car, job orsocial life. So I think that it is better to end it all right now."It is clear that millions of young people all over the technologicalworld agree with the poet Marinetti who, more than half a centuryago, shouted: "A roaring racing car ... is more beautiful thanthe Winged Victory."

Freedom from fixed social position is linked so closely with freedomfrom fixed geographical position, that when super‑industrialman feels socially constricted his first impulse is to relocate. Thisidea seldom occurs to the peasant raised in his village or thecoalminer toiling away in the black deeps. "A lot of problemsare solved by migration. Go. Travel!" said a student of minebefore rushing off to join the Peace Corps. But movement becomes apositive value in its own right, an assertion of freedom, not merelya response to or escape from outside pressures. A survey of 539subscribers to Redbook magazine sought to determine why theiraddresses had changed in the previous year. Along with such reasonsas "family grew too big for old home" or "pleasantersurroundings" fully ten percent checked off "just wanted achange."

An extreme manifestation of this urge to move is found among thefemale hitch‑hikers who are beginning to form a recognizablesociological category of their own. Thus a young Catholic girl inEngland gives up her job selling advertising space for a magazine andgoes off with a friend intending to hitchhike to Turkey. In Hamburgthe girls split up. The first girl, Jackie, cruises the GreekIslands, reaches Istanbul, and at length returns to England, whereshe takes a job with another magazine. She stays only long enough tofinance another trip. After that she comes back and works as awaitress, rejecting promotion to hostess on grounds that "Idon't expect to be in England very long." At twenty‑threeJackie is a confirmed hitch‑hiker, thumbing her wayindefatigably all over Europe with a gas pistol in her rucksack,returning to England for six or eight months, then starting outagain. Ruth, twenty‑eight, has been living this way for years,her longest stay in any one place having been three years.Hitchhiking as a way of life, she says, is fine because while it ispossible to meet people, "you don't get too involved."

Teen‑age girls in particular – perhaps eager to escaperestrictive home environments – are passionately keen travelers. Asurvey of girls who read Seventeen, for example, showed that40.2 percent took one or more "major" trips during thesummer before the survey. Sixtynine percent of these trips carriedthe girl outside her home state, and nine percent took her abroad.But the itch to travel begins long before the teen years. Thus whenBeth, the daughter of a New York psychiatrist, learned that a friendof her's had visited Europe, her tearful response was: "I'm nineyears old already and I've never been to Europe!"

This positive attitude toward movement is reflected in surveyfindings that Americans tend to admire travelers. Thus researchers atthe University of Michigan have found that respondents frequentlyterm travelers "lucky" or "happy." To travel isto gain status, which explains why so many American travelers keepragged airline tags on their luggage or attaché cases long aftertheir return from a trip. One wag has suggested that someone set up abusiness washing and ironing old airline tags for status‑conscioustravelers.

Moving one's household, on the other hand, is a cause forcommiseration rather than congratulations. Everyone makes ritualcomments about the hardships of moving. Yet the fact is that thosewho have moved once are much more likely to move again than those whohave never moved. The French sociologist Alain Touraine explains that"having already made one change and being less attached to thecommunity, they are the readier to move again ..." And a Britishtrade‑union official, R. Clark, not long ago told aninternational manpower conference that mobility might well be a habitformed in student days. He pointed out that those who spent theircollege years away from home move in less restricted circles thanuneducated and more home‑bound manual workers. Not only dothese college people move more in later life, but he suggested, theypass on to their children attitudes that facilitate mobility. Whilefor many worker families relocation is a dreaded necessity, aconsequence of unemployment or other hardships, for the middle andupper classes moving is most often associated with the extension ofthe good life. For them, traveling is a joy, and moving out usuallymeans moving up.

In short, throughout the nations in transition tosuper‑industrialism, among the people of the future, movementis a way of life, a liberation from the constrictions of the past, astep into the still more affluent future.


Dramatically different attitudes, however, are evinced by the"immobiles." It is not only the agricultural villager inIndia or Iran who remains fixed in one place for most or all of hislife. The same is true of millions of blue‑collar workers,particularly those in backward industries. As technological changeroars through the advanced economies, outmoding whole industries andcreating new ones almost overnight, millions of unskilled andsemiskilled workers find themselves compelled to relocate. Theeconomy demands mobility, and most Western governments – notablySweden, Norway, Denmark, and the United States – spend large sumsto encourage workers to retrain for new jobs and leave their homes inpursuit of them. For coalminers in Appalachia or textile workers inthe French provinces, however, this proves to be excruciatinglypainful. Even for big‑city workers uprooted by urban renewaland relocated quite near to their former homes, the disruption isoften agonizing.

"It is quite precise to speak of their reactions," says Dr.Marc Fried of the Center for Community Studies, Massachusetts GeneralHospital, "as expressions of grief. These are manifest inthe feelings of painful loss, the continued longing, the generaldepressive tone, frequent symptoms of psychological or social orsomatic distress ... the sense of helplessness, the occasionalexpressions of both direct and displaced anger, and tendencies toidealize the lost place." The responses, he declares, are"strikingly similar to mourning for a lost person."

Sociologist Monique Viot, of the French Ministry of Social Affairs,says: "The French are very attached to their geographicalbackgrounds. For jobs even thirty or forty kilometers away they arereluctant – extremely reluctant – to move. The unions call suchmoves 'deportations.'"

Even some educated and affluent movers show signs of distress whenthey are called upon to relocate. The author Clifton Fadiman, tellingof his move from a restful Connecticut town to Los Angeles, reportsthat he was shortly "felled by a shotgun burst of odd physicaland mental ailments ... In the course of six months my illness gotstraightened out. The neurologist ... diagnosed my trouble as'culture shock' ..." For relocation of one's home, even underthe most favorable circumstances, entails a series of difficultpsychological readjustments.

In a famous study of a Canadian suburb they call Crestwood Heights,sociologists J. R. Seeley, R. A. Sim, and E. W. Loosley, state: "Therapidity with which the transition has to be accomplished, and thedepth to which change must penetrate the personality are such as tocall for the greatest flexibility of behavior and stability ofpersonality. Ideology, speech sometimes, food habits, and preferencesin decor must be made over with relative suddenness and in theabsence of unmistakable clues as to the behavior to be adopted."

The steps by which people make such adjustments have been mapped outby psychiatrist James S. Tyhurst of the University of BritishColumbia. "In field studies of individuals followingimmigration," he says, "a fairly consistent pattern can defined. Initially, the person is concerned with the immediatepresent, with an attempt to find work, make money, and find shelter.These features are often accompanied by restlessness and increasedpsychomotor activity ..."

As the person's sense of strangeness or incongruity in the newsurroundings grows, a second phase, "psychological arrival,"takes place. "Characteristic of this are increasing anxiety anddepression; increasing self‑preoccupation, often with somaticpreoccupations and somatic symptoms; general withdrawal from thesociety in contrast to previous activity; and some degree ofhostility and suspicion. The sense of difference and helplessnessbecomes increasingly intense and the period is characterized bymarked discomfort and turmoil. This period of more or lessdisturbance may last for ... one to several months."

Only then does the third phase begin. This takes the form of relativeadjustment to the new surroundings, a settling in, or else, inextreme cases, "the development of more severe disturbancesmanifested by more intense disorders of mood, the development ofabnormal mental content and breaks with reality." Some people,in short, never do adjust adequately.


Even when they do, however, they are no longer the same as before,for any relocation, of necessity, destroys a complex web‑workof old relationships and establishes a set of new ones. It is thisdisruption that, especially if repeated more than once, breeds the"loss of commitment" that many writers have noted among thehigh mobiles. The man on the move is ordinarily in too much of ahurry to put down roots in any one place. Thus an airline executiveis quoted as saying he avoids involvement in the political life ofhis community because "in a few years I won't even be livinghere. You plant a tree and you never see it grow." Thisnon‑involvement or, at best, limited participation, has beensharply criticized by those who see in it a menace to the traditionalideal of grass‑roots democracy. They overlook, however, animportant reality: the possibility that those who refuse to involvethemselves deeply in community affairs may be showing greater moralresponsibility than those who do – and then move away. The moversboost a tax rate – but avoid paying the piper because they are nolonger there. They help defeat a school bond issue – and leave thechildren of others to suffer the consequences. Does it not make moresense, is it not more responsible, to disqualify oneself in advance?Yet if one does withdraw from participation, refusing to joinorganizations, refusing to establish close ties with neighbors,refusing, in short, to commit oneself, what happens to the communityand the self? Can individuals or society survive without commitment?

Commitment takes many forms. One of these is attachment to place. Wecan understand the significance of mobility only if we firstrecognize the centrality of fixed place in the psychologicalarchitecture of traditional man. This centrality is reflected in ourculture in innumerable ways. Indeed, civilization, itself, began withagriculture – which meant settlement, an end, at last, to thedreary treks and migrations of the paleolithic nomad. The very word"rootedness" to which we pay so much attention today isagricultural in origin. The precivilized nomad listening to adiscussion of "roots" would scarcely have understood theconcept.

The notion of roots is taken to mean a fixed place, a permanentlyanchored "home." In a harsh, hungry and dangerous world,home, even when no more than a hovel, came to be regarded as theultimate retreat, rooted in the earth, handed down from generation togeneration, one's link with both nature and the past. The immobilityof home was taken for granted, and literature overflows with reverentreferences to the importance of home. "Seek home for rest, Forhome is best" are lines from Instructions to Housewifery,a sixteenthcentury manual by Thomas Tusser, and there are dozens ofwhat one might, at the risk of a terrible pun, call "home‑ilies"embedded in the culture. "A man's home is his castle ...""There's no place like home ..." "Home, sweet home..." The syrupy glorification of home reached, perhaps, a climaxin nineteenth‑century England at precisely the time thatindustrialism was uprooting the rural folk and converting them intourban masses. Thomas Hood, the poet of the poor, tells us that "eachheart is whispering, Home, Home at last ..." and Tennyson paintsa classically cloying picture of

An English home – gray twilight poured

On dewy pastures, dewy trees,

Softer than sleep – all things in order stored,

A haunt of ancient peace.

In a world churned by the industrial revolution, and in which allthings were decidedly not "in order stored," homewas the anchorage, the fixed point in the storm. If nothing else, atleast it could be counted upon to stay in one place. Alas,this was poetry, not reality, and it could not hold back the forcesthat were to tear man loose from fixed location.


The nomad of the past moved through blizzards and parching heat,always pursued by hunger, but he carried with him his buffalo‑hidetent, his family and the rest of his tribe. He carried hissocial setting with him, and, as often as not, the physical structurethat he called home. In contrast, the new nomads of today leave thephysical structure behind. (It becomes an entry in the tables showingthe turnover rate for things in their lives.) And they leave all buttheir family, the most immediate social setting, behind. Thedowngrading of the importance of place, the decline in commitment toit, is expressed in scores of ways. A recent example was the decisionof Ivy League colleges in the United States to de‑emphasizegeographical considerations in their admissions policies. These elitecolleges traditionally applied geographical criteria to applicants,deliberately favoring boys from homes located far from theircampuses, in the hopes of assembling a highly diversified studentbody. Between the 1930's and the 1950's, for example, Harvard cut inhalf the percentage of its students from homes in New England and NewYork. Today, says an official of the university, "We're pullingback on this geographical distribution thing."

Place, it is now recognized, is no longer a primary source ofdiversity. Differences between people no longer correlate closelywith geographical background. The address on the application form maybe purely temporary anyway. Many people no longer stay in one placelong enough to acquire distinctive regional or local characteristics.Says the dean of admissions at Yale: "Of course, we still sendour recruiting people to out‑of‑the‑way places likeNevada, but there's really as much diversity in taking Harlem, ParkAvenue and Queens." According to this official, Yale hasvirtually dropped geography altogether as a consideration inselection. And his counterpart at Princeton reports: "It is notthe place they're from, really, but rather some sense of a differentbackground that we're looking for."

Mobility has stirred the pot so thoroughly that the importantdifferences between people are no longer strongly place‑related.So far has the decline in commitment to place gone, according toProf. John Dyckman of the University of Pennsylvania, that"Allegiance to a city or state is even now weaker for many thanallegiance to a corporation, a profession, or a voluntaryassociation." Thus it might be said that commitments areshifting from placerelated social structures (city, state, nation orneighborhood) to those (corporation, profession, friendship network)that are themselves mobile, fluid, and, for all practical purposes,placeless.

Commitment, however, appears to correlate with duration ofrelationship. Armed with a culturally conditioned set of durationalexpectancies, we have all learned to invest with emotional contentthose relationships that appear to us to be "permanent" orrelatively longlasting, while withholding emotion, as much aspossible, from short‑term relationships. There are, of course,exceptions; the swift summer romance is one. But, in general, acrossa broad variety of relationships, the correlation holds. Thedeclining commitment to place is thus related not to mobility per se,but to a concomitant of mobility – the shorter duration of placerelationships.

In seventy major United States cities, for example, including NewYork, average residence in one place is less than four years.Contrast this with the lifelong residence in one place characteristicof the rural villager. Moreover, residential relocation is criticalin determining the duration of many other place relationships, sothat when an individual terminates his relationship with a home, heusually also terminates his relationship with all kinds of"satellite" places in the neighborhood. He changes hissupermarket, gas station, bus stop and barbershop, thus cutting shorta series of other place relationships along with the homerelationship. Across the board, therefore, we not only experiencemore places in the course of a lifetime, but, on average, maintainour link with each place for a shorter and shorter interval.

Thus we begin to see more clearly how the accelerative thrust insociety affects the individual. For this telescoping of man'srelationships with place precisely parallels the truncation of hisrelationship with things.

In both cases, the individual is forced to make and break his tiesmore rapidly. In both cases, the level of transience rises. In bothcases, he experiences a quickening of the pace of life.

Chapter 6


Each spring an immense lemming‑like migration begins all overthe Eastern United States. Singly and in groups, burdened withsleeping bags, blankets and bathing suits, some 15,000 Americancollege students toss aside their texts and follow a highly accuratehoming instinct that leads them to the sun‑bleached shorelineof Fort Lauderdale, Florida. There, for approximately a week, thisteeming, milling mass of sun and sex worshippers swims, sleeps,flirts, guzzles beer, sprawls and brawls in the sands. At the end ofthis period the bikini‑clad girls and their bronzed admirerspack their kits and join in a mass exodus. Anyone near the booth setup by the resort city to welcome this rambunctious army can now hearthe loudspeaker booming: "Car with two can take rider as far asAtlanta ... Need ride to Washington ... Leaving at 10:00 forLouisville ..." In a few hours nothing is left of the great"beach‑and‑booze party" except butts and beercans in the sand, and about $1.5 million in the cash registers oflocal merchants – who regard this annual invasion as a taintedblessing that threatens public sanity while it underwrites privateprofit.

What attracts the young people is more than an irrepressible passionfor sunshine. Nor is it mere sex, a commodity available in otherplaces as well. Rather, it is a sense of freedom withoutresponsibility. In the words of a nineteen‑year‑old NewYork co‑ed who made her way to the festivities recently:"You're not worried about what you do or say here because,frankly, you'll never see these people again."

What the Fort Lauderdale rite supplies is a transient agglomerationof people that makes possible a great diversity of temporaryinterpersonal relationships. And it is precisely this –temporariness – that increasingly characterizes human relations aswe move further toward super‑industrialism. For just as thingsand places flow through our lives at a faster clip, so, too, dopeople.


Urbanism – the city dweller's way of life – has preoccupiedsociology since the turn of the century. Max Weber pointed out theobvious fact that people in cities cannot know all their neighbors asintimately as it was possible for them to do in small communities.Georg Simmel carried this idea one step further when he declared,rather quaintly, that if the urban individual reacted emotionally toeach and every person with whom he came into contact, or clutteredhis mind with information about them, he would be "completelyatomized internally and would fall into an unthinkable mentalcondition."

Louis Wirth, in turn, noted the fragmented nature of urbanrelationships. "Characteristically, urbanites meet one anotherin highly segmental roles ..." he wrote. "Their dependenceupon others is confined to a highly fractionalized aspect of theother's round of activity." Rather than becoming deeply involvedwith the total personality of every individual we meet, he explained,we necessarily maintain superficial and partial contact with some. Weare interested only in the efficiency of the shoe salesman in meetingour needs: we couldn't care less that his wife is an alcoholic.

What this means is that we form limited involvement relationshipswith most of the people around us. Consciously or not, we define ourrelationships with most people in functional terms. So long as we donot become involved with the shoe salesman's problems at home, or hismore general hopes, dreams and frustrations, he is, for us, fullyinterchangeable with any other salesman of equal competence. Ineffect, we have applied the modular principle to human relationships.We have created the disposable person: Modular Man.

Rather than entangling ourselves with the whole man, we plug into amodule of his personality. Each personality can be imagined as aunique configuration of thousands of such modules. Thus no wholeperson is interchangeable with any other. But certain modules are.Since we are seeking only to buy a pair of shoes, and not thefriendship, love or hate of the salesman, it is not necessary for usto tap into or engage with all the other modules that form hispersonality. Our relationship is safely limited. There is limitedliability on both sides. The relationship entails certain acceptedforms of behavior and communication. Both sides understand,consciously or otherwise, the limitations and laws. Difficultiesarise only when one or another party oversteps the tacitly understoodlimits, when he attempts to connect up with some module not relevantto the function at hand.

Today a vast sociological and psychological literature is devoted tothe alienation presumed to flow from this fragmentation ofrelationships. Much of the rhetoric of existentialism and the studentrevolt decries this fragmentation. It is said that we are notsufficiently "involved" with our fellow man. Millions ofyoung people go about seeking "total involvement."

Before leaping to the popular conclusion that modularization is allbad, however, it might be well to look more closely at the matter.Theologian Harvey Cox, echoing Simmel, has pointed out that in anurban environment the attempt to "involve" oneself fullywith everyone can lead only to self‑destruction and emotionalemptiness. Urban man, he writes, "must have more or lessimpersonal relationships with most of the people with whom he comesin contact precisely in order to choose certain friendships tonourish and cultivate ... His life represents a point touched bydozens of systems and hundreds of people. His capacity to know someof them better necessitates his minimizing the depth of hisrelationship to many others. Listening to the postman gossip becomesfor the urban man an act of sheer graciousness, since he probably hasno interest in the people the postman wants to talk about."

Moreover, before lamenting modularization, it is necessary to askourselves whether we really would prefer to return to the traditionalcondition of man in which each individual presumably related to thewhole personality of a few people rather than to the personalitymodules of many. Traditional man has been so sentimentalized, socloyingly romanticized, that we frequently overlook the consequencesof such a return. The very same writers who lament fragmentation alsodemand freedom – yet overlook the unfreedom of people boundtogether in totalistic relationships. For any relationship impliesmutual demands and expectations. The more intimately involved arelationship, the greater the pressure the parties exert on oneanother to fulfill these expectations. The tighter and moretotalistic the relationship, the more modules, so to speak, arebrought into play, and the more numerous are the demands we make.

In a modular relationship, the demands are strictly bounded. So longas the shoe salesman performs his rather limited service for us,thereby fulfilling our rather limited expectations, we do not insistthat he believe in our God, or that he be tidy at home, or share ourpolitical values, or enjoy the same kind of food or music that we do.We leave him free in all other matters – as he leaves us free to beatheist or Jew, heterosexual or homosexual, John Bircher orCommunist. This is not true of the total relationship and cannot be.To a certain point, fragmentation and freedom go together.

All of us seem to need some totalistic relationships in our lives.But to decry the fact that we cannot have only suchrelationships is nonsense. And to prefer a society in which theindividual has holistic relationships with a few, rather thanmodular retionships with many, is to wish for a return to theimprisonment of the past – a past when individuals may have beenmore tightly bound to one another, but when they were also moretightly regimented by social conventions, sexual mores, political andreligious restrictions.

This is not to say that modular relationships entail no risks or thatthis is the best of all possible worlds. There are, in fact, profoundrisks in the situation, as we shall attempt to show. Until now,however, the entire public and professional discussion of theseissues has been badly out of focus. For it has overlooked a criticaldimension of all interpersonal relationships: their duration.


Sociologists like Wirth have referred in passing to the transitorynature of human ties in urban society. But they have made nosystematic effort to relate the shorter duration of human ties toshorter durations in other kinds of relationships. Nor have theyattempted to document the progressive decline in these durations.Until we analyze the temporal character of human bonds, we willcompletely misunderstand the move toward super‑industrialism.

For one thing, the decline in the average duration of humanrelationships is a likely corollary of the increase in the number ofsuch relationships. The average urban individual today probably comesinto contact with more people in a week than the feudal villager didin a year, perhaps even a lifetime. The villager's ties with otherpeople no doubt included some transient relationships, but most ofthe people he knew were the same throughout his life. The urban manmay have a core group of people with whom his interactions aresustained over long periods of time, but he also interacts withhundreds, perhaps thousands of people whom he may see only once ortwice and who then vanish into anonymity.

All of us approach human relationships, as we approach other kinds ofrelationships, with a set of built‑in durational expectancies.We expect that certain kinds of relationships will endure longer thanothers. It is, in fact, possible to classify relationships with otherpeople in terms of their expected duration. These vary, of course,from culture to culture and from person to person. Nevertheless,throughout wide sectors of the population of the advancedtechnological societies something like the following order istypical:

Long‑duration relationships. We expect ties with ourimmediate family, and to a lesser extent with other kin, to extendthroughout the lifetimes of the people involved. This expectation isby no means always fulfilled, as rising divorce rates and familybreak‑ups indicate. Nevertheless, we still theoretically marry"until death do us part" and the social ideal is a lifetimerelationship. Whether this is a proper or realistic expectation in asociety of high transience is debatable. The fact remains, however,that family links are expected to be long term, if not lifelong, andconsiderable guilt attaches to the person who breaks off such arelationship.

Medium‑duration relationships. Four classes ofrelationships fall within this category. Roughly in order ofdescending durational expectancies, these are relationships withfriends, neighbors, job associates, and co‑members of churches,clubs and other voluntary organizations.

Friendships are traditionally supposed to survive almost, if notquite, as long as family ties. The culture places high value on "oldfriends" and a certain amount of blame attaches to dropping afriendship. One type of friendship relationship, however,acquaintanceship, is recognized as less durable.

Neighbor relationships are no longer regarded as long‑termcommitments – the rate of geographical turnover is too high. Theyare expected to last as long as the individual remains in a singlelocation, an interval that is growing shorter and shorter on average.Breaking off with a neighbor may involve other difficulties, but itcarries no great burden of guilt.

On‑the‑job relationships frequently overlap friendships,and less often, neighbor relationships. Traditionally, particularlyamong white‑collar, professional and technical people, jobrelationships were supposed to last a relatively long time. Thisexpectation, however, is also changing rapidly, as we shall see.

Co‑membership relationships – links with people in church orcivic organizations, political parties and the like – sometimesflower into friendship, but until that happens such individualassociations are regarded as more perishable than either friendships,ties with neighbors or fellow workers.

Short‑duration relationships. Most, though not all,service relationships fall into this category. These involve salesclerks, delivery people, gas station attendants, milkmen, barbers,hairdressers, etc. The turnover among these is relatively rapid andlittle or no shame attaches to the person who terminates such arelationship. Exceptions to the service patterns are professionalssuch as physicians, lawyers and accountants, with whom relationshipsare expected to be somewhat more enduring.

This categorization is hardly airtight. Most of us can cite some"service" relationship that has lasted longer than somefriendship, job or neighbor relationship. Moreover, most of us cancite a number of quite long‑lasting relationships in our ownlives – perhaps we have been going to the same doctor for years orhave maintained extremely close ties with a college friend. Suchcases are hardly unusual, but they are relatively few in number inour lives. They are like long‑stemmed flowers towering above afield of grass in which each blade represents a short‑termrelationship, a transient contact. It is the very durability of theseties that makes them noticeable. Such exceptions do not invalidatethe rule. They do not change the key fact that, across the board, theaverage interpersonal relationship in our life is shorter andshorter in duration.


Continuing urbanization is merely one of a number of pressuresdriving us toward greater "temporariness" in our humanrelationships. Urbanization, as suggested earlier, brings greatmasses of people into close proximity, thereby increasing the actualnumber of contacts made. This process is, however, stronglyreinforced by the rising geographical mobility described in the lastchapter. Geographical mobility not only speeds up the flow of placesthrough our lives, but the flow of people as well.

The increase in travel brings with it a sharp increase in the numberof transient, casual relationships with fellow passengers, with hotelclerks, taxi drivers, airline reservation people, with porters,maids, waiters, with colleagues and friends of friends, with customsofficials, travel agents and countless others. The greater themobility of the individual, the greater the number of brief,face‑to‑face encounters, human contacts, each one arelationship of sorts, fragmentary and, above all, compressed intime. (Such contacts appear natural and unimportant to us. We seldomstop to consider how few of the sixty‑six billion human beingswho preceded us on the planet ever experienced this high rate oftransience in their human relationships.)

If travel increases the number of contacts – largely with servicepeople of one sort or another – residential relocation also stepsup the through‑put of people in our lives. Moving leads to thetermination of relationships in almost all categories. The youngsubmarine engineer who is transferred from his job in the Navy Yardat Mare Island, California, to the installation at Newport News,Virginia, takes only his most immediate family with him. He leavesbehind parents and in‑laws, neighbors, service andtradespeople, as well as his associates on the job, and others. Hecuts short his ties. In settling down in the new community, he, hiswife and child must initiate a whole cluster of new (and once moretemporary) relationships.

Here is how one young wife, a veteran of eleven moves in the pastseventeen years, describes the process: "When you live in aneighborhood you watch a series of changes take place. One day a newmailman delivers the mail. A few weeks later the girl at thecheck‑out counter at the supermarket disappears and a new onetakes her place. Next thing you know, the mechanic at the gas stationis replaced. Meanwhile, a neighbor moves out next door and a newfamily moves in. These changes are taking place all the time, butthey are gradual. When you move, you break all these ties at once,and you have to start all over again. You have to find a newpediatrician, a new dentist, a new car mechanic who won't cheat you,and you quit all your organizations and start over again." It isthe simultaneous rupture of a whole range of existing relationshipsthat makes relocation psychologically taxing for many.

The more frequently this cycle repeats itself, of course, in the lifeof the individual, the shorter the duration of the relationshipsinvolved. Among significant sectors of the population this process isnow occurring so rapidly that it is drastically altering traditionalnotions of time with respect to human relationships. "At acocktail party on Frogtown Road the other night," reads a storyin The New York Times, "the talk got around to how longthose at the party had lived in New Canaan. To nobody's surprise, itdeveloped that the couple of longest residence had been there fiveyears." In slower moving times and places, five yearsconstituted little more than a breaking‑in period for a familymoved to a new community. It took that long to be "accepted."Today the breaking‑in‑period must be highly compressed intime.

Thus we have in many American suburbs a commercial "WelcomeWagon" service that accelerates the process by introducingnewcomers to the chief stores and agencies in the community. A paidWelcome Wagon employee – usually a middle‑aged lady –visits the newcomers, answers questions about the community, andleaves behind brochures and, sometimes, inexpensive gift certificatesredeemable at local stores. Since it affects only relationships inthe service category and is, actually, little more than a form ofadvertising, the Welcome Wagon's integrative impact is superficial.

The process of linking up with new neighbors and friends is, however,often quite effectively accelerated by the presence of certain people– usually divorced or single older women – who play the role ofinformal "integrator" in the community. Such people arefound in many established suburbs and housing developments. Theirfunction has been described by urban sociologist Robert Gutman ofRutgers University, who notes that while the integrator herself isfrequently isolated from the mainstream of social life in thecommunity, she derives pleasure from serving as a "bridge"for newcomers. She takes the initiative by inviting them to partiesand other gatherings. The newcomers are duly flattered that an"oldtime" resident – in many communities "oldtime"means two years – is willing to invite them. The newcomers, alas,quickly learn that the integrator is herself an "outsider"whereupon, more often than not, they promptly disassociate themselvesfrom her.

"Fortunately for the integrator," Gutman says, "by thetime he or she managed to introduce the newcomer to the community andthe newcomer in turn had gone on to abandon the integrator, therewere new arrivals in the settlement to whom the integrator could onceagain proffer the hand of friendship."

Other people in the community also help speed the process ofrelationship formation. Thus, in developments, Gutman says,"Respondents reported that the real estate agents introducedthem to neighbors before they had taken possession. In some cases,wives were called on by other wives in the neighborhood, sometimesindividually and sometimes in groups. Neighboring wives, or husbands,encountered each other casually, while out gardening and cleaning upthe yard or in tending children. And, of course, there were the usualmeetings brought about by the children, who themselves often were thefirst to establish contact with the human population of the newenvironment."

(Video) Future Shock Documentary (1972)

Local organizations also play an important part in helping theindividual integrate quickly into the community. This is more likelyto be true among suburban homeowners than among housing developmentresidents. Churches, political parties and women's organizationsprovide many of the human relationships that the newcomers seek.According to Gutman, "Sometimes a neighbor would inform thenewcomer about the existence of the voluntary association, and mighteven take the newcomer to his first meeting; but even in these casesit was up to the migrant himself to find his own primary group withinthe association."

The knowledge that no move is final, that somewhere along the roadthe nomads will once more gather up their belongings and migrate,works against the development of relationships that are more thanmodular, and it means that if relationships are to be struck up atall, they had better be whipped into life quickly.

If, however, the breaking‑in period is compressed in time, theleave‑taking – the breaking‑out – is also telescoped.This is particularly true of service relationships which, beingunidimensional, can be both initiated and terminated with dispatch."They come and they go," says the manager of a suburbanfood store. "You miss them one day and then you learn they'vemoved to Dallas." "Washington, D. C., retailers seldom havea chance to build long, enduring relationships with customers,"observes a writer in Business Week. "Different faces allthe time," says a conductor on the New Haven commuter line.

Even babies soon become aware of the transience of human ties. The"nanny" of the past has given way to the baby‑sitterservice which sends out a different person each time to mind thechildren. And the same trend toward time‑truncatedrelationships is reflected in the demise of the family doctor. Thelate lamented family doctor, the general practitioner, did not havethe refined narrow expertise of the specialist, but he did, at least,have the advantage of being able to observe the same patient almostfrom cradle to coffin. Today the patient doesn't stay put. Instead ofenjoying a long‑term relationship with a single physician, heflits back and forth between a variety of specialists, changing theserelationships each time he relocates to a new community. Even withinany single relationship, the contacts become shorter and shorter aswell. Thus the authors of Crestwood Heights, discussing theinteraction of experts and laymen, refer to "the short durationof any one exposure to each other ... The nature of their contact,which is in turn a function of busy, time‑pressed lives on bothsides, means that any message must be collapsed into a very briefcommuniqué, and that there must not be too many of these ..."The impact that this fragmentation and contraction of patient‑doctorrelationships has on health care ought to be more seriously explored.


Each time the family moves, it also tends to slough off a certainnumber of just plain friends and acquaintances. Left behind, they areeventually all but forgotten. Separation does not end allrelationships. We maintain contact with, perhaps, one or two friendsfrom the old location, and we tend to keep in sporadic touch withrelatives. But with each move there is a deadly attrition. At firstthere is an eager flurry of letters back and forth. There may beoccasional visits or telephone calls. But gradually these decrease infrequency. Finally, they stop coming. Says a typical Englishsuburbanite after leaving London: "You can't forget it [London].Not with all your family living there and that. We still got friendsliving in Plumstead and Eltham. We used to go back every weekend. Butyou can't keep that up."

John Barth has captured the sense of turnover among friendships in apassage from his novel The Floating Opera: "Our friendsfloat past; we become involved with them; they float on, and we mustrely on hearsay or lose track of them completely; they float backagain, and we must either renew our friendship – catch up to date –or find that they and we don't comprehend each other any more."The only fault in this is its unspoken suggestion that the currentupon which friendships bob and float is lazy and meandering. Thecurrent today is picking up speed. Friendship increasingly resemblesa canoe shooting the rapids of the river of change. "Prettysoon," says Professor Eli Ginzberg of Columbia University, anexpert on manpower mobility, "we're all going to bemetropolitan‑type people in this country without ties orcommitments to long time friends and neighbors." In a brilliantpaper on "Friendships in the Future," psychologist CourtneyTall suggests that "Stability based on close relationships witha few people will be ineffective, due to the high mobility, wideinterest range, and varying capacity for adaptation and change foundamong the members of a highly automated society ... Individuals willdevelop the ability to form close 'buddy‑type' relationships onthe basis of common interests or sub‑group affiliations, and toeasily leave these friendships, moving either to another location andjoining a similar interest group or to another interest group withinthe same location ... Interests will change rapidly ...

"This ability to form and then to drop, or lower to the level ofacquaintanceship, close relationships quickly, coupled with increasedmobility, will result in any given individual forming many morefriendships than is possible for most in the present ... Friendshippatterns of the majority in the future will provide for manysatisfactions, while substituting many close relationships of shorterdurability for the few long‑term friendships formed in thepast."


One reason to believe that the trend toward temporary relationshipswill continue is the impact of new technology on occupations. Even ifthe push toward megalopolis stopped and people froze in theirgeographical tracks, there would still be a sharp increase in thenumber, and decrease in the duration of relationships as aconsequence of job changes. For the introduction of advancedtechnology, whether we call it automation or not, is necessarilyaccompanied by drastic changes in the types of skills andpersonalities required by the economy.

Specialization increases the number of different occupations. At thesame time, technological innovation reduces the life expectancy ofany given occupation. "The emergence and decline of occupationswill be so rapid," says economist Norman Anon, an expert inmanpower problems, "that people will always be uncertain inthem." The profession of airline flight engineer, he notes,emerged and then began to die out within a brief period of fifteenyears.

A look at the "help wanted" pages of any major newspaperbrings home the fact that new occupations are increasing at amind‑dazzling rate. Systems analyst, console operator, coder,tape librarian, tape handler, are only a few of those connected withcomputer operations. Information retrieval, optical scanning,thin‑film technology all require new kinds of expertise, whileold occupations lose importance or vanish altogether. When Fortunemagazine in the mid‑1960's surveyed 1,003 young executivesemployed by major American corporations, it found that fully one outof three held a job that simply had not existed until he stepped intoit. Another large group held positions that had been filled by onlyone incumbent before them. Even when the name of the occupation staysthe same, the content of the work is frequently transformed, and thepeople filling the jobs change.

Job turnover, however, is not merely a direct consequence oftechnological change. It also reflects the mergers and acquisitionsthat occur as industries everywhere frantically organize andreorganize themselves to adapt to the fast‑changingenvironment, to keep up with myriad shifts in consumer preferences.Many other complex pressures also combine to stir the occupationalmix incessantly. Thus a recent survey by the US Department of Laborrevealed that the 71,000,000 persons in the American labor force hadheld their current jobs an average of 4.2 years. This compared with4.6 years only three years earlier, a decline in duration of nearly 9percent.

"Under conditions prevailing at the beginning of the 1960's,"states another Labor Department report, "the averagetwenty‑year‑old man in the work force could be expectedto change jobs about six or seven times." Thus instead ofthinking in terms of a "career" the citizen ofsuper‑industrial society will think in terms of "serialcareers."

Today, for manpower accounting purposes, men are classified accordingto their present jobs. A worker is a "machine operator" ora "sales clerk" or a "computer programmer." Thissystem, born in a less dynamic period, is no longer adequate,according to many manpower experts. Efforts are now being made tocharacterize each worker not merely in terms of the present job held,but in terms of the particular "trajectory" that his careerhas followed. Each man's trajectory or career line will differ, butcertain types of trajectories will recur. When asked "What doyou do?" the super‑industrial man will label himself notin terms of his present (transient) job, but in terms of histrajectory type, the overall pattern of his work life. Such labelsare more appropriate to the super‑industrial job market thanthe static descriptions used at present, which take no account ofwhat the individual has done in the past, or of what he may bequalified to do in the future.

The high rate of job turnover now evident in the United States isalso increasingly characteristic of Western European countries. InEngland, turnover in manufacturing industries runs an estimated 30 to40 percent per year. In France about 20 percent of the total laborforce is involved in job changes each year, and this figure,according to Monique Viot, is on the rise. In Sweden, according toOlof Gustafsson, director of the Swedish Manufacturing Association,"we count on an average turnover of 25 to 30 percent per year inthe labor force ... Probably the labor turnover in many places nowreaches 35 to 40 percent."

Whether or not the statistically measurable rate of job turnover isrising, however, makes little difference, for the measurable changesare only part of the story. The statistics take no account of changesof job within the same company or plant, or shifts from onedepartment to another. A. K. Rice of the Tavistock Institute inLondon asserts that "Transfers from one department to anotherwould appear to have the effect of the beginning of a 'new life'within the factory." The overall statistics on job turnover, byfailing to take such changes into account, seriously underestimatethe amount of shifting around that is actually taking place – eachshift bringing with it the termination of old, and the initiation ofnew, human relationships.

Any change in job entails a certain amount of stress. The individualmust strip himself of old habits, old ways of coping, and learn newways of doing things. Even when the work task itself is similar, theenvironment in which it takes place is different. And just as is thecase with moving to a new community, the newcomer is under pressureto form new relationships at high speed. Here, too, the process isaccelerated by people who play the role of informal integrator. Here,too, the individual seeks out human relationships by joiningorganizations – usually informal and clique‑like, rather thanpart of the company's table of organization. Here, too, the knowledgethat no job is truly "permanent" means that therelationships formed are conditional, modular and, by mostdefinitions, temporary.


In our discussion of geographical mobility we found that someindividuals and groups are more mobile than others. With respect tooccupational mobility, too, we find that some individuals or groupsmake more job changes than others. In a very crude sense, it is fairto say that people who are geographically mobile are quite likely tobe occupationally mobile as well. Thus we once more find highturnover rates among some of the least affluent, least skilled groupsin society. Exposed to the worst shocks and buffetings of an economythat demands educated, increasingly skilled workers, the poor bouncefrom job to job like a pinball between bumpers. They are the lasthired and the first fired.

Throughout the middle range of education and affluence, we findpeople who, while certainly more mobile than agriculturalpopulations, are nonetheless, relatively stable. And then, just asbefore, we find inordinately high and rising rates of turnover amongthose groups most characteristic of the future – the scientists andengineers, the highly educated professionals and technicians, theexecutives and managers.

Thus a recent study reveals that job turnover rates for scientistsand engineers in the research and development industry in the UnitedStates are approximately twice as high as for the rest of Americanindustry. The reason is easy to detect. This is precisely thespeartip of technological change – the point at which theobsolescence of knowledge is most rapid. At Westinghouse, forexample, it is believed that the so‑called "half‑life"of a graduate engineer is only ten years – meaning that fully onehalf of what he has learned will be outdated within a decade.

High turnover also characterizes the mass communications industries,especially advertising. A recent survey of 450 American advertisingmen found that 70 percent had changed their jobs within the last twoyears. Reflecting the rapid changes in consumer preferences, in artand copy styles, and in product lines, the same musical chairs gameis played in England. There the circulation of personnel from oneagency to another has occasioned cries of alarm within the industry,and many agencies refuse to list an employee as a regular until hehas served for a full year.

But perhaps the most dramatic change has overtaken the ranks ofmanagement, once well insulated from the jolts of fate that afflictedthe less fortunate. "For the first time in our history,"says Dr. Harold Leavitt, professor of industrial administration andpsychology, "obsolescence seems to be an imminent problem formanagement because for the first time, the relative advantage ofexperience over knowledge seems to be rapidly decreasing."Because it takes longer to train for modern management and thetraining itself becomes obsolete in a decade or so, as it does withengineers, Leavitt suggests that in the future "we may have tostart planning careers that move downward instead of upward throughtime ... Perhaps a man should reach his peak of responsibility veryearly in his career and then expect to be moved downward or outwardinto simpler, more relaxing, kinds of jobs."

Whether upward, downward or sideways, the future holds more, notless, turnover in jobs. This realization is already reflected in thealtered attitudes of those doing the hiring. "I used to beconcerned whenever I saw a résumé with several jobs in it,"admits an official of the Celanese Corporation. "I would beafraid that the guy was a job‑hopper or an opportunist. But I'mnot concerned anymore. What I want to know is why he made each move.Even five or six jobs over twenty years could be a plus ... In fact,if I had two equally qualified men, I'd take the man who moved acouple of times for valid reasons over the man who stayed in the sameplace. Why? I'd know he's adaptable." The director of executivepersonnel for International Telephone and Telegraph, Dr. FrankMcCabe, says: "The more successful you are in attracting thecomers, the higher your potential turnover rate is. The comers aremovers."

The rising rate of turnover in the executive job market followspeculiar patterns of its own. Thus Fortune magazine reports:"The defection of a key executive starts not only a sequence ofjob changes in its own right but usually a series of collateralmovements. When the boss moves, he is often flooded by requests fromhis immediate subordinates who want to go along; if he doesn't takethem, they immediately begin to put out other feelers." Nowonder a Stanford Research Institute report on the work environmentof the year 1975 predicts that: "At upper white‑collarlevels, a great amount of turbulence and churning about is foreseen... the managerial work environment will be both unsettled andunsettling."

Behind all this job jockeying lies not merely the engine oftechnological innovation, but also the new affluence, which opens newopportunities and at the same time raises expectations forpsychological self‑fulfillment. "The man who came upthirty years ago," says the vice president of industrialrelations for Philco, a subsidiary of the Ford Motor Company,"believed in hanging on to any job until he knew where he wasgoing. But men today seem to feel there's another job right down thepike." And, for most, there is.

Not infrequently the new job involves not merely a new employer, anew location, and a new set of work associates, but a whole new wayof life. Thus the "serial career" pattern is evidenced bythe growing number of people who, once assured of reasonable comfortby the affluent economy, decide to make a full 180‑degree turnin their career line at a time of life when others merely lookforward to retirement. We learn of a real estate lawyer who leaveshis firm to study social science. An advertising agency copysupervisor, after twenty‑five years on Madison Avenue,concludes that "The phony glamour became stale and boring. Isimply had to get away from it." She becomes a librarian. Asales executive in Long Island and an engineer in Illinois leavetheir jobs to become manual‑training teachers. A top interiordecorator goes back to school and takes a job with the povertyprogram.


Each job change implies a step‑up of the rate at which peoplepass through our lives, and as the rate of turnover increases, theduration of relationships declines. This is strikingly manifest inthe rise to prominence of temporary help services – the humanequivalent of the rental revolution. In the United States todaynearly one out of every 100 workers is at some time during the yearemployed by a so‑called "temporary help service"which, in turn, rents him or her out to industry to fill temporaryneeds.

Today some 500 temporary help agencies provide industry with anestimated 750,000 short‑term workers ranging from secretariesand receptionists, to defense engineers. When the Lycoming Divisionof Avco Corporation needed 150 design engineers for hurry‑upgovernment contracts, it obtained them from a number of rentalservices. Instead of taking months to recruit them, it was able toassemble a complete staff in short order. Temporary employees havebeen used in political campaigns to man telephones and mimeographmachines. They have been called in for emergency duty in printingplants, hospitals and factories. They have been used in publicrelations activities. (In Orlando, Florida, temporaries were hired togive away dollar bills at a shopping center in an attempt to winpublicity for the center.) More prosaically, tens of thousands ofthem fill routine office‑work assignments to help the regularstaff of large companies through peak‑load periods. And onerental company, the Arthur Treacher Service System, advertises thatit will rent maids, chauffeurs, butlers, cooks, handymen,babysitters, practical nurses, plumbers, electricians and other homeservice people. "Like Hertz and Avis rent cars" it adds.

The rental of temporary employees for temporary needs is, like therental of physical objects, spreading all over the industrializedworld. Manpower, Incorporated, the largest of the temporary helpservices, opened its operation in France in 1956. Since then it hasdoubled in size each year, and there are now some 250 such agenciesin France.

Those employed by temporary help services express a variety ofreasons for preferring this type of work. Says Hoke Hargett, anelectromechanical engineer, "Every job I'm on is a crash job,and when the pressure is immense, I work better." In eightyears, he has served in eleven different companies, meeting and thenleaving behind hundreds of coworkers. For some skilled personnelorganized jobhopping actually provides more job security than isavailable to supposedly permanent employees in highly volatileindustries. In the defense industries sudden cut‑backs andlayoffs are so common, that the "permanent" employee islikely to find himself thrown on the street without much warning. Thetemporary help engineer simply moves off to another assignment whenhis project is completed.

More important for most temporary help workers is the fact that theycan call their own turns. They can work very much when and where theywish. And for some it is a consciousway to broaden their circleof social contacts. One young mother, forced to move to a new citywhen her husband was transferred, found herself lonely during thelong hours when her two children were away at school. Signing up witha temporary help service, she has worked eight or nine months a yearsince then and, by shifting from one company to another, has madecontact with a large number of people from among whom she couldselect a few as friends.


Rising rates of occupational turnover and the spread of rentalisminto employment relationships will further increase the tempo atwhich human relationships are formed and forgotten. This speedup,however, affects different groups in society in different ways. Thus,in general, working‑class individuals tend to live closer to,and depend more on their relatives than do middle– and upper‑classgroups. In the words of psychiatrist Leonard Duhl, "Their tiesof kinship mean more to them, and with less money available distanceis more of a handicap." Working‑class people are generallyless adept at the business of coping with temporary relationships.They take longer to establish ties and are more reluctant to let themgo. Not surprisingly, this is reflected in a greater reluctance tomove or change jobs. They go when they have to, but seldom fromchoice.

In contrast, psychiatrist Duhl points out, "The professional,academic and uppermanagerial class [in the United States] is bound byinterest ties across wide physical spaces and indeed can be said tohave more functional relationships. Mobile individuals, easilyduplicable relationships, and ties to interest problems depict thisgroup."

What is involved in increasing the through‑put of people inone's life are the abilities not only to make ties but to break them,not only to affiliate but to disaffiliate. Those who seem mostcapable of this adaptive skill are also among the most richlyrewarded in society. Seymour Lipset and Reinhard Bendix in SocialMobility in Industrial Society declare that "the sociallymobile among business leaders show an unusual capacity to break awayfrom those who are liabilities and form relationships with those whocan help them."

They support the findings of sociologist Lloyd Warner who suggeststhat "The most important component of the personalities ofsuccessful corporate managers and owners is that, their deepemotional identifications with their families of birth beingdissolved, they no longer are closely intermeshed with the past, and,therefore, are capable of relating themselves easily to the presentand future. They are people who have literally and spiritually lefthome ... They can relate and disrelate themselves to others easily."

And again, in Big Business Leaders in America, a study heconducted with James Abegglen, Warner writes: "Before all, theseare men on the move. They left their homes, and all that thisimplies. They have left behind a standard of living, level of income,and style of life to adopt a way of living entirely different fromthat into which they were born. The mobile man first of all leavesthe physical setting of his birth. This includes the house he livedin, the neighborhood he knew, and in many cases even the city, stateand region in which he was born.

"This physical departure is only a small part of the totalprocess of leaving that the mobile man must undergo. He must leavebehind people as well as places. The friends of earlier years must beleft, for acquaintances of the lower‑status past areincompatible with the successful present. Often the church of hisbirth is left, along with the clubs and cliques of his family and ofhis youth. But most important of all, and this is the great problemof the man on the move, he must, to some degree, leave his father,mother, brothers, and sisters, along with the other humanrelationships of his past."

This so, it is not so startling to read in a business magazine acooly detached guide for the newly promoted executive and his wife.It advises that he break with old friends and subordinates gradually,in order to minimize resentment. He is told to "find logicalexcuses for not joining the group at coffee breaks or lunch."Similarly, "Miss the department bowling or card sessions,occasionally at first, then more frequently." Invitations to thehome of a subordinate may be accepted, but not reciprocated, exceptin the form of an invitation to a whole group of subordinates atonce. After a while all such interaction should cease.

Wives are a special problem, we are informed, because they "don'tunderstand the protocol of office organization." The successfulman is advised to be patient with his wife, who may adhere to oldrelationships longer than he does. But, as one executive puts it, "awife can be downright dangerous if she insists on keeping closefriendships with the wives of her husband's subordinates. Herfriendships will rub off on him, color his judgment about the peopleunder him, jeopardize his job." Moreover, one personnel manpoints out, "When parents drift away from former friends, kidsgo too."


These matter‑of‑fact instructions on how to dis‑relatesend a chill down the spine of those raised on the traditional notionthat friendships are for the long haul. But before accusing thebusiness world of undue ruthlessness, it is important to recognizethat precisely this pattern is employed, often beneath a veil ofhypocritical regrets, in other strata of society as well. Theprofessor who is promoted to dean, the military officer, the engineerwho becomes a project leader, frequently play the same social game.Moreover, it is predictable that something like this pattern willsoon extend far beyond the world of work and formal organization. Forif friendship is based on shared interests or aptitudes, friendshiprelationships are bound to change when interests change – even whendistinctions of social class are not involved. And in a societycaught in the throes of the most rapid change in history, it would beastonishing if the interests of individuals did not also changekaleidoscopically.

Indeed, much of the social activity of individuals today can bedescribed as search behavior – a relentless process of socialdiscovery in which one seeks out new friends to replace those who areeither no longer present or who no longer share the same interests.This turnover impels people, and especially educated people, towardcities and into temporary employment patterns. For the identificationof people who share the same interests and aptitudes on the basis ofwhich friendship may blossom is no simple procedure in a society inwhich specialization grows apace. The increase in specialization ispresent not merely in professional and work spheres, but even inleisure time pursuits. Seldom has any society offered so wide a rangeof acceptable and readily available leisure time activities. Thegreater the diversity available in both work and leisure, the greaterthe specialization, and the more difficult it is to find just theright friends.

Thus it has been estimated by Professor Sargant Florence in Britainthat a minimum population of 1,000,000 is needed to provide aprofessional worker today with twenty interesting friends. The womanwho sought temporary work as a strategy for finding friends washighly intelligent. By increasing the number of different people withwhom she was thrown into work contact, she increased the mathematicalprobability of finding a few who share her interests and aptitudes.

We select our friends out of a very large pool of acquaintanceships.A study by Michael Gurevitch at the Massachusetts Institute ofTechnology asked a varied group to keep track of all the differentpeople with whom they came in contact in a one hundred‑dayperiod. On average, each one listed some 500 names. Socialpsychologist Stanley Milgram, who has conducted a number offascinating experiments dealing with communication throughacquaintanceship networks, speaks of each American having a pool ofacquaintanceships ranging from 500 to 2,500.

Actually, however, most people have far fewer friends than the twentysuggested by Professor Florence, and perhaps his definition was lessrestrictive than that employed in everyday use. A study ofthirty‑nine married middle‑class couples in Lincoln,Nebraska, asked them to list their friends. The purpose was todetermine whether husbands or wives are more influential in selectingfriends for the family. The study showed that the average couplelisted approximately seven "friendship units" – such aunit being either an individual or a married couple. This suggeststhat the number of individuals listed as friends by the averagecouple ranged from seven to fourteen. Of these, a considerable numberwere non‑local, and the fact that wives seemed to list morenon‑local friends than their husbands suggests that they areless willing than their husbands to slough off a friendship after amove. Men, in short, seem to be more skilled at breaking offrelationships than women.


Today, however, training for disaffiliation or disrelating beginsearly. Indeed, this may well represent one of the major differencesbetween the generations. For school children today are exposed toextremely high rates of turnover in their classrooms. According tothe Educational Facilities Laboratories, Incorporated, an off‑shootof the Ford Foundation, "It is not unusual for city schools tohave a turnover of more than half their student body in one schoolyear." This phenomenal rate cannot but have some effect on thechildren.

William Whyte in The Organization Man pointed out that theimpact of such mobility "is as severe on the teachers as on thechildren themselves, for the teachers are thereby robbed of a goodbit of the feeling of achievement they get from watching the childrendevelop." Today, however, the problem is compounded by the highrate of turnover among teachers too. This is true not only in theUnited States but elsewhere as well. Thus a report on Englandasserts: "Today it is not uncommon, even in grammar schools, fora child to be taught one subject by two or three different teachersin the course of one year. With teacher loyalty to the school so low,the loyalty of children cannot be summoned either. If a highproportion of teachers are preparing to move on to a better job, abetter district, there will be less care, concern and commitment ontheir part." We can only speculate about the overall influenceof this on the lives of the children.

A recent study of high school students by Harry R. Moore of theUniversity of Denver indicated that the test scores of children whohad moved across state or county lines from one to ten times were notsubstantially different from those of children who had not. But therewas a definite tendency for the more nomadic children to avoidparticipation in the voluntary side of school life – clubs, sports,student government and other extra‑curricular activities. It isas though they wished, where possible, to avoid new human ties thatmight only have to be broken again before long – as if they wished,in short, to slow down the flow‑through of people in theirlives.

How fast should children – or adults for that matter – beexpected to make and break human relationships? Perhaps there is someoptimum rate that we exceed at our peril? Nobody knows. However, ifto this picture of declining durations we add the factor of diversity– the recognition that each new human relationship requires adifferent pattern of behavior from us – one thing becomes starklyclear: to be able to make these increasingly numerous and rapidon‑off clicks in our interpersonal lives we must be able tooperate at a level of adaptability never before asked of humanbeings.

Combine this with the accelerated through‑put of places andthings, as well as people, and we begin to glimpse the complexity ofthe coping behavior that we demand of people today. Certainly, thelogical end of the direction in which we are now traveling is asociety based on a system of temporary encounters, and a distinctlynew morality founded on the belief, so succinctly expressed by theco‑ed in Fort Lauderdale, that "frankly, you'll never seethese people again." It would be absurd to assume that thefuture holds nothing more than a straight‑line projection ofpresent trends, that we must necessarily reach that ultimate degreeof transience in human relations. But it is not absurd to recognizethe direction in which we are moving.

Until now most of us have operated on the assumption that temporaryrelationships are superficial relationships, that only long‑enduringties can flower into real interpersonal involvement. Perhaps thisassumption is false. Perhaps it is possible for holistic, non‑modularrelationships, to flower rapidly in a high transience society. It mayprove possible to accelerate the formation of relationships, and tospeed up the process of "involvement" as well. In themeantime, however, a haunting question remains:

"Is Fort Lauderdale the future?"

We have so far seen that with respect to all three of the tangiblecomponents of situations – people, places and things – the rateof turnover is rising. It is time now to look at those intangiblesthat are equally important in shaping experience, the information weuse and the organizational frameworks within which we live.

Chapter 7


One of the most persistent myths about the future envisions man as ahelpless cog in some vast organizational machine. In this nightmarishprojection, each man is frozen into a narrow, unchanging niche in arabbit‑warren bureaucracy. The walls of this niche squeeze theindividuality out of him, smash his personality, and compel him, ineffect, to conform or die. Since organizations appear to be growinglarger and more powerful all the time, the future, according to thisview, threatens to turn us all into that most contemptible ofcreatures, spineless and faceless, the organization man.

It is difficult to overestimate the force with which this pessimisticprophecy grips the popular mind, especially among young people.Hammered into their heads by a stream of movies, plays and books, fedby a prestigious line of authors from Kafka and Orwell to Whyte,Marcuse and Ellul, the fear of bureaucracy permeates their thought.In the United States everyone "knows" that it is just suchfaceless bureaucrats who invent all‑digit telephone numbers,who send out cards marked "do not fold, spindle or mutilate,"who ruthlessly dehumanize students, and whom you cannot fight at CityHall. The fear of being swallowed up by this mechanized beast drivesexecutives to orgies of self‑examination and students toparoxysms of protest.

What makes the entire subject so emotional is the fact thatorganization is an inescapable part of all our lives. Like his linkswith things, places and people, man's organizational relationshipsare basic situational components. Just as every act in a man's lifeoccurs in some definite geographical place, so does it also occur inan organizational place, a particular location in the invisiblegeography of human organization.

Thus, if the orthodox social critics are correct in predicting aregimented, superbureaucratized future, we should already be mountingthe barricades, punching random holes in our IBM cards, taking everyopportunity to wreck the machinery of organization. If, however, weset our conceptual clichés aside and turn instead to the facts, wediscover that bureaucracy, the very system that is supposed to crushus all under its weight, is itself groaning with change.

The kinds of organizations these critics project unthinkingly intothe future are precisely those least likely to dominate tomorrow. Forwe are witnessing not the triumph, but the breakdown of bureaucracy.We are, in fact, witnessing the arrival of a new organizationalsystem that will increasingly challenge, and ultimately supplantbureaucracy. This is the organization of the future. I call it"Ad‑hocracy."

Man will encounter plenty of difficulty in adapting to this new styleorganization. But instead of being trapped in some unchanging,personality‑smashing niche, man will find himself liberated, astranger in a new free‑form world of kinetic organizations. Inthis alien landscape, his position will be constantly changing,fluid, and varied. And his organizational ties, like his ties withthings, places and people, will turn over at a frenetic andeveraccelerating rate.


Before we can grasp the meaning of this odd term, Ad‑hocracy,we need to recognize that not all organizations are bureaucracies.There are alternative ways of organizing people. Bureaucracy, as MaxWeber pointed out, did not become the dominant mode of humanorganization in the West until the arrival of industrialism.

This is not the place for a detailed description of all thecharacteristics of bureaucracy, but it is important for us to notethree basic facts. First, in this particular system of organization,the individual has traditionally occupied a sharply defined slot in adivision of labor. Second, he fit into a vertical hierarchy, a chainof command running from the boss down to the lowliest menial. Third,his organizational relationships, as Weber emphasized, tended towardpermanence.

Each individual, therefore, filled a precisely positioned slot, afixed position in a more or less fixed environment. He knew exactlywhere his department ended and the next began; the lines betweenorganizations and their sub‑structures were anchored firmly inplace. In joining an organization, the individual accepted a set offixed obligations in return for a specified set of rewards. Theseobligations and rewards remained the same over relatively long spansof time. The individual thus stepped into a comparatively permanentweb of relationships – not merely with other people (who alsotended to remain in their slots for a long time) – but with theorganizational framework, the structure, itself.

Some of these structures are more durable than others. The CatholicChurch is a steel frame that has lasted for 2000 years, with some ofits internal sub‑structures virtually unchanged for centuriesat a time. In contrast, the Nazi Party of Germany managed to batheEurope in blood, yet it existed as a formal organization for lessthan a quarter of a century.

In turn, just as organizations endure for longer or shorter periods,so, too, does an individual's relationship with any specificorganizational structure. Thus man's tie to a particular department,division, political party, regiment, club, or other such unit has abeginning and an end in time. The same is true of his membership ininformal organizations – cliques, factions, coffee‑breakgroups and the like. His tie begins when he assumes the obligationsof membership by joining or being conscripted into an organization.His tie ends when he quits or is discharged from it – or when theorganization, itself, ceases to be.

This is what happens, of course, when an organization disbandsformally. It happens when the members simply lose interest and stopcoming around. But the organization can "cease to be" inanother sense, too. An organization, after all, is nothing more thana collection of human objectives, expectations, and obligations. Itis, in other words, a structure of roles filled by humans. And when areorganization sharply alters this structure by redefining orredistributing these roles, we can say that the old organization hasdied and a new one has sprung up to take its place. This is true evenif it retains the old name and has the same members as before. Therearrangement of roles creates a new structure exactly as therearrangement of mobile walls in a building converts it into a newstructure.

A relationship between a person and an organization, therefore, isbroken either by his departure from it, or by its dissolution, or byits transformation through reorganization. When the latter –reorganization – happens, the individual, in effect, severs hislinks with the old, familiar, but now no longer extant structure, andassumes a relationship to the new one that supersedes it.

Today there is mounting evidence that the duration of man'sorganizational relationships is shrinking, that these relationshipsare turning over at a faster and faster rate. And we shall see thatseveral powerful forces, including this seemingly simple fact, doombureaucracy to destruction.


There was a time when a table of organization – sometimesfamiliarly known as a "T/O" – showed a neatly arrayedseries of boxes, each indicating an officer and the organizationalsub‑units for which he was responsible. Every bureaucracy ofany size, whether a corporation, a university or a government agency,had its own T/O, providing its managers with a detailed map of theorganizational geography. Once drawn, such a map became a fixed partof the organization's rule book, remaining in use for years at atime. Today, organizational lines are changing so frequently that athree‑month‑old table is often regarded as an historicartifact, something like the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Organizations now change their internal shape with a frequency –and sometime a rashness – that makes the head swim. Titles changefrom week to week. Jobs are transformed. Responsibilities shift. Vastorganizational structures are taken apart, bolted together again innew forms, then rearranged again. Departments and divisions spring upovernight only to vanish in another, and yet another, reorganization.

In part, this frenzied reshuffling arises from the tide of mergersand "de‑mergers" now sweeping through industry in theUnited States and Western Europe. The late sixties saw a tremendousrolling wave of acquisitions, the growth of giant conglomerates anddiversified corporate monsters. The seventies may witness an equallypowerful wave of divestitures and, later, reacquisitions, ascompanies attempt to consolidate and digest their new subsidiaries,then trade off troublesome components. Between 1967 and 1969 theQuestor Corporation (formerly Dunhill International, Incorporated)bought eight companies and sold off five. Scores of othercorporations have similar stories to tell. According to managementconsultant Alan J. Zakon, "there will be a great deal morespinning off of pieces." As the consumer marketplace churns andchanges, companies will be forced constantly to reposition themselvesin it.

Internal reorganizations almost inevitably follow such corporateswaps, but they may arise for a variety of other reasons as well.Within a recent three‑year period fully sixty‑six of the100 largest industrial companies in the United States publiclyreported major organizational shake‑ups. Actually, this wasonly the visible tip of the proverbial iceberg. Many morereorganizations occur than are ever reported. Most companies try toavoid publicity when overhauling their organization. Moreover,constant small and partial reorganizations occur at the departmentalor divisional level or below, and are regarded as too small orunimportant to report.

"My own observation as a consultant," says D. R. Daniel, anofficial of McKinsey & Company, a large management consultingfirm, "is that one major restructuring every two years isprobably a conservative estimate of the current rate oforganizational change among the largest industrial corporations. Ourfirm has conducted over 200 organization studies for domesticcorporate clients in the past year, and organization problems are aneven larger part of our practice outside the United States."What's more, he adds, there are no signs of a leveling off. Ifanything, the frequency of organizational upheavals is increasing.

These changes, moreover, are increasingly far‑reaching in powerand scope. Says Professor L. E. Greiner of the Harvard GraduateSchool of Business Administration: "Whereas only a few years agothe target of organization change was limited to a small work groupor a single department ... the focus is now converging on theorganization as a whole, reaching out to include many divisions andlevels at once, and even the top managers themselves." He refersto "revolutionary attempts" to transform organization "atall levels of management."

If the once‑fixed table of organization won't hold still inindustry, much the same is increasingly true of the great governmentagencies as well. There is scarcely an important department orministry in the governments of the technological nations that has notundergone successive organizational change in recent years. In theUnited States during the forty‑year span from 1913 to 1953,despite depression, war and other social upheavals, not a single newcabinet‑level department was added to the government. Yet in1953 Congress created the Department of Health, Education andWelfare. In 1965 it established the Department of Housing and UrbanDevelopment. In 1967 it set up the Department of Transportation (thusconsolidating activities formerly carried out in thirty differentagencies,) and, at about the same time, the President called for amerger of the departments of Labor and Commerce.

Such changes within the structure of government are only the mostconspicuous, for organizational tremors are similarly felt in all theagencies down below. Indeed, internal redesign has become a byword inWashington. In 1965 when John Gardner became Secretary of Health,Education and Welfare, a top‑to‑bottom reorganizationshook that department. Agencies, bureaus and offices were realignedat a rate that left veteran employees in a state of mentalexhaustion. (During the height of this reshuffling, one official, whohappens to be a friend of mine, used to leave a note behind for herhusband each morning when she left for work. The note consisted ofher telephone number for that day. So rapid were the changesthat she could not keep a telephone number long enough for it to belisted in the departmental directory.) Mr. Gardner's successorscontinued tinkering with organization, and by 1969, Robert Finch,after eleven months in office, was pressing for yet another majoroverhaul, having concluded in the meantime that the department wasvirtually unmanageable in the form in which he found it.

In Self‑Renewal, an influential little book writtenbefore he entered the government, Gardner asserted that: "Thefarsighted administrator ... reorganizes to break down calcifiedorganizational lines. He shifts personnel ... He redefines jobs tobreak them out of rigid categories." Elsewhere Gardner referredto the "crises of organization" in government and suggestedthat, in both the public and private sectors, "Mostorganizations have a structure that was designed to solve problemsthat no longer exist." The "self‑renewing"organization, he defined as one that constantly changes its structurein response to changing needs.

Gardner's message amounts to a call for permanent revolution inorganizational life, and more and more sophisticated managers arerecognizing that in a world of accelerating change reorganization is,and must be, an on‑going process, rather than a traumaticonce‑in‑alifetime affair. This recognition is spreadingoutside the corporations and government agencies as well. Thus TheNew York Times, on the same day that it reports on proposedmergers in the plastics, plywood and paper industries, describes amajor administrative upheaval at the British BroadcastingCorporation, a thorough renovation of the structure of ColumbiaUniversity, and even a complete reorganization of that mostconservative of institutions, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NewYork. What is involved in all this activity is not a casual tendencybut a historic movement. Organizational change – selfrenewal, asGardner puts it – is a necessary, an unavoidable response to theacceleration of change.

For the individual within these organizations, change creates awholly new climate and a new set of problems. The turnover oforganizational designs means that the individual's relationship toany one structure (with its implied set of obligations and rewards)is truncated, shortened in time. With each change, he must reorienthimself. Today the average individual is frequently reassigned,shuffled about from one sub‑structure to another. But even ifhe remains in the same department, he often finds that thedepartment, itself, has been shifted on some fast‑changingtable of organization, so that his position in the overall maze is nolonger the same.

The result is that man's organizational relationships today tend tochange at a faster pace than ever before. The average relationship isless permanent, more temporary, than ever before.


The high rate of turnover is most dramatically symbolized by therapid rise of what executives call "project" or"task‑force" management. Here teams are assembled tosolve specific short‑term problems. Then, exactly like themobile playgrounds, they are disassembled and their human componentsreassigned. Sometimes these teams are thrown together to serve onlyfor a few days. Sometimes they are intended to last a few years. Butunlike the functional departments or divisions of a traditionalbureaucratic organization, which are presumed to be permanent, theproject or task‑force team is temporary by design.

When Lockheed Aircraft Corporation won a controversial contract tobuild fifty‑eight giant C‑5A military air transports, itcreated a whole new 11,000‑man organization specifically forthat purpose. To complete the multi‑billion‑dollar job,Lockheed had to coordinate the work not only of its own people, butof hundreds of subcontracting firms. In all, 6000 companies areinvolved in producing the more than 120,000 parts needed for each ofthese enormous airplanes. The Lockheed project organization createdfor this purpose has its own management and its own complex internalstructure.

The first of the C‑5A's rolled out of the shop exactly onschedule in March, 1969, twenty‑nine months after award of thecontract. The last of the fifty‑eight transports was due to bedelivered two years later. This meant that the entire imposingorganization created for this job had a planned life span of fiveyears. What we see here is nothing less than the creation of adisposable division – the organizational equivalent of paperdresses or throwaway tissues.

Project organization is widespread in the aerospace industries. Whena leading manufacturer set out to win a certain large contract fromthe National Aeronautics and Space Agency, it assembled a team ofapproximately one hundred people borrowed from various functionaldivisions of the company. The project team worked for about a yearand a half to gather data and analyze the job even before thegovernment formally requested bids. When the time came to prepare aformal bid – a "proposal," as it is known in the industry– the "preproposal project team" was dissolved and itsmembers sent back to their functional divisions. A new team wasbrought into being to write the actual proposal. Proposal‑writingteams often work together for a few weeks. Once the proposal issubmitted, however, the proposal team is also disbanded. When thecontract is won (if it is), new teams are successively establishedfor development, and, ultimately, production of the goods required.Some individuals may move along with the job, joining each successiveproject team. Typically, however, people are brought in to work ononly one or a few stages of the job.

While this form of organization is widely identified with aerospacecompanies, it is increasingly employed in more traditional industriesas well. It is used when the task to be accomplished is non‑routine,when it is, in effect, a one‑time proposition.

"In just a few years," says Business Week, "theproject manager has become commonplace." Indeed, projectmanagement has, itself, become recognized as a specialized executiveart, and there is a small, but growing band of managers, both in theUnited States and Europe, who move from project to project, companyto company, never settling down to run routine or long‑termoperations. Books on project and task‑force management arebeginning to appear. And the United States Air Force Systems Commandat Dayton, Ohio, runs a school to train executives for projectmanagement.

Task forces and other ad hoc groups are now proliferatingthroughout the government and business bureaucracies, both in theUnited States and abroad. Transient teams, whose members cometogether to solve a specific problem and then separate, areparticularly characteristic of science and help account for thekinetic quality of the scientific community. Its members areconstantly on the move, organizationally, if not geographically.

George Kozmetsky, co‑founder of Teledyne, Incorporated, and nowdean of the school of business at the University of Texas,distinguishes between "routine" and "non‑routine"organizations. The latter grapple most frequently with one‑of‑a‑kindproblems. He cites statistics to show that the non‑routinesector, in which he brackets government and many of the advancedtechnology companies, is growing so fast that it will employ 65percent of the total United States work force by the year 2001.Organizations in this sector are precisely the ones that rely mostheavily on transient teams and task forces.

Clearly, there is nothing new about the idea of assembling a group towork toward the solution of a specific problem, then dismantling itwhen the task is completed. What is new is the frequency with whichorganizations must resort to such temporary arrangements. Theseemingly permanent structures of many large organizations, oftenbecause they resist change, are now heavily infiltrated withthese transient cells.

On the surface, the rise of temporary organization may seeminsignificant. Yet this mode of operation plays havoc with thetraditional conception of organization as consisting of more or lesspermanent structures. Throw‑away organizations, ad hocteams or committees, do not necessarily replace permanent functionalstructures, but they change them beyond recognition, draining them ofboth people and power. Today while functional divisions continue toexist, more and more project teams, task forces and similarorganizational structures spring up in their midst, then disappear.And people, instead of filling fixed slots in the functionalorganization, move back and forth at a high rate of speed. They oftenretain their functional "home base" but are detachedrepeatedly to serve as temporary team members.

We shall shortly see that this process, repeated often enough, altersthe loyalties of the people involved; shakes up lines of authority;and accelerates the rate at which individuals are forced to adapt toorganizational change. For the moment, however, it is important torecognize that the rise of ad hoc organization is a directeffect of the speed‑up of change in society as a whole.

So long as a society is relatively stable and unchanging, theproblems it presents to men tend to be routine and predictable.Organizations in such an environment can be relatively permanent. Butwhen change is accelerated, more and more novel first‑timeproblems arise, and traditional forms of organization proveinadequate to the new conditions. They can no longer cope. As long asthis is so, says Dr. Donald A. Schon, president of the Organizationfor Social and Technical Innovation, we need to create"self‑destroying organizations ... lots of autonomous,semi‑attached units which can be spun off, destroyed, soldbye‑bye, when the need for them has disappeared."

Traditional functional organization structures, created to meetpredictable, non‑novel conditions, prove incapable ofresponding effectively to radical changes in the environment. Thustemporary role structures are created as the whole organizationstruggles to preserve itself and keep growing. The process is exactlyanalogous to the trend toward modularism in architecture. We earlierdefined modularism as the attempt to lend greater durability to awhole structure by shortening the life span of its components. Thisapplies to organization as well, and it helps explain the rise ofshortlived or throw‑away, organization components.

As acceleration continues, organizational redesign becomes acontinuing function. According to management consultant BernardMuller‑Thym, the new technology, combined with advancedmanagement techniques, creates a totally new situation. "What isnow within our grasp," he says, "is a kind of productivecapability that is alive with intelligence, alive with information,so that at its maximum it is completely flexible; one couldcompletely reorganize the plant from hour to hour if one wished to doso." And what is true of the plant is increasingly true of theorganization as a whole.

In short, the organizational geography of super‑industrialsociety can be expected to become increasingly kinetic, filled withturbulence and change. The more rapidly the environment changes, theshorter the life span of organization forms. In administrativestructure, just as in architectural structure, we are moving fromlong‑enduring to temporary forms, from permanence totransience. We are moving from bureaucracy to Ad‑hocracy.

In this way, the accelerative thrust translates itself intoorganization. Permanence, one of the identifying characteristics ofbureaucracy, is undermined, and we are driven to a relentlessconclusion: man's ties with the invisible geography of organizationturn over more and more rapidly, exactly as do his relationships withthings, places, and the human beings who people these ever‑changingorganizational structures. Just as the new nomads migrate from placeto place, man increasingly migrates from organizational structure toorganizational structure.


Something else is happening, too: a revolutionary shift in powerrelationships. Not only are large organizations forced both to changetheir internal structure and to create temporary units, but they arealso finding it increasingly difficult to maintain their traditionalchains‑ofcommand.

It would be pollyannish to suggest that workers in industry orgovernment today truly "participate" in the management oftheir enterprises – either in capitalist or, for that matter, insocialist and communist countries. Yet there is evidence thatbureaucratic hierarchies, separating those who "make decisions"from those who merely carry them out, are being altered, side‑steppedor broken.

This process is noticeable in industry where, according to ProfessorWilliam H. Read of the Graduate School of Business at McGillUniversity, "irresistible pressures" are batteringhierarchical arrangements. "The central, crucial and importantbusiness of organizations," he declares, "is increasinglyshifting from up and down to 'sideways.'" What is involved insuch a shift is a virtual revolution in organizational structure –and human relations. For people communicating "sideways" –i.e., to others at approximately the same level of organization –behave differently, operate under very different pressures, thanthose who must communicate up and down a hierarchy.

To illustrate, let us look at a typical work setting in which atraditional bureaucratic hierarchy operates. While still a young manI worked for a couple of years as a millwright's helper in a foundry.Here, in a great dark cavern of a building, thousands of men laboredto produce automobile crankcase castings. The scene was Dantesque –smoke and soot smeared our faces, black dirt covered the floors andfilled the air, the pungent, choking smell of sulphur and burnt sandseared our nostrils. Overhead a creaking conveyor carried red hotcastings and dripped hot sand on the men below. There were flashes ofmolten iron, the yellow flares of fires, and a lunatic cacophony ofnoises: men shouting, chains rattling, pug mills hammering,compressed air shrieking.

To a stranger the scene appeared chaotic. But those inside knew thateverything was carefully organized. Bureaucratic order prevailed. Mendid the same job over and over again. Rules governed every situation.And each man knew exactly where he stood in a vertical hierarchy thatreached from the lowest‑paid core paster up to the unseen"they" who populated the executive suites in anotherbuilding.

In the immense shed where we worked, something was always goingwrong. A bearing would burn out, a belt snap or a gear break.Whenever this happened in a section, work would screech to a halt,and frantic messages would begin to flow up and down the hierarchy.The worker nearest the breakdown would notify his foreman. He, inturn, would tell the production supervisor. The production supervisorwould send word to the maintenance supervisor. The maintenancesupervisor would dispatch a crew to repair the damage.

Information in this system is passed by the worker "upward"through the foreman to the production supervisor. The productionsupervisor carries it "sideways" to a man occupying a nicheat approximately the same level in the hierarchy (the maintenancesupervisor), who, in turn, passes it "downward" to themillwrights who actually get things going again. The information thusmust move a total of four steps up and down the vertical ladder plusone step sideways before repairs can begin.

This system is premised on the unspoken assumption that the dirty,sweaty men down below cannot make sound decisions. Only those higherin the hierarchy are to be trusted with judgment or discretion.Officials at the top make the decisions; men at the bottom carry themout. One group represents the brains of the organization; the other,the hands.

This typically bureaucratic arrangement is ideally suited to solvingroutine problems at a moderate pace. But when things speed up, or theproblems cease to be routine, chaos often breaks loose. It is easy tosee why.

First, the acceleration of the pace of life (and especially thespeed‑up of production brought about by automation) means thatevery minute of "down time" costs more in lost output thanever before. Delay is increasingly costly. Information must flowfaster than ever before. At the same time, rapid change, byincreasing the number of novel, unexpected problems, increases theamount of information needed. It takes more information to cope witha novel problem than one we have solved a dozen or a hundred timesbefore. It is this combined demand for more information atfaster speeds that is now undermining the great verticalhierarchies so typical of bureaucracy.

A radical speed‑up could have been effected in the foundrydescribed above simply by allowing the worker to report the breakdowndirectly to the maintenance supervisor or even to a maintenance crew,instead of passing the news along through his foreman and productionsupervisor. At least one and perhaps two steps could have been cutfrom the four‑step communication process in this way – asaving of from 25 to 50 percent. Significantly, the steps that mightbe eliminated are the up‑and‑down steps, the verticalones.

Today such savings are feverishly sought by managers fighting to keepup with change. Shortcuts that by‑pass the hierarchy areincreasingly employed in thousands of factories, offices,laboratories, even in the military. The cumulative result of suchsmall changes is a massive shift from vertical to lateralcommunication systems. The intended result is speedier communication.This leveling process, however, represents a major blow to theonce‑sacred bureaucratic hierarchy, and it punches a jaggedhole in the "brain and hand" analogy. For as the verticalchain of command is increasingly by‑passed, we find "hands"beginning to make decisions, too. When the worker by‑passes hisforeman or supervisor and calls in a repair team, he makes a decisionthat in the past was reserved for these "higher ups."

This silent but significant deterioration of hierarchy, now occurringin the executive suite as well as at the ground level of the factoryfloor, is intensified by the arrival on the scene of hordes ofexperts – specialists in vital fields so narrow that often the menon top have difficulty understanding them. Increasingly, managershave to rely on the judgment of these experts. Solid statephysicists, computer programmers, systems designers, operationresearchers, engineering specialists – such men are assuming a newdecision‑making function. At one time, they merely consultedwith executives who reserved unto themselves the right to makemanagerial decisions. Today, the managers are losing their monopolyon decision‑making.

More and more, says Professor Read of McGill, the "specialistsdo not fit neatly together into a chain‑of‑commandsystem" and "cannot wait for their expert advice to beapproved at a higher level." With no time for decisions to wendtheir leisurely way up and down the hierarchy, "advisors"stop merely advising and begin to make decisions themselves. Oftenthey do this in direct consultation with the workers and ground‑leveltechnicians.

As a result, says Frank Metzger, director of personnel planning forInternational Telephone and Telegraph Corporation, "You nolonger have the strict allegiance to hierarchy. You may have five orsix different levels of the hierarchy represented in one meeting. Youtry to forget about salary level and hierarchy, and organize to getthe job done."

Such facts, according to Professor Read, "represent a staggeringchange in thinking, action, and decision‑making inorganizations." Quite possibly, he declares, "the onlytruly effective methods for preventing, or coping with, problems ofcoordination and communication in our changing technology will befound in new arrangements of people and tasks, in arrangements whichsharply break with the bureaucratic tradition."

It will be a long time before the last bureaucratic hierarchy isobliterated. For bureaucracies are well suited to tasks that requiremasses of moderately educated men to perform routine operations, and,no doubt, some such operations will continue to be performed by menin the future. Yet it is precisely such tasks that the computer andautomated equipment do far better than men. It is clear that insuper‑industrial society many such tasks will be performed bygreat self‑regulating systems of machines, doing away with theneed for bureaucratic organization. Far from fastening the grip ofbureaucracy on civilization more tightly than before, automationleads to its overthrow.

As machines take over routine tasks and the accelerative thrustincreases the amount of novelty in the environment, more and more ofthe energy of society (and its organizations) must turn toward thesolution of non‑routine problems. This requires a degree ofimagination and creativity that bureaucracy, with its man‑in‑a‑slotorganization, its permanent structures, and its hierarchies, is notwell equipped to provide. Thus it is not surprising to find thatwherever organizations today are caught up in the stream oftechnological or social change, wherever research and development isimportant, wherever men must cope with first‑time problems, thedecline of bureaucratic forms is most pronounced. In these frontierorganizations a new system of human relations is springing up.

To live, organizations must cast off those bureaucratic practicesthat immobilize them, making them less sensitive and less rapidlyresponsive to change. The result, according to Joseph A. Raffaele,Professor of Economics at Drexel Institute of Technology, is that weare moving toward a "working society of technical co‑equals"in which the "line of demarcation between the leader and the ledhas become fuzzy." Super‑industrial Man, rather thanoccupying a permanent, cleanly‑defined slot and performingmindless routine tasks in response to orders from above, findsincreasingly that he must assume decision‑making responsibility– and must do so within a kaleidoscopically changing organizationstructure built upon highly transient human relationships. Whateverelse might be said, this is not the old, familiar Weberianbureaucracy at which so many of our novelists and social critics arestill, belatedly, hurling their rusty javelins.


If it was Max Weber who first defined bureaucracy and predicted itstriumph, Warren Bennis may go down in sociological textbooks as theman who first convincingly predicted its demise and sketched theoutlines of the organizations that are springing up to replace it. Atprecisely the moment when the outcry against bureaucracy was reachingits peak of shrillness on American campuses and elsewhere, Bennis, asocial psychologist and professor of industrial management, predictedflatly that "in the next twenty‑five to fifty years"we will all "participate in the end of bureaucracy." Heurged us to begin looking "beyond bureaucracy."

Thus Bennis argues that "while various proponents of 'good humanrelations' have been fighting bureaucracy on humanistic grounds andfor Christian values, bureaucracy seems most likely to founder on itsinability to adapt to rapid change ...

"Bureaucracy," he says, "thrives in a highlycompetitive undifferentiated and stable environment, such as theclimate of its youth, the Industrial Revolution. A pyramidalstructure of authority, with power concentrated in the hands of a few... was, and is, an eminently suitable social arrangement forroutinized tasks. However, the environment has changed in just thoseways which make the mechanism most problematic. Stability hasvanished."

Each age produces a form of organization appropriate to its owntempo. During the long epoch of agricultural civilization, societieswere marked by low transience. Delays in communication andtransportation slowed the rate at which information moved. The paceof individual life was comparatively slow. And organizations wereseldom called upon to make what we would regard as high‑speeddecisions.

The age of industrialism brought a quickened tempo to both individualand organizational life. Indeed, it was precisely for this reasonthat bureaucratic forms were needed. For all that they seem lumberingand inefficient to us, they were, on the average, capable of makingbetter decisions faster than the loose and ramshackle organizationsthat preceded them. With all the rules codified, with a set of fixedprinciples indicating how to deal with various work problems, theflow of decisions could be accelerated to keep up with the fasterpace of life brought by industrialism.

Weber was keen enough to notice this, and he pointed out that "Theextraordinary increase in the speed by which public announcements, aswell as economic and political facts are transmitted exerts a steadyand sharp pressure in the direction of speeding up the tempo ofadministrative reaction ..." He was mistaken, however, when hesaid "The optimum of such reaction time is normally attainedonly by a strictly bureaucratic organization." For it is nowclear that the acceleration of change has reached so rapid a pacethat even bureaucracy can no longer keep up. Information surgesthrough society so rapidly, drastic changes in technology come soquickly that newer, even more instantly responsive forms oforganization must characterize the future.

What, then, will be the characteristics of the organizations ofsuper‑industrial society? "The key word," saysBennis, "will be 'temporary'; there will be adaptive, rapidlychanging temporary systems." Problems will be solved by taskforces composed of "relative strangers who represent a set ofdiverse professional skills."

Executives and managers in this system will function as coordinatorsbetween the various transient work teams. They will be skilled inunderstanding the jargon of different groups of specialists, and theywill communicate across groups, translating and interpreting thelanguage of one into the language of another. People in this systemwill, according to Bennis, "be differentiated not vertically,according to rank and role, but flexibly and functionally, accordingto skill and professional training."

Because of the high rate of movement back and forth from onetransient team to another, he continues, "There will ... be areduced commitment to work groups ... While skills in humaninteraction will become more important, due to the growing needs forcollaboration in complex tasks, there will be a concomitant reductionin group cohesiveness ... People will have to learn to develop quickand intense relationships on the job, and learn to bear the loss ofmore enduring work relationships."

This then is a picture of the coming Ad‑hocracy, thefast‑moving, information‑rich, kinetic organization ofthe future, filled with transient cells and extremely mobileindividuals. From this sketch, moreover, it is possible to deducesome of the characteristics of the human beings who will populatethese new organizations – and who, to some extent, are already tobe found in the prototype organizations of today. What emerges isdramatically different from the stereotype of the organization man.For just as the acceleration of change and increased novelty in theenvironment demand a new form of organization, they demand, too, anew kind of man.

Three of the outstanding characteristics of bureaucracy were, as wehave seen, permanence, hierarchy, and a division of labor. Thesecharacteristics molded the human beings who manned the organizations.Permanence – the recognition that the link between man andorganization would endure through time – brought with it acommitment to the organization. The longer the man stayed within itsembrace, the more he saw his past as an investment in theorganization, the more he saw his personal future as dependent uponthat of the organization. Longevity bred loyalty. In workorganizations, this natural tendency was powerfully reinforced by theknowledge that termination of one's links with the organization veryoften meant a loss of the means of economic survival. In a worldwracked by scarcity for the many, a job was precious. The bureaucratwas thus immobile and deeply oriented toward economic security. Tokeep his job, he willingly subordinated his own interests andconvictions to those of the organization.

Power‑laden hierarchies, through which authority flowed,wielded the whip by which the individual was held in line. Knowingthat his relationship with the organization would be relativelypermanent (or at least hoping that it would be) the organization manlooked within for approval. Rewards and punishments came down thehierarchy to the individual, so that the individual, habituallylooking upward at the next rung of the hierarchical ladder, becameconditioned to subservience. Thus: the wishy‑washy organizationman – the man without personal convictions (or without the courageto make them evident). It paid to conform.

Finally, the organization man needed to understand his place in thescheme of things; he occupied a well‑defined niche, performedactions that were also well‑defined by the rules of theorganization, and he was judged by the precision with which hefollowed the book. Faced by relatively routine problems, he wasencouraged to seek routine answers. Unorthodoxy, creativity,venturesomeness were discouraged, for they interfered with thepredictability required by the organization of its component parts.

The embryonic Ad‑hocracies of today demand a radicallydifferent constellation of human characteristics. In place ofpermanence, we find transience – high mobility betweenorganizations, never‑ending reorganizations within them, and aconstant generation and decay of temporary work groupings. Notsurprisingly, we witness a decline in old‑fashioned "loyalty"to the organization and its sub‑structures.

Writing about young executives in American industry today, WalterGuzzardi, Jr., declares: "The agreements between modern man andmodern organization are not like the laws of the Medes and thePersians. They were not made to stand forever ... The manperiodically examines his own attitude toward the organization, andgauges its attitude toward him. If he doesn't like what he sees, hetries to change it. If he can't change it, he moves." Saysexecutive recruiter George Peck: "The number of top executiveswith their résumés in their desk drawer is amazing."

The old loyalty felt by the organization man appears to be going upin smoke. In its place we are watching the rise of professionalloyalty. In all of the techno‑societies there is a relentlessincrease in the number of professional, technical and otherspecialists. In the United States between 1950 and 1969 alone, theirnumber has more than doubled and this class continues to grow morerapidly than any other group in the work force. Instead of operatingas individual, entrepreneurial free lancers, millions of engineers,scientists, psychologists, accountants and other professionals haveentered the ranks of organization. What has happened as a result is aneat dialectical reversal. Veblen wrote about the industrializationof the professional. Today we are observing the professionalizationof industry.

Thus John Gardner declares: "The loyalty of the professional manis to his profession and not to the organization that may house himat any given moment. Compare the chemist or electronics engineer in alocal plant with the non‑professional executives in the sameplant. The men the chemist thinks of as his colleagues are not thosewho occupy neighboring offices, but his fellow professionals whereverthey may be throughout the country, even throughout the world.Because of his fraternal ties with widely dispersed contemporaries,he himself is highly mobile. But even if he stays in one place hisloyalty to the local organization is rarely of the same quality asthat of the true organization man. He never quite believes in it.

"The rise of the professions means that modern large‑scaleorganization has been heavily infiltrated by men who have an entirelydifferent concept of what organization is about ..." In effect,these men are "outsiders" working within the system.

At the same time, the term "profession" is itself taking onnew meaning. Just as the vertical hierarchies of bureaucracy breakdown under the combined impact of new technology, new knowledge, andsocial change, so too, do the horizontal hierarchies that have untilnow divided human knowledge. The old boundaries between specialtiesare collapsing. Men increasingly find that the novel problems thrustat them can be solved only by reaching beyond narrow disciplines.

The traditional bureaucrat put electrical engineers in onecompartment and psychologists in another. Indeed, engineers andpsychologists in their own professional organizations assumed anairtight distinction between their spheres of knowledge andcompetence. Today, however, in the aerospace industry, in education,and in other fields, engineers and psychologists are frequentlythrown together in transient teams. New organizations reflectingthese sometimes exotic intellectual mergers are springing up allaround the basic professions, so that we begin to find sub‑groupingsof bio‑mathematicians, psycho‑pharmacologists,engineer‑librarians and computer‑musicians. Distinctionsbetween the disciplines do not disappear; but they become finer, moreporous, and there is a constant reshuffling process.

In this situation, even professional loyalties turn into short‑termcommitments, and the work itself, the task to be done, the problem tobe solved, begins to elicit the kind of commitment hitherto reservedfor the organization. Professional specialists, according to Bennis,"seemingly derive their rewards from inward standards ofexcellence, from their professional societies, and from the intrinsicsatisfaction of their task. In fact, they are committed to the task,not the job; to their standards, not their boss. And because theyhave degrees, they travel. They are not good 'company men'; they areuncommitted except to the challenging environments where they can'play with problems.'"

These men of the future already man some of the Ad‑hocraciesthat exist today. There is excitement and creativity in the computerindustry, in educational technology, in the application of systemstechniques to urban problems, in the new oceanography industry, ingovernment agencies concerned with environmental health, andelsewhere. In each of these fields, more representative of the futurethan the past, there is a new venturesome spirit which stands intotal contrast to the security‑minded orthodoxy and conformityassociated with the organization man.

The new spirit in these transient organizations is closer to that ofthe entrepreneur than the organization man. The free‑swingingentrepreneur who started up vast enterprises unafraid of defeat oradverse opinion, is a folk hero of industrialism, particularly in theUnited States. Pareto labeled the entrepreneurs "adventuroussouls, hungry for novelty ... not at all alarmed at change."

It is conventional wisdom to assert that the age of the entrepreneuris dead, and that in his place there now stand only organization menor bureaucrats. Yet what is happening today is a resurgence ofentrepreneurialism within the heart of large organizations. Thesecret behind this reversal is the new transience and the death ofeconomic insecurity for large masses of educated men. With the riseof affluence has come a new willingness to take risks. Men arewilling to risk failure because they cannot believe they will everstarve. Thus says Charles Elwell, director of industrial relationsfor Hunt Foods: "Executives look at themselves as individualentrepreneurs who are selling their knowledge and skills."Indeed, as Max Ways has pointed out in Fortune: "Theprofessional man in management has a powerful base of independence –perhaps a firmer base than the small businessman ever had in hisproperty rights."

Thus we find the emergence of a new kind of organization man – aman who, despite his many affiliations, remains basically uncommittedto any organization. He is willing to employ his skills and creativeenergies to solve problems with equipment provided by theorganization, and within temporary groups established by it. But hedoes so only so long as the problems interest him. He is committed tohis own career, his own self‑fulfillment.

It is no accident, in light of the above, that the term "associate"seems suddenly to have become extremely popular in largeorganizations. We now have "associate marketing directors"and "research associates," and even government agencies arefilled with "associate directors" and "associateadministrators." The word associate implies co‑equal,rather than subordinate, and its spreading use accurately reflectsthe shift from vertical and hierarchical arrangements to the new,more lateral, communication patterns.

Where the organization man was subservient to the organization,Associative Man is almost insouciant toward it. Where theorganization man was immobilized by concern for economic security,Associative Man increasingly takes it for granted. Where theorganization man was fearful of risk, Associative Man welcomes it(knowing that in an affluent and fastchanging society even failure istransient). Where the organization man was hierarchyconscious,seeking status and prestige within the organization, Associative Manseeks it without. Where the organization man filled a predeterminedslot, Associative Man moves from slot to slot in a complex patternthat is largely self‑motivated. Where the organization mandedicated himself to the solution of routine problems according towell‑defined rules, avoiding any show of unorthodoxy orcreativity, Associative Man, faced by novel problems, is encouragedto innovate. Where the organization man had to subordinate his ownindividuality to "play ball on the team," Associative Manrecognizes that the team, itself, is transient. He may subordinatehis individuality for a while, under conditions of his own choosing;but it is never a permanent submergence.

In all this, Associative Man bears with him a secret knowledge: thevery temporariness of his relationships with organization frees himfrom many of the bonds that constricted his predecessor. Transience,in this sense, is liberating.

Yet there is another side of the coin, and he knows this, as well.For the turnover of relationships with formal organizationalstructures brings with it an increased turnover of informalorganization and a faster through‑put of people as well. Eachchange brings with it a need for new learning. He must learn therules of the game. But the rules keep changing. The introduction ofAd‑hocracy increases the adaptability of organizations; but itstrains the adaptability of men. Thus Tom Burns, after a study of theBritish electronics industry, finds a disturbing contrast betweenmanagers in stable organizational structures and those who findthemselves where change is most rapid. Frequent adaptation, hereports, "happened at the cost of personal satisfaction andadjustment. The difference in the personal tension of people in thetop management positions and those of the same age who had reached asimilar position in a more stable situation was marked." AndBennis declares: "Coping with rapid change, living in thetemporary work systems, setting up (in quick‑step time)meaningful relations – and then breaking them – all augur socialstrains and psychological tensions."

It is possible that for many people, in their organizationalrelationships as in other spheres, the future is arriving too soon.For the individual, the move toward Ad‑hocracy means a sharpacceleration in the turnover of organizational relationships in hislife. Thus another piece falls into place in our study ofhightransience society. It becomes clear that acceleration telescopesour ties with organization in much the same way that it truncates ourrelationships with things, places and people. The increased turnoverof all these relationships places a heavy adaptive burden onindividuals reared and educated for life in a slower‑pacedsocial system.

It is here that the danger of future shock lies. This danger, as weshall now see, is intensified by the impact of the accelerativethrust in the realm of information.

Chapter 8


In a society in which instant food, instant education and eveninstant cities are everyday phenomena, no product is more swiftlyfabricated or more ruthlessly destroyed than the instant celebrity.Nations advancing toward super‑industrialism sharply step uptheir output of these "psycho‑economic" products.Instant celebrities burst upon the consciousness of millions like animage‑bomb – which is exactly what they are.

Within less than one year from the time a Cockney girl‑childnicknamed "Twiggy" took her first modelling job, millionsof human beings around the globe stored mental images of her in theirbrain. A dewy‑eyed blonde with minimal mammaries and pipestemlegs, Twiggy exploded into celebrityhood in 1967. Her winsome faceand malnourished figure suddenly appeared on the covers of magazinesin Britain, America, France, Italy and other countries. Overnight,Twiggy eyelashes, mannikins, perfumes and clothes began to gush fromthe fad mills. Critics pontificated about her social significance.Newsmen accorded her the kind of coverage normally reserved for apeace treaty or a papal election.

By now, however, our stored mental images of Twiggy have been largelyerased. She has all but vanished from public view. Reality hasconfirmed her own shrewd estimate that "I may not be around herefor another six months." For images, too, have becomeincreasingly transient – and not only the images of models,athletes or entertainers. Not long ago I asked a highly intelligentteenager whether she and her classmates had any heroes. I said, "Doyou regard John Glenn, for example, as a hero?" (Glenn being,lest the reader has forgotten, the first American astronaut to orbitin space.) The child's response was revealing. "No," shesaid, "he's too old."

At first I thought she regarded a man in his forties as being too oldto be a hero. Soon I realized this was mistaken. What she meant wasthat Glenn's exploits had taken place too long ago to be of interest.(John H. Glenn's history‑making flight occurred in February,1962.) Today Glenn has receded from the foreground of publicattention. In effect, his image has decayed.

Twiggy, the Beatles, John Glenn, Billie Sol Estes, Bob Dylan, JackRuby, Norman Mailer, Eichmann, Jean‑Paul Sartre, GeorgiMalenkov, Jacqueline Kennedy – thousands of "personalities"parade across the stage of contemporary history. Real people,magnified and projected by the mass media, they are stored as imagesin the minds of millions of people who have never met them, neverspoken to them, never seen them "in person." They take on areality almost as (and sometimes even more) intense than that of manypeople with whom we do have "in‑person"relationships.

We form relationships with these "vicarious people," justas we do with friends, neighbors and colleagues. And just as thethrough‑put of real, in‑person people in our lives isincreasing, and the duration of our average relationship with themdecreasing, the same is true of our ties with the vicarious peoplewho populate our minds.

Their rate of flow‑through is influenced by the real rate ofchange in the world. Thus, in politics, for example, we find that theBritish prime ministership has been turning over since 1922 at a ratesome 13 percent faster than in the base period 1721‑1922. Insports, the heavyweight boxing championship now changes hands twiceas fast as it did during our father's youth. (Between 1882 and 1932,there were ten new world heavyweight boxing champions, each holdingthe crown an average of 5 years. Between 1932 and 1951, there were 7champions, each with an average tenure of 3.2 years. From 1951 to1967, when the World Boxing Association declared the title vacant, 7men held the championship for an average of 2.3 years each.)Events,moving faster, constantly throw new personalities into the charmedcircle of celebrityhood, and old images in the mind decay to make wayfor the new.

The same might be said for the fictional characters spewed out fromthe pages of books, from television screens, theaters, movies andmagazines. No previous generation in history has had so manyfictional characters flung at it. Commenting on the mass media,historian Marshall Fishwick wryly declares: "We may not even getused to Super‑Hero, Captain Nice and Mr. Terrific before theyfly off our television screens forever."

These vicarious people, both live and fictional, play a significantrole in our lives, providing models for behavior, acting out for usvarious roles and situations from which we draw conclusions about ourown lives. We deduce lessons from their activities, consciously ornot. We learn from their triumphs and tribulations. They make itpossible for us to "try on" various roles or life styleswithout suffering the consequences that might attend such experimentsin real life. The accelerated flow‑through of vicarious peoplecannot but contribute to the instability of personality patternsamong many real people who have difficulty in finding a suitable lifestyle.

These vicarious people, however, are not independent of one another.They perform their roles in a vast, complexly organized "publicdrama" which is, in the words of sociologist Orrin Klapp, authorof a fascinating book called Symbolic Leaders, largely aproduct of the new communications technology. This public drama, inwhich celebrities upstage and replace celebrities at an acceleratingrate, has the effect, according to Klapp, of making leadership "moreunstable than it would be otherwise. Contretemps, upsets, follies,contests, scandals, make a feast of entertainment or a spinningpolitical roulette wheel. Fads come and go at a dizzying pace ... Acountry like the United States has an open public drama, in which newfaces appear daily, there is always a contest to steal the show, andalmost anything can happen and often does." What we areobserving, says Klapp, is a "rapid turnover of symbolicleaders."

This can be extended, however, into a far more powerful statement:what is happening is not merely a turnover of real people or evenfictional characters, but a more rapid turnover of the images andimage‑structures in our brains. Our relationships with theseimages of reality, upon which we base our behavior, are growing, onaverage, more and more transient. The entire knowledge system insociety is undergoing violent upheaval. The very concepts and codesin terms of which we think are turning over at a furious andaccelerating pace. We are increasing the rate at which we must formand forget our images of reality.


Every person carries within his head a mental model of the world –a subjective representation of external reality. This model consistsof tens upon tens of thousands of images. These may be as simple as amental picture of clouds scudding across the sky. Or they may beabstract inferences about the way things are organized in society. Wemay think of this mental model as a fantastic internal warehouse, animage emporium in which we store our inner portraits of Twiggy,Charles De Gaulle or Cassius Clay, along with such sweepingpropositions as "Man is basically good" or "God isdead."

Any person's mental model will contain some images that approximatereality closely, along with others that are distorted or inaccurate.But for the person to function, even to survive, the model must bearsome overall resemblance to reality. As V. Gordon Childe has writtenin Society and Knowledge, "Every reproduction of theexternal world, constructed and used as a guide to action by anhistorical society, must in some degree correspond to that reality.Otherwise the society could not have maintained itself; its members,if acting in accordance with totally untrue propositions, would nothave succeeded in making even the simplest tools and in securingtherewith food and shelter from the external world."

No man's model of reality is a purely personal product. While some ofhis images are based on firsthand observation, an increasingproportion of them today are based on messages beamed to us by themass media and the people around us. Thus the degree of accuracy inhis model to some extent reflects the general level of knowledge insociety. And as experience and scientific research pump more refinedand accurate knowledge into society, new concepts, new ways ofthinking, supersede, contradict, and render obsolete older ideas andworld views.

If society itself were standing still, there might be little pressureon the individual to update his own supply of images, to bring themin line with the latest knowledge available in the society. So longas the society in which he is embedded is stable or slowly changing,the images on which he bases his behavior can also change slowly. Butto function in a fastchanging society, to cope with swift and complexchange, the individual must turn over his own stock of images at arate that in some way correlates with the pace of change. His modelmust be updated. To the degree that it lags, his responses to changebecome inappropriate; he becomes increasingly thwarted, ineffective.Thus there is intense pressure on the individual to keep up with thegeneralized pace.

Today change is so swift and relentless in the techno‑societiesthat yesterday's truths suddenly become today's fictions, and themost highly skilled and intelligent members of society admitdifficulty in keeping up with the deluge of new knowledge – even inextremely narrow fields.

"You can't possibly keep in touch with all you want to,"complains Dr. Rudolph Stohler, a zoologist at the University ofCalifornia at Berkeley. "I spend 25 percent to 50 percent of myworking time trying to keep up with what's going on," says Dr.I. E. Wallen, chief of oceanography at the Smithsonian Institution inWashington. Dr. Emilio Segre, a Nobel prizewinner in physics,declares: "On K‑mesons alone, to wade through all thepapers is an impossibility." And another oceanographer, Dr.Arthur Stump, admits: "I don't really know the answer unless wedeclare a moratorium on publications for ten years."

New knowledge either extends or outmodes the old. In either case itcompels those for whom it is relevant to reorganize their store ofimages. It forces them to relearn today what they thought they knewyesterday. Thus Lord James, vice‑chancellor of the Universityof York, says, "I took my first degree in chemistry at Oxford in1931." Looking at the questions asked in chemistry exams atOxford today, he continues, "I realize that not only can I notdo them, but that I never could have done them, since at leasttwo‑thirds of the questions involve knowledge that simply didnot exist when I graduated." And Dr. Robert Hilliard, the topeducational broadcasting specialist for the Federal CommunicationsCommission, presses the point further: "At the rate at whichknowledge is growing, by the time the child born today graduates fromcollege, the amount of knowledge in the world will be four times asgreat. By the time that same child is fifty years old, it will bethirty‑two times as great, and 97 percent of everything knownin the world will have been learned since the time he was born."

Granting that definitions of "knowledge" are vague and thatsuch statistics are necessarily hazardous, there still can be noquestion that the rising tide of new knowledge forces us intoever‑narrower specialization and drives us to revise our innerimages of reality at ever‑faster rates. Nor does this refermerely to abstruse scientific information about physical particles orgenetic structure. It applies with equal force to various categoriesof knowledge that closely affect the everyday life of millions.


Much new knowledge is admittedly remote from the immediate interestsof the ordinary man in the street. He is not intrigued or impressedby the fact that a noble gas like xenon can form compounds –something that until recently most chemists swore was impossible.While even this knowledge may have an impact on him when it isembodied in new technology, until then, he can afford to ignore it. Agood bit of new knowledge, on the other hand, is directly related tohis immediate concerns, his job, his politics, his family life, evenhis sexual behavior.

A poignant example is the dilemma that parents find themselves intoday as a consequence of successive radical changes in the image ofthe child in society and in our theories of childrearing.

At the turn of the century in the United States, for example, thedominant theory reflected the prevailing scientific belief in theprimacy of heredity in determining behavior. Mothers who had neverheard of Darwin or Spencer raised their babies in ways consistentwith the world views of these thinkers. Vulgarized and simplified,passed from person to person, these world views were reflected in theconviction of millions of ordinary people that "bad children area result of bad stock," that "crime is hereditary,"etc.

In the early decades of the century, these attitudes fell back beforethe advance of environmentalism. The belief that environment shapespersonality, and that the early years are the most important, createda new image of the child. The work of Watson and Pavlov began tocreep into the public ken. Mothers reflected the new behaviorism,refusing to feed infants on demand, refusing to pick them up whenthey cried, weaning them early to avoid prolonged dependency.

A study by Martha Wolfenstein has compared the advice offered parentsin seven successive editions of Infant Care, a handbook issuedby the United States Children's Bureau between 1914 and 1951. Shefound distinct shifts in the preferred methods for dealing withweaning, thumb‑sucking, masturbation, bowel and bladdertraining. It is clear from this study that by the late thirties stillanother image of the child had gained ascendancy. Freudian conceptsswept in like a wave and revolutionized childrearing practices.Suddenly, mothers began to hear about "the rights of infants"and the need for "oral gratification." Permissivenessbecame the order of the day.

Parenthetically, at the same time that Freudian images of the childwere altering the behavior of parents in Dayton, Dubuque and Dallas,the image of the psychoanalyst changed, too. Psychoanalysts becameculture heroes. Movies, television scripts, novels and magazinestories represented them as wise and sympathetic souls,wonder‑workers capable of remaking damaged personalities. Fromthe appearance of the movie Spellbound in 1945, through thelate fifties, the analyst was painted in largely positive terms bythe mass media.

By the mid‑sixties, however, he had already turned into acomical creature. Peter Sellers in What's New Pussycat? playeda psychoanalyst much crazier than most of his patients, and"psychoanalyst jokes" began to circulate not merely amongNew York and California sophisticates, but through the population atlarge, helped along by the same mass media that created the myth ofthe analyst in the first place.

This sharp reversal in the public image of the psychoanalyst (thepublic image being no more than the weighted aggregate of privateimages in the society) reflected changes in research as well. Forevidence was piling up that psychoanalytic therapy did not live up tothe claims made for it, and new knowledge in the behavioral sciences,and particularly in psychopharmacology, made many Freudiantherapeutic measures seem quaintly archaic. At the same time, therewas a great burst of research in the field of learning theory, and anew swing in childrearing, this time toward a kind ofneo‑behaviorism, got under way.

At each stage of this development a widely held set of images wasattacked by a set of counter‑images. Individuals holding oneset were assailed by reports, articles, documentaries, and advicefrom authorities, friends, relatives and even casual acquaintanceswho accepted conflicting views. The same mother, turning to the sameauthorities at two different times in the course of raising herchild, would receive, in effect, somewhat different advice based ondifferent inferences about reality. While for the people of the past,childrearing patterns remained stable for centuries at a time, forthe people of the present and the future, it has, like so many otherfields, become an arena in which successive waves of images, many ofthem generated by scientific research, do battle.

In this way, new knowledge alters old. The mass media instantly andpersuasively disseminate new images, and ordinary individuals,seeking help in coping with an ever more complex social environment,attempt to keep up. At the same time, events – as distinct fromresearch as such – also batter our old image structures. Racingswiftly past our attention screen, they wash out old images andgenerate new ones. After the freedom rides and the riots in blackghettos only the pathological could hang on to the long‑cherishednotion that blacks are "happy children" content with theirpoverty. After the Israeli blitz victory over the Arabs in 1967, howmany still cling to the image of the Jew as a cheek‑turningpacifist or a battlefield coward?

In education, in politics, in economic theory, in medicine, ininternational affairs, wave after wave of new images penetrate ourdefenses, shake up our mental models of reality. The result of thisimage bombardment is the accelerated decay of old images, a fasterintellectual through‑put, and a new, profound sense of theimpermanence of knowledge, itself.


This impermanence is reflected in society in many subtle ways. Asingle dramatic example is the impact of the knowledge explosion onthat classic knowledge‑container, the book.

As knowledge has become more plentiful and less permanent, we havewitnessed the virtual disappearance of the solid old durable leatherbinding, replaced at first by cloth and later by paper covers. Thebook itself, like much of the information it holds, has become moretransient.

A decade ago, communications systems designer Sol Cornberg, a radicalprophet in the field of library technology, declared that readingwould soon cease to be a primary form of information intake. "Readingand writing," he suggested, "will become obsolete skills."(Ironically, Mr. Cornberg's wife is a novelist.)

Whether or not he is correct, one fact is plain: the incredibleexpansion of knowledge implies that each book (alas, this oneincluded) contains a progressively smaller fraction of all that isknown. And the paperback revolution, by making inexpensive editionsavailable everywhere, lessens the scarcity value of the book atprecisely the very moment that the increasingly rapid obsolescence ofknowledge lessens its longterm informational value. Thus, in theUnited States a paperback appears simultaneously on more than 100,000newsstands, only to be swept away by another tidal wave ofpublications delivered a mere thirty days later. The book thusapproaches the transience of the monthly magazine. Indeed, many booksare no more than "one‑shot" magazines.

At the same time, the public's span of interest in a book – even avery popular book – is shrinking. Thus, for example, the life spanof best sellers on The New York Times list is rapidlydeclining. There are marked irregularities from year to year, andsome books manage to buck the tide. Nevertheless, if we examine thefirst four years for which full data on the subject is available,1953‑1956, and compare this with a similar period one decadelater, 1963‑1966, we find that the average best seller in theearlier period remained on the list a full 18.8 weeks. A decade laterthis had shrunk to 15.7 weeks. Within a ten‑year‑period,the life expectancy of the average best seller had shrunk by nearlyone‑sixth.

We can understand such trends only if we grasp the elementalunderlying truth. We are witnessing an historic process that willinevitably change man's psyche. For across the board, from cosmeticsto cosmology, from Twiggy‑type trivia to the triumphant factsof technology, our inner images of reality, responding to theacceleration of change outside ourselves, are becoming shorter‑lived,more temporary. We are creating and using up ideas and images at afaster and faster pace. Knowledge, like people, places, things andorganizational forms, is becoming disposable.


If our inner images of reality appear to be turning over more andmore rapidly, one reason may well be an increase in the rate at whichimage‑laden messages are being hurled at our senses. Littleeffort has been made to investigate this scientifically, but there isevidence that we are increasing the exposure of the individual toimage‑bearing stimuli.

To understand why, we need first to examine the basic sources ofimagery. Where do the thousands of images filed in our mental modelcome from? The external environment showers stimuli upon us. Signalsoriginating outside ourselves – sound waves, light, etc. – strikeour sensory organs. Once perceived, these signals are converted,through a still mysterious process, into symbols of reality, intoimages.

These incoming signals are of several types. Some might be calleduncoded. Thus, for example, a man walks along a street andnotices a leaf whipped along the sidewalk by the wind. He perceivesthis event through his sensory apparatus. He hears a rustling sound.He sees movement and greenness. He feels the wind. From these sensoryperceptions he somehow forms a mental image. We can refer to thesesensory signals as a message. But the message was not, in anyordinary sense of the term, man‑made. It was not designed byanyone to communicate anything, and the man's understanding of itdoes not depend directly on a social code – a set of sociallyagreed‑upon signs and definitions. We are all surrounded by andparticipate in such events. When they occur within range of oursenses, we may pick up uncoded messages from them and convert thesemessages into mental images. In fact, some proportion of the imagesin every individual's mental model are derived from such uncodedmessages.

But we also receive coded messages from outside ourselves.Coded messages are any which depend upon social convention for theirmeaning. All languages, whether based on words or gestures, drumbeatsor dancesteps, hieroglyphs, pictographs or the arrangement of knotsin a string, are codes. All messages conveyed by means of suchlanguages are coded. We may speculate with some safety that associeties have grown larger and more complex, proliferating codes forthe transmission of images from person to person, the ratio ofuncoded messages received by the ordinary person has declined infavor of coded messages. We may guess, in other words, that todaymore of our imagery derives from man‑made messages than frompersonal observation of raw, "uncoded" events.

Furthermore, we can discern a subtle but significant shift in thetype of coded messages as well. For the illiterate villager in anagricultural society of the past, most of the incoming messages werewhat might be called casual or "do‑it‑yourself"communications. The peasant might engage in ordinary householdconversation, banter, cracker‑barrel or tavern talk, griping,complaining, boasting, baby talk, (and, in the same sense, animaltalk), etc. This determined the nature of most of the coded messageshe received, and one characteristic of this sort of communication isits loose, unstructured, garrulous or unedited quality.

Compare this message input with the kind of coded messages receivedby the ordinary citizen of the present‑day industrial society.In addition to all of the above, he also receives messages – mainlyfrom the mass media – that have been artfully fashioned bycommunications experts. He listens to the news; he watches carefullyscripted plays, telecasts, movies; he hears much more music (a highlydisciplined form of communication); he hears frequent speeches. Aboveall, he does something his peasant ancestor could not do: He reads –thousands of words every day, all of them carefully edited inadvance.

The industrial revolution, bringing with it the enormous elaborationof the mass media, thus alters radically the nature of the messagesreceived by the ordinary individual. In addition to receiving uncodedmessages from the environment, and coded but casual messages from thepeople around him, the individual now begins to receive a growingnumber of coded but pre‑engineered messages as well.

These engineered messages differ from the casual or do‑it‑yourselfproduct in one crucial respect: Instead of being loose or carelesslyframed, the engineered product tends to be tighter, more condensed,less redundant. It is highly purposive, preprocessed to eliminateunnecessary repetition, consciously designed to maximizeinformational content. It is, as communications theorists say,"information‑rich."

This highly significant but often overlooked fact can be observed byanyone who takes the trouble to compare a tape recorded sample of 500words of ordinary household conversation (i.e., coded, but casual)with 500 words of newspaper text or movie dialogue (also coded, butengineered). Casual conversation tends to be filled with repetitionand pauses. Ideas are repeated several times, often in identicalwords, but if not, then varied only slightly.

In contrast, the 500 words of newspaper copy or movie dialogue arecarefully preedited, streamlined. They convey relativelynon‑repetitive ideas. They tend to be more grammaticallyaccurate than ordinary conversation and, if presented orally, theytend to be enunciated more clearly. Waste material has been trimmedaway. Editor, writer, director – everyone involved in theproduction of the engineered message – fights to "keep thestory moving" or to produce "fast‑paced action."It is no accident that books, movies, television plays, are sofrequently advertised as "high‑speed adventure,""fast‑reading," or "breathless." Nopublisher or movie producer would dare advertise his work as"repetitive" or "redundant."

Thus, as radio, television, newspapers, magazines and novels sweepthrough society, as the proportion of engineered messages received bythe individual rises (and the proportion of uncoded and coded casualmessages correspondingly declines), we witness a profound change: asteady speed‑up in the average pace at which image‑producingmessages are presented to the individual. The sea of codedinformation that surrounds him begins to beat at his senses with newurgency.

This helps account for the sense of hurry in everyday affairs. But ifindustrialism is marked by a communication's speed‑up, thetransition to super‑industrialism is marked by intense effortsto accelerate the process even further. The waves of codedinformation turn into violent breakers and come at a faster andfaster clip, pounding at us, seeking entry, as it were, to ournervous system.


In the United States today the median time spent by adults readingnewspapers is fifty‑two minutes per day. The same person whocommits nearly an hour to newspapers also spends time readingmagazines, books, signs, billboards, recipes, instructions, labels oncans, advertising on the back of breakfast food boxes, etc.Surrounded by print, he "ingests" between 10,000 and 20,000edited words per day of the several times that many to which he isexposed. The same person also probably spends an hour and a quarterper day listening to the radio – more if he owns an FM receiver. Ifhe listens to news, commercials, commentary or other such programs,he will, during this period, hear about 11,000 pre‑processedwords. He also spends several hours watching television – addanother 10,000 words or so, plus a sequence of carefully arranged,highly purposive visuals.(This is not to suggest that onlywords and pictures convey or evoke images. Music, too, sets theinternal image machinery working, although the images produced may becompletely non‑verbal.)

Nothing, indeed, is quite so purposive as advertising, and today theaverage American adult is assaulted by a minimum of 560 advertisingmessages each day. Of the 560 to which he is exposed, however, heonly notices seventy‑six. In effect, he blocks out 484advertising messages a day to preserve his attention for othermatters.

All this represents the press of engineered messages against hissenses. And the pressure is rising. In an effort to transmit evenricher image‑producing messages at an even faster rate,communications people, artists and others consciously work to makeeach instant of exposure to the mass media carry a heavierinformational and emotional freight.

Thus we see the widespread and increasing use of symbolism forcompacting information. Today advertising men, in a deliberateattempt to cram more messages into the individual's mind within agiven moment of time, make increasing use of the symbolic techniquesof the arts. Consider the "tiger" that is allegedly put inone's tank. Here a single word transmits to the audience a distinctvisual image that has been associated since childhood with power,speed, and force. The pages of advertising trade magazines likePrinter's Ink are filled with sophisticated technical articlesabout the use of verbal and visual symbolism to accelerateimage‑flow. Indeed, today many artists might learn newimageaccelerating techniques from the advertising men.

If the ad men, who must pay for each split second of time on radio ortelevision, and who fight for the reader's fleeting attention inmagazines and newspapers, are busy trying to communicate maximumimagery in minimum time, there is evidence, too, that at least somemembers of the public want to increase the rate at which they canreceive messages and process images. This explains the phenomenalsuccess of speed‑reading courses among college students,business executives, politicians and others. One leadingspeed‑reading school claims it can increase almost anyone'sinput speed three times, and some readers report the ability to readliterally tens of thousands of words per minute – a claim roundlydisputed by many reading experts. Whether or not such speeds arepossible, the clear fact is that the rate of communication isaccelerating. Busy people wage a desperate battle each day to plowthrough as much information as possible. Speed‑readingpresumably helps them do this.

The impulse toward acceleration in communications is, however, by nomeans limited to advertising or to the printed word. A desire tomaximize message content in minimum time explains, for example, theexperiments conducted by psychologists at the American Institutes forResearch who played taped lectures at faster than normal speeds andthen tested the comprehension of listeners. Their purpose: todiscover whether students would learn more if lecturers talkedfaster.

The same intent to accelerate information flow explains the recentobsession with splitscreen and multiscreen movies. At the MontrealWorld's Fair, viewers in pavilion after pavilion were confronted notwith a traditional movie screen on which ordered visual images appearin sequence, but with two, three, or five screens, each of themhurling messages at the viewer at the same time. On these, severalstories play themselves out at the same time, demanding of the viewerthe ability to accept many more messages simultaneously than anymovie‑goer in the past, or else to censor out, or block,certain messages to keep the rate of message‑input, orimage‑stimulation, within reasonable limits.

The author of an article in Life, entitled "A FilmRevolution to Blitz Man's Mind," accurately describes theexperience in these words: "Having to look at six images at thesame time, having to watch in twenty minutes the equivalent of a fulllength movie, excites and crams the mind." Elsewhere he suggeststhat another multi‑screen film "by putting more into amoment, condenses time."

Even in music the same accelerative thrust is increasingly evident. Aconference of composers and computer specialists held in SanFrancisco not long ago was informed that for several centuries musichas been undergoing "an increase in the amount of auditoryinformation transmitted during a given interval of time," andthere is evidence also that musicians today play the music of Mozart,Bach and Haydn at a faster tempo than that at which the same musicwas performed at the time it was composed. We are getting Mozart onthe run.


If our images of reality are changing more rapidly, and the machineryof image‑transmission is being speeded up, a parallel change isaltering the very codes we use. For language, too, is convulsing.According to lexicographer Stuart Berg Flexner, senior editor of theRandom House Dictionary of the English Language, "Thewords we use are changing faster today – and not merely on theslang level, but on every level. The rapidity with which words comeand go is vastly accelerated. This seems to be true not only ofEnglish, but of French, Russian and Japanese as well."

Flexner illustrated this with the arresting suggestion that, of theestimated 450,000 "usable" words in the English languagetoday, only perhaps 250,000 would be comprehensible to WilliamShakespeare. Were Shakespeare suddenly to materialize in London orNew York today, he would be able to understand, on the average, onlyfive out of every nine words in our vocabulary. The Bard would be asemi‑literate.

This implies that if the language had the same number of words inShakespeare's time as it does today, at least 200,000 words –perhaps several times that many – have dropped out and beenreplaced in the intervening four centuries. Moreover, Flexnerconjectures that a full third of this turnover has occurred withinthe last fifty years alone. This, if correct, would mean that wordsare now dropping out of the language and being replaced at a rate atleast three times faster than during the base period 1564 to 1914.

This high turnover rate reflects changes in things, processes, andqualities in the environment. Some new words come directly from theworld of consumer products and technology. Thus, for example, wordslike "fast‑back," "wash‑and‑wear"or flashcube" were all propelled into the language byadvertising in recent years. Other words come from the headlines."Sit‑in" and "swim‑in" are recentproducts of the civil rights movement; "teach‑in" aproduct of the campaign against the Vietnam war; "be‑in"and "love‑in" products of the hippie subculture. TheLSD cult has brought with it a profusion of new words –"acid‑head," "psychedelic," etc.

At the level of slang, the turnover rate is so rapid that it hasforced dictionary makers to change their criteria for word inclusion."In 1954," says Flexner, "when I started work on theDictionary of American Slang, I would not consider a word forinclusion unless I could find three uses of the word over a five‑yearperiod. Today such a criterion would be impossible. Language, likeart, is increasingly becoming a fad proposition. The slang terms'fab' and 'gear,' for example, didn't last a single year. Theyentered the teen‑age vocabulary in about 1966; by 1967 theywere out. You cannot use a time criterion for slang any more.

One fact contributing to the rapid introduction and obsolescence ofwords is the incredible speed with which a new word can be injectedinto wide usage. In the late 1950's and early sixties one couldactually trace the way in which certain scholarly jargon words suchas "rubric" or "subsumed" were picked up fromacademic journals, used in smallcirculation periodicals like the NewYork Review of Books or Commentary, then adopted byEsquire with its then circulation of 800,000 to 1,000,000, andfinally diffused through the larger society by Time, Newsweekand the larger mass magazines. Today the process has been telescoped.The editors of mass magazines no longer pick up vocabulary from theintermediate intellectual publications alone; they, too, liftdirectly from the scholarly press in their hurry to be "on topof things."

When Susan Sontag disinterred the word "camp" and used itas the basis of an essay in Partisan Review

in the fall of 1964, Time waited only a few weeks beforedevoting an article to the word and its rejuvenator. Within a matterof a few additional weeks, the term was cropping up in newspapers andother mass media. Today the word has virtually dropped out of usage."Teenybopper" is another word that came and went withblinding speed.

A more significant example of language turnover can be seen in thesudden shift of meaning associated with the ethnic term "black."For years, dark‑skinned Americans regarded the term as racist.Liberal whites dutifully taught their children to use the term"Negro" and to capitalize the "N." Shortly afterStokely Carmichael proclaimed the doctrine of Black Power inGreenwood, Mississippi in June, 1966, however, "black"became a term of pride among both blacks and whites in the movementfor racial justice. Caught off guard, liberal whites went through aperiod of confusion, uncertain as to whether to use Negro or black.Black was quickly legitimated when the mass media adopted the newmeaning. Within a few months, black was "in," Negro "out."

Even faster cases of diffusion are on record. "The Beatles,"says lexicographer Flexner, "at the height of their fame couldmake up any word they like, slip it into a record, and within a monthit would be part of the language. At one time perhaps no more thanfifty people in NASA used the word 'A‑OK.' But when anastronaut used it during a televised flight, the word became part ofthe language in a single day. The same has been true of other spaceterms, too – lik 'sputnik' or 'all systems go.'"

As new words sweep in, old words vanish. A picture of a nude girlnowadays is no longer a "pin‑up" or a "cheesecakeshot," but a "playmate." "Hep" has given wayto "hip"; "hipster" to "hippie.""Go‑go" rushed eagerly into the language at breakneckspeed, but it is already gone‑gone among those who are truly"with it."

The turnover of language would even appear to involve non‑verbalforms of communication as well. We have slang gestures, just as wehave slang words – thumbs up or down, thumb to nose, the "shameon you" gesture used by children, the hand moving across theneck to suggest a throat‑slitting. Professionals who watch thedevelopment of the gestural language suggest that it, too, may bechanging more rapidly.

Some gestures that were regarded as semi‑obscene have becomesomewhat more acceptable as sexual values have changed in thesociety. Others that were used only by a few have achieved widerusage. An example of diffusion, Flexner observes, is the wider usetoday of that gesture of contempt and defiance – the fist raisedand screwed about. The invasion of Italian movies that hit the UnitedStates in the fifties and sixties probably contributed to this.Similarly, the upraised finger – the "up yours" gesture –appears to be gaining greater respectability and currency than itonce had. At the same time, other gestures have virtually vanished orbeen endowed with radically changed meaning. The circle formed by thethumb and forefinger to suggest that all goes well appears to befading out; Churchill's "V for Victory" sign is now used byprotesters to signify something emphatically different: "peace"not "victory."

There was a time when a man learned the language of his society andmade use of it, with little change, throughout his lifetime. His"relationship" with each learned word or gesture wasdurable. Today, to an astonishing degree, it is not.


Art, like gesture, is a form of non‑verbal expression and aprime channel for the transmission of images. Here the evidences ofephemeralization are, if anything, even more pronounced. If we regardeach school of art as though it were a word‑based language, weare witnessing the successive replacement not of words, but of wholelanguages at once. In the past one rarely saw a fundamental change inan art style within a man's lifetime. A style or school endured, as arule, for generations at a time. Today the pace of turnover in art isvision‑blurring – the viewer scarcely has time to "see"a school develop, to learn its language, so to speak, before itvanishes.

Bursting on the scene in the last quarter of the nineteenth century,Impressionism was only the first of a sequence of shattering changes.It came at a time when industrialism was beginning its climacticforward surge, bringing with it a notable step‑up in the tempoof everyday life. "It is above all the furious speed of[technological] development and the way the pace is forced that seemspathological, particularly when compared with the rate of progress inearlier periods in the history of art and culture," writes theart historian Arnold Hauser in describing the turnover of art styles."For the rapid development of technology not only acceleratesthe change of fashion, but also the shifting emphases in the criteriaof aesthetic taste. ... The continual and increasingly rapidreplacement of old articles in everyday use by new ones ... readjuststhe speed at which philosophical and artistic revaluations occur ..."

If we roughly date the Impressionist interval from 1875 to 1910, wesee a period of dominance lasting approximately thirty‑fiveyears. Since then no school or style, from Futurism to Fauvism, fromCubism to Surrealism, has dominated the scene for even that long. Oneafter another, styles supplant one another. The most enduringtwentieth‑century school, Abstract Expressionism, held sway forat most twenty years, from 1940 to 1960, then to be followed by awild succession – "Pop" lasting perhaps five years, "Op"managing to grip the public's attention for two or three years, thenthe emergence, appropriately enough, of "Kinetic Art" whosevery raison d'être is transience.

This phantasmagoric turnover is evident not merely in New York or SanFrancisco, but in Paris, in Rome, in Stockholm and London –wherever painters are found. Thus Robert Hughes writes in the NewSociety: "Hailing the new painters is now one of the annualsports in England ... The enthusiasm for discovering a new directionin English art once a year has become a mania – an euphoric, almosthysterical belief in renewal." Indeed, he suggests, theexpectation that each year will bring a new mode and a new crop ofartists is "a significant parody of what is, in itself, aparodical situation – the accelerated turnover in the avant‑gardetoday."

If schools of art may be likened to languages, then individual worksof art may be compared to words. If we make this transposition, wefind in art a process exactly analogous to that now occurring in theverbal language. Here, too, "words" – i.e., individualworks of art – are coming into use and then dropping out of thevocabulary at heightened speeds. Individual works flash across ourconsciousness in galleries or in the pages of mass magazines; thenext time we look they are gone. Sometimes the work itself quiteliterally disappears – many are collages or constructions built offragile materials that simply fall apart after a short time.

Much of the confusion in the art world today arises from the failureof the cultural establishment to recognize, once and for all, thatelitism and permanence are dead – so, at least, contends JohnMcHale, the imaginative Scot, half artist/half social scientist, whoheads the Center for Integrative Studies, State University of NewYork at Binghamton. In a forceful essay entitled The PlasticParthenon, McHale points out that "traditional canons ofliterary and artistic judgment ... tend to place high value onpermanence, uniqueness and the enduring universal value of chosenartifacts." Such aesthetic standards, he argues, wereappropriate enough in a world of handcrafted goods and relativelysmall taste‑making elites. These same standards, however, "inno way enable one to relate adequately to our present situation inwhich astronomical numbers of artifacts are mass produced, circulatedand consumed. These may be identical, or only marginally different.In varying degree, they are expendable, replaceable, and lack anyunique 'value' or intrinsic 'truth.'"

Today's artists, McHale suggests, neither work for a tiny elite nortake seriously the idea that permanence is a virtue. The future ofart, he says, "seems no longer to lie with the creation ofenduring masterworks." Rather, artists work for the short term.McHale concludes that: "Accelerated changes in the humancondition require an array of symbolic images of man which will matchup to the requirements of constant change, fleeting impression and ahigh rate of obsolescence." We need, he says, "areplaceable, expendable series of ikons."

One may quarrel with McHale's contention that transience in art isdesirable. Perhaps the flight from permanence is a tactical error. Itcan even be argued that our artists are employing homeopathic magic,behaving like primitives who, awed by a force they do not comprehend,attempt to exert control over it by simple‑mindedly imitatingit. But whatever one's attitude toward contemporary art, transienceremains an implacable fact, a social and historic tendency so centralto our times that it cannot be ignored. And it is clear that artistsare reacting to it.

The impulse toward transience in art explains the whole developmentof that most transient of art works, the "happening." AllanKaprow, who is often credited with originating the happening, hasexplicitly suggested its relationship to the throw‑away culturewithin which we live. The happening, according to its proponents, isideally performed once and once only. The happening is the Kleenextissue of art.

This so, kinetic art can be considered the aesthetic embodiment ofmodularism. Kinetic sculptures or constructions crawl, whistle,whine, swing, twitch, rock or pulsate, their lights blinking, theirmagnetic tapes whirling, their plastic, steel, glass and coppercomponents arranging and rearranging themselves into evanescentpatterns within a given, though sometimes concealed, framework. Herethe wiring and connections tend to be the least transient part of thestructure, just as the gantry cranes and service towers in JoanLittlewood's Fun Palace are designed to outlive any particulararrangement of the modular components. The intent of the kineticwork, however, is to create maximum variability and maximumtransience. Jean Clay has pointed out that in a traditional work ofart "the relationship of parts to a whole had been decidedforever." In kinetic art, he says, the "balance of forms isin flux."

Many artists are working with engineers and scientists today, in thehope of exploiting the latest technical processes for their ownpurpose, the symbolization of the accelerative thrust in society."Speed," writes Francastel, the French art critic, "hasbecome something undreamt‑of, and constant movement every man'sintimate experience." Art reflects this new reality.

Thus we find artists from France, England, the United States,Scotland, Sweden, Israel and elsewhere creating kinetic images. Theircreed is perhaps best expressed by Yaacov Agam, an Israelikineticist, who says: "We are different from what we were threemoments ago, and in three minutes more, we will again be different... I try to give this approach a plastic expression by creating avisual form that doesn't exist. The image appears and disappears, butnothing is retained."

The final culmination of such efforts, of course, is the creation ofthose new and quite real "fun palaces" – so‑calledtotal environment nightclubs in which the fun‑seeker plungesinto a space in which lights, colors and sounds change their patternsconstantly. In effect, the patron steps inside a work of kinetic art.Here again the framework, the building itself, is only the longestlasting part of the whole, while its interior is designed to producetransient combinations of sensory in‑puts. Whether one regardsthis as fun or not depends on the individual, perhaps; but theoverall direction of such movements is clear. In art, as in language,we are racing toward impermanence. Man's relationships with symbolicimagery are growing more and more temporary.


Events speed past us, compelling us to reassess our assumptions –our previous formed images of reality. Research topples olderconceptions of man and nature. Ideas come and go at a frenetic rate.(A rate, that, in science at least, has been estimated to be twentyto one hundred times faster than a mere century ago.) Image‑ladenmessages hammer at our senses. Meanwhile, language and art, the codesthrough which we transfer image‑bearing messages to oneanother, are themselves turning over more rapidly.

All this cannot – and does not – leave us unchanged. Itaccelerates the rate at which the individual must process his imageryif he is to adapt successfully to the churning environment. Nobodyreally knows how we convert signals from outside into images within.Yet psychology and the information sciences cast some light on whathappens once the image is born. They suggest, to begin with, that themental model is organized into many highly complex image‑structures,and that new images are, in effect, filed away in these structuresaccording to several classificatory principles. A newly generatedimage is filed away with other images pertaining to the same subjectmatter. Smaller and more limited inferences are ranged under largerand more inclusive generalizations. The image is checked out for itsconsistency with those already in file. (There is evidence of theexistence of a specific neural mechanism that carries out thisconsistency‑checking procedure.) We make a decision, withrespect to the image, as to whether it is closely relevant to ourgoals, or whether, instead, it is remote and hence, for us,unimportant. Each image is also evaluated – is it "good"or "bad" for us? Finally, whatever else we do with the newimage, we also judge its truth. We decide just how much faith toplace in it. Is it an accurate reflection of reality? Can it bebelieved? Can we base action on it?

A new image that clearly fits somewhere into a subject matter slot,and which is consistent with images already stored there, gives uslittle difficulty. But if, as happens increasingly, the image isambiguous, if it is inconsistent, or, worse yet, if it flies in theface of our previous inferences, the mental model has to be forciblyrevised. Large numbers of images may have to be reclassified,shuffled, changed again until a suitable integration is found.Sometimes whole groups of image‑structures have to be torn downand rebuilt. In extreme cases, the basic shape of the whole model hasto be drastically overhauled.

Thus the mental model must be seen not as a static library of images,but as a living entity, tightly charged with energy and activity. Itis not a "given" that we passively receive from outside.Rather, it is something we actively construct and reconstruct frommoment to moment. Restlessly scanning the outer world with oursenses, probing for information relevant to our needs and desires, weengage in a constant process of rearrangement and updating.

At any given instant, innumerable images are decaying, dropping intothe black immensity of the forgotten. Others are entering the system,being processed and filed. At the same time, we are retrievingimages, "using them," and returning them to file, perhapsin a different place. We are constantly comparing images, associatingthem, cross‑referencing them in new ways, and repositioningthem. This is what is meant by the term "mental activity."And like muscular activity, it is a form of work. It requires highenergy to keep the system operating.

Change, roaring through society, widens the gap between what webelieve and what really is, between the existing images and thereality they are supposed to reflect. When this gap is only moderate,we can cope more or less rationally with change, we can react sanelyto new conditions, we have a grip on reality. When this gap grows toowide, however, we find ourselves increasingly unable to cope, werespond inappropriately, we become ineffectual, withdraw or simplypanic. At the final extreme, when the gap grows too wide, we sufferpsychosis – or even death.

To maintain our adaptive balance, to keep the gap within manageableproportions, we struggle to refresh our imagery, to keep itup‑to‑date, to relearn reality. Thus the accelerativethrust outside us finds a corresponding speed‑up in theadapting individual. Our imageprocessing mechanisms, whatever theymay be, are driven to operate at higher and higher speeds.

This has consequences that have been as yet largely overlooked. Forwhen we classify an image, any image, we make a definite, perhapseven measurable, energy‑investment in a specific organizationalpattern in the brain. Learning requires energy; and relearningrequires even more. "All the researches on learning,"writes Harold D. Lasswell of Yale, "seem to confirm the viewthat 'energies' are bound in support of past learning, and that newenergies are essential to unbind the old ..." At theneurological level, he continues, "Any established systemappears to include exceedingly intricate arrangements of cellmaterial, electrical charges and chemical elements. At any crosssection in time ... the somatic structure represents a tremendousinvestment of fixed forms and potentials ..." What this means inbrief is very simple: there are costs involved in relearning – or,in our terminology, reclassifying imagery.

In all the talk about the need for continuing education, in all thepopular discussions of retraining, there is an assumption that man'spotentials for re‑education are unlimited. This is, at best, anassumption, not a fact, and it is an assumption that needs close andscientific scrutiny. The process of image formation andclassification is, in the end, a physical process, dependent uponfinite characteristics of nerve cells and body chemicals. In theneural system as now constituted there are, in all likelihood,inherent limits to the amount and speed of image processing that theindividual can accomplish. How fast and how continuously can theindividual revise his inner images before he smashes up against theselimits?

Nobody knows. It may well be that the limits stretch so far beyondpresent needs, that such gloomy speculations are unjustified. Yet onesalient fact commands attention: by speeding up change in the outerworld, we compel the individual to relearn his environment at everymoment. This, in itself, places a new demand on the nervous system.The people of the past, adapting to comparatively stableenvironments, maintained longer‑lasting ties with their owninner conceptions of "the‑way‑things‑are."We, moving into high‑transience society, are forced to truncatethese relationships. Just as we must make and break our relationshipswith things, places, people and organizations at an ever more rapidpace, so, too, must we turn over our conceptions of reality, ourmental images of the world at shorter and shorter intervals.

Transience, then, the forcible abbreviation of man's relationships,is not merely a condition of the external world. It has its shadowwithin us as well. New discoveries, new technologies, new socialarrangements in the external world erupt into our lives in the formof increased turnover rates – shorter and shorter relationaldurations. They force a faster and faster pace of daily life. Theydemand a new level of adaptability. And they set the stage for thatpotentially devastating social illness – future shock.

Part Three: NOVELTY

Chapter 9


We are creating a new society. Not a changed society. Not anextended, larger‑than‑life version of our presentsociety. But a new society.

This simple premise has not yet begun to tincture our consciousness.Yet unless we understand this, we shall destroy ourselves in tryingto cope with tomorrow.

A revolution shatters institutions and power relationships. This isprecisely what is happening today in all the high‑technologynations. Students in Berlin and New York, in Turin and Tokyo, capturetheir deans and chancellors, bring great clanking education factoriesto a grinding halt, and even threaten to topple governments. Policestand aside in the ghettos of New York, Washington and Chicago asancient property laws are openly violated. Sexual standards areoverthrown. Great cities are paralyzed by strikes, power failures,riots. International power alliances are shaken. Financial andpolitical leaders secretly tremble – not out of fear that communist(or capitalist) revolutionaries will oust them, but that the entiresystem is somehow flying out of control.

These are indisputable signs of a sick social structure, a societythat can no longer perform even its most basic functions in theaccustomed ways. It is a society caught in the agony of revolutionarychange. In the 1920's and 1930's, communists used to speak of the"general crisis of capitalism." It is now clear that theywere thinking small. What is occurring now is not a crisis ofcapitalism, but of industrial society itself, regardless of itspolitical form. We are simultaneously experiencing a youthrevolution, a sexual revolution, a racial revolution, a colonialrevolution, an economic revolution, and the most rapid and deep‑goingtechnological revolution in history. We are living through thegeneral crisis of industrialism. In a word, we are in the midst ofthe super‑industrial revolution.

If failure to grasp this fact impairs one's ability to understand thepresent, it also leads otherwise intelligent men into total stupiditywhen they talk about the future. It encourages them to think insimple‑minded straight lines. Seeing evidence of bureaucracytoday, they naïvely assume there will be more bureaucracytomorrow. Such linear projections characterize most of what is saidor written about the future. And it causes us to worry aboutprecisely the wrong things.

One needs imagination to confront a revolution. For revolution doesnot move in straight lines alone. It jerks, twists and backtracks. Itarrives in the form of quantum jumps and dialectical reversals. Onlyby accepting the premise that we are racing toward a wholly new stageof eco‑technological development – the super‑industrialstage – can we make sense of our era. Only by accepting therevolutionary premise can we free our imaginations to grapple withthe future.

Revolution implies novelty. It sends a flood of newness into thelives of countless individuals, confronting them with unfamiliarinstitutions and first‑time situations. Reaching deep into ourpersonal lives, the enormous changes ahead will transform traditionalfamily structures and sexual attitudes. They will smash conventionalrelationships between old and young. They will overthrow our valueswith respect to money and success. They will alter work, play andeducation beyond recognition. And they will do all this in a contextof spectacular, elegant, yet frightening scientific advance.

If transience is the first key to understanding the new society,therefore, novelty is the second. The future will unfold as anunending succession of bizarre incidents, sensational discoveries,implausible conflicts, and wildly novel dilemmas. This means thatmany members of the super‑industrial society will never "feelat home" in it. Like the voyager who takes up residence in analien country, only to find, once adjusted, that he must move on toanother, and yet another, we shall come to feel like "strangersin a strange land."

The super‑industrial revolution can erase hunger, disease,ignorance and brutality. Moreover, despite the pessimistic propheciesof the straight‑line thinkers, super‑industrialism willnot restrict man, will not crush him into bleak and painfuluniformity. In contrast, it will radiate new opportunities forpersonal growth, adventure and delight. It will be vividly colorfuland amazingly open to individuality. The problem is not whether mancan survive regimentation and standardization. The problem, as weshall see, is whether he can survive freedom.

Yet for all this, man has never truly inhabited a novelty‑filledenvironment before. Having to live at an accelerating pace is onething when life situations are more or less familiar. Having to do sowhen faced by unfamiliar, strange or unprecedented situations isdistinctly another. By unleashing the forces of novelty, we slam menup against the nonroutine, the unpredicted. And, by so doing, weescalate the problems of adaptation to a new and dangerous level. Fortransience and novelty are an explosive mix.

If all this seems doubtful, let us contemplate some of the noveltiesthat lie in store for us. Combining rational intelligence with allthe imagination we can command, let us project ourselves forcefullyinto the future. In doing so, let us not fear occasional error –the imagination is only free when fear of error is temporarily laidaside. Moreover, in thinking about the future, it is better to err onthe side of daring, than the side of caution.

One sees why the moment one begins listening to the men who are evennow creating that future. Listen, as they describe some of thedevelopments waiting to burst from their laboratories and factories.


"Within fifty years," says Dr. F. N. Spiess, head of theMarine Physical Laboratory of the Scripps Institution ofOceanography, "man will move onto and into the sea – occupyingit and exploiting it as an integral part of his use of this planetfor recreation, minerals, food, waste disposal, military andtransportation operations, and, as populations grow, for actualliving space."

More than two‑thirds of the planet's surface is covered withocean – and of this submerged terrain a bare five percent is wellmapped. However, this underwater land is known to be rich with oil,gas, coal, diamonds, sulphur, cobalt, uranium, tin, phosphates andother minerals. It teems with fish and plant life.

These immense riches are about to be fought over and exploited on astaggering scale. Today in the United States alone more than 600companies, including such giants as Standard Oil and Union Carbide,are readying themselves for a monumental competitive struggle underthe seas.

The race will intensify year by year – with far‑reachingimpacts on society. Who "owns" the bottom of the ocean andthe marine life that covers it? As ocean mining becomes feasible andeconomically advantageous, we can expect the resource balance amongnations to shift. The Japanese already extract 10,000,000 tons ofcoal each year from underwater mines; tin is already beingocean‑mined by Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. Before longnations may go to war over patches of ocean bottom. We may also findsharp changes in the rate of industrialization of what are nowresource‑poor nations.

Technologically, novel industries will rise to process the output ofthe oceans. Others will produce sophisticated and highly expensivetools for working the sea – deep‑diving research craft,rescue submarines, electronic fish‑herding equipment and thelike. The rate of obsolescence in these fields will be swift. Thecompetitive struggle will spur ever accelerating innovation.

Culturally, we can expect new words to stream rapidly into thelanguage. "Aquaculture" – the term for scientificcultivation of the ocean's food resources – will take its placealongside "Agriculture." "Water," itself a termfreighted with symbolic and emotional associations, will take onwholly new connotations. Along with a new vocabulary will come newsymbols in poetry, painting, film and the other arts. Representationsof oceanic life forms will find their way into graphic and industrialdesign. Fashions will reflect dependence on the ocean. New textiles,new plastics and other materials will be discovered. New drugs willbe found to cure illness or alter mental states.

Most important, increased reliance on the oceans for food will alterthe nutrition of millions – a change that, itself, carriessignificant unknowns in its wake. What happens to the energy level ofpeople, to their desire for achievement, not to speak of theirbiochemistry, their average height and weight, their rate ofmaturation, their life span, their characteristic diseases, eventheir psychological responses, when their society shifts from areliance on agri– to aquaculture?

The opening of the sea may also bring with it a new frontier spirit –a way of life that offers adventure, danger, quick riches or fame tothe initial explorers. Later, as man begins to colonize thecontinental shelves, and perhaps even the deeper reaches, thepioneers may well be followed by settlers who build artificial citiesbeneath the waves – work cities, science cities, medical cities,and play cities, complete with hospitals, hotels and homes.

If all this sounds too far off, it is sobering to note that Dr.Walter L. Robb, a scientist at General Electric, has already kept ahamster alive under water by enclosing it in a box that is, ineffect, an artificial gill – a synthetic membrane that extracts airfrom the surrounding water while keeping the water out. Suchmembranes formed the top, bottom and two sides of a box in which thehamster was submerged in water. Without the gill, the animal wouldhave suffocated. With it, it was able to breathe under water. Suchmembranes, G.E. claims, may some day furnish air for the occupants ofunderwater experimental stations. They might eventually be built intothe walls of undersea apartment houses, hotels and other structures,or even – who knows? – into the human body itself.

Indeed, the old science fiction speculations about men withsurgically implanted gills no longer seem quite so impossiblyfar‑fetched as they once did. We may create (perhaps evenbreed) specialists for ocean work, men and women who are not onlymentally, but physically equipped for work, play, love and sex underthe sea. Even if we do not resort to such dramatic measures in ourhaste to conquer the underwater frontier, it seems likely that theopening of the oceans will generate not merely new professionalspecialties, but new life styles, new ocean‑orientedsubcultures, and perhaps even new religious sects or mystical cultsto celebrate the seas.

One need not push speculation so far, however, to recognize that thenovel environments to which man will be exposed will, of necessity,bring with them altered perceptions, new sensations, newsensitivities to color and form, new ways of thinking and feeling.Moreover, the invasion of the sea, the first wave of which we shallwitness long before the arrival of A.D. 2000, is only one of a seriesof closely tied scientific‑technological trends that are nowracing forward – all of them crammed with novel social andpsychological implications.


The conquest of the oceans links up directly with the advance towardaccurate weather prediction and, ultimately, climate control. What wecall weather is largely a consequence of the interaction of sun, airand ocean. By monitoring ocean currents, salinity and other factors,by placing weather‑watch satellites in the skies, we willgreatly increase our ability to forecast weather accurately.According to Dr. Walter Orr Roberts, past president of the AmericanAssociation for the Advancement of Science, "We foresee bringingthe entire globe under continuous weather observation by themid‑1970's – and at reasonable cost. And we envision, fromthis, vastly improved forecasting of storms, freezes, droughts, smogepisodes – with attendant opportunities to avert disaster. But wecan also see lurking in the beyond‑knowledge of today anawesome potential weapon of war – the deliberate manipulation ofweather for the benefit of the few and the powerful, to the detrimentof the enemy, and perhaps of the bystanders as well."

In a science fiction story entitled The Weather Man, Theodore L.Thomas depicts a world in which the central political institution isa "Weather Council." In it, representatives of the variousnations hammer out weather policy and control peoples by adjustingclimate, imposing a drought here or a storm there to enforce theiredicts. We may still be a long way from having such carefullycalibrated control. But there is no question that the day is pastwhen man simply had to take whatever heaven deigned to give in theway of weather. In the blunt words of the American MeteorologicalSociety: "Weather modification today is a reality."

This represents one of the turning points in history and provides manwith a weapon that could radically affect agriculture,transportation, communication, recreation. Unless wielded withextreme care, however, the gift of weather control can prove man'sundoing. The earth's weather system is an integrated whole; a minutechange at one point can touch off massive consequences elsewhere.Even without aggressive intent, there is danger that attempts tocontrol a drought on one continent could trigger a tornado onanother.

Moreover, the unknown socio‑psychological consequences ofweather manipulation could be enormous. Millions of us, for example,hunger for sunshine, as our mass migrations to Florida, California orthe Mediterranean coast indicate. We may well be able to producesunshine – or a facsimile of it – at will. The NationalAeronautics and Space Administration is studying the concept of agiant orbiting space mirror capable of reflecting the sun's lightdownward on night‑shrouded parts of the earth. A NASA official,George E. Mueller, has testified before Congress that the UnitedStates will have the capacity to launch huge sunreflecting satellitesby mid‑1970. (By extension, it should not be impossible to loftsatellites that would block out sunlight over preselected regions,plunging them into at least semidarkness.)

The present natural light‑dark cycle is tied to humanbiological rhythms in ways that are, as yet, unexplored. One caneasily imagine the use of orbiting sun‑mirrors to alter thehours of light for agricultural, industrial or even psychologicalreasons. For example, the introduction of longer days intoScandinavia could have a strong influence on the culture andpersonality types now characteristic of that region. To put thematter only half‑facetiously, what happens to Ingmar Bergman'sbrooding art when Stockholm's brooding darkness is lifted? Could TheSeventh Seal or Winter Light have been conceived in another climate?

The increasing ability to alter weather, the development of newenergy sources, new materials (some of them almost surrealistic intheir properties), new transportation means, new foods (not only fromthe sea, but from huge hydroponic food‑growing factories) –all these only begin to hint at the nature of the acceleratingchanges that lie ahead.


In War With the Newts, Karel Capek's marvelous butlittle‑known novel, man brings about the destruction ofcivilization through his attempt to domesticate a variety ofsalamander. Today, among other things, man is learning to exploitanimals and fish in ways that would have made Capek smile wryly.Trained pigeons are used to identify and eliminate defective pillsfrom drug factory assembly lines. In the Ukraine, Soviet scientistsemploy a particular species of fish to clear the algae off thefilters in pumping stations. Dolphins have been trained to carrytools to "aquanauts" submerged off the coast of California,and to ward off sharks who approach the work zone. Others have beentrained to ram submerged mines, thereby detonating them andcommitting suicide on man's behalf – a use that provoked a slightfuror over inter‑species ethics.

Research into communication between man and the dolphin may prove tobe extremely useful if, and when, man makes contact withextra‑terrestrial life – a possibility that many reputableastronomers regard as almost inevitable. In the meantime, dolphinresearch is yielding new data on the ways in which man's sensoryapparatus differs from that of other animals. It suggests some of theouter limits within which the human organism operates – feelings,moods, perceptions not available to man because of his own biologicalmake‑up can be at least analyzed or described.

Existing animal species, however, are by no means all we have to workwith. A number of writers have suggested that new animal forms bebred for specialized purposes. Sir George Thomson notes that "withadvancing knowledge of genetics very large modifications in the wildspecies can no doubt be made." Arthur Clarke has written aboutthe possibility that we can "increase the intelligence of ourdomestic animals, or evolve wholly new ones with much higher I.Q.'sthan any existing now." We are also developing the capacity tocontrol animal behavior by remote control. Dr. Jose M. R. Delgado, ina series of experiments terrifying in their human potential,implanted electrodes in the skull of a bull. Waving a red cape,Delgado provoked the animal to charge. Then, with a signal emittedfrom a tiny hand‑held radio transmitter, he made the beast turnaside in mid‑lunge and trot docilely away.

Whether we grow specialized animals to serve us or develop householdrobots depends in part on the uneven race between the life sciencesand the physical sciences. It may be cheaper to make machines for ourpurposes, than to raise and train animals. Yet the biologicalsciences are developing so rapidly that the balance may well tipwithin our lifetimes. Indeed, the day may even come when we begin togrow our machines.


Raising and training animals may be expensive, but what happens whenwe go down the evolutionary scale to the level of bacteria, virusesand other microorganisms? Here we can harness life in its primitiveforms just as we once harnessed the horse. Today a new science basedon this principle is rapidly emerging and it promises to change thevery nature of industry as we know it.

"Our ancestors domesticated various plant and animal species inthe prehistoric past," says biochemist Marvin J. Johnson of theUniversity of Wisconsin. But "microorganisms were notdomesticated until very recently, primarily because man did not knowof their existence." Today he does, and they are already used inthe large‑scale production of vitamins, enzymes, antibiotics,citric acid and other useful compounds. By the year 2000, if thepressure for food continues to intensify, biologists will be growingmicroorganisms for use as animal feed and, eventually, human food.

At Uppsala University in Sweden, I had the opportunity to discussthis with Arne Tiselius, the Nobel prizewinning biochemist who is nowpresident of the Nobel Foundation itself. "Is it conceivable,"I asked, "that one day we shall create, in effect, biologicalmachines – systems that can be used for productive purposes andwill be composed not of plastic or metal parts, but of livingorganisms?" His answer was roundabout, but unequivocal: "Weare already there. The great future of industry will come frombiology. In fact, one of the most striking things about thetremendous technological development of Japan since the war has beennot only its shipbuilding, but its microbiology. Japan is now thegreatest power in the world in industry based on microbiology ...Much of their food and food industry is based on processes in whichbacteria are used. Now they produce all sorts of useful things –amino acids, for example. In Sweden everybody now talks about theneed to strengthen our position in microbiology.

"You see, one need not think in terms of bacteria and virusesalone ... The industrial processes, in general, are based on man‑madeprocesses. You make steel by a reduction of iron ore with coal. Thinkof the plastic industries, artificial products made originally frompetroleum. Yet it is remarkable that even today, with the tremendousdevelopment of chemistry and chemical technology, there is no singlefoodstuff produced industrially which can compete with what thefarmers grow.

"In this field, and in a great many fields, nature is farsuperior to man, even to the most advanced chemical engineers andresearchers. Now what is the consequence of that? When we graduallyget to know how nature makes these things, and when we can imitatenature, we will have processes of an entirely new kind. These willform the basis for industries of a new kind – a sort ofbio‑technical factory, a biological technology.

"The green plants make starch with the aid of carbon dioxidefrom the atmosphere and the sun. This is an extremely efficientmachine ... The green leaf is a marvelous machine. We know a greatdeal more about it today than two or three years ago. But not enoughto imitate it yet. There are many such 'machines' in nature."Such processes, Tiselius continued, will be put to work. Rather thantrying to synthesize products chemically, we will, in effect, growthem to specification.

One might even conceive of biological components in machines – incomputers, for example. "It is quite obvious," Tiseliuscontinued, "that computers so far are just bad imitations of ourbrains. Once we learn more about how the brain acts, I would besurprised if we could not construct a sort of biological computer ...Such a computer might have electronic components modeled afterbiological components in the real brain. And at some distant point inthe future it is conceivable that biological elements themselvesmight be parts of the machine." Precisely such ideas have ledJean Fourastié, the French economist and planner, to state flatly:"Man is on the path toward integrating living tissue in theprocesses of physical mechanisms ... We shall have in the near futuremachines constituted at one and the same time of metal and of livingsubstances ..." In the light of this, he says, "The humanbody itself takes on new meaning."


Like the geography of the planet, the human body has until nowrepresented a fixed point in human experience, a "given."Today we are fast approaching the day when the body can no longer beregarded as fixed. Man will be able, within a reasonably shortperiod, to redesign not merely individual bodies, but the entirehuman race.

In 1962 Drs. J. D. Watson and F. H. C. Crick received the Nobel prizefor describing the DNA molecule. Since then advances in genetics havecome tripping over one another at a rapid pace. Molecular biology isnow about to explode from the laboratories. New genetic knowledgewill permit us to tinker with human heredity and manipulate the genesto create altogether new versions of man.

One of the more fantastic possibilities is that man will be able tomake biological carbon copies of himself. Through a process known as"cloning" it will be possible to grow from the nucleus ofan adult cell a new organism that has the same geneticcharacteristics of the person contributing the cell nucleus. Theresultant human "copy" would start life with a geneticendowment identical to that of the donor, although culturaldifferences might thereafter alter the personality or physicaldevelopment of the clone.

Cloning would make it possible for people to see themselves bornanew, to fill the world with twins of themselves. Cloning would,among other things, provide us with solid empirical evidence to helpus resolve, once and for all, the ancient controversy over "naturevs. nurture" or "heredity vs. environment." Thesolution of this problem, through the determination of the roleplayed by each, would be one of the great milestones of humanintellectual development. Whole libraries of philosophicalspeculation could, by a single stroke, be rendered irrelevant. Ananswer to this question would open the way for speedy, qualitativeadvances in psychology, moral philosophy and a dozen other fields.

But cloning could also create undreamed of complications for therace. There is a certain charm to the idea of Albert Einsteinbequeathing copies of himself to posterity. But what of Adolf Hitler?Should there be laws to regulate cloning? Nobel Laureate JoshuaLederberg, a scientist who takes his social responsibility veryseriously, believes it conceivable that those most likely toreplicate themselves will be those who are most narcissistic, andthat the clones they produce will also be narcissists.

Even if narcissism, however, is culturally rather than biologicallytransmitted, there are other eerie difficulties. Thus Lederbergraises a question as to whether human cloning, if permitted, mightnot "go critical." "I use that phrase," he toldme, "in almost exactly the same sense that is involved innuclear energy. It will go critical if there is a sufficient positiveadvantage to doing so ... This has to do with whether the efficiencyof communication, particularly along educational lines, is increasedas between identical genotypes or not. The similarity of neurologicalhardware might make it easier for identical copies to transmittechnical and other insights from one generation to the next."

How close is cloning? "It has already been done in amphibia,"says Lederberg, "and somebody may be doing it right now withmammals. It wouldn't surprise me if it comes out any day now. Whensomeone will have the courage to try it in a man, I haven't thefoggiest idea. But I put the time scale on that anywhere from zero tofifteen years from now. Within fifteen years."

During those same fifteen years scientists will also learn how thevarious organs of the body develop, and they will, no doubt, begin toexperiment with various means of modifying them. Says Lederberg:"Things like the size of the brain and certain sensory qualitiesof the brain are going to be brought under direct developmentalcontrol ... I think this is very near."

It is important for laymen to understand that Lederberg is by nomeans a lone worrier in the scientific community. His fears about thebiological revolution are shared by many of his colleagues. Theethical, moral and political questions raised by the new biologysimply boggle the mind. Who shall live and who shall die? What isman? Who shall control research into these fields? How shall newfindings be applied? Might we not unleash horrors for which man istotally unprepared? In the opinion of many of the world's leadingscientists the clock is ticking for a "biological Hiroshima."

Imagine, for example, the implications of biological breakthroughs inwhat might be termed "birth technology." Dr. E. S. E.Hafez, an internationally respected biologist at Washington StateUniversity, has publicly suggested, on the basis of his ownastonishing work on reproduction, that within a mere ten to fifteenyears a woman will be able to buy a tiny frozen embryo, take it toher doctor, have it implanted in her uterus, carry it for ninemonths, and then give birth to it as though it had been conceived inher own body. The embryo would, in effect, be sold with a guaranteethat the resultant baby would be free of genetic defect. Thepurchaser would also be told in advance the color of the baby's eyesand hair, its sex, its probable size at maturity and its probable IQ.

Indeed, it will be possible at some point to do away with the femaleuterus altogether. Babies will be conceived, nurtured and raised tomaturity outside the human body. It is clearly only a matter of yearsbefore the work begun by Dr. Daniele Petrucci in Bologna and otherscientists in the United States and the Soviet Union, makes itpossible for women to have babies without the discomfort ofpregnancy.

The potential applications of such discoveries raise memories ofBrave New World and Astounding Science Fiction. Thus Dr. Hafez, in asweep of his imagination, suggests that fertilized human eggs mightbe useful in the colonization of the planets. Instead of shippingadults to Mars, we could ship a shoebox full of such cells and growthem into an entire citysize population of humans. "When youconsider how much it costs in fuel to lift every pound off the launchpad," Dr. Hafez observes, "why send full‑grown menand women aboard space ships? Instead, why not ship tiny embryos, inthe care of a competent biologist ... We miniaturize other spacecraftcomponents. Why not the passengers?"

Long before such developments occur in outer space, however, theimpact of the new birth technology will strike home on earth,splintering our traditional notions of sexuality, motherhood, love,child‑rearing, and education. Discussions about the future ofthe family that deal only with The Pill overlook the biologicalwitches' brew now seething in the laboratories. The moral andemotional choices that will confront us in the coming decades aremind‑staggering.

A fierce controversy is already raging today among biologists overthe problems and ethical issues arising out of eugenics. Should wetry to breed a better race? If so, exactly what is "better?"And who is to decide? Such questions are not entirely new. Yet thetechniques soon to be available smash the traditional limits of theargument. We can now imagine remaking the human race not as a farmerslowly and laboriously "breeds up" his herd, but as anartist might, employing a brilliant range of unfamiliar colors,shapes and forms.

Not far from Route 80, outside the little town of Hazard, Kentucky,is a place picturesquely known as Valley of Troublesome Creek. Inthis tiny backwoods community lives a family whose members, forgenerations, have been marked by a strange anomaly: blue skin.According to Dr. Madison Cawein of the University of Kentucky Collegeof Medicine, who tracked the family down and traced its story, theblue‑skinned people seem perfectly normal in other respects.Their unusual color is caused by a rare enzyme deficiency that hasbeen passed from one generation to the next.

Given our new, fast‑accumulating knowledge of genetics, weshall be able to breed whole new races of blue people – or, forthat matter, green, purple or orange. In a world still suffering fromthe moral lesion of racism, this is a thought to be conjured with.Should we strive for a world in which all people share the same skincolor? If we want that, we shall no doubt have the technical meansfor bringing it about. Or should we, instead, work toward evengreater diversity than now exists? What happens to the entire conceptof race? To standards of physical beauty? To notions of superiorityor inferiority?

We are hurtling toward the time when we will be able to breed bothsuper– and subraces. As Theodore J. Gordon put it in The Future,"Given the ability to tailor the race, I wonder if we would"create all men equal,' or would we choose to manufactureapartheid? Might the races of the future be: a superior group, theDNA controllers; the humble servants; special athletes for the'games'; research scientists with 200 IQ and diminutive bodies ..."We shall have the power to produce races of morons or of mathematicalsavants.

We shall also be able to breed babies with supernormal vision orhearing, supernormal ability to detect changes in odor, orsupernormal muscular or musical skills. We will be able to createsexual superathletes, girls with super‑mammaries (and perhapsmore or less than the standard two), and countless other varieties ofthe previously monomorphic human being.

Ultimately, the problems are not scientific or technical, but ethicaland political. Choice – and the criteria for choice – will becritical. The eminent science fiction author William Tenn once musedabout the possibilities of genetic manipulation and the difficultiesof choice. "Assuming hopefully for the moment that no dictator,self‑righteous planning board or omnipotent black box is goingto make genetic selections for the coming generation, then who orwhat is? Not parents, certainly ..." he said, "they'll takethe problem to their friendly neighborhood Certified Gene Architect.

"It seems inevitable to me that there will also be competitiveschools of genetic architecture ... the Functionalists will persuadeparents to produce babies fitted for the present needs of society;the Futurists will suggest children who will have a niche in theculture as it will have evolved in twenty years; the Romantics willinsist that each child be bred with at least one outstanding talent;and the Naturalists will advise the production of individuals sobalanced genetically as to be in almost perfect equilibrium ... Humanbody styles, like human clothing styles, will become outré ,or à la mode as the genetic couturiers who designedthem come into and out of vogue."

Buried behind this tongue‑in‑cheek are serious issues,made more profound by the immensity of the possibilities – some ofthem so grotesque that they appear to leap at us from the canvases ofHieronymus Bosch. Mention was made earlier of the idea of breedingmen with gills or implanting gills in them for efficiency inunderwater environments. At a meeting of world renowned biologists inLondon, J. B. S. Haldane began to expatiate about the possibility ofcreating new, far‑out forms of man for space exploration. "Themost obvious abnormalities in extra‑terrestrial environments,"Haldane observed, "are differences in gravitation, temperature,air pressure, air composition, and radiation ... Clearly a gibbon isbetter preadapted than a man for life in a low gravitational field,such as that of a space ship, an asteroid, or perhaps even the moon.A platyrrhine with a prehensile tail is even more so. Gene graftingmay make it possible to incorporate such features into the humanstocks."

While the scientists at this meeting devoted much of their attentionto the moral consequences and perils of the biological revolution, noone challenged Haldane's suggestion that we shall someday make menwith tails if we want them. Indeed, Lederberg merely observed thatthere might well be non‑genetic ways to accomplish the sameends more easily. "We are going to modify man experimentallythrough physiological and embryological alterations, and by thesubstitution of machines for his parts," Lederberg declared. "Ifwe want a man without legs, we don't have to breed him, we can chopthem off; if we want a man with a tail, we will find a way ofgrafting it on to him."

At another meeting of scientists and scholars, Dr. Robert Sinsheimer,a Caltech biophysicist, put the challenge squarely:

"How will you choose to intervene in the ancient designs ofnature for man? Would you like to control the sex of your offspring?It will be as you wish. Would you like your son to be six feet tall –seven feet? Eight feet? What troubles you? – allergy, obesity,arthritic pain? These will be easily handled. For cancer, diabetes,phenylketonuria there will be genetic therapy. The appropriate DNAwill be provided in the appropriate dose. Viral and microbial diseasewill be easily met. Even the timeless patterns of growth and maturityand aging will be subject to our design. We know of no intrinsiclimits to the life span. How long would you like to live?"

Lest his audience mistake him, Sinsheimer asked: "Do theseprojections sound like LSD fantasies, or the view in a distortedmirror? None transcends the potential of what we now know. They maynot be developed in the way one might now anticipate, but they arefeasible, they can be brought to reality, and sooner rather thanlater."

Not only can such wonders be brought to reality, but the oddsare they will . Despite profound ethical questions aboutwhether they should, the fact remains that scientificcuriosity is, itself, one of the most powerful driving forces in oursociety. In the words of Dr. Rollin D. Hotchkiss of the RockefellerInstitute: "Many of us feel instinctive revulsion at the hazardsof meddling with the finely balanced and far‑reaching systemsthat make an individual what he is. Yet I believe it will surely bedone or attempted. The pathway will be built from a combination ofaltruism, private profit and ignorance." To this list, worseyet, he might have added political conflict and bland unconcern. ThusDr. A. Neyfakh, chief of the research laboratory of the Institute ofDevelopment Biology of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, predicts witha frightening lack of anxiety that the world will soon witness agenetic equivalent of the arms race. He bases his argument on thenotion that the capitalist powers are engaged in a "struggle forbrains." To make up for the brain drain, one or another of the"reactionary governments" will be "compelled" toemploy genetic engineering to increase its output of geniuses andgifted individuals. Since this will occur "regardless of theirintention," an international genetics race is inevitable. Andthis being so, he implies, the Soviet Union ought to be ready to jumpthe gun.

Criticized by the Soviet philosopher A. Petropavlovsky for hisseeming willingness, even enthusiasm, to participate in such a race,Neyfakh shrugged aside the horrors that might be unleashed by hastyapplication of the new biology, replying merely that the advance ofscience is, and ought to be, unstoppable. If Neyfakh's politicallogic leaves something to, be desired, his appeal to cold warpassions as a justification for genetic tinkering is terrifying.

In short, it is safe to say that, unless specific counter‑measuresare taken, if something can be done, someone, somewhere willdo it. The nature of what can and will be done exceeds anything thatman is as yet psychologically or morally prepared to live with.


We steadfastly refuse to face such facts. We avoid them by stubbornlyrefusing to recognize the speed of change. It makes us feel better todefer the future. Even those closest to the cutting edge ofscientific research can scarcely believe the reality. Even theyroutinely underestimate the speed at which the future is breaking onour shores. Thus Dr. Richard J. Cleveland, speaking before aconference of organ transplant specialists, announced in January,1967, that the first human heart transplant operation will occur"within five years." Yet before the same year was out Dr.Christiaan Barnard had operated on a fifty‑five‑year‑oldgrocer named Louis Washkansky, and a staccato sequence of hearttransplant operations exploded like a string of firecrackers into theworld's awareness. In the meantime, success rates are rising steadilyin kidney transplants. Successful liver, pancreas and ovarytransplants are also reported.

Such accelerating medical advances must compel profound changes inour ways of thinking, as well as our way of caring for the sick.Startling new legal, ethical and philosophical issues arise. What,for instance, is death? Does death occur when the heart stopsbeating, as we have traditionally believed? Or does it occur when thebrain stops functioning? Hospitals are becoming more and morefamiliar with cases of patients kept alive through advanced medicaltechniques, but doomed to exist as unconscious vegetables. What arethe ethics of condemning such a person to death to obtain a healthyorgan needed for transplant to save the life of a person with abetter prognosis?

Lacking guidelines or precedents, we flounder over the moral andlegal questions. Ghoulish rumors race through the medical community.The New York Times and Komsomolskaya Pravda bothspeculate about the possibility of "future murder ringssupplying healthy organs for black‑market surgeons whosepatients are unwilling to wait until natural sources have suppliedthe heart or liver or pancreas they need." In Washington, theNational Academy of Sciences, backed by a grant from the Russell SageFoundation, begins a study of social policy issues springing fromadvances in the life sciences. At Stanford, a symposium, also fundedby Russell Sage, examines methods for setting up transplant organbanks, the economics of an organ market, and evidences of class orracial discrimination in organ availability.

The possibility of cannibalizing bodies or corpses for usabletransplant organs, grisly as it is, will serve to accelerate furtherthe pace of change by lending urgency to research in the field ofartificial organs – plastic or electronic substitutes for the heartor liver or spleen. (Eventually, even these may be made unnecessarywhen we learn how to regenerate damaged organs or severed limbs,growing new ones as the lizard now grows a tail.)

The drive to develop spare parts for failing human bodies will bestepped up as demand intensifies. The development of an economicalartificial heart, Professor Lederberg says, "is only a fewtransient failures away." Professor R. M. Kenedi of thebio‑engineering group at the University of Strathclyde inGlasgow believes that "by 1984, artificial replacements fortissues and organs may well have become commonplace." For someorgans, this date is, in fact, conservative. Already more than 13,000cardiac patients in the United States – including a Supreme Courtjustice – are alive because they carry, stitched into their chestcavity, a tiny "pacemaker" – a device that sends pulsesof electricity to activate the heart. (At a major Midwest hospitalnot long ago a patient appeared at the emergency room in the middleof the night. He was hiccupping violently, sixty times a minute. Thepatient, it turned out, was an early pacemaker wearer. Afast‑thinking resident realized what had happened: a pacemakerwire, instead of stimulating the heart, had broken loose and becomelodged in the diaphragm. Its jolts of electricity were causing thehiccupping. Acting swiftly, the resident inserted a needle into thepatient's chest near the pacemaker, ran a wire out from the needleand grounded it to the hospital plumbing. The hiccupping stopped,giving doctors a chance to operate and reposition the faulty wire. Aforetaste of tomorrow's medicine?)

Another 10,000 pioneers are already equipped with artificial heartvalves made of dacron mesh. Implantable hearing aids, artificialkidneys, arteries, hip joints, lungs, eye sockets and other parts areall in various stages of early development. We shall, before manydecades are past, implant tiny, aspirin‑sized sensors in thebody to monitor blood pressure, pulse, respiration and otherfunctions, and tiny transmitters to emit a signal when something goeswrong. Such signals will feed into giant diagnostic computer centersupon which the medicine of the future will be based. Some of us willalso carry a tiny platinum plate and a dime‑sized "stimulator"attached to the spine. By turning a midget "radio" on andoff we will be able to activate the stimulator and kill pain. Initialwork on these pain‑control mechanisms is already under way atthe Case Institute of Technology. Push‑button pain killers arealready being used by certain cardiac patients.

Such developments will lead to vast new bio‑engineeringindustries, chains of medicalelectronic repair stations, newtechnical professions and a reorganization of the entire healthsystem. They will change life expectancy, shatter insurance companylife tables, and bring about important shifts in the uman outlook.Surgery will be less frightening to the average individual;implantation routine. The human body will come to be seen as modular.Through application of the modular principle – preservation of thewhole through systematic replacement of transient components – wemay add two or three decades to the average life span of thepopulation. Unless, however, we develop far more advancedunderstanding of the brain than we now have, this could lead to oneof the greatest ironies in history. Sir George Pickering, Regiusprofessor of medicine at Oxford, has warned that unless we watch out,"those with senile brains will form an ever increasing fractionof the inhabitants of the earth. I find this," he added ratherunnecessarily, "a terrifying prospect." Just suchterrifying prospects will drive us toward more accelerated researchinto the brain – which, in turn, will generate still furtherradical changes in the society.

Today we struggle to make heart valves or artificial plumbing thatimitate the original they are designed to replace. We strive forfunctional equivalence. Once we have mastered the basic problems,however, we shall not merely install plastic aortas in people becausetheir original aorta is about to fail. We shall installspecially‑designed parts that are better than theoriginal, and then we shall move on to install parts that provide theuser with capabilities that were absent in the first place. Just asgenetic engineering holds out the promise of producing"super‑people," so, too, does organ technologysuggest the possibility of track stars with extra‑capacitylungs or hearts; sculptors with a neural device that intensifiessensitivity to texture; lovers with sex‑intensifying neuralmachinery. In short, we shall no longer implant merely to save alife, but to enhance it – to make possible the achievement ofmoods, states, conditions or ecstasies that are presently beyond us.

Under these circumstances, what happens to our age‑olddefinitions of "human‑ness?" How will it feel to bepart protoplasm and part transistor? Exactly what possibilities willit open? What limitations will it place on work, play, sex,intellectual or aesthetic responses? What happens to the mind whenthe body is changed? Questions like these cannot be long deferred,for advanced fusions of man and machine – called "Cyborgs"– are closer than most people suspect.


Today the man with a pacemaker or a plastic aorta is stillrecognizably a man. The inanimate part of his body is stillrelatively unimportant in terms of his personality and consciousness.But as the proportion of machine components rises, what happens tohis awareness of self, his inner experience? If we assume that thebrain is the seat of consciousness and intelligence, and that noother part of the body affects personality or self very much, then itis possible to conceive of a disembodied brain – a brain withoutarms, legs, spinal cord or other equipment – as a self, apersonality, an embodiment of awareness. It may then become possibleto combine the human brain with a whole set of artificial sensors,receptors and effectors, and to call that tangle of wires andplastic a human being.

All this may seem to resemble medieval speculation about the numberof angels who can pirouette on a pinhead, yet the first small stepstoward some form of man‑machine symbiosis are already beingtaken. Moreover, they are being taken not by a lone mad scientist,but by thousands of highly trained engineers, mathematicians,biologists, surgeons, chemists, neurologists and communicationsspecialists.

Dr. W. G. Walter's mechanical "tortoises" are machines thatbehave as though they had been psychologically conditioned. Thesetortoises were early specimens of a growing breed of robots rangingfrom the "Perceptron" which could learn (and evengeneralize) to the more recent "Wanderer," a robot capableof exploring an area, building up in its memory an "image"of the terrain, and able even to indulge in certain operationscomparable, at least in some respects, to "contemplativespeculation" and "fantasy." Experiments by Ross Ashby,H. D. Block, Frank Rosenblatt and others demonstrate that machinescan learn from their mistakes, improve their performance, and, incertain limited kinds of learning, outstrip human

students. Says Block, professor of Applied Mathematics at CornellUniversity: "I don't think there's a task you can name that amachine can't do – in principle. If you can define a task and ahuman can do it, then a machine can, at least in theory, also do it.The converse, however, is not true." Intelligence andcreativity, it would appear, are not a human monopoly.

Despite setbacks and difficulties, the roboteers are moving forward.Recently they enjoyed a collective laugh at the expense of one of theleading critics of the robot‑builders, a former RANDCorporation computer specialist named Hubert L. Dreyfus. Arguing thatcomputers would never be able to match human intelligence, Dreyfuswrote a lengthy paper heaping vitriolic scorn on those who disagreedwith him. Among other things, he declared, "No chess program canplay even amateur chess." In context, he appeared to be sayingthat none ever would. Less than two years later, a graduate studentat MIT, Richard Greenblatt, wrote a chess‑playing computerprogram, challenged Dreyfus to a match, and had the immensesatisfaction of watching the computer annihilate Dreyfus to thecheers of the "artificial intelligence" researchers.

In a quite different field of robotology there is progress, too.Technicians at Disneyland have created extremely life‑likecomputer‑controlled humanoids capable of moving their arms andlegs, grimacing, smiling, glowering, simulating fear, joy and a widerange of other emotions. Built of clear plastic that, according toone reporter, "does everything but bleed," the robots chasegirls, play music, fire pistols, and so closely resemble human formsthat visitors routinely shriek with fear, flinch and otherwise reactas though they were dealing with real human beings. The purposes towhich these robots are put may seem trivial, but the technology onwhich they are based is highly sophisticated. It depends heavily onknowledge acquired from the space program – and this knowledge isaccumulating rapidly.

There appears to be no reason, in principle, why we cannot go forwardfrom these present primitive and trivial robots to build humanoidmachines capable of extremely varied behavior, capable even of"human" error and seemingly random choice – in short, tomake them behaviorally indistinguishable from humans except by meansof highly sophisticated or elaborate tests. At that point we shallface the novel sensation of trying to determine whether the smiling,assured humanoid behind the airline reservation counter is a prettygirl or a carefully wired robot. (This raises a number ofhalf‑amusing, half‑serious problems about therelationships between men and machines, including emotional and evensexual relationships. Professor Block at Cornell speculates thatmanmachine sexual relationships may not be too far distant. Pointingout that men often develop emotional attachments to the machines theyuse, he suggests that we shall have to give attention to the"ethical" questions arising from our treatment of "thesemechanical objects of our affection and passion." A seriousinquiry into these issues is to be found in an article by RolandPuccetti in the British Journal of the Philosophy of Science,18 (1967) 39‑51.)

(Video) Future Shock: The Futurism of Alvin and Heidi Toffler

The likelihood, of course, is that she will be both.

The thrust toward some form of man‑machine symbiosis isfurthered by our increasing ingenuity in communicating with machines.A great deal of much‑publicized work is being done tofacilitate the interaction of men and computers. But quite apart fromthis, Russian and American scientists have both been experimentingwith the placement or implantation of detectors that pick up signalsfrom the nerve ends at the stub of an amputated limb. These signalsare then amplified and used to activate an artificial limb, therebymaking a machine directly and sensitively responsive to the nervoussystem of a human being. The human need not "think out" hisdesires; even involuntary impulses are transmittable. The responsivebehavior of the machine is as automatic as the behavior of ones' ownhand, eye or leg.

In Flight to Arras, Antoine de Saint‑Exupéry, novelist,poet and pioneer aviator, described buckling himself into the seat ofa fighter plane during World War II. "All this complication ofoxygen tubes, heating equipment; these speaking tubes that form the'intercom' running between the members of the crew. This mask throughwhich I breathe. I am attached to the plane by a rubber tube asindispensable as an umbilical cord. Organs have been added to mybeing, and they seem to intervene between me and my heart ..."We have come far since those distant days. Space biology is marchingirresistibly toward the day when the astronaut will not merely bebuckled into his capsule, but become a part of it in the fullsymbiotic sense of the phrase.

One aim is to make the craft itself a wholly self‑sufficientuniverse, in which algae is grown for food, water is recovered frombody waste, air is recycled to purge it of the ammonia entering theatmosphere from urine, etc. In this totally enclosed fullyregenerative world, the human being becomes an integral part of anon‑going micro‑ecological process whirling through thevastnesses of space. Thus Theodore Cordon, author of The Futureand himself a leading space engineer, writes: "Perhaps it wouldbe simpler to provide life support in the form of machines that pluginto the astronaut. He could be fed intravenously using a liquid foodcompactly stored in a remote pressurized tank. Perhaps directprocessing of body liquid wastes, and conversion to water, could beaccomplished by a new type of artificial kidney built in as part ofthe spaceship. Perhaps sleep could be induced electronically ... tolower his metabolism ..." Und so weiter. One afteranother, the body functions of the human become interwoven with,dependent on, and part of, the machine functions of the capsule.

The ultimate extension of such work, however, is not necessarily tobe found in the outer reaches of space; it may well become a commonpart of everyday life here on the mother planet. This is the directlink‑up of the human brain – stripped of its supportingphysical structures – with the computer. Indeed, it may be that thebiological component of the supercomputers of the future may bemassed human brains. The possibility of enhancing human (and machine)intelligence by linking them together organically opens enormous andexciting probabilities, so exciting that Dr. R. M. Page, director ofthe Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, has publicly discussedthe feasibility of a system in which human thoughts are fedautomatically into the storage unit of a computer to form the basisfor machine decisionmaking. Participants in a RAND Corporation studyconducted several years ago were asked when this development mightoccur. Answers ranged from as soon as 1990 to "never." Butthe median date given was 2020 – well within the lifetime oftoday's teen‑agers.

In the meantime, research from countless sources contributes towardthe eventual symbiosis. In one of the most fascinating, frighteningand intellectually provocative experiments ever recorded, ProfessorRobert White, director of neurosurgery at the Metropolitan GeneralHospital in Cleveland, has given evidence that the brain can beisolated from its body and kept alive after the "death" ofthe rest of the organism. The experiment, described in a brilliantarticle by Oriana Fallaci, saw a team of neurosurgeons cut the brainout of a rhesus monkey, discard the body, then hook the brain'scarotid arteries up to another monkey, whose blood then continued tobathe the disembodied organ, keeping it alive.

Said one of the members of the medical team, Dr. Leo Massopust, aneurophysiologist: "The brain activity is largely better thanwhen the brain had a body ... No doubt about it. I even suspect thatwithout his senses, he can think more quickly. What kind of thinking,I don't know. I guess he is primarily a memory, a repository forinformation stored when be had his flesh; he cannot develop furtherbecause he no longer has the nourishment of experience. Yet this,too, is a new experience."

The brain survived for five hours. It could have lasted much longer,had it served the purposes of research. Professor White hassuccessfully kept other brains alive for days, using machinery,rather than a living monkey, to keep the brain washed with blood. "Idon't think we have reached the stage," he told Miss Fallaci,"where you can turn men into robots, obedient sheep. Yet ... itcould happen, it isn't impossible. If you consider that we cantransfer the head of a man onto the trunk of another man, if youconsider that we can isolate the brain of a man and make it workwithout its body ... To me, there is no longer any gap betweenscience fiction and science ... We could keep Einstein's brain aliveand make it function normally."

Not only, Professor White implies, can we transfer the head of oneman to the shoulders of another, not only can we keep a head or abrain "alive" and functioning, but it can all be done, with"existing techniques." Indeed, he declares, "TheJapanese will be the first to [keep an isolated human head alive]. Iwill not, because I haven't resolved as yet this dilemma: Is it rightor not?" A devout Catholic, Dr. White is deeply troubled by thephilosophical and moral implications of his work.

As the brain surgeons and the neurologists probe further, as thebio‑engineers and the mathematicians, the communicationsexperts and robot‑builders become more sophisticated, as thespace men and their capsules grow closer and closer to one another,as machines begin to embody biological components and men comebristling with sensors and mechanical organs, the ultimate symbiosisapproaches. The work converges. Yet the greatest marvel of all is notorgan transplantation or symbiosis or underwater engineering. It isnot technology, nor science itself.

The greatest and most dangerous marvel of all is the complacentpast‑orientation of the race, its unwillingness to confront thereality of acceleration. Thus man moves swiftly into an unexploreduniverse, into a totally new stage of eco‑technologicaldevelopment, firmly convinced that "human nature is eternal"or that "stability will return." He stumbles into the mostviolent revolution in human history muttering, in the words of onefamous, though myopic sociologist, that "the processes ofmodernization ... have been more or less 'completed.'" He simplyrefuses to imagine the future.


In 1865 a newspaper editor told his readers that "Well‑informedpeople know that it is impossible to transmit the voice over wiresand that, were it possible to do so, the thing would be of nopractical value." Barely a decade later, the telephone eruptedfrom Mr. Bell's laboratory and changed the world.

On the very day that the Wright brothers took wing, newspapersrefused to report the event because their sober, solid,feet‑on‑the‑ground editors simply could not bringthemselves to believe it had happened. After all, a famous Americanastronomer, Simon Newcomb, had not long before assured the world that"No possible combination of known substances, known forms ofmachinery and known forms of force, can be united in a practicalmachine by which man shall fly long distances."

Not long after this, another expert announced publicly that it was"nothing less than feeblemindedness to expect anything to comeof the horseless carriage movement." Six years later theone‑millionth Ford rolled off an assembly line. And then therewas the great Rutherford, himself, the discoverer of the atom, whosaid in 1933 that the energy in the atom's nucleus would never bereleased. Nine years later: the first chain reaction.

Again and again the human brain – including the first classscientific brain – has blinded itself to the novel possibilities ofthe future, has narrowed its field of concern to gain momentaryreassurance, only to be rudely shaken by the accelerative thrust.

This is not to imply that all the scientific or technologicaladvances so far discussed will necessarily materialize. Still lessdoes it imply that they will all occur between now and the turn ofthe century. Some will, no doubt, die a‑borning. Some mayrepresent blind alleys. Others will succeed in the lab, but turn outto be impractical for one reason or another. Yet all this isunimportant. For even if none of these developments occur, others,perhaps even more unsettling, will.

We have scarcely touched on the computer revolution and thefar‑ramifying changes that must follow in its churning wake. Wehave barely mentioned the implications of the thrust into outerspace, an adventure that could, before the new millennium arrives,change all our lives and attitudes in radical and as yet unpredictedways. (What would happen if an astronaut or space vehicle returned toearth contaminated with some fast‑multiplying, deathdealingmicroorganism?) We have said nothing about the laser, the holograph,the powerful new instruments of personal and mass communication, thenew technologies of crime and espionage, new forms of transport andconstruction, the developing horror of chemical and bacteriologicalwarfare techniques, the radiant promise of solar energy, the comingdiscovery of life in a test tube, the startling new tools andtechniques for education, and an endless list of other fields inwhich high‑impact changes lie just ahead.

In the coming decades, advances in all these fields will fire offlike a series of rockets carrying us out of the past, plunging usdeeper into the new society. Nor will this new society quickly settleinto a steady state. It, too, will quiver and crack and roar as itsuffers jolt after jolt of high‑energy change. For theindividual who wishes to live in his time, to be a part of thefuture, the super‑industrial revolution offers no surcease fromchange. It offers no return to the familiar past. It offers only thehighly combustible mixture of transience and novelty.

This massive injection of speed and novelty into the fabric ofsociety will force us not merely to cope more rapidly with familiarsituations, events and moral dilemmas, but to cope at a progressivelyfaster rate with situations that are, for us, decidedly unfamiliar,"first‑time" situations, strange, irregular,unpredictable.

This will significantly alter the balance that prevails in anysociety between the familiar and unfamiliar elements in the dailylife of its people, between the routine and non‑routine, thepredictable and the unpredictable. The relationship between these twokinds of daily‑life elements can be called the "noveltyratio" of the society, and as the level of newness or noveltyrises, less and less of life appears subject to our routine forms ofcoping behavior. More and more, there is a growing weariness andwariness, a pall of pessimism, a decline in our sense of mastery.More and more, the environment comes to seem chaotic, beyond humancontrol.

Thus two great social forces converge: the relentless movement towardtransience is reinforced and made more potentially dangerous by arise in the novelty ratio. Nor, as we shall next see, is this noveltyto be found solely in the technological arrangements of thesociety‑to‑be. In its social arrangements, too, we cananticipate the unprecedented, the unfamiliar, the bizarre.

Chapter 10


The year 2000 is closer to us in time than the great depression, yetthe world's economists, traumatized by that historic disaster, remainfrozen in the attitudes of the past. Economists, even those who talkthe language of revolution, are peculiarly conservative creatures. Ifit were possible to pry from their brains their collective image ofthe economy of, say, the year 2025, it would look very much like thatof 1970 – only more so.

Conditioned to think in straight lines, economists have greatdifficulty imagining alternatives to communism and capitalism. Theysee in the growth of large‑scale organization nothing more thana linear expansion of old‑fashioned bureaucracy. They seetechnological advance as a simple, non‑revolutionary extensionof the known. Born of scarcity, trained to think in terms of limitedresources, they can hardly conceive of a society in which man's basicmaterial wants have been satisfied.

One reason for their lack of imagination is that when they thinkabout technological advance, they concentrate solely on the meansof economic activity. Yet the super‑industrial revolutionchallenges the ends as well. It threatens to alter not merely the"how" of production but the "why." It will, inshort, transform the very purposes of economic activity.

Before such an upheaval, even the most sophisticated tools of today'seconomists are helpless. Input‑output tables, econometricmodels – the whole paraphernalia of analysis that economists employsimply do not come to grips with the external forces – political,social and ethical – that will transform economic life in thedecades before us. What does "productivity" or "efficiency"mean in a society that places a high value on psychic fulfillment?What happens to an economy when, as is likely, the entire concept ofproperty is reduced to meaninglessness? How are economies likely tobe affected by the rise of supranational planning, taxing andregulatory agencies or by a kind of dialectical return to "cottageindustry" based on the most advanced cybernetic technologies?Most important, what happens when "no growth" replaces"growth" as an economic objective, when GNP ceases to bethe holy grail?

Only by stepping outside the framework of orthodox economic thoughtand examining these possibilities can we begin to prepare fortomorrow. And among these, none is more central than the shift invalues that is likely to accompany the super‑industrialrevolution.

Under conditions of scarcity, men struggle to meet their immediatematerial needs. Today under more affluent conditions, we arereorganizing the economy to deal with a new level of human needs.From a system designed to provide material satisfaction, we arerapidly creating an economy geared to the provision of psychicgratification. This process of "psychologization," one ofthe central themes of the super‑industrial revolution, has beenall but overlooked by the economists. Yet it will result in a novel,surprise‑filled economy unlike any man has ever experienced.The issues raised by it will reduce the great conflict of thetwentieth century, the conflict between capitalism and communism, tocomparative insignificance. For these issues sweep far beyondeconomic or political dogma. They involve, as we shall see, nothingless than sanity, the human organism's ability to distinguishillusion from reality.


Much excitement has accompanied the discovery that once atechno‑society reaches a certain stage of industrialdevelopment, it begins to shift energies into the production ofservices, as distinct from goods. Many experts see in the servicesthe wave of the future. They suggest that manufacturing will soon beoutstripped by service activity in all the industrial nations – aprophecy already on its way toward fulfillment.

What the economists, however, have not done, is to ask the obviousquestion. Where does the economy go next? After the services, what?

The high technology nations must, in coming years, direct vastresources to rehabilitating their physical environment and improvingwhat has come to be called "the quality of life." The fightagainst pollution, aesthetic blight, crowding, noise and dirt willclearly absorb tremendous energies. But, in addition to the provisionof these public goods, we can also anticipate a subtle change in thecharacter of production for private use.

The very excitement aroused by the mushrooming growth of the servicesector has diverted professional attention from another shift thatwill deeply affect both goods and services in the future. Itis this shift that will lead to the next forward movement of theeconomy, the growth of a strange new sector based on what can only becalled the "experience industries." For the key to thepost‑service economy lies in the psychologization of allproduction, beginning with manufacture.

One of the curious facts about production in all the techno‑societiestoday, and especially the United States, is that goods areincreasingly designed to yield psychological "extras" forthe consumer. The manufacturer adds a "psychic load" to hisbasic product, and the consumer gladly pays for this intangiblebenefit.

A classic example is the case of the appliance or auto manufacturerwho adds buttons, knobs or dials to the control panel or dashboard,even when these have seemingly no significance. The manufacturer haslearned that increasing the number of gadgets, up to a point, givesthe operator of the machine the sense of controlling a more complexdevice, and hence a feeling of increased mastery. This psychologicalpayoff is designed into the product.

Conversely, pains are taken not to deprive the consumer of anexisting psychological benefit. Thus a large American food companyproudly launched a labor‑saving, add‑wateronly cake mix.The company was amazed when women rejected the product in favor ofmixes that require extra labor – the addition of an egg along withthe water. By inserting powdered egg in the factory, the company hadoversimplified the task of the housewife, depriving her of the senseof creatively participating in the cake‑baking process. Thepowdered egg was hastily eliminated, and women went happily back tocracking their own eggs. Once again a product was modified to providea psychic benefit.

Examples like these can be multiplied endlessly in almost any majorindustry, from soap and cigarettes to dishwashers and diet colas.According to Dr. Emanuel Demby, president of MotivationalProgrammers, Incorporated, a research firm employed in the UnitedStates and Europe by such blue‑chip corporations as GeneralElectric, Caltex and IBM, "The engineering of psychologicalfactors into manufactured goods will be a hallmark of production inthe future – not only in consumer goods, but in industrialhardware.

"Even the big cranes and derricks built today embody thisprinciple. Their cabs are streamlined, slick, like something out ofthe twenty‑first century. Caterpillar, International Harvester,Ferguson – all of them. Why? These mechanical monsters don't digbetter or hoist better because the cab is aesthetically improved. Butthe contractor who buys them likes it better. The men who work onthem like it better. The contractor's customers like it better. Soeven the manufacturers of earthmoving equipment begin to payattention to non‑utilitarian – i.e., psychological –factors."

Beyond this, Demby asserts, manufacturers are devoting more attentionto reducing tensions that accompany the use of certain products.Manufacturers of sanitary napkins, for example, know that women havea fear of stopping up the toilet when disposing of them. "A newproduct has been developed," he says, "that instantlydissolves on contact with water. It doesn't perform its basicfunction any better. But it relieves some of the anxiety that wentwith it. This is psychological engineering if ever there was any!"

Affluent consumers are willing and able to pay for such niceties. Asdisposable income rises, they become progressively less concernedwith price, progressively more insistent on what they call "quality."For many products quality can still be measured in the traditionalterms of workmanship, durability and materials. But for afast‑growing class of products, such differences are virtuallyundetectable. Blindfolded, the consumer cannot distinguish Brand Afrom Brand B. Nevertheless, she often argues fiercely that one issuperior to another.

This paradox vanishes once the psychic component of production istaken into account. For even when they are otherwise identical, thereare likely to be marked psychological differences between one productand another. Advertisers strive to stamp each product with its owndistinct image. These images are functional: they fill a need on thepart of the consumer. The need is psychological, however, rather thanutilitarian in the ordinary sense. Thus we find that the term"quality" increasingly refers to the ambience, the statusassociations – in effect, the psychological connotations of theproduct.

As more and more of the basic material needs of the consumer are met,it is strongly predictable that even more economic energy will bedirected at meeting the consumer's subtle, varied and quite personalneeds for beauty, prestige, individuation, and sensory delight. Themanufacturing sector will channel ever greater resources into theconscious design of psychological distinctions and gratifications.The psychic component of goods production will assume increasingimportance.


This, however, is only the first step toward the psychologization ofthe economy. The next step will be the expansion of the psychiccomponent of the services.

Here, again, we are already moving in the predictable direction, as aglance at air travel demonstrates. Once flying was simply a matter ofgetting from here to there. Before long, the airlines began tocompete on the basis of pretty stewardesses, food, luxurioussurroundings, and in‑flight movies. Trans‑World Airlinesrecently carried this process one step further by offering what itcalled "foreign accent" flights between major Americancities.

The TWA passenger may now choose a jet on which the food, the music,the magazines, the movies, and the stewardess' miniskirt are allFrench. He may choose a "Roman" flight on which the girlswear togas. He may opt for a "Manhattan Penthouse" flight.Or he may select the "Olde English" flight on which thegirls are called "serving wenches" and the decor supposedlysuggests that of an English pub.

It is clear that TWA is no longer selling transportation, as such,but a carefully designed psychological package as well. We can expectthe airlines before long to make use of lights and multi‑mediaprojections to create total, but temporary, environments providingthe passenger with something approaching a theatrical experience.

The experience may, in fact, soon go beyond theater. British OverseasAirways Corporation recently pointed a wavering finger at the futurewhen it announced a plan to provide unmarried American malepassengers with "scientifically chosen" blind dates inLondon. In the event the computer‑selected date failed to showup, an alternate would be provided. Moreover, a party would bearranged to which "several additional Londoners of both sexes ofvarying ages" would be invited so that the traveler, who wouldalso be given a tour of discotheques and restaurants, would under nocircumstances be alone. The program, called "The BeautifulSingles of London," was abruptly called off when thegovernmentowned airline came under Parliamentary criticism.Nevertheless, we can anticipate further colorful attempts to paint apsychic coating on many consumer service fields, including retailing.

Anyone who has strolled through Newport Center, an incredibly lavishnew shopping plaza in Newport Beach, California, cannot fail to beimpressed by the attention paid by its designers to aesthetic andpsychological factors. Tall white arches and columns outlined againsta blue sky, fountains, statues, carefully planned illumination, a popart playground, and an enormous Japanese wind‑bell are all usedto create a mood of casual elegance for the shopper. It is not merelythe affluence of the surroundings, but their programmed pleasantnessthat makes shopping there a quite memorable experience. One cananticipate fantastic variations and elaborations of the sameprinciples in the planning of retail stores in the future. We shallgo far beyond any "functional" necessity, turning theservice, whether it is shopping, dining, or having one's hair cut,into a pre‑fabricated experience. We shall watch movies orlisten to chamber music as we have our hair cut, and the mechanicalbowl that fits over the skull of a woman in the beauty parlor will domore than simply dry her hair. By directing electronic waves to herbrain, it may, quite literally, tickle her fancy.

Bankers and brokers, real estate and insurance companies will employthe most carefully chosen decor, music, closed circuit colortelevision, engineered tastes and smells, along with the mostadvanced mixed‑media equipment to heighten (or neutralize) thepsychological charge that accompanies even the most routinetransaction. No important service will be offered to the consumerbefore it has been analyzed by teams of behavioral engineers toimprove its psychic loading.


Reaching beyond these simple elaborations of the present, we shallalso witness a revolutionary expansion of certain industries whosesole output consists not of manufactured goods, nor even of ordinaryservices, but of pre‑programmed "experiences." Theexperience industry could turn out to be one of the pillars ofsuper‑industrialism, the very foundation, in fact, of thepost‑service economy.

As rising affluence and transience ruthlessly undercut the old urgeto possess, consumers begin to collect experiences as consciously andpassionately as they once collected things. Today, as the airlineexample suggests, experiences are sold as an adjunct to some moretraditional service. The experience is, so to speak, the frosting onthe cake. As we advance into the future, however, more and moreexperiences will be sold strictly on their own merits, exactly as ifthey were things.

Precisely this is beginning to happen, in fact. This accounts for thehigh growth rate visible in certain industries that have always been,at least partly, engaged in the production of experiences for theirown sake. The arts are a good example. Much of the "cultureindustry" is devoted to the creation or staging of specializedpsychological experiences. Today we find art‑based "experienceindustries" booming in virtually all the techno‑societies.The same is true of recreation, mass entertainment, education, andcertain psychiatric services, all of which participate in what mightbe called experiential production.

When Club Méditerranée sells a package holiday that takes a youngFrench secretary to Tahiti or Israel for a week or two of sun andsex, it is manufacturing an experience for her quite as carefully andsystematically as Renault manufactures cars. Its advertisementsunderscore the point. Thus a two‑page spread in The New YorkTimes Magazine begins with the headline: "Take 300 men andwomen. Strand them on an exotic island. And strip them of everysocial pressure." Based in France, Club Méditerranée nowoperates thirty‑four vacation "villages" all over theworld.

Similarly, when the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, offersweekend seminars in "body‑awareness" and "non‑verbalcommunication," at seventy dollars per person, or fivedayworkshops at $180, it promises not simply to teach, but to plunge itsaffluent customers into "joyous" new interpersonalexperiences – a phrase some readers take to mean adventures withsex or LSD. Group therapy and sensitivity training sessions arepackaged experiences. So are certain classes. Thus, going to anArthur Murray or Fred Astaire studio to learn the latest dance stepmay provide the student with a skill that will bring enjoyment in thefuture, but it also provides a pleasurable here‑and‑nowexperience for the lonely bachelor or spinster. The learningexperience, itself, is a major attraction for the customer.

All these, however, provide only the palest clue as to the nature ofthe experience industry of the future and the great psychologicalcorporations, or psych‑corps, that will dominate it.


One important class of experiential products will be based onsimulated environments that offer the customer a taste of adventure,danger, sexual titillation or other pleasure without risk to his reallife or reputation. Thus computer experts, roboteers, designers,historians, and museum specialists will join to create experientialenclaves that reproduce, as skillfully as sophisticated technologywill permit, the splendor of ancient Rome, the pomp of QueenElizabeth's court, the "sexoticism" of aneighteenth‑century Japanese geisha house, and the like.Customers entering these pleasure domes will leave their everydayclothes (and cares) behind, don costumes, and run through a plannedsequence of activities intended to provide them with a first‑handtaste of what the original – i.e., unsimulated – reality musthave felt like. They will be invited, in effect, to live in the pastor perhaps even in the future.

Production of such experiences is closer than one might think. It isclearly foreshadowed in the participatory techniques now beingpioneered in the arts. Thus "happenings" in which themembers of the audience take part may be regarded as a firststumbling step toward these simulations of the future. The same istrue of more formal works as well. When Dionysus in 69 wasperformed in New York, a critic summed up the theories of itsplaywright, Richard Schechner, in the following words. "Theaterhas traditionally said to an audience, 'Sit down and I'll tell you astory.' Why can't it also say, 'Stand up and we'll play a game?'"Schechner's work, based loosely on Euripides, says precisely this,and the audience is literally invited to join in dancing to celebratethe rites of Dionysus.

Artists also have begun to create whole "environments" –works of art into which the audience may actually walk, and insidewhich things happen. In Sweden the Moderna Museet has exhibited animmense papier‑mâché lady called "Hon" ("She"),into whose innards the audience entered via a vaginal portal. Onceinside, there were ramps, stairways, flashing lights, odd sounds, andsomething called a "bottle smashing machine." Dozens ofmuseums and galleries around the United States and Europe now displaysuch "environments." Time magazine's art criticsuggests that their intention is to bombard the spectator with "wackysights, weirdo sounds and otherworldly sensations, ranging from thefeeling of weightlessness to hopped‑up, psychedelichallucinations." The artists who produce these are really"experiential engineers."

In a deceptively shabby storefront on a Lower Manhattan street linedwith factories and warehouses, I visited Cerebrum, an "electronicstudio of participation" where, for an hourly fee, guests areadmitted into a startling white, high‑ceilinged room. Therethey strip off their clothing, don semi‑transparent robes, andsprawl comfortably on richly padded white platforms. Attractive maleand female "guides," similarly nude under their veils,offer each guest a stereophonic headset, a see‑through mask,and, from time to time, balloons, kaleidoscopes, tambourines, plasticpillows, mirrors, pieces of crystal, marshmallows, slides and slideprojectors. Folk and rock music, interspersed with snatches oftelevision commercials, street noises and a lecture by or aboutMarshall McLuhan fill the ears. As the music grows more excited,guests and guides begin to dance on the platforms and the carpetedwhite walkways that connect them. Bubbles drift down from machines inthe ceiling. Hostesses float through, spraying a variety offragrances into the air. Lights change color and random images wrapthemselves around the walls, guests and guides. The mood shifts fromcool at first to warm, friendly, and mildly erotic.

Still primitive both artistically and technologically, Cerebrum is apale forerunner of the "$25,000,000 'super' EnvironmentalEntertainment Complex" its builders enthusiastically talk ofcreating some day. Whatever their artistic merit, experiments such asthese point to far more sophisticated enclave‑building in thefuture. Today's young artists and environmental entrepreneurs areperforming research and development for the psych‑corps oftomorrow.


Knowledge gained for this research will permit the construction offantastic simulations. But it will also lead to complex liveenvironments that subject the customer to significant risks andrewards. The African safari today is a colorless example. Futureexperience designers will, for example, create gambling casinos inwhich the customer plays not for money, but for experiential payoffs– a date with a lovely and willing lady if he wins, perhaps a dayin solitary confinement if he loses. As the stakes rise, moreimaginative payoffs and punishments will be designed.

A loser may have to serve (by voluntary pre‑agreement) as a"slave" to a winner for several days. A winner may berewarded by ten free minutes of electronic pleasure‑probing ofhis brain. A player may risk flogging or its psychological equivalent– participation in a day‑long session during which winnersare permitted to work off their aggressions and hostilities bysneering, shouting at, reviling, or otherwise attacking the ego ofthe loser. High rollers may play to win a free heart or lungtransplant at some later date, should it prove to be necessary.Losers may have to forego a kidney. Such payoffs and punishments maybe escalated in intensity and varied endlessly. Experientialdesigners will study the pages of Krafft‑Ebing or the Marquisde Sade for ideas. Only imagination, technological capability, andthe constraints of a generally relaxed morality limit thepossibilities. Experiential gambling cities will rise to overshadowLas Vegas or Deauville, combining in a single place some of thefeatures of Disneyland, the World's Fair, Cape Kennedy, the MayoClinic, and the honky‑tonks of Macao. (For a brilliant andprovocative insight into experiential gambling and its philosophicalimplications, see "The Lottery in Babylon," by Jorge LuisBorges, the Argentinian philosopher‑essayist. This short workis found in Borges' collection entitled Labyrinths.)

Once again, present‑day developments foreshadow the future.Thus certain American television programs, such as The DatingGame, already pay players off in experiential rewards, as doesthe contest recently discussed in the Swedish Parliament. In thiscontest, a pornographic magazine awarded one of its readers a week inMajorca with one of its "topless" models. A ConservativeM.P. challenged the propriety of such goings‑on. Presumably, hefelt better when he was assured by the Finance Minister, GunnarSträng, that the transaction was taxable.

Simulated and non‑simulated experiences will also be combinedin ways that will sharply challenge man's grasp of reality. In RayBradbury's vivid novel, Fahrenheit 451, suburban couplesdesperately save their money to enable them to buy three‑wallor four‑wall video sets that permit them to enter into a kindof televised psycho‑drama. They become actor‑participantsin soap operas that continue for weeks or months. Their participationin these stories is highly involving. We are, in fact, beginning tomove toward the actual development of such "interactive"films with the help of advanced communications technology. Thecombination of simulations and "reals" will vastly multiplythe number and variety of experiential products.

But the great psych‑corps of tomorrow will not only sellindividual, discrete experiences. They will offer sequences ofexperiences so organized that their very juxtaposition with oneanother will contribute color, harmony or contrast to lives that lackthese qualities. Beauty, excitement, danger or delicious sensualitywill be programmed to enhance one another. By offering suchexperiential chains or sequences, the psych‑corps (workingclosely, no doubt, with community mental health centers) will providepartial frameworks for those whose lives are otherwise too chaoticand unstructured. In effect, they will say: "Let us plan (partof) your life for you." In the transient, change‑filledworld of tomorrow, that proposition will find many eager takers.

The packaged experiences offered in the future will reach far beyondthe imagination of the average consumer, filling the environment withendless novelties. Companies will vie with one another to create themost outlandish, most gratifying experiences. Indeed, some of theseexperiences – as in the case of topless Swedish models – willeven reach beyond tomorrow's broadened boundaries of socialacceptability. They may be offered to the public covertly byunlicensed, underground psych‑corps. This will simply add thethrill of "illicitude" to the experience itself.

(One very old experiential industry has traditionally operatedcovertly: prostitution. Many other illegal activities also fit withinthe experience industry. For the most part, however, all these reveala paucity of imagination and a lack of technical resources that willbe remedied in the future. They are trivial compared with thepossibilities in a society that will, by the year 2000 or sooner, bearmed with robots, advanced computers, personalityaltering drugs,brain‑stimulating pleasure probes, and similar technologicalgoodies.)

The diversity of novel experiences arrayed before the consumer willbe the work of experience‑designers, who will be drawn from theranks of the most creative people in the society. The working mottoof this profession will be: "If you can't serve it up real, finda vicarious substitute. If you're good, the customer will never knowthe difference!" This implied blurring of the line between thereal and the unreal will confront the society with serious problems,but it will not prevent or even slow the emergence of the"psyche‑service industries" and "psych‑corps."Great globe‑girdling syndicates will create super‑Disneylandsof a variety, scale, scope, and emotional power that is hard for usto imagine.

We can thus sketch the dim outlines of the super‑industrialeconomy, the post‑service economy of the future. Agricultureand the manufacture of goods will have become economic backwaters,employing fewer and fewer people. Highly automated, the making andgrowing of goods will be relatively simple. The design of new goodsand the process of coating them with stronger, brighter, moreemotion‑packed psychological connotations, however, willchallenge the ingenuity of tomorrow's best and most resourcefulentrepreneurs.

The service sector, as defined today, will be vastly enlarged, andonce more the design of psychological rewards will occupy a growingpercentage of corporate time, energy and money. Investment services,such as mutual funds, for example, may introduce elements ofexperiential gambling to provide both additional excitement andnon‑economic payoffs to their shareholders. Insurance companiesmay offer not merely to pay death benefits, but to care for the widowor widower for several months after bereavement, providing nurses,psychological counseling and other assistance. Based on banks ofdetailed data about their customers, they may offer a computerizedmating service to help the survivor locate a new life partner.Services, in short, will be greatly elaborated. Attention will bepaid to the psychological overtones of every step or component of theproduct.

Finally, we shall watch the irresistible growth of companies alreadyin the experiential field, and the formation of entirely newenterprises, both profit and non‑profit, to design, package anddistribute planned or programmed experiences. The arts will expand,becoming as Ruskin or Morris might have said, the handmaiden ofindustry. Psych‑corps and other businesses will employ actors,directors, musicians and designers in large numbers. Recreationalindustries will grow, as the whole nature of leisure is redefined inexperiential terms. Education, already exploding in size, will becomeone of the key experience industries as it begins to employexperiential techniques to convey both knowledge and values tostudents. The communications and computer industries will find inexperiential production a major market for their machines and fortheir soft‑ware as well. In short, those industries that in oneway or another associate themselves with behavioral technology, thoseindustries that transcend the production of tangible goods andtraditional services, will expand most rapidly. Eventually, theexperience‑makers will form a basic – if not the basic –sector of the economy. The process of psychologization will becomplete.


The essence of tomorrow's economy, declares the Stanford ResearchInstitute in a report by its Long Range Planning Service, will be an"emphasis upon the inner as well as the material needs ofindividuals and groups." This new emphasis, SRI suggests, willarise not merely from the demands of the consumer, but from the veryneed of the economy to survive. "In a nation where all essentialmaterial needs can be filled by perhaps no more than three‑fourthsor even half of the productive capacity, a basic adjustment isrequired to keep the economy healthy."

It is this convergence of pressures – from the consumer and fromthose who wish to keep the economy growing – that will propel thetechno‑societies toward the experiential production of thefuture.

The movement in this direction can be delayed. The poverty‑strickenmasses of the world may not stand idly by as the world's favored fewtraverse the path toward psychological self‑indulgence. Thereis something morally repellent about one group seeking to gratifyitself psychologically, pursuing novel and rarified pleasures, whilethe majority of mankind lives in wretchedness or starvation. Thetechno‑societies could defer the arrival of experientialism,could maintain a more conventional economy for a time by maximizingtraditional production, shifting resources to environmental qualitycontrol, and then launching absolutely massive anti‑poverty andforeign aid programs.

By creaming off "excess" productivity and, in effect,giving it away, the factories can be kept running, the agriculturalsurpluses used up, and the society can continue to focus on thesatisfaction of material wants. A fifty‑year campaign to erasehunger from the world, for example, would not only make excellentmoral sense, but would buy the techno‑societies badly neededtime for an easier transition to the economy of the future.

Such a pause might give us time to contemplate the philosophical andpsychological impact of experiential production. If consumers can nolonger distinguish clearly between the real and the simulated, ifwhole stretches of one's life may be commercially programmed, weenter into a set of psycho‑economic problems of breathtakingcomplexity. These problems challenge our most fundamental beliefs,not merely about democracy or economics, but about the very nature ofrationality and sanity.

One of the great unasked questions of our time has to do with thebalance between vicarious and non‑vicarious experience in ourlives. No previous generation has been exposed to one‑tenth theamount of vicarious experiences that we lavish on ourselves and ourchildren today, and no one, anywhere, has any real idea about theimpact of this monumental shift on personality. Our children maturephysically more rapidly than we did. The age of first menstruationcontinues to drop four to six months every decade. The populationgrows taller sooner. It is clear that many of our young people,products of television and instant access to oceans of information,also become precocious intellectually. But what happens to emotionaldevelopment as the ratio of vicarious experience to "real"experience rises? Does the step‑up of vicariousness contributeto emotional maturity? Or does it, in fact, retard it?

And what, then, happens when an economy in search of a new purpose,seriously begins to enter into the production of experiences fortheir own sake, experiences that blur the distinction between thevicarious and the non‑vicarious, the simulated and the real?One of the definitions of sanity, itself, is the ability to tell realfrom unreal. Shall we need a new definition?

We must begin to reflect on these problems, for unless we do – andperhaps even if we do – service will in the end triumph overmanufacture, and experiential production over service. The growth ofthe experiential sector might just be an inevitable consequence ofaffluence. For the satisfaction of man's elemental material needsopens the way for new, more sophisticated gratifications. We aremoving from a "gut" economy to a "psyche" economybecause there is only so much gut to be satisfied.

Beyond this, we are also moving swiftly in the direction of a societyin which objects, things, physical constructs, are increasinglytransient. Not merely man's relationships with them, but the verythings themselves. It may be that experiences are the only productswhich, once bought by the consumer, cannot be taken away from him,cannot be disposed of like non‑returnable soda pop bottles ornicked razor blades.

For the ancient Japanese nobility every flower, every serving bowl orobi, was freighted with surplus meaning; each carried a heavy load ofcoded symbolism and ritual significance. The movement toward thepsychologization of manufactured goods takes us in this direction;but it collides with the powerful thrust toward transience that makesthe objects themselves so perishable. Thus we shall find it easier toadorn our services with symbolic significance than our products. And,in the end, we shall pass beyond the service economy, beyond theimagination of today's economists; we shall become the first culturein history to employ high technology to manufacture that mosttransient, yet lasting of products: the human experience.

Chapter 11


The flood of novelty about to crash down upon us will spread fromuniversities and research centers to factories and offices, from themarketplace and mass media into our social relationships, from thecommunity into the home. Penetrating deep into our private lives, itwill place absolutely unprecedented strains on the family itself.

The family has been called the "giant shock absorber" ofsociety – the place to which the bruised and battered individualreturns after doing battle with the world, the one stable point in anincreasingly flux‑filled environment. As the super‑industrialrevolution unfolds, this "shock absorber" will come in forsome shocks of its own.

Social critics have a field day speculating about the family. Thefamily is "near the point of complete extinction," saysFerdinand Lundberg, author of The Coming World Transformation. "Thefamily is dead except for the first year or two of child raising,"according to psychoanalyst William Wolf. "This will be its onlyfunction." Pessimists tell us the family is racing towardoblivion – but seldom tell us what will take its place.

Family optimists, in contrast, contend that the family, havingexisted all this time, will continue to exist. Some go so far as toargue that the family is in for a Golden Age. As leisure spreads,they theorize, families will spend more time together and will derivegreat satisfaction from joint activity. "The family that playstogether, stays together," etc.

A more sophisticated view holds that the very turbulence of tomorrowwill drive people deeper into their families. "People will marryfor stable structure," says Dr. Irwin M. Greenberg, Professor ofPsychiatry at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. According tothis view, the family serves as one's "portable roots,"anchoring one against the storm of change. In short, the moretransient and novel the environment, the more important the familywill become.

It may be that both sides in this debate are wrong. For the future ismore open than it might appear. The family may neither vanish norenter upon a new Golden Age. It may – and this is far more likely –break up, shatter, only to come together again in weird and novelways.


The most obviously upsetting force likely to strike the family in thedecades immediately ahead will be the impact of the new birthtechnology. The ability to pre‑set the sex of one's baby, oreven to "program" its IQ, looks and personality traits,must now be regarded as a real possibility. Embryo implants, babiesgrown in vitro, the ability to swallow a pill and guarantee oneselftwins or triplets or, even more, the ability to walk into a"babytorium" and actually purchase embryos – all thisreaches so far beyond any previous human experience that one needs tolook at the future through the eyes of the poet or painter, ratherthan those of the sociologist or conventional philosopher.

It is regarded as somehow unscholarly, even frivolous, to discussthese matters. Yet advances in science and technology, or inreproductive biology alone, could, within a short time, smash allorthodox ideas about the family and its responsibilities. When babiescan be grown in a laboratory jar what happens to the very notion ofmaternity? And what happens to the self‑image of the female insocieties which, since the very beginnings of man, have taught herthat her primary mission is the propagation of and nurture of therace?

Few social scientists have begun as yet to concern themselves withsuch questions. One who has is psychiatrist Hyman G. Weitzen,director of Neuropsychiatric Service at Polyclinic Hospital in NewYork. The cycle of birth, Dr. Weitzen suggests, "fulfills formost women a major creative need ... Most women are proud of theirability to bear children ... The special aura that glorifies thepregnant woman has figured largely in the art and literature of bothEast and West."

What happens to the cult of motherhood, Weitzen asks, if "heroffspring might literally not be hers, but that of a genetically'superior' ovum, implanted in her womb from another woman, or evengrown in a Petri dish?" If women are to be important at all, hesuggests, it will no longer be because they alone can bear children.If nothing else, we are about to kill off the mystique of motherhood.

Not merely motherhood, but the concept of parenthood itself may be infor radical revision. Indeed, the day may soon dawn when it ispossible for a child to have more than two biological parents. Dr.Beatrice Mintz, a developmental biologist at the Institute for CancerResearch in Philadelphia, has grown what are coming to be known as"multi‑mice" – baby mice each of which has morethan the usual number of parents. Embryos are taken from each of twopregnant mice. These embryos are placed in a laboratory dish andnurtured until they form a single growing mass. This is thenimplanted in the womb of a third female mouse. A baby is born thatclearly shares the genetic characteristics of both sets of donors.Thus a typical multi‑mouse, born of two pairs of parents, haswhite fur and whiskers on one side of its face, dark fur and whiskerson the other, with alternating bands of white and dark hair coveringthe rest of the body. Some 700 multi‑mice bred in this fashionhave already produced more than 35,000 offspring themselves. Ifmulti‑mouse is here, can "multi‑man" be farbehind?

Under such circumstances, what or who is a parent? When a woman bearsin her uterus an embryo conceived in another woman's womb, who is themother? And just exactly who is the father?

If a couple can actually purchase an embryo, then parenthood becomesa legal, not a biological matter. Unless such transactions aretightly controlled, one can imagine such grotesqueries as a couplebuying an embryo, raising it in vitro, then buying another in thename of the first, as though for a trust fund. In that case, theymight be regarded as legal "grandparents" before theirfirst child is out of its infancy. We shall need a whole newvocabulary to describe kinship ties.

Furthermore, if embryos are for sale, can a corporation buy one? Canit buy ten thousand? Can it resell them? And if not a corporation,how about a noncommercial research laboratory? If we buy and sellliving embryos, are we back to a new form of slavery? Such are thenightmarish questions soon to be debated by us. To continue to thinkof the family, therefore, in purely conventional terms is to defy allreason.

Faced by rapid social change and the staggering implications of thescientific revolution, super‑industrial man may be forced toexperiment with novel family forms. Innovative minorities can beexpected to try out a colorful variety of family arrangements. Theywill begin by tinkering with existing forms.


One simple thing they will do is streamline the family. The typicalpre‑industrial family not only had a good many children, butnumerous other dependents as well – grandparents, uncles, aunts,and cousins. Such "extended" families were well suited forsurvival in slowpaced agricultural societies. But such families arehard to transport or transplant. They are immobile.

Industrialism demanded masses of workers ready and able to move offthe land in pursuit of jobs, and to move again whenever necessary.Thus the extended family gradually shed its excess weight and theso‑called "nuclear" family emerged – astripped‑down, portable family unit consisting only of parentsand a small set of children. This new style family, far more mobilethan the traditional extended family, became the standard model inall the industrial countries.

Super‑industrialism, however, the next stage ofeco‑technological development, requires even higher mobility.Thus we may expect many among the people of the future to carry thestreamlining process a step further by remaining childless, cuttingthe family down to its most elemental components, a man and a woman.Two people, perhaps with matched careers, will prove more efficientat navigating through education and social shoals, through jobchanges and geographic relocations, than the ordinary child‑clutteredfamily. Indeed, anthropologist Margaret Mead has pointed out that wemay already be moving toward a system under which, as she puts it,"parenthood would be limited to a smaller number of familieswhose principal functions would be childrearing," leaving therest of the population "free to function – for the first timein history – as individuals."

A compromise may be the postponement of children, rather thanchildlessness. Men and women today are often torn in conflict betweena commitment to career and a commitment to children. In the future,many couples will sidestep this problem by deferring the entire taskof raising children until after retirement.

This may strike people of the present as odd. Yet once childbearingis broken away from its biological base, nothing more than traditionsuggests having children at an early age. Why not wait, and buy yourembryos later, after your work career is over? Thus childlessness islikely to spread among young and middle‑aged couples;sexagenarians who raise infants may be far more common. Thepost‑retirement family could become a recognized socialinstitution.


If a smaller number of families raise children, however, why do thechildren have to be their own? Why not a system under which"professional parents" take on the childrearing functionfor others?

Raising children, after all, requires skills that are by no meansuniversal. We don't let "just anyone" perform brain surgeryor, for that matter, sell stocks and bonds. Even the lowest rankingcivil servant is required to pass tests proving competence. Yet weallow virtually anyone, almost without regard for mental or moralqualification, to try his or her hand at raising young human beings,so long as these humans are biological offspring. Despite theincreasing complexity of the task, parenthood remains the greatestsingle preserve of the amateur.

As the present system cracks and the super‑industrialrevolution rolls over us, as the armies of juvenile delinquentsswell, as hundreds of thousands of youngsters flee their homes, andstudents rampage at universities in all the techno‑societies,we can expect vociferous demands for an end to parental dilettantism.

There are far better ways to cope with the problems of youth, butprofessional parenthood is certain to be proposed, if only because itfits so perfectly with the society's overall push towardspecialization. Moreover, there is a powerful, pent‑up demandfor this social innovation. Even now millions of parents, given theopportunity, would happily relinquish their parental responsibilities– and not necessarily through irresponsibility or lack of love.Harried, frenzied, up against the wall, they have come to seethemselves as inadequate to the tasks. Given affluence and theexistence of specially‑equipped and licensed professionalparents, many of today's biological parents would not only gladlysurrender their children to them, but would look upon it as an act oflove, rather than rejection.

Parental professionals would not be therapists, but actual familyunits assigned to, and well paid for, rearing children. Such familiesmight be multi‑generational by design, offering children inthem an opportunity to observe and learn from a variety of adultmodels, as was the case in the old farm homestead. With the adultspaid to be professional parents, they would be freed of theoccupational necessity to relocate repeatedly. Such families wouldtake in new children as old ones "graduate" so thatage‑segregation would be minimized.

Thus newspapers of the future might well carry advertisementsaddressed to young married couples: "Why let parenthood tie youdown? Let us raise your infant into a responsible, successful adult.Class A Pro‑family offers: father age 39, mother, 36,grandmother, 67. Uncle and aunt, age 30, live in, hold part‑timelocal employment. Fourchild‑unit has opening for one, age 6 –8. Regulated diet exceeds government standards. All adults certifiedin child development and management. Bio‑parents permittedfrequent visits. Telephone contact allowed. Child may spend summervacation with bio‑parents. Religion, art, music encouraged byspecial arrangement. Five year contract, minimum. Write for furtherdetails."

The "real" or "bio‑parents" could, as thead suggests, fill the role presently played by interested godparents,namely that of friendly and helpful outsiders. In such a way, thesociety could continue to breed a wide diversity of genetic types,yet turn the care of children over to mother‑father groups whoare equipped, both intellectually and emotionally, for the task ofcaring for kids.


Quite a different alternative lies in the communal family. Astransience increases the loneliness and alienation in society, we cananticipate increasing experimentation with various forms of groupmarriage. The banding together of several adults and children into asingle "family" provides a kind of insurance againstisolation. Even if one or two members of the household leave, theremaining members have one another. Communes are springing up modeledafter those described by psychologist B. F. Skinner in Walden Two andby novelist Robert Rimmer in The Harrad Experiment and Proposition31. In the latter work, Rimmer seriously proposes the legalization ofa "corporate family" in which from three to six adultsadopt a single name, live and raise children in common, and legallyincorporate to obtain certain economic and tax advantages.

According to some observers, there are already hundreds of open orcovert communes dotting the American map. Not all, by any means, arecomposed of young people or hippies. Some are organized aroundspecific goals – like the group, quietly financed by three EastCoast colleges – which has taken as its function the task ofcounseling college freshmen, helping to orient them to campus life.The goals may be social, religious, political, even recreational.Thus we shall before long begin to see communal families of surfersdotting the beaches of California and Southern France, if they don'talready. We shall see the emergence of communes based on politicaldoctrines and religious faiths. In Denmark, a bill to legalize groupmarriage has already been introduced in the Folketing (Parliament).While passage is not imminent, the act of introduction is itself asignificant symbol of change.

In Chicago, 250 adults and children already live together in"family‑style monasticism" under the auspices of anew, fast‑growing religious organization, the EcumenicalInstitute. Members share the same quarters, cook and eat together,worship and tend children in common, and pool their incomes. At least60,000 people have taken "EI" courses and similar communeshave begun to spring up in Atlanta, Boston, Los Angeles and othercities. "A brand‑new world is emerging," saysProfessor Joseph W. Mathews, leader of the Ecumenical Institute, "butpeople are still operating in terms of the old one. We seek tore‑educate people and give them the tools to build a new socialcontext."

Still another type of family unit likely to win adherents in thefuture might be called the "geriatric commune" – a groupmarriage of elderly people drawn together in a common search forcompanionship and assistance. Disengaged from the productive economythat makes mobility necessary, they will settle in a single place,band together, pool funds, collectively hire domestic or nursinghelp, and proceed – within limits – to have the "time oftheir lives."

Communalism runs counter to the pressure for ever greatergeographical and social mobility generated by the thrust towardsuper‑industrialism. It presupposes groups of people who "stayput." For this reason, communal experiments will firstproliferate among those in the society who are free from theindustrial discipline – the retired population, the young, thedropouts, the students, as well as among self‑employedprofessional and technical people. Later, when advanced technologyand information systems make it possible for much of the work ofsociety to be done at home via computer‑telecommunicationhookups, communalism will become feasible for larger numbers.

We shall, however, also see many more "family" unitsconsisting of a single unmarried adult and one or more children. Norwill all of these adults be women. It is already possible in someplaces for unmarried men to adopt children. In 1965 in Oregon, forexample, a thirtyeight‑year‑old musician named TonyPiazza became the first unmarried man in that state, and perhaps inthe United States, to be granted the right to adopt a baby. Courtsare more readily granting custody to divorced fathers, too. InLondon, photographer Michael Cooper, married at twenty and divorcedsoon after, won the right to raise his infant son, and expressed aninterest in adopting other children. Observing that he did notparticularly wish to remarry, but that he liked children, Coopermused aloud: "I wish you could just ask beautiful women to havebabies for you. Or any woman you liked, or who had something youadmired. Ideally, I'd like a big house full of children – alldifferent colors, shapes and sizes." Romantic? Unmanly? Perhaps.Yet attitudes like these will be widely held by men in the future.

Two pressures are even now softening up the culture, preparing it foracceptance of the idea of childrearing by men. First, adoptablechildren are in oversupply in some places. Thus, in California, discjockeys blare commercials: "We have many wonderful babies of allraces and nationalities waiting to bring love and happiness to theright families ... Call the Los Angeles County Bureau of Adoption."At the same time, the mass media, in a strange nonconspiratorialfashion, appear to have decided simultaneously that men who raisechildren hold special interest for the public. Extremely populartelevision shows in recent seasons have glamorized womanlesshouseholds in which men scrub floors, cook, and, most significantly,raise children. My Three Sons, The Rifleman, Bonanza andBachelor Father are four examples.

As homosexuality becomes more socially acceptable, we may even beginto find families based on homosexual "marriages" with thepartners adopting children. Whether these children would be of thesame or opposite sex remains to be seen. But the rapidity with whichhomosexuality is winning respectability in the techno‑societiesdistinctly points in this direction. In Holland not long ago aCatholic priest "married" two homosexuals, explaining tocritics that "they are among the faithful to be helped."England has rewritten its relevant legislation; homosexual relationsbetween consenting adults are no longer considered a crime. And inthe United States a meeting of Episcopal clergymen concluded publiclythat homosexuality might, under certain circumstances, be adjudged"good." The day may also come when a court decides that acouple of stable, well educated homosexuals might make decent"parents."

We might also see the gradual relaxation of bars against polygamy.Polygamous families exist even now, more widely than generallybelieved, in the midst of "normal" society. Writer BenMerson, after visiting several such families in Utah where polygamyis still regarded as essential by certain Mormon fundamentalists,estimated that there are some 30,000 people living in undergroundfamily units of this type in the United States. As sexual attitudesloosen up, as property rights become less important because of risingaffluence, the social repression of polygamy may come to be regardedas irrational. This shift may be facilitated by the very mobilitythat compels men to spend considerable time away from their presenthomes. The old male fantasy of the Captain's Paradise may become areality for some, although it is likely that, under suchcircumstances, the wives left behind will demand extramarital sexualrights. Yesterday's "captain" would hardly consider thispossibility. Tomorrow's may feel quite differently about it.

Still another family form is even now springing up in our midst, anovel childrearing unit that I call the "aggregate family"– a family based on relationships between divorced and remarriedcouples, in which all the children become part of "one bigfamily." Though sociologists have paid little attention as yetto this phenomenon, it is already so prevalent that it formed thebasis for a hilarious scene in a recent American movie entitledDivorce American Style. We may expect aggregatefamilies to take on increasing importance in the decades ahead.

Childless marriage, professional parenthood, postretirementchildrearing, corporate families, communes, geriatric groupmarriages, homosexual family units, polygamy – these, then, are afew of the family forms and practices with which innovativeminorities will experiment in the decades ahead. Not all of us,however, will be willing to participate in such experimentation. Whatof the majority?


Minorities experiment; majorities cling to the forms of the past. Itis safe to say that large numbers of people will refuse to jettisonthe conventional idea of marriage or the familiar family forms. Theywill, no doubt, continue searching for happiness within the orthodoxformat. Yet, even they will be forced to innovate in the end, for theodds against success may prove overwhelming.

The orthodox format presupposes that two young people will "find"one another and marry. It presupposes that the two will fulfillcertain psychological needs in one another, and that the twopersonalities will develop over the years, more or less in tandem, sothat they continue to fulfill each other's needs. It furtherpresupposes that this process will last "until death do uspart." These expectations are built deeply into our culture. Itis no longer respectable, as it once was, to marry for anything butlove. Love has changed from a peripheral concern of the family intoits primary justification. Indeed, the pursuit of love through familylife has become, for many, the very purpose of life itself.

Love, however, is defined in terms of this notion of shared growth.It is seen as a beautiful mesh of complementary needs, flowing intoand out of one another, fulfilling the loved ones, and producingfeelings of warmth, tenderness and devotion. Unhappy husbands oftencomplain that they have "left their wives behind" in termsof social, educational or intellectual growth. Partners in successfulmarriages are said to "grow together."

This "parallel development" theory of love carriesendorsement from marriage counsellors, psychologists andsociologists. Thus, says sociologist Nelson Foote, a specialist onthe family, the quality of the relationship between husband and wifeis dependent upon "the degree of matching in their phases ofdistinct but comparable development."

If love is a product of shared growth, however, and we are to measuresuccess in marriage by the degree to which matched developmentactually occurs, it becomes possible to make a strong and ominousprediction about the future.

It is possible to demonstrate that, even in a relatively stagnantsociety, the mathematical odds are heavily stacked against any coupleachieving this ideal of parallel growth. The odds for successpositively plummet, however, when the rate of change in societyaccelerates, as it now is doing. In a fast‑moving society, inwhich many things change, not once, but repeatedly, in which thehusband moves up and down a variety of economic and social scales, inwhich the family is again and again torn loose from home andcommunity, in which individuals move further from their parents,further from the religion of origin, and further from traditionalvalues, it is almost miraculous if two people develop at anythinglike comparable rates.

If, at the same time, average life expectancy rises from, say, fiftyto seventy years, thereby lengthening the term during which thisacrobatic feat of matched development is supposed to be maintained,the odds against success become absolutely astronomical. Thus, NelsonFoote writes with wry understatement: "To expect a marriage tolast indefinitely under modern conditions is to expect a lot."To ask love to last indefinitely is to expect even more. Transienceand novelty are both in league against it.


It is this change in the statistical odds against love that accountsfor the high divorce and separation rates in most of thetechno‑societies. The faster the rate of change and the longerthe life span, the worse these odds grow. Something has to crack.

In point of fact, of course, something has already cracked – and itis the old insistence on permanence. Millions of men and women nowadopt what appears to them to be a sensible and conservativestrategy. Rather than opting for some offbeat variety of the family,they marry conventionally, they attempt to make it "work,"and then, when the paths of the partners diverge beyond an acceptablepoint, they divorce or depart. Most of them go on to search for a newpartner whose developmental stage, at that moment, matches their own.

As human relationships grow more transient and modular, the pursuitof love becomes, if anything, more frenzied. But the temporalexpectations change. As conventional marriage proves itself less andless capable of delivering on its promise of lifelong love,therefore, we can anticipate open public acceptance of temporarymarriages. Instead of wedding "until death us do part,"couples will enter into matrimony knowing from the first that therelationship is likely to be short‑lived.

They will know, too, that when the paths of husband and wife diverge,when there is too great a discrepancy in developmental stages, theymay call it quits – without shock or embarrassment, perhaps evenwithout some of the pain that goes with divorce today. And when theopportunity presents itself, they will marry again ... and again ...and again. Serial marriage – a pattern of successive temporarymarriages – is cut to order for the Age of Transience in which allman's relationships, all his ties with the environment, shrink induration. It is the natural, the inevitable outgrowth of a socialorder in which automobiles are rented, dolls traded in, and dressesdiscarded after one‑time use. It is the mainstream marriagepattern of tomorrow.

In one sense, serial marriage is already the best kept family secretof the technosocieties. According to Professor Jessie Bernard, aworld‑prominent family sociologist, "Plural marriage ismore extensive in our society today than it is in societies thatpermit polygamy – the chief difference being that we haveinstitutionalized plural marriage serially or sequentially ratherthan contemporaneously." Remarriage is already so prevalent apractice that nearly one out of every four bridegrooms in America hasbeen to the altar before. It is so prevalent that one IBM personnelman reports a poignant incident involving a divorced woman, who, infilling out a job application, paused when she came to the questionof marital status. She put her pencil in her mouth, pondered for amoment, then wrote: "Unremarried."

Transience necessarily affects the durational expectancies with whichpersons approach new situations. While they may yearn for a permanentrelationship, something inside whispers to them that it is anincreasingly improbable luxury.

Even young people who most passionately seek commitment, profoundinvolvement with people and causes, recognize the power of the thrusttoward transience. Listen, for example, to a young black American, acivil‑rights worker, as she describes her attitude toward timeand marriage:

"In the white world, marriage is always billed as 'the end' –like in a Hollywood movie. I don't go for that. I can't imaginemyself promising my whole lifetime away. I might want to get marriednow, but how about next year? That's not disrespect for theinstitution [of marriage], but the deepest respect. In The [civilrights] Movement, you need to have a feeling for the temporary – ofmaking something as good as you can, while it lasts. In conventionalrelationships, time is a prison."

Such attitudes will not be confined to the young, the few, or thepolitically active. They will whip across nations as novelty floodsinto the society and catch fire as the level of transience risesstill higher. And along with them will come a sharp increase in thenumber of temporary – then serial – marriages.

The idea is summed up vividly by a Swedish magazine, SvenskDamtidning, which interviewed a number of leading Swedishsociologists, legal experts, and others about the future of man‑womanrelationships. It presented its findings in five photographs. Theyshowed the same beautiful bride being carried across the thresholdfive times – by five different bridegrooms.


As serial marriages become more common, we shall begin tocharacterize people not in terms of their present marital status, butin terms of their marriage career or "trajectory." Thistrajectory will be formed by the decisions they make at certain vitalturning points in their lives.

For most people, the first such juncture will arrive in youth, whenthey enter into "trial marriage." Even now the young peopleof the United States and Europe are engaged in a mass experiment withprobationary marriage, with or without benefit of ceremony. Thestaidest of United States universities are beginning to wink at thepractice of co‑ed housekeeping among their students. Acceptanceof trial marriage is even growing among certain religiousphilosophers. Thus we hear the German theologian Siegfried Keil ofMarburg University urge what he terms "recognized premarriage."In Canada, Father Jacques Lazure has publicly proposed "probationarymarriages" of three to eighteen months.

In the past, social pressures and lack of money restrictedexperimentation with trial marriage to a relative handful. In thefuture, both these limiting forces will evaporate. Trial marriagewill be the first step in the serial marriage "careers"that millions will pursue.

A second critical life juncture for the people of the future willoccur when the trial marriage ends. At this point, couples may chooseto formalize their relationship and stay together into the nextstage. Or they may terminate it and seek out new partners. In eithercase, they will then face several options. They may prefer to gochildless. They may choose to have, adopt or "buy" one ormore children. They may decide to raise these children themselves orto farm them out to professional parents. Such decisions will bemade, by and large, in the early twenties – by which time manyyoung adults will already be well into their second marriages.

A third significant turning point in the marital career will come, asit does today, when the children finally leave home. The end ofparenthood proves excruciating for many, particularly women who, oncethe children are gone, find themselves without a raison d'être.Even today divorces result from the failure of the couple to adapt tothis traumatic break in continuity.

Among the more conventional couples of tomorrow who choose to raisetheir own children in the time‑honored fashion, this willcontinue to be a particularly painful time. It will, however, strikeearlier. Young people today already leave home sooner than theircounterparts a generation ago. They will probably depart even earliertomorrow. Masses of youngsters will move off, whether into trialmarriage or not, in their mid‑teens. Thus we may anticipatethat the middle and late thirties will be another importantbreakpoint in the marital careers of millions. Many at that juncturewill enter into their third marriage. This third marriage will bringtogether two people for what could well turn out to be the longestuninterrupted stretch of matrimony in their lives – from, say, thelate thirties until one of the partners dies. This may, in fact, turnout to be the only "real" marriage, the basis of the onlytruly durable marital relationship. During this time two maturepeople, presumably with wellmatched interests and complementarypsychological needs, and with a sense of being at comparable stagesof personality development, will be able to look forward to arelationship with a decent statistical probability of enduring.

Not all these marriages will survive until death, however, for thefamily will still face a fourth crisis point. This will come, as itdoes now for so many, when one or both of the partners retires fromwork. The abrupt change in daily routine brought about by thisdevelopment places great strain on the couple. Some couples will gothe path of the postretirement family, choosing this moment to beginthe task of raising children. This may overcome for them the vacuumthat so many couples now face after reaching the end of theiroccupational lives. (Today many women go to work when they finishraising children; tomorrow many will reverse that pattern, workingfirst and childrearing next.) Other couples will overcome the crisisof retirement in other ways, fashioning both together a new set ofhabits, interests and activities. Still others will find thetransition too difficult, and will simply sever their ties and enterthe pool of "in‑betweens" – the floating reserve oftemporarily unmarried persons.

Of course, there will be some who, through luck, interpersonal skilland high intelligence, will find it possible to make long‑lastingmonogamous marriages work. Some will succeed, as they do today, inmarrying for life and finding durable love and affection. But otherswill fail to make even sequential marriages endure for long. Thussome will try two or even three partners within, say, the final stageof marriage. Across the board, the average number of marriages percapita will rise – slowly but relentlessly.

Most people will probably move forward along this progression,engaging in one "conventional" temporary marriage afteranother. But with widespread familial experimentation in the society,the more daring or desperate will make side forays into lessconventional arrangements as well, perhaps experimenting withcommunal life at some point, or going it alone with a child. The netresult will be a rich variation in the types of marital trajectoriesthat people will trace, a wider choice of life‑patterns, anendless opportunity for novelty of experience. Certain patterns willbe more common than others. But temporary marriage will be a standardfeature, perhaps the dominant feature, of family life in the future.


A world in which marriage is temporary rather than permanent, inwhich family arrangements are diverse and colorful, in whichhomosexuals may be acceptable parents and retirees start raisingchildren – such a world is vastly different from our own. Today allboys and girls are expected to find life‑long partners. Intomorrow's world, being single will be no crime. Nor will couples beforced to remain imprisoned, as so many still are today, in marriagesthat have turned rancid. Divorce will be easy to arrange, so long asresponsible provision is made for children. In fact, the veryintroduction of professional parenthood could touch off a greatliberating wave of divorces by making it easier for adults todischarge their parental responsibilities without necessarilyremaining in the cage of a hateful marriage. With this powerfulexternal pressure removed, those who stay together would be those whowish to stay together, those for whom marriage is actively fulfilling– those, in short, who are in love.

We are also likely to see, under this looser, more variegated familysystem, many more marriages involving partners of unequal age.Increasingly, older men will marry young girls or vice versa. Whatwill count will not be chronological age, but complementary valuesand interests and, above all, the level of personal development. Toput it another way, partners will be interested not in age, but instage.

Children in this super‑industrial society will grow up with anever enlarging circle of what might be called "semi‑siblings"– a whole clan of boys and girls brought into the world by theirsuccessive sets of parents. What becomes of such "aggregate"families will be fascinating to observe. Semi‑sibs may turn outto be like cousins, today. They may help one another professionallyor in time of need. But they will also present the society with novelproblems. Should semi‑sibs marry, for example?

Surely, the whole relationship of the child to the family will bedramatically altered. Except perhaps in communal groupings, thefamily will lose what little remains of its power to transmit valuesto the younger generation. This will further accelerate the pace ofchange and intensify the problems that go with it.

Looming over all such changes, however, and even dwarfing them insignificance is something far more subtle. Seldom discussed, there isa hidden rhythm in human affairs that until now has served as one ofthe key stabilizing forces in society: the family cycle.

We begin as children; we mature; we leave the parental nest; we givebirth to children who, in turn, grow up, leave and begin the processall over again. This cycle has been operating so long, soautomatically, and with such implacable regularity, that men havetaken it for granted. It is part of the human landscape. Long beforethey reach puberty, children learn the part they are expected to playin keeping this great cycle turning. This predictable succession offamily events has provided all men, of whatever tribe or society,with a sense of continuity, a place in the temporal scheme of things.The family cycle has been one of the sanity‑preservingconstants in human existence.

Today this cycle is accelerating. We grow up sooner, leave homesooner, marry sooner, have children sooner. We space them moreclosely together and complete the period of parenthood more quickly.In the words of Dr. Bernice Neugarten, a University of Chicagospecialist on family development, "The trend is toward a morerapid rhythm of events through most of the family cycle."

But if industrialism, with its faster pace of life, has acceleratedthe family cycle, superindustrialism now threatens to smash italtogether. With the fantasies that the birth scientists arehammering into reality, with the colorful familial experimentationthat innovative minorities will perform, with the likely developmentof such institutions as professional parenthood, with the increasingmovement toward temporary and serial marriage, we shall not merelyrun the cycle more rapidly; we shall introduce irregularity,suspense, unpredictability – in a word, novelty – into what wasonce as regular and certain as the seasons.

When a "mother" can compress the process of birth into abrief visit to an embryo emporium, when by transferring embryos fromwomb to womb we can destroy even the ancient certainty thatchildbearing took nine months, children will grow up into a world inwhich the family cycle, once so smooth a d sure, will be jerkilyarhythmic. Another crucial stabilizer will have been removed from thewreckage of the old order, another pillar of sanity broken.

There is, of course, nothing inevitable about the developments tracedin the preceding pages. We have it in our power to shape change. Wemay choose one future over another. We cannot, however, maintain thepast. In our family forms, as in our economics, science, technologyand social relationships, we shall be forced to deal with the new.

The Super‑industrial Revolution will liberate men from many ofthe barbarisms that grew out of the restrictive, relativelychoiceless family patterns of the past and present. It will offer toeach a degree of freedom hitherto unknown. But it will exact a steepprice for that freedom.

As we hurtle into tomorrow, millions of ordinary men and women willface emotionpacked options so unfamiliar, so untested, that pastexperience will offer little clue to wisdom. In their family ties, asin all other aspects of their lives, they will be compelled to copenot merely with transience, but with the added problem of novelty aswell.

Thus, in matters both large and small, in the most public ofconflicts and the most private of conditions, the balance betweenroutine and non‑routine, predictable and nonpredictable, theknown and the unknown, will be altered. The novelty ratio will rise.

In such an environment, fast‑changing and unfamiliar, we shallbe forced, as we wend our way through life, to make our personalchoices from a diverse array of options. And it is to the thirdcentral characteristic of tomorrow, diversity, that we mustnow turn. For it is the final convergence of these three factors –transience, novelty and diversity – that sets the stage for thehistoric crisis of adaptation that is the subject of this book:future shock.


Chapter 12


The Super‑industrial Revolution will consign to the archives ofignorance most of what we now believe about democracy and the futureof human choice. Today in the techno‑societies there is analmost ironclad consensus about the future of freedom. Maximumindividual choice is regarded as the democratic ideal. Yet mostwriters predict that we shall move further and further from thisideal. They conjure up a dark vision of the future, in which peopleappear as mindless consumer‑creatures, surrounded bystandardized goods, educated in standardized schools, fed a diet ofstandardized mass culture, and forced to adopt standardized styles oflife.

Such predictions have spawned a generation of future‑haters andtechnophobes, as one might expect. One of the most extreme of theseis a French religious mystic, Jacques Ellul, whose books are enjoyinga campus vogue. According to Ellul, man was far freer in the pastwhen "Choice was a real possibility for him." By contrast,today, "The human being is no longer in any sense the agent ofchoice." And, as for tomorrow: "In the future, man willapparently be confined to the role of a recording device."Robbed of choice, he will be acted upon, not active. He will live,Ellul warns, in a totalitarian state run by a velvet‑glovedGestapo.

This same theme – the loss of choice – runs through much of thework of Arnold Toynbee. It is repeated by everyone from hippie gurusto Supreme Court justices, tabloid editorialists and existentialistphilosophers. Put in its simplest form, this Theory of VanishingChoice rests on a crude syllogism: Science and technology havefostered standardization. Science and technology will advance, makingthe future even more standardized than the present. Ergo: Manwill progressively lose his freedom of choice.

If instead of blindly accepting this syllogism, we stop to analyzeit, however, we make an extraordinary discovery. For not only is thelogic itself faulty, the entire idea is premised on sheer factualignorance about the nature, the meaning and the direction of theSuperindustrial Revolution.

Ironically, the people of the future may suffer not from an absenceof choice, but from a paralyzing surfeit of it. They may turn out tobe victims of that peculiarly super‑industrial dilemma:overchoice.


No person traveling across Europe or the United States can fail to beimpressed by the architectural similarity of one gas station orairport to another. Anyone thirsting for a soft drink will find onebottle of Coca‑Cola to be almost identical with the next.Clearly a consequence of mass production techniques, the uniformityof certain aspects of our physical environment has long outragedintellectuals. Some decry the Hiltonization of our hotels; otherscharge that we are homogenizing the entire human race.

Certainly, it would be difficult to deny that industrialism has had aleveling effect. Our ability to produce millions of nearly identicalunits is the crowning achievement of the industrial age. Thus, whenintellectuals bewail the sameness of our material goods, theyaccurately reflect the state of affairs under industrialism.

In the same breath, however, they reveal shocking ignorance about thecharacter of super‑industrialism. Focused on what society was,they are blind to what it is fast becoming. For the society of thefuture will offer not a restricted, standardized flow of goods, butthe greatest variety of unstandardized goods and services anysociety has ever seen. We are moving not toward a further extensionof material standardization, but toward its dialectical negation.

The end of standardization is already in sight. The pace varies fromindustry to industry, and from country to country. In Europe, thepeak of standardization has not yet been crested. (It may takeanother twenty or thirty years to run its course.) But in the UnitedStates, there is compelling evidence that a historic corner has beenturned.

Some years ago, for example, an American marketing expert namedKenneth Schwartz made a surprising discovery. "It is nothingless than a revolutionary transformation that has come over the massconsumer market during the past five years," he wrote. "Froma single homogenous unit, the mass market has exploded into a seriesof segmented, fragmented markets, each with its own needs, tastes andway of life." This fact has begun to alter American industrybeyond recognition. The result is an astonishing change in the actualoutpouring of goods offered to the consumer.

Philip Morris, for example, sold a single major brand of cigarettesfor twenty‑one years. Since 1954 by contrast, it has introducedsix new brands and so many options with respect to size, filter andmenthol that the smoker now has a choice among sixteen differentvariations. This fact would be trivial, were it not duplicated invirtually every major product field. Gasoline? Until a few years ago,the American motorist took his pick of either "regular" or"premium." Today he drives up to a Sunoco pump and is askedto choose among eight different blends and mixes. Groceries? Between1950 and 1963 the number of different soaps and detergents on theAmerican grocery shelf increased from sixty‑five to 200; frozenfoods from 121 to 350; baking mixes and flour from eighty‑fourto 200. Even the variety of pet foods increased from fifty‑eightto eighty‑one.

One major company, Corn Products, produces a pancake syrup calledKaro. Instead of offering the same product nationally, however, itsells two different viscosities, having found that Pennsylvanians,for some regional reason, prefer their syrup thicker than otherAmericans. In the field of office décor and furniture, the sameprocess is at work. "There are ten times the new styles andcolors there were a decade ago," says John A. Saunders,president of General Fireproofing Company, a major manufacturer inthe field. "Every architect wants his own shade of green."Companies, in other words, are discovering wide variations inconsumer wants and are adapting their production lines to accommodatethem. Two economic factors encourage this trend: first, consumershave more money to lavish on their specialized wants; second, andeven more important, as technology becomes more sophisticated,the cost of introducing variations declines.

This is the point that our social critics – most of whom aretechnologically naive – fail to understand: it is only primitivetechnology that imposes standardization. Automation, in contrast,frees the path to endless, blinding, mind‑numbing diversity.

"The rigid uniformity and long runs of identical products whichcharacterize our traditional mass production plants are becoming lessimportant" reports industrial engineer Boris Yavitz."Numerically controlled machines can readily shift from oneproduct model or size to another by a simple change of programs ...Short product runs become economically feasible." According toProfessor Van Court Hare, Jr., of the Columbia University GraduateSchool of Business, "Automated equipment ... permits theproduction of a wide variety of products in short runs at almost'mass production' costs." Many engineers and business expertsforesee the day when diversity will cost no more than uniformity.

The finding that pre‑automation technology yieldsstandardization, while advanced technology permits diversity is borneout by even a casual look at that controversial American innovation,the supermarket. Like gas stations and airports, supermarkets tend tolook alike whether they are in Milan or Milwaukee. By wiping outthousands of little "mom and pop" stores they have withoutdoubt contributed to uniformity in the architectural environment. Yetthe array of goods they offer the consumer is incomparably morediverse than any corner store could afford to stock. Thus at the verymoment that they encourage architectural sameness, they fostergastronomic diversity.

The reason for this contrast is simple: Food and food packagingtechnology is far more advanced than construction techniques. Indeed,construction has scarcely reached the level of mass production; itremains, in large measure, a pre‑industrial craft. Strangled bylocal building codes and conservative trade unions, the industry'srate of technological advance is far below that of other industries.The more advanced the technology, the cheaper it is to introducevariation in output. We can safely predict, therefore, that when theconstruction industry catches up with manufacture in technologicalsophistication, gas stations, airports, and hotels, as well assupermarkets, will stop looking as if they had been poured from thesame mold. Uniformity will give way to diversity. (Where the processhas begun, the results are striking. In Washington, D.C., forexample, there is a computer‑designed apartment house –Watergate East – in which no two floors are alike. Of 240apartments, 167 have different floor plans. And there are nocontinuous straight lines in the building anywhere.)

While certain parts of Europe and Japan are still building theirfirst all‑purpose supermarkets, the United States has alreadyleaped to the next stage – the creation of specialized super‑storesthat widen still further (indeed, almost beyond belief) the varietyof goods available to the consumer. In Washington, D.C., one suchstore specializes in foreign foods, offering such delicacies ashippopotamus steak, alligator meat, wild snow hare, and thirty‑fivedifferent kinds of honey.

The idea that primitive industrial techniques foster uniformity,while advanced automated techniques favor diversity, is dramatized byrecent changes in the automobile industry. The widespreadintroduction of European and Japanese cars into the American marketin the late 1950's opened many new options for the buyer –increasing his choice from half a dozen to some fifty makes. Todayeven this wide range of choice seems narrow and constricted.

Faced with foreign competition, Detroit took a new look at theso‑called "mass consumer." It found not a singleuniform mass market, but an aggregation of transient minimarkets. Italso found, as one writer put it, that "customers wantedcustom‑like cars that would give them an illusion of havingone‑of‑a‑kind." To provide that illusion wouldhave been impossible with the old technology; the new computerizedassembly systems, however, make possible not merely the illusion, buteven – before long – the reality.

Thus the beautiful and spectacularly successful Mustang is promotedby Ford as "the one you design yourself," because, ascritic Reyner Banham explains, there "isn't a dungregularMustang any more, just a stockpile of options to meld in combinationsof 3 (bodies) × 4 (engines) × 3 (transmissions) × 4 (basic sets ofhigh‑performance engine modifications) – 1 (rock‑bottomsix cylinder car to which these modifications don't apply) + 2(Shelby grandtouring and racing set‑ups applying to only onebody shell and not all engine/ transmission combinations)."

This does not even take into account the possible variations incolor, upholstery and optional equipment.

Both car buyers and auto salesmen are increasingly disconcerted bythe sheer multiplicity of options. The buyer's problem of choice hasbecome far more complicated, the addition of each option creating theneed for more information, more decisions and subdecisions. Thus,anyone who has attempted to buy a car lately, as I have, soon findsthat the task of learning about the various brands, lines, models andoptions (even within a fixed price range) requires days of shoppingand reading. In short, the auto industry may soon reach the point atwhich its technology can economically produce more diversity than theconsumer needs or wants.

Yet we are only beginning the march toward destandardization of ourmaterial culture. Marshall McLuhan has noted that "Even today,most United States automobiles are, in a sense, custom‑produced.Figuring all possible combinations of styles, options and colorsavailable on a certain new family sports car, for example, a computerexpert came up with 25,000,000 different versions of it for a buyer... When automated electronic production reaches full potential, itwill be just about as cheap to turn out a million differing objectsas a million exact duplicates. The only limits on production andconsumption will be the human imagination." Many of McLuhan'sother assertions are highly debatable. This one is not. He isabsolutely correct about the direction in which technology is moving.The material goods of the future will be many things; but they willnot be standardized. We are, in fact, racing toward "overchoice"– the point at which the advantages of diversity andindividualization are cancelled by the complexity of the buyer'sdecision‑making process.


Does any of this matter? Some people argue that diversity in thematerial environment is insignificant so long as we are racing towardcultural or spiritual homogeneity. "It's what's inside thatcounts," they say, paraphrasing a well‑known cigarettecommercial.

This view gravely underestimates the importance of material goods assymbolic expressions of human personality differences, and itfoolishly denies a connection between the inner and outerenvironment. Those who fear the standardization of human beingsshould warmly welcome the destandardization of goods. For byincreasing the diversity of goods available to man we increase themathematical probability of differences in the way men actually live.

More important, however, is the very premise that we areracing toward cultural homogeneity, since a close look at this alsosuggests that just the opposite is true. It is unpopular to say this,but we are moving swiftly toward fragmentation and diversity not onlyin material production, but in art, education and mass culture aswell.

One highly revealing test of cultural diversity in any literatesociety has to do with the number of different books published permillion of population. The more standardized the tastes of thepublic, the fewer titles will be published per million; the morediverse these tastes, the greater the number of titles. The increaseor decrease of this figure over time is a significant clue to thedirection of cultural change in the society. This was the reasoningbehind a study of world book trends published by UNESCO. Conducted byRobert Escarpit director of the Center for the Sociology ofLiterature at the University of Bordeaux, it provided dramaticevidence of a powerful international shift toward culturaldestandardization.

Thus, between 1952 and 1962 the index of diversity rose in fullytwenty‑one of the twenty‑nine chief book‑producingnations. Among the countries registering the highest shifts towardliterary diversity were Canada, the United States and Sweden, allwith increases in excess of 50 percent or more. The United Kingdom,France, Japan and the Netherlands all moved from 10 to 25 percent inthe same direction. The eight countries that moved in the oppositedirection – i.e., toward greater standardization of literaryoutputwere India, Mexico, Argentina, Italy, Poland, Yugoslavia,Belgium, and Austria. In short, the more advanced the technology in acountry, the greater the likelihood that it would be moving in thedirection of literary diversity and away from uniformity.

The same push toward pluralism is evident in painting, too, where wefind an almost incredibly wide spectrum of production.Representationalism, expressionism, surrealism, abstractexpressionism, hard‑edge, pop, kinetic, and a hundred otherstyles are pumped into the society at the same time. One or anothermay dominate the galleries temporarily, but there are no universalstandards or styles. It is a pluralistic marketplace.

When art was a tribal‑religious activity, the painter workedfor the whole community. Later he worked for a single smallaristocratic elite. Still later the audience appeared as a singleundifferentiated mass. Today he faces a large audience split into amilling mass of subgroups. According to John McHale: "The mostuniform cultural contexts are typically primitive enclaves. The moststriking feature of our contemporary 'mass' culture is the vast rangeand diversity of its alternative cultural choices ... The 'mass,' oneven cursory examination, breaks down into many different'audiences."'

Indeed, artists no longer attempt to work for a universal public.Even when they think they are doing so, they are usually respondingto the tastes and styles preferred by one or another sub‑groupin the society. Like the manufacturers of pancake syrup andautomobiles, artists, too, produce for "mini‑markets."And as these markets multiply, artistic output diversifies.

The push for diversity, meanwhile, is igniting bitter conflict ineducation. Ever since the rise of industrialism, education in theWest, and particularly in the United States, has been organized forthe mass production of basically standardized educational packages.It is not accidental that at the precise moment when the consumer hasbegun to demand and obtain greater diversity, the same moment whennew technology promises to make destandardization possible, a wave ofrevolt has begun to sweep the college campus. Though the connectionis seldom noticed, events on the campus and events in the consumermarket are intimately connected.

One basic complaint of the student is that he is not treated as anindividual, that he is served up an undifferentiated gruel, ratherthan a personalized product. Like the Mustang buyer, the studentwants to design his own. The difference is that while industry ishighly responsive to consumer demand, education typically has beenindifferent to student wants. (In one case we say, "the customerknows best"; in the other, we insist that "Papa – or hiseducational surrogate – knows best.") Thus thestudent‑consumer is forced to fight to make the educationindustry responsive to his demand for diversity.

While most colleges and universities have greatly broadened thevariety of their course offerings, they are still wedded to complexstandardizing systems based on degrees, majors and the like. Thesesystems lay down basic tracks along which all students must progress.While educators are rapidly multiplying the number of alternativepaths, the pace of diversification is by no means swift enough forthe students. This explains why young people have set up"para‑universities" – experimental colleges andso‑called free universities – in which each student is freeto choose what he wishes from a mind‑shattering smorgasbord ofcourses that range from guerrilla tactics and stock market techniquesto Zen Buddhism and "underground theater."

Long before the year 2000, the entire antiquated structure ofdegrees, majors and credits will be a shambles. No two students willmove along exactly the same educational track. For the students nowpressuring higher education to destandardize, to move towardsuperindustrial diversity, will win their battle.

It is significant, for example, that one of the chief results of thestudent strike in France was a massive decentralization of theuniversity system. Decentralization makes possible greater regionaldiversity, local authority to alter curriculum, student regulationsand administrative practices.

A parallel revolution is brewing in the public schools as well. Ithas already flared into open violence. Like the disturbance atBerkeley that initiated the worldwide wave of student protest, it hasbegun with something that appears at first glimpse to be a purelylocal issue.

Thus New York City, whose public education system encompasses nearly900 schools and is responsible for one out of every forty Americanpublic school pupils, has suffered the worst teachers' strike inhistory – precisely over the issue of decentralization. Teacherpicket lines, parent boycotts, and near riot have become everydayoccurrences in the city's schools. Angered by the ineffectiveness ofthe schools, and by what they rightfully regard as blatant raceprejudice, black parents, backed by various community forces, havedemanded that the entire school system be cut up into smaller"community‑run" school systems.

In effect, New York's black population, having failed to achieveracial integration and quality education, wants its own schoolsystem. It wants courses in Negro history. It wants greater parentalinvolvement with the schools than is possible in the present large,bureaucratic and ossified system. It claims, in short, the right tobe different.

The essential issues far transcend racial prejudice, however. Untilnow the big urban school systems in the United States have beenpowerful homogenizing influences. By fixing city‑wide standardsand curricula, by choosing texts and personnel on a city‑widebasis, they have imposed considerable uniformity on the schools.

Today, the pressure for decentralization, which has already spread toDetroit, Washington, Milwaukee, and other major cities in the UnitedStates (and which will, in different forms, spread to Europe aswell), is an attempt not simply to improve the education of Negroes,but to smash the very idea of centralized, city‑wide schoolpolicies. It is an attempt to generate local variety in publiceducation by turning over control of the schools to localauthorities. It is, in short, part of a larger struggle to diversifyeducation in the last third of the twentieth century. That the efforthas been temporarily blocked in New York, largely through thestubborn resistance of an entrenched trade union, does not mean thatthe historic forces pushing toward destandardization will forever becontained.

Failure to diversify education within the system will simplylead to the growth of alternative educational opportunities outsidethe system. Thus we have today the suggestions of prominent educatorsand sociologists, including Kenneth B. Clark and Christopher Jencks,for the creation of new schools outside of, and competitive with, theofficial public school systems. Clark has called for regional andstate schools, federal schools, schools run by colleges, tradeunions, corporations and even military units. Such competing schoolswould, he contends, help create the diversity that educationdesperately needs. Simultaneously, in a less formal way, a variety of"para‑schools" are already being established byhippie communes and other groups who find the mainstream educationalsystem too homogeneous.

We see here, therefore, a major cultural force in the society –education – being pushed to diversify its output, exactly as theeconomy is doing. And here, exactly as in the realm of materialproduction, the new technology, rather than fosteringstandardization, carries us toward super‑industrial diversity.

Computers, for example, make it easier for a large school to schedulemore flexibly. They make it easier for the school to cope withindependent study, with a wider range of course offerings and morevaried extracurricular activities. More important, computerassistededucation, programmed instruction and other such techniques, despitepopular misconceptions, radically enhance the possibility ofdiversity in the classroom. They permit each student to advance athis own purely personal pace. They permit him to follow a custom‑cutpath toward knowledge, rather than a rigid syllabus as in thetraditional industrial era classroom.

Moreover, in the educational world of tomorrow, that relic of massproduction, the centralized work place, will also become lessimportant. Just as economic mass production required large numbers ofworkers to be assembled in factories, educational mass productionrequired large numbers of students to be assembled in schools. Thisitself, with its demands for uniform discipline, regular hours,attendance checks and the like, was a standardizing force. Advancedtechnology will, in the future, make much of this unnecessary. A gooddeal of education will take place in the student's own room at homeor in a dorm, at hours of his own choosing. With vast libraries ofdata available to him via computerized information retrieval systems,with his own tapes and video units, his own language laboratory andhis own electronically equipped study carrel, he will be freed, formuch of the time, of the restrictions and unpleasantness that doggedhim in the lockstep classroom.

The technology upon which these new freedoms will be based willinevitably spread through the schools in the years ahead –aggressively pushed, no doubt, by major corporations like IBM, RCA,and Xerox. Within thirty years, the educational systems of the UnitedStates, and several Western European countries as well, will havebroken decisively with the mass production pedagogy of the past, andwill have advanced into an era of educational diversity based on theliberating power of the new machines.

In education, therefore, as in the production of material goods, thesociety is shifting irresistibly away from, rather than toward,standardization. It is not simply a matter of more variedautomobiles, detergents and cigarettes. The social thrust towarddiversity and increased individual choice affects our mental, as wellas our material surroundings.


Of all the forces accused of homogenizing the modern mind, few havebeen so continuously and bitterly criticized as the mass media.Intellectuals in the United States and Europe have lambastedtelevision, in particular, for standardizing speech, habits, andtastes. They have pictured it as a vast lawnroller flattening out ourregional differences, crushing the last vestiges of cultural variety.A thriving academic industry has leveled similar charges againstmagazines and movies.

While there is truth in some of these charges, they overlookcritically important counter‑trends that generate diversity,not standardization. Television, with its high costs of productionand its limited number of channels, is still necessarily dependentupon very large audiences. But in almost every other communicationsmedium we can trace a decreasing reliance on mass audiences.Everywhere the "market segmentation" process is at work.

A generation ago, American movie‑goers saw almost nothing butHollywood‑made films aimed at capturing the so‑calledmass audience. Today in cities across the country these "mainstream"movies are supplemented by foreign movies, art films, sex movies, anda whole stream of specialized motion pictures consciously designed toappeal to sub‑markets – surfers, hot‑rodders,motorcyclists, and the like. Output is so specialized that it is evenpossible, in New York at least, to find a theater patronized almostexclusively by homosexuals who watch the antics of transvestites and"drag queens" filmed especially for them.

All this helps account for the trend toward smaller movie theaters inthe United States and Europe. According to the Economist, "Thedays of the 4000‑seater Trocadero ... are over ... Theold‑style mass cinema audience of regular once‑a‑weekershas gone for good." Instead, multiple small audiences turn outfor particular kinds of films, and the economics of the industry areup‑ended. Thus Cinecenta has opened a cluster of four 150‑seattheaters on a single site in London, and other exhibitors areplanning midget movie houses. Once again, advanced technology fostersdehomogenization: the development of in‑flight movies has ledto new low‑cost 16 mm. projection systems that are made toorder for the mini‑movie. They require no projectionist andonly a single machine, instead of the customary two. United Artistsis marketing these "cineautomats" on a franchise basis.

Radio, too, though still heavily oriented toward the mass market,shows some signs of differentiation. Some American stations beamnothing but classical music to upper‑income, high educationlisteners, while others specialize in news, and still others in rockmusic. (Rock stations are rapidly subdividing into still finercategories: some aim their fare for the undereighteen market; othersfor a somewhat older group; still others for Negroes.) There are evenrudimentary attempts to set up radio stations programming solely fora single profession – physicians, for example. In the future, wecan anticipate networks that broadcast for such specializedoccupational groups as engineers, accountants and attorneys. Stilllater, there will be market segmentation not simply alongoccupational lines, but along socio‑economic and psycho‑sociallines as well.

It is in publishing, however, that the signs of destandardization aremost unmistakable. Until the rise of television, mass magazines werethe chief standardizing media in most countries. Carrying the samefiction, the same articles and the same advertisements to hundreds ofthousands, even millions of homes, they rapidly spread fashions,political opinions and styles. Like radio broadcasters andmoviemakers, publishers tended to seek the largest and most universalaudience.

The competition of television killed off a number of major Americanmagazines such as Collier's and Woman's Home Companion.Those mass market publications that have survived the post‑TVshake‑up have done so, in part, by turning themselves into acollection of regional and segmentalized editions. Between 1959 and1969, the number of American magazines offering specialized editionsjumped from 126 to 235. Thus every large circulation magazine in theUnited States today prints slightly different editions for differentregions of the country – some publishers offering as many as onehundred variations. Special editions are also addressed tooccupational and other groups. The 80,000 physicians and dentists whoreceive Time each week get a somewhat different magazine thanthat received by teachers whose edition, in turn, is different fromthat sent to college students. These "demographic editions"are growing increasingly refined and specialized. In short, massmagazine publishers are busily destandardizing, diversifying theiroutput exactly as the automakers and appliance manufacturers havedone.

Furthermore, the rate of new magazine births has shot way up.According to the Magazine Publishers Association, approximately fournew magazines have come into being for every one that died during thepast decade. Every week sees a new small‑circulation magazineon the stands or in the mails, magazines aimed at mini‑marketsof surfers, scubadivers and senior citizens, at hot‑rodders,credit‑card holders, skiers and jet passengers. A varied cropof teenage magazines has sprung up, and most recently we havewitnessed something no "mass society" pundit would havedared predict a few years ago: a rebirth of local monthlies. Todayscores of American cities such as Phoenix, Philadelphia, San Diegoand Atlanta, boast fat, slick, well‑supported new magazinesdevoted entirely to local or regional matters. This is hardly a signof the erosion of differences. Rather, we are getting a richer mix, afar greater choice of magazines than ever before. And, as the UNESCOsurvey showed, the same is true of books.

The number of different titles published each year has risen sosharply, and is now so large (more than 30,000 in the United States)that one suburban matron has complained, "It's getting hard tofind someone who's read the same book as you. How can you even carryon a conversation about reading?" She may be overstating thecase, but book clubs, for example, are finding it increasingly moredifficult to choose monthly selections that appeal to large numbersof divergent readers.

Nor is the process of media differentiation confined to commercialpublishing alone. Non‑commercial literary magazines areproliferating. "Never in American history have there been asmany such magazines as there are today," reports The New YorkTimes Book Review. Similarly, "underground newspapers"have sprung up in dozens of American and European cities. There areat least 200 of these in the United States, many of them supported byadvertising placed by leading record manufacturers. Appealing chieflyto hippies, campus radicals and the rock audience, they have become atangible force in the formation of opinion among the young. FromLondon's IT and the East Village Other in New York, tothe Kudzu in Jackson, Mississippi, they are heavilyillustrated, often color‑printed, and jammed with ads for"psychedelicatessens" and dating services. Undergroundpapers are even published in high schools. To observe the growth ofthese grass‑roots publications and to speak of "massculture" or "standardization" is to blind oneself tothe new realities.

Significantly, this thrust toward media diversity is based not onaffluence alone, but, as we have seen before, on the new technology –the very machines that are supposedly going to homogenize us andcrush all vestiges of variety. Advances in offset printing andxerography have radically lowered the costs of short‑runpublishing, to the point at which high school students can (and do)finance publication of their underground press with pocket money.Indeed, the office copying machine – some versions selling now foras little as thirty dollars – makes possible such extremely shortproduction runs that, as McLuhan puts it, every man can now be hisown publisher. In America, where the office copying machine is almostas universal as the adding machine, it would appear that every man is. The rocketing number of periodicals that land on one's desk isdramatic testimony to the ease of publication.

Meanwhile, hand‑held cameras and new video‑tape equipmentare similarly revolutionizing the ground rules of cinema. Newtechnology has put camera and film into the hands of thousands ofstudents and amateurs, and the underground movie – crude, colorful,perverse, highly individualized and localized – is flourishing evenmore than the underground press.

These technological advances have their analog in audiocommmunications, too, where the omnipresence of tape recorderspermits every man to be his own "broadcaster." AndreMoosmann, chief Eastern European expert for Radio‑TelevisionFrançaise, reports the existence of widely known pop singers inRussia and Poland who have never appeared on radio or television, butwhose songs and voices have been popularized through the medium oftape recordings alone. Tapings of Bulat Okudzava's songs, forexample, pass from hand to hand, each listener making his ownduplicate – a process that totalitarian governments find difficultto prevent or police. "It goes quickly," says Moosmann, "ifa man makes one tape and a friend makes two, the rate of increase canbe very fast."

Radicals have often complained that the means of communication aremonopolized by a few. Sociologist C. Wright Mills went so far, if mymemory is correct, as to urge cultural workers to take over the meansof communication. This turns out to be hardly necessary. The advanceof communications technology is quietly and rapidly de‑monopolizingcommunications without a shot being fired. The result is a richdestandardization of cultural output.

Television, therefore, may still be homogenizing taste; but the othermedia have already passed beyond the technological state at whichstandardization is necessary. When technical breakthroughs alter theeconomics of television by providing more channels and lowering costsof production, we can anticipate that that medium, too, will begin tofragment its output and cater to, rather than counter, the increasingdiversity of the consuming public. Such breakthroughs are, in fact,closer than the horizon. The invention of electronic video recording,the spread of cable television, the possibility of broadcastingdirect from satellite to cable systems, all point to vast increasesin program variety. For it should now be clear that tendencies towarduniformity represent only one stage in the development of anytechnology. A dialectical process is at work, and we are on the edgeof a long leap toward unparalleled cultural diversity.

The day is already in sight when books, magazines, newspapers, filmsand other media will, like the Mustang, be offered to the consumer ona design‑it‑yourself basis. Thus in the mid‑sixties,Joseph Naughton, a mathematician and computer specialist at theUniversity of Pittsburgh, suggested a system that would store aconsumer's profile – data about his occupation and interests – ina central computer. Machines would then scan newspapers, magazines,video tapes, films and other material, match them against theindividual's interest profile, and instantaneously notify him whensomething appears that concerns him. The system could be hitched tofacsimile machines and TV transmitters that would actually display orprint out the material in his own living room. By 1969 the Japanesedaily Asahi Shimbun was publicly demonstrating a lowcost "Telenews" system for printing newspapers in the home,and Matsushita Industries of Osaka was displaying a competitivesystem known as TV Fax (H). These are the first steps toward thenewspaper of the future – a peculiar newspaper, indeed, offering notwo viewer‑readers the same content. Mass communication, undera system like this, is "de‑massified." We move fromhomogeneity to heterogeneity.

It is obstinate nonsense to insist, in the face of all this, that themachines of tomorrow will turn us into robots, steal ourindividuality, eliminate cultural variety, etc., etc. Becauseprimitive mass production imposed certain uniformities, does not meanthat super‑industrial machines will do the same. The fact isthat the entire thrust of the future carries away fromstandardization – away from uniform goods, away from homogenizedart, mass produced education and "mass" culture. We havereached a dialectical turning point in the technological developmentof society. And technology, far from restricting our individuality,will multiply our choices – and our freedom – exponentially.

Whether man is prepared to cope with the increased choice of materialand cultural wares available to him is, however, a totally differentquestion. For there comes a time when choice, rather than freeing theindividual, becomes so complex, difficult and costly, that it turnsinto its opposite. There comes a time, in short, when choice turnsinto overchoice and freedom into un‑freedom.

To understand why, we must go beyond this examination of ourexpanding material and cultural choice. We must look at what ishappening to social choice as well.

Chapter 13


Thirty miles north of New York City, within easy reach of its towers,its traffic and its urban temptations, lives a young taxicab driver,a former soldier, who boasts 700 surgical stitches in his body. Thesestitches are not the result of combat wounds, nor of an accidentinvolving his taxi. Instead, they are the result of his chiefrecreation: rodeo riding.

On a cab driver's modest salary, this man spends more than $1200 ayear to own a horse, stable it, and keep it in perfect trim.Periodically hitching a horsetrailer to his auto, he drives a littleover one hundred miles to a place outside Philadelphia called "CowTown." There, with others like himself, he participates inroping, steer wrestling, bronco busting, and other strenuouscontests, the chief prize of which have been repeated visits to ahospital emergency ward.

Despite its proximity, New York holds no fascination for this fellow.When I met him he was twenty‑three, and he had visited it onlyonce or twice in his life. His entire interest is focused on the cowring, and he is a member of a tiny group of rodeo fanatics who form alittle‑known underground in the United States. They are notprofessionals who earn a living from this atavistic sport. Nor arethey simply people who affect Western‑style boots, hats, denimjackets and leather belts. They are a tiny, but authentic subcultlost within the vastness and complexity of the most highlytechnological civilization in the world.

This odd group not only engages the cab driver's passion, it consumeshis time and money. It affects his family, his friends, his ideas. Itprovides a set of standards against which he measures himself. Inshort, it rewards him with something that many of us have difficultyfinding: an identity.

The techno‑societies, far from being drab and homogenized, arehoneycombed with just such colorful groupings – hippies and hotrodders, theosophists and flying saucer fans, skindivers andskydivers, homosexuals, computerniks, vegetarians, bodybuilders andBlack Muslims.

Today the hammerblows of the super‑industrial revolution areliterally splintering the society. We are multiplying these socialenclaves, tribes and minicults among us almost as fast as we aremultiplying automotive options. The same destandardizing forces thatmake for greater individual choice with respect to products andcultural wares, are also destandardizing our social structures. Thisis why, seemingly overnight, new subcults like the hippies burst intobeing. We are, in fact, living through a "subcult explosion."

The importance of this cannot be overstated. For we are all deeplyinfluenced, our identities are shaped, by the subcults with which wechoose, unconsciously or not, to identify ourselves. It is easy toridicule a hippie or an uneducated young man who is willing to suffer700 stitches in an effort to test and "find" himself. Yetwe are all rodeo riders or hippies in one sense: we, too, search foridentity by attaching ourselves to informal cults, tribes or groupsof various kinds. And the more numerous the choices, the moredifficult the quest.


The proliferation of subcults is most evident in the world of work.Many subcults spring up around occupational specialties. Thus, as thesociety moves toward greater specialization, it generates more andmore subcultural variety.

The scientific community, for example, is splitting into finer andfiner fragments. It is criss‑crossed with formal organizationsand associations whose specialized journals, conferences and meetingsare rapidly multiplying in number. But these "open"distinctions according to subject matter are matched by "hidden"distinctions as well. It is not simply that cancer researchers andastronomers do different things; they talk different languages, tendto have different personality types; they think, dress and livedifferently. (So marked are these distinctions that they ofteninterfere with interpersonal relationships. Says a woman scientist:"My husband is a microbiologist and I am a theoreticalphysicist, and sometimes I wonder if we mutually exist.")

Scientists within a specialty tend to hang together with their ownkind, forming themselves into tight little subcultural cells, towhich they turn for approval and prestige, as well as for guidanceabout such things as dress, political opinions, and life style.

As science expands and the scientific population grows, newspecialties spring up, fostering more and still more diversity atthis "hidden" or informal level. In short, specializationbreeds subcults.

This process of cellular division within a profession is dramaticallymarked in finance. Wall Street was once a relatively homogeneouscommunity. "It used to be," says one prominent sociologicalobserver of the money men, "that you came down here from St.Paul's and you made a lot of money and belonged to the Racquet Cluband you had an estate on the North Shore, and your daughters weredebutantes. You did it all by selling bonds to your exclassmates."The remark is perhaps slightly exaggerated, but Wall Street was, infact, one big White Anglo‑Saxon Protestant subcult, and itsmembers did tend to go to the same schools, join the same clubs,engage in the same sports (tennis, golf and squash), attend the samechurches (Presbyterian and Episcopalian), and vote for the same party(Republican).

Anybody who still thinks of Wall Street in these terms, however, isgetting his ideas from the novels of Auchincloss or Marquand ratherthan from the new, fast‑changing reality. Today, Wall Streethas splintered, and a young man entering the business has a choice ofa whole clutch of competing subcultural affiliations. In investmentbanking the old conservative WASP grouping still lingers on. Thereare still some old‑line "white shoe" firms of whichit is said "They'll have a black partner before they hire afew." Yet in the mutual fund field, a relatively new specializedsegment of the financial industry, Greek, Jewish and Chinese namesabound, and some star salesmen are black. Here the entire style oflife, the implicit values of the group, are quite different. Mutualfund people are a separate tribe.

"Not everyone even wants to be a WASP any more," says aleading financial writer. Indeed, many young, aggressive WallStreeters, even when they do happen to be WASP in origin, reject theclassical Wall Street subcult and identify themselves instead withone or more of the pluralistic social groupings that now swarm andsometimes collide in the canyons of Lower Manhattan.

As specialization continues, as research extends into new fields andprobes more deeply into old ones, as the economy continues to createnew technologies and services, subcults will continue to multiply.Those social critics who inveigh against "mass society" inone breath and denounce "over‑specialization" in thenext are simply flapping their tongues. Specialization means amovement away from sameness.

Despite much loose talk about the need for "generalists,"there is little evidence that the technology of tomorrow can be runwithout armies of highly trained specialists. We are rapidly changingthe types of expertise needed. We are demanding more"multi‑specialists" (men who know one field deeply,but who can cross over into another as well) rather than rigid,"mono‑specialists." But we shall continue to need andbreed ever more refined work specialties as the technical base ofsociety increases in complexity For this reason alone, we must expectthe variety and number of subcults in the society to increase.


Even if technology were to free millions of people from the need towork in the future, we would find the same push toward diversityoperating among those who are left free to play. For we are alreadyproducing large numbers of "fun specialists." We arerapidly multiplying not merely types of work, but types of play aswell.

The number of acceptable pastimes, hobbies, games, sports andentertainments is climbing rapidly, and the growth of a distinctsubcult built around surfing, for example, demonstrates that, atleast for some, a leisure‑time commitment can also serve as thebasis for an entire life style. The surfing subcult is a signpostpointing to the future.

"Surfing has already developed a kind of symbolism that gives itthe character of a secret fraternity or a religious order,"writes Remi Nadeau. "The identifying sign is a shark's tooth,St. Christopher medal, or Maltese cross hung loosely about one's neck... For a long time, the most accepted form of transportation hasbeen a wood‑paneled Ford station wagon of ancient vintage."Surfers display sores and nodules on their knees and feet as proudproof of their involvement. Suntan is de rigeur. Hair isstyled in a distinctive way. Members of the tribe spend endless hoursdebating the prowess of such in‑group heroes as J. J. Moon, andhis followers buy J. J. Moon T‑shirts, surfboards, and fan clubmemberships.

Surfers are only one of many such play‑based subcults. Amongskydivers, for example, the name J. J. Moon is virtually unknown, andso are the peculiar rituals and fashions of the wave‑cresters.Skydivers talk, instead, about the feat of Rod Pack, who not long agojumped from an airplane without a parachute, was handed one by acompanion in mid‑air, put it on, opened it, and landed safely.Skydivers have their own little world, as do glider enthusiasts,scuba‑divers, hot rodders, drag racers and motorcyclists. Eachof these represents a leisurebased subcult organized around atechnological device. As the new technology makes new sportspossible, we can anticipate the formation of highly varied new playcults.

Leisure‑time pursuits will become an increasingly importantbasis for differences between people, as the society itself shiftsfrom a work orientation toward greater involvement in leisure. In theUnited States, since the turn of the century alone, the society'smeasurable commitment to work has plummeted by nearly a third. Thisis a massive redeployment of the society's time and energy. As thiscommitment declines further, we shall advance into an era ofbreathtaking fun specialism – much of it based on sophisticatedtechnology.

We can anticipate the formation of subcults built around spaceactivity, holography, mind‑control, deep‑sea diving,submarining, computer gaming and the like. We can even see on thehorizon the creation of certain anti‑social leisure cults –tightly organized groups of people who will disrupt the workings ofsociety not for material gain, but for the sheer sport of "beatingthe system" – a development foreshadowed in such films asDuffy and The Thomas Crown Affair. Such groupsmay attempt to tamper with governmental or corporate computerprograms, re‑route mail, intercept and alter radio andtelevision broadcasts, perform elaborately theatrical hoaxes, tinkerwith the stock market, corrupt the random samples upon whichpolitical or other polls are based, and even, perhaps, commitcomplexly plotted robberies and assassinations. Novelist ThomasPynchon in The Crying of Lot 49 describes a fictionalunderground group who have organized their own private postal systemand maintained it for generations. Science fiction writer RobertSheckley has gone so far as to propose, in a terrifying short storycalled The Seventh Victim, the possibility that society mightlegalize murder among certain specified "players" who huntone another and are, in turn, hunted. This ultimate game would permitthose who are dangerously violent to work off their aggressionswithin a managed framework.

Bizarre as some of this may sound, it would be well not to rule outthe seemingly improbable, for the realm of leisure, unlike that ofwork, is little constrained by practical considerations. Hereimagination has free play, and the mind of man can conjure upincredible varieties of "fun." Given enough time, moneyand, for some of these, technical skill, the men of tomorrow will becapable of playing in ways never dreamed of before. They will playstrange sexual games. They will play games with the mind. They willplay games with society And in so doing, by choosing among theunimaginably broad options, they will form subcults and further setthemselves off from one another.


Subcults are multiplying – the society is cracking – along agelines, too. We are becoming "age specialists" as well aswork and play specialists There was a time when people were dividedroughly into children, "young persons," and adults. Itwasn't until the forties that the loosely defined term "youngpersons" began to be replaced by the more restrictive term"teenager," referring specifically to the years thirteen tonineteen. (In fact, the word was virtually unknown in England untilafter World War II.)

Today this crude, three‑way division is clearly inadequate, andwe are busy inventing far more specific categories. We now have aclassification called "pre‑teens" or "sub‑teens"that sits perched between childhood and adolescence. We are alsobeginning to hear of "postteens" and, after that, "youngmarrieds." Each of these terms is a linguistic recognition ofthe fact that we can no longer usefully lump all "young persons"together. Increasingly deep cleavages separate one age group fromanother. So sharp are these differences that sociologist John Loflandof the University of Michigan predicts they will become the "conflictequivalent of southerner and northerner, capitalist and worker,immigrant and 'native stock,' suffragette and male, white and Negro."

Lofland supports this startling suggestion by documenting the rise ofwhat he calls the "youth ghetto" – large communitiesoccupied almost entirely by college students. Like the Negro ghetto,the youth ghetto is often characterized by poor housing, rent andprice gouging, very high mobility, unrest and conflict with thepolice. Like the Negro ghetto, it, too, is quite heterogeneous, withmany subcults competing for the attention and allegiance of theghettoites.

Robbed of adult heroes or role models other than their own parents,children of streamlined, nuclear families are increasingly flung intothe arms of the only other people available to them – otherchildren. They spend more time with one another, and they become moreresponsive to the influence of peers than ever before. Rather thanidolizing an uncle, they idolize Bob Dylan or Donovan or whomeverelse the peer group holds up for a life style model. Thus we arebeginning to form not only a college student ghetto, but evensemighettos of pre‑teens and teenagers, each with its ownpeculiar tribal characteristics, its own fads, fashions, heroes andvillains.

We are simultaneously segmenting the adult population along agelines, too. There are suburbs occupied largely by young marriedcouples with small children, or by middle‑aged couples withteenagers, or by older couples whose children have already left home.We have specially‑designed "retirement communities"for retirees. "There may come a day," Professor Loflandwarns, "... when some cities will find that their politicsrevolve around the voting strength of various age category ghettos,in the same way that Chicago politics has long revolved around ethnicand racial enclaves."

This emergence of age‑based subcultures can now be seen as partof a stunning historical shift in the basis of socialdifferentiation. Time is becoming more important as a source ofdifferences among men; space is becoming less so.

Thus communications theorist James W. Carey of the University ofIllinois, points out that "among primitive societies and in theearlier stages of western history, relatively small discontinuitiesin space led to vast differences in culture ... Tribal societiesseparated by a hundred miles could have ... grossly dissimilarsystems of expressive symbolism, myth and ritual." Within thesesame societies, however, there was "great continuity ... overgenerations ... vast differences between societies but relativelylittle variation between generations within a given society."

Today, he continues, space "progressively disappears as adifferentiating factor." But if there has been some reduction inregional variation, Carey takes pains to point out, "one mustnot assume that differences between groups are being obliterated some mass society theorists [suggest]." Rather, Carey pointsout, "the axis of diversity shifts from a spatial ... to atemporal or generational dimension." Thus we get jagged breaksbetween the generations – and Mario Savio summed it up with therevolutionary slogan, "Don't trust anyone over thirty!" Inno previous society could such a slogan have caught on so quickly.

Carey explains this shift from spatial to temporal differentiation bycalling attention to the advance of communications and transportationtechnology which spans great distances, and, in effect, conquersspace. Yet there is another, easily overlooked factor at work: theacceleration of change. For as the pace of change in the externalenvironment steps up, the inner differences between young and oldbecome necessarily more marked. In fact, the pace of change isalready so blinding that even a few years can make a great differencein the life experience of the individual. This is why some brothersand sisters, separated in age by a mere three or four years,subjectively feel themselves to be members of quite different"generations." It is why among those radicals whoparticipated in the strike at Columbia University, seniors spoke ofthe "generation gap" that separated them from sophomores.


Splintering along occupational, recreational and age lines, thesociety is also fragmenting along sexual‑familial lines. Evennow, however, we are already creating distinctive new subcults basedon marital status. Once people might be loosely classified as eithersingle, married or widowed. Today this three‑way categorizationis no longer adequate. Divorce rates are so high in most of thetechno‑societies today that a distinct new social grouping hasemerged – those who are no longer married or who are betweenmarriages. Thus Morton Hunt, an authority on the subject, describeswhat he terms "the world of the formerly married."

This group, says Hunt, is a "subculture ... with its ownmechanisms for bringing people together, its own patterns ofadjustment to the separated or divorced life, its own opportunitiesfor friendship, social life and love." As its members break awayfrom their married friends, they become progressively isolated fromthose still in "married life" and "exmarrieds,"like "teen‑agers" or "surfers," tend toform social enclaves of their own with their own favored meetingplaces, their own attitudes toward time, their own distinct sexualcodes and conventions.

Strong trends make it likely that this particular social categorywill swell in the future. And when this happens, the world of theformerly married will, in turn, split into multiple worlds, more andstill more sub‑cultural groupings. For the bigger a subcultbecomes, the more likely it is to fragment and give birth to newsubcults.

If the first clue to the future of social organization lies,therefore, in the idea of proliferating subcults, the second lies insheer size. This basic principle is largely overlooked by those whoare most exercised over "mass society," and it helpsexplain the persistence of diversity even under extreme standardizingpressures. Because of in‑built limitations in socialcommunication, size itself acts as a force pushing toward diversityof organization. The larger the population of a modern city, forexample, the more numerous – and diverse – the subcults withinit. Similarly, the larger the subcult, the higher the odds that itwill fragment and diversify. The hippies provide a perfect example.


In the mid‑fifties, a small group of writers, artists andassorted hangers‑on coalesced in San Francisco and aroundCarmel and Big Sur on the California coast. Quickly dubbed "beats"or "beatniks," they pieced together a distinctive way oflife.

Its most conspicuous elements were the glorification of poverty –jeans, sandals, pads and hovels; a predilection for Negro jazz andjargon; an interest in Eastern mysticism and French existentialism;and a general antagonism to technologically based society.

Despite extensive press coverage, the beats remained a tiny sectuntil a technological innovation – lysergic acid, better known asLSD – appeared on the scene. Pushed by the messianic advertising ofTimothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg and Ken Kesey, distributed free tothousands of young people by irresponsible enthusiasts, LSD soonbegan to claim a following on the American campus, and almost asquickly spread to Europe as well. The infatuation with LSD wasaccompanied by a new interest in marijuana, a drug with which thebeats had long experimented. Out of these two sources, the beatsubcult of the mid‑fifties and the "acid" subcult ofthe early sixties, sprang a larger group – a new subcult that mightbe described as a corporate merger of the two: the hippie movement.Blending the blue jeans of the beats with the beads and bangles ofthe acid crowd, the hippies became the newest and most hotlypublicized subcult on the American scene.

Soon, however, the pressures of growth proved too much for it.Thousands of teenagers joined the ranks; millions of pre‑teenswatched their television sets, read magazine articles about themovement, and undulated in sympathy; some suburban adults even became"plastic" or weekend hippies. The result was predictable.The hippie subcult – exactly like General Motors or GeneralElectric – was forced to divisionalize, to break down intosubsidiaries. Thus out of the hippie subcult came a shower ofprogeny.

To the eye of the uninitiated, all young people with long hair seemedalike. Yet important sub‑units emerged within the movement.According to David Andrew Seeley, an acute young observer, there wereat its height "perhaps a score of recognizable and distinctgroups." These varied not only by certain subtleties of dressbut by interest. Thus, Seeley reported, their activities ranged "frombeer parties to poetry readings, from pot‑smoking to moderndance – and often those who indulge in one wouldn't touch theother." Seeley then proceeded to explain the differences thatset apart such groups as the teeny‑boppers (now largelyvanished from the scene), the political activist beatniks, the folkbeatniks, and then, and only then, the original hippies per se.

Members of these subcultural subsidiaries wore identifying badgesthat held meaning for insiders. Teeny‑boppers, for example,were beardless, many, in fact, being too young to shave. Sandals were"in" with the folk set, but not some of the others. Thetightness of one's trousers varied according to subcult.

At the level of ideas, there were many common complaints about thedominant culture. But sharp differences emerged with respect topolitical and social action. Attitudes ranged from the consciouswithdrawal of the acid hippie, through the ignorant unconcern of theteeny‑bopper, to the intense involvement of the New Leftactivist and the politics‑of‑theabsurd activities ofgroupings like the Dutch provos, the Crazies, and the guerrillatheater crowd.

The hippie corporation, so to speak, grew too large to handle all itsbusiness in a standardized way. It had to diversify and it did. Itspawned a flock of fledgling subcultural enterprises.


Even as this happened, however, the movement began to die. The mostpassionate LSD advocates of yesterday began to admit that "acidwas a bad scene" and various underground newspapers beganwarning followers against getting too involved with "tripsters."A mock funeral was held in San Francisco to "bury" thehippie subcult, and its favored locations, Haight‑Ashbury andthe East Village turned into tourist meccas as the original movementwrithed and disintegrated, forming new and odder, but smaller andweaker subcults and minitribes.Then, as though to start theprocess all over again, yet another subcult, the "skinheads,"surfaced. Skinheads had their own characteristic outfits –suspenders, boots, short haircuts – and an unsettling predilectionfor violence.

The death of the hippie movement and the rise of the skinheadsprovide a crucial new insight into the subcultural structure oftomorrow's society. For we are not merely multiplying subcults. Weare turning them over more rapidly. The principle of transience is atwork here, too. As the rate of change accelerates in all otheraspects of the society, subcults, too, grow more ephemeral.

Evidence pointing toward a decrease in the life span of subcults alsolies in the disappearance of that violent subcult of the fifties, thefighting street gang. Throughout that decade certain streets in NewYork were regularly devastated by a peculiar form of urban warfarecalled the "rumble." During a rumble, scores, if nothundreds, of youths would attack one another with flailing chains,switchblade knives, broken bottles and zip‑guns. Rumblesoccurred in Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and even as far awayas London and Tokyo.

While there was no direct connection between these far‑flungoutbreaks, rumbles were by no means chance events. They were plannedand carried out with military precision by highly organized "boppinggangs." In New York these gangs affected colorful names –Cobras, Corsair Lords, Apaches, Egyptian Kings and the like. Theyfought one another for dominance in their "turf" – thespecific geographic area they staked out for themselves.

At their peak there were some 200 such gangs in New York alone, andin a single year, 1958, they accounted for no fewer than elevenhomicides. Yet by 1966, according to police officials, the boppinggangs had virtually vanished. Only one gang was left in New York, andThe New York Times reported: "No one knows on whatgarbage strewn street ... the last rumble took place. But it happenedfour or five years ago [which would date the death of the rumble amere two or three years after the 1958 peak]. Then, suddenly, after adecade of mounting violence the era of the fighting gangs of New Yorkcame to an end." The same appeared to be true in Washington,Newark, Philadelphia and elsewhere as well.

The disappearance of the violent street gangs has not, of course, ledto an era of urban tranquility. The aggressive passions that led poorPuerto Rican and Negro youths in New York to wage war on rival gangsis now directed at the social system itself, and totally new kinds ofsocial organizations, subcults and life style groupings are emergingin the ghetto.

What we sense, therefore, is a process by which subcults multiply atan ever accelerating rate, and in turn die off to make room for stillmore and newer subcults. A kind of metabolic process is taking placein the bloodstream of the society, and it is speeding up exactly asother aspects of social interaction are quickening.

For the individual, this raises the problems of choice to a totallynew level of intensity. It is not simply that the number of tribes isexpanding rapidly. It is not even that these tribes or subcults arebouncing off one another, shifting and changing their relationshipsto one another more and more rapidly. It is also that many of themwill not hold still long enough to permit an individual to make arational investigation of the presumed advantages or disadvantages ofaffiliation.

The individual searching for some sense of belonging, looking for thekind of social connection that confers some sense of identity, movesthrough a blurry environment in which the possible targets ofaffiliation are all in high‑speed motion. He must choose fromamong a growing number of moving targets. The problems of choice thusescalate not arithmetically, but geometrically.

At the very instant when his choices among material goods, education,culture consumption, recreation and entertainment are allmultiplying, he is also given a bewildering array of social choices.And just as there is a limit to how much choice he may wish toexercise in buying a car – at a certain point the addition ofoptions requires more decisionmaking than they are worth – so, too,we may soon approach the moment of social overchoice.

The level of personality disorder, neurosis, and just plainpsychological distress in our society suggests that it is alreadydifficult for many individuals to create a sensible, integrated, andreasonably stable personal style. Yet there is every evidence thatthe thrust toward social diversity, paralleling that at the level ofgoods and culture, is just beginning. We face a tempting andterrifying extension of freedom.


The more subcultural groupings in a society, the greater thepotential freedom of the individual. This is why pre‑industrialman, despite romantic myths to the contrary, suffered so bitterlyfrom lack of choice.

While sentimentalists prattle about the supposedly unfettered freedomof the primitive, evidence collected by anthropologists andhistorians contradicts them. John Gardner puts the matter tersely:"The primitive tribe or pre‑industrial community hasusually demanded far more profound submission of the individual tothe group than has any modern society." As an Australian socialscientist was told by a Temne tribesman in Sierra Leone: "WhenTemne people choose a thing, we must all agree with the decision –this is what we call cooperation."

This is, of course, what we call conformity.

The reason for the crushing conformity required of pre‑industrialman, the reason the Temne tribesman has to "go along" withhis fellows, is precisely that he has nowhere else to go. His societyis monolithic, not yet broken into a liberating multiplicity ofcomponents. It is what sociologists call "undifferentiated."

Like a bullet smashing into a pane of glass, industrialism shattersthese societies, splitting them up into thousands of specializedagencies – schools, corporations, government bureaus, churches,armies – each subdivided into smaller and still more specializedsubunits. The same fragmentation occurs at the informal level, and ahost of subcults spring up: rodeo riders, Black Muslims,motorcyclists, skinheads and all the rest.

This split‑up of the social order is precisely analogous to theprocess of growth in biology. Embryos differentiate as they develop,forming more and more specialized organs. The entire march ofevolution, from the virus to man, displays a relentless advancetoward higher and higher degrees of differentiation. There appears tobe a seemingly irresistible movement of living beings and socialgroups from less to more differentiated forms.

Thus it is not accidental that we witness parallel trends towarddiversity – in the economy, in art, in education and mass culture,in the social order itself. These trends all fit together formingpart of an immensely larger historic process. The Super‑industrialRevolution can now be seen for what, in large measure, it is – theadvance of human society to its next higher stage of differentiation.

This is why it often seems to us that our society is cracking at theseams. It is. This is why everything grows increasingly complex.Where once there stood 1000 organizational entities, there now stand10,000 – interconnected by increasingly transient links. Where oncethere were a few relatively permanent subcults with which a personmight identify, there now are thousands of temporary subcults millingabout, colliding and multiplying. The powerful bonds that integratedindustrial society – bonds of law, common values, centralized andstandardized education and cultural production – are breaking down.

All this explains why cities suddenly seem to be "unmanageable"and universities "ungovernable." For the old ways ofintegrating a society, methods based on uniformity, simplicity, andpermanence, are no longer effective. A new, more finely fragmentedsocial order – a super‑industrial order – is emerging. Itis based on many more diverse and shortlived components than anyprevious social system – and we have not yet learned how to linkthem together, how to integrate the whole.

For the individual, this leap to a new level of differentiation holdsawesome implications. But not the ones most people fear. We have beentold so often that we are heading for faceless uniformity that wefail to appreciate the fantastic opportunities for individuality thatthe Super‑industrial Revolution brings with it. And we havehardly begun to think about the dangers of over‑individualizationthat are also implicit in it.

The "mass society" theorists are obsessed by a reality thathas already begun to pass us by. The Cassandras who blindly hatetechnology and predict an ant‑heap future are still respondingin knee‑jerk fashion to the conditions of industrialism. Yetthis system is already being superseded.

To denounce the conditions that imprison the industrial worker todayis admirable. To project these conditions into the future, andpredict the death of individualism, diversity and choice, is to utterdangerous clichés.

The people of both past and present are still locked into relativelychoiceless life ways. The people of the future, whose numberincreases daily, face not choice but overchoice. For them there comesan explosive extension of freedom.

And this freedom comes not in spite of the new technology but verylargely because of it. For if the early technology of industrialismrequired mindless, robot‑like men to perform endlesslyrepetitive tasks, the technology of tomorrow takes over preciselythese tasks, leaving for men only those functions that requirejudgment, interpersonal skills and imagination. Super‑industrialismrequires, and will create, not identical "mass men," butpeople richly different from one another, individuals, not robots.

The human race, far from being flattened into monotonous conformity,will become far more diverse socially than it ever was before. Thenew society, the super‑industrial society now beginning to takeform, will encourage a crazy‑quilt pattern of evanescent lifestyles.

Chapter 14


In San Francisco, executives lunch at restaurants where they areserved by bare‑breasted waitresses. In New York, however, akooky girl cellist is arrested for performing avant garde music in atopless costume. In St. Louis, scientists hire prostitutes and othersto copulate under a camera as part of a study of the physiology ofthe orgasm. But in Columbus, Ohio, civic controversy erupts over thesale of so‑called "Little Brother" dolls that comefrom the factory equipped with male genitalia. In Kansas City, aconference of homosexual organizations announces a campaign to lift aPentagon ban on homosexuals in the armed forces and, in fact, thePentagon discreetly does so. Yet American jails are well populatedwith men arrested for the crime of homosexuality.

Seldom has a single nation evinced greater confusion over its sexualvalues. Yet the same might be said for other kinds of values as well.America is tortured by uncertainty with respect to money, property,law and order, race, religion, God, family and self. Nor is theUnited States alone in suffering from a kind of value vertigo. Allthe techno‑societies are caught up in the same massiveupheaval. This collapse of the values of the past has hardly goneunnoticed. Every priest, politician and parent is reduced tohead‑shaking anxiety by it. Yet most discussions of valuechange are barren for they miss two essential points. The first ofthese is acceleration.

Value turnover is now faster than ever before in history. While inthe past a man growing up in a society could expect that its publicvalue system would remain largely unchanged in his lifetime, no suchassumption is warranted today, except perhaps in the most isolated ofpre‑technological communities.

This implies temporariness in the structure of both public andpersonal value systems, and it suggests that whatever thecontent of values that arise to replace those of the industrial age,they will be shorter‑lived, more ephemeral than the values ofthe past. There is no evidence whatsoever that the value systems ofthe techno‑societies are likely to return to a "steadystate" condition. For the foreseeable future, we must anticipatestill more rapid value change.

Within this context, however, a second powerful trend is unfolding.For the fragmentation of societies brings with it a diversificationof values. We are witnessing the crack‑up of consensus.

Most previous societies have operated with a broad central core ofcommonly shared values. This core is now contracting, and there islittle reason to anticipate the formation of a new broad consensuswithin the decades ahead. The pressures are outward toward diversity,not inward toward unity.

This accounts for the fantastically discordant propaganda thatassails the mind in the techno‑societies. Home, school,corporation, church, peer group, mass media – and myriad subcults –all advertise varying sets of values. The result for many is an"anything goes" attitude – which is, itself, stillanother value position. We are, declares Newsweek magazine, "asociety that has lost its consensus ... a society that cannot agreeon standards of conduct, language and manners, on what can be seenand heard."

This picture of a cracked consensus is confirmed by the findings ofWalter Gruen, social science research coordinator at Rhode IslandHospital, who has conducted a series of statistical studies of whathe terms "the American core culture." Rather than themonolithic system of beliefs attributed to the middle class byearlier investigators, Gruen found – to his own surprise – that"diversity in beliefs was more striking than the statisticallysupported uniformities. It is," he concluded, "perhapsalready misleading to talk of an 'American' culture complex."

Gruen suggests that particularly among the affluent, educated group,consensus is giving way to what he calls "pockets" ofvalues. We can expect that, as the number and variety of subcultscontinues to expand, these pockets will proliferate, too.

Faced with colliding value systems, confronted with a blinding arrayof new consumer goods, services, educational, occupational andrecreational options, the people of the future are driven to makechoices in a new way. They begin to "consume" life stylesthe way people of an earlier, less choice‑choked time consumedordinary products.


During Elizabethan times, the term "gentleman" referred toa whole way of life, not simply an accident of birth. Appropriatelineage may have been a prerequisite, but to be a gentleman one hadalso to live in a certain style: to be better educated, have bettermanners, wear better clothes than the masses; to engage in certainrecreations (and not others); to live in a large, well‑furnishedhouse; to maintain a certain aloofness with subordinates; in short,never to lose sight of his class "superiority."

The merchant class had its own preferred life style and the peasantrystill another. These life styles, like that of the gentleman, werepieced together out of many different components, ranging fromresidence, occupation and dress to jargon, gesture and religion.Today we still create our life styles by forming a mosaic ofcomponents. But much has changed. Life style is no longer simply amanifestation of class position. Classes themselves are breaking upinto smaller units. Economic factors are declining in importance.Thus today it is not so much one's class base as one's ties with asubcult that determine the individual's style of life. Theworking‑class hippie and the hippie who dropped out of Exeteror Eton share a common style of life but no common class.

Since life style has become the way in which the individual expresseshis identification with this or that subcult, the explosivemultiplication of subcults in society has brought with it an equallyexplosive multiplication of life styles. Thus the stranger launchedinto American or English or Japanese or Swedish society today mustchoose not among four or five classbased styles of life, but amongliterally hundreds of diverse possibilities. Tomorrow, as subcultsproliferate, this number will be even larger.

How we choose a life style, and what it means to us, therefore, loomsas one of the central issues of the psychology of tomorrow. For theselection of a life style, whether consciously done or not,powerfully shapes the individual's future. It does this by imposingorder, a set of principles or criteria on the choices he makes in hisdaily life.

This becomes clear if we examine how such choices are actually made.The young couple setting out to furnish their apartment may look atliterally hundreds of different lamps – Scandinavian, Japanese,French Provincial, Tiffany lamps, hurricane lamps, American coloniallamps – dozens, scores of different sizes, models and styles beforeselecting, say, the Tiffany lamp. Having surveyed a "universe"of possibilities, they zero in on one. In the furniture department,they again scan an array of alternatives, then settle on a Victorianend table. This scan‑and‑select procedure is repeatedwith respect to rugs, sofa, drapes, dining room chairs, etc. In fact,something like this same procedure is followed not merely infurnishing their home, but also in their adoption of ideas, friends,even the vocabulary they use and the values they espouse.

While the society bombards the individual with a swirling, seeminglypatternless set of alternatives, the selections made are anything butrandom. The consumer (whether of end tables or ideas) comes armedwith a pre‑established set of tastes and preferences. Moreover,no choice is wholly independent. Each is conditioned by those madeearlier. The couple's selection of an end table has been conditionedby their previous choice of a lamp. In short, there is a certainconsistency, an attempt at personal style, in all our actions –whether consciously recognized or not.

The American male who wears a button‑down collar andgarter‑length socks probably also wears wing‑tip shoesand carries an attaché case. If we look closely, chances are weshall find a facial expression and brisk manner intended toapproximate those of the stereotypical executive. The odds areastronomical that he will not let his hair grow wild in the manner ofrock musician Jimi Hendrix. He knows, as we do, that certain clothes,manners, forms of speech, opinions and gestures hang together, whileothers do not. He may know this only by "feel," or"intuition," having picked it up by observing others in thesociety, but the knowledge shapes his actions.

The black‑jacketed motorcyclist who wears steel‑studdedgauntlets and an obscene swastika dangling from his throat completeshis costume with rugged boots, not loafers or wing‑tips. He islikely to swagger as he walks and to grunt as he mouths hisanti‑authoritarian platitudes. For he, too, values consistency.He knows that any trace of gentility or articulateness would destroythe integrity of his style.


Why do the motorcyclists wear black jackets? Why not brown or blue?Why do executives in America prefer attaché cases, rather than thetraditional briefcase? It is as though they were following somemodel, trying to attain some ideal laid down from above.

We know little about the origin of life style models. We do know,however, that popular heroes and celebrities, including fictionalcharacters (James Bond, for example), have something to do with it.

Marlon Brando, swaggering in a black jacket as a motorcyclist,perhaps originated, and certainly publicized a life style model.Timothy Leary, robed, beaded, and muttering mystic pseudoprofundities about love and LSD, provided a model for thousands ofyouths. Such heroes, as the sociologist Orrin Klapp puts it, help to"crystallize a social type." He cites the late James Deanwho depicted the alienated adolescent in the movie Rebel Without aCause or Elvis Presley who initially fixed the image of theguitar‑twanging rock‑'n'‑roller. Later came theBeatles with their (at that time) outrageous hair and exoticcostumes. "One of the prime functions of popular favorites,"says Klapp, "is to make types visible, which in turn make newlife styles and new tastes visible."

Yet the style‑setter need not be a mass media idol. He may bealmost unknown outside a particular subcult. Thus for years LionelTrilling, an English professor at Columbia, was the father figure forthe West Side Intellectuals, a New York subcult well known inliterary and academic circles in the United States. The mother figurewas Mary McCarthy, long before she achieved popular fame.

An acute article by John Speicher in a youth magazine called Cheetahlisted some of the better‑known life style models to whichyoung people were responding in the late sixties. They ranged fromChé Guevara to William Buckley, from Bob Dylan and Joan Baez toRobert Kennedy. "The American youth bag," wrote Speicher,lapsing into hippie jargon, "is overcrowded with heroes."And, he adds, "where heroes are, there are followers, cultists."

To the subcult member, its heroes provide what Speicher calls the"crucial existential necessity of psychological identity."This is, of course, hardly new. Earlier generations identified withCharles Lindbergh or Theda Bara. What is new and highly significant,however, is the fabulous proliferation of such heroes andmini‑heroes. As subcults multiply and values diversify, wefind, in Speicher's words, "a national sense of identityhopelessly fragmented." For the individual, he says, this meansgreater choice: "There is a wide range of cults available, awide range of heroes. You can do comparison shopping."


While charismatic figures may become style‑setters, styles arefleshed out and marketed to the public by the sub‑societies ortribe‑lets we have termed subcults. Taking in raw symbolicmatter from the mass media, they somehow piece together odd bits ofdress, opinion, and expression and form them into a coherent package:a life style model. Once they have assembled a particular model, theyproceed, like any good corporation, to merchandise it. They findcustomers for it.

Anyone doubting this is advised to read the letters of Allen Ginsbergto Timothy Leary, the two men most responsible for creating thehippie life style, with its heavy accent on drug use.

Says poet Ginsberg: "Yesterday got on TV with N. Mailer andAshley Montagu and gave big speech ... recommending everybody gethigh ... Got in touch with all the liberal prodope people I know tohave [a certain pro‑drug report] publicized and circulated ...I wrote a five‑page summary of the situation to this friendKenny Love on The New York Times and he said he'd perhaps do astory (newswise) ... which could then be picked up by U.P. friend onnational wire. Also gave copy to Al Aronowitz on New York Post andRosalind Constable at Time and Bob Silvers on Harper's..."

No wonder LSD and the whole hippie phenomenon received the immensemass media publicity it did. This partial account of Ginsberg'senergetic press agentry, complete with the Madison Avenue suffix"‑wise" (as in newswise), reads precisely like aninternal memo from Hill and Knowlton or any of the other giant publicrelations corporations whom hippies love to flagellate formanipulating public opinion. The successful "sale" of thehippie life style model to young people all over thetechno‑societies, is one of the classic merchandising storiesof our time.

Not all subcults are so aggressive and talented at flackery, yettheir cumulative power in the society is enormous. This power stemsfrom our almost universal desperation to "belong." Theprimitive tribesman feels a strong attachment to his tribe. He knowsthat he "belongs" to it, and may even have difficultyimagining himself apart from it. The technosocieties are so large,however, and their complexities so far beyond the comprehension ofany individual, that it is only by plugging in to one or more oftheir subcults, that we maintain some sense of identity and contactwith the whole. Failure to identify with some such group or groupscondemns us to feelings of loneliness, alienation and ineffectuality.We begin to wonder "who we are."

(Video) Alvin Toffler - Ten Years After Future Shock (1980)

In contrast, the sense of belonging, of being part of a social celllarger than ourselves (yet small enough to be comprehensible) isoften so rewarding that we feel deeply drawn, sometimes even againstour own better judgment, to the values, attitudes and most‑favoredlife style of the group.

However, we pay for the benefits we receive. For once wepsychologically affiliate with a subcult, it begins to exertpressures on us. We find that it pays to "go along" withthe group. It rewards us with warmth, friendship and approval when weconform to its life style model. But it punishes us ruthlessly withridicule, ostracism or other tactics when we deviate from it.

Hawking their preferred life style models, subcults clamor for ourattention. In so doing, they act directly on our most vulnerablepsychological property, our self‑image. "Join us,"they whisper, "and you become a bigger, better, more effective,more respected and less lonely person." In choosing among thefast‑proliferating subcults we may only vaguely sense that ouridentity will be shaped by our decision, but we feel the hot urgencyof their appeals and counter‑appeals. We are buffeted back andforth by their psychological promises.

At the moment of choice among them, we resemble the tourist walkingdown Bourbon Street in New Orleans. As he strolls past thehonky‑tonks and clip joints, doormen grab him by the arm, spinhim around, and open a door so he can catch a titillating glimpse ofthe naked flesh of the strippers on the platform behind the bar.Subcults reach out to capture us and appeal to our most privatefantasies in ways far more powerful and subtle than any yet devisedby Madison Avenue.

What they offer is not simply a skin show or a new soap or detergent.They offer not a product, but a super‑product. It is true theyhold out the promise of human warmth, companionship, respect, a senseof community. But so do the advertisers of deodorants and beer. The"miracle ingredient," the exclusive component, the onething that subcults offer that other hawkers cannot, is a respitefrom the strain of overchoice. For they offer not a single product oridea, but a way of organizing all products and ideas, not a singlecommodity but a whole style, a set of guidelines that help theindividual reduce the increasing complexity of choice to manageableproportions.

Most of us are desperately eager to find precisely such guidelines.In the welter of conflicting moralities, in the confusion occasionedby overchoice, the most powerful, most useful "super‑product"of all is an organizing principle for one's life. This is what a lifestyle offers.


Of course, not just any life style will do. We live in a Cairo bazaarof competing models. In this psychological phantasmagoria we searchfor a style, a way of ordering our existence, that will fit ourparticular temperament and circumstances. We look for heroes ormini‑heroes to emulate. The style‑seeker is like the ladywho flips through the pages of a fashion magazine to find a suitabledress pattern. She studies one after another, settles on one thatappeals to her, and decides to create a dress based on it. Next shebegins to collect the necessary materials – cloth, thread, piping,buttons, etc. In precisely the same way, the life style creatoracquires the necessary props. He lets his hair grow. He buys artnouveau posters and a paperback of Guevara's writings. He learns todiscuss Marcuse and Frantz Fanon. He picks up a particular jargon,using words like "relevance" and "establishment."

None of this means that his political actions are insignificant, orthat his opinions are unjust or foolish. He may (or may not) beaccurate in his views of society. Yet the particular way in which hechooses to express them is inescapably part of his search forpersonal style.

The lady, in constructing her dress, alters it here and there,deviating from the pattern in minor ways to make it fit her moreperfectly. The end product is truly custom‑made; yet it bears astriking resemblance to others sewn from the same design. In quitethe same way we individualize our style of living, yet it usuallywinds up bearing a distinct resemblance to some life style modelpreviously packaged and marketed by a subcult.

Often we are unaware of the moment when we commit ourselves to onelife style model over all others. The decision to "be" anExecutive or a Black Militant or a West Side Intellectual is seldomthe result of purely logical analysis. Nor is the decision alwaysmade cleanly, all at once. The research scientist who switches fromcigarettes to a pipe may do so for health reasons without recognizingthat the pipe is part of a whole life style toward which he findshimself drawn. The couple who choose the Tiffany lamp think they arefurnishing an apartment; they do not necessarily see their actions asan attempt to flesh out an overall style of life.

Most of us, in fact, do not think of our own lives in terms of lifestyle, and we often have difficulty in talking about it objectively.We have even more trouble when we try to articulate the structure ofvalues implicit in our style. The task is doubly hard because many ofus do not adopt a single integrated style, but a composite ofelements drawn from several different models. We may emulate bothHippie and Surfer. We may choose a cross between West SideIntellectual and Executive – a fusion that is, in fact, chosen bymany publishing officials in New York. When one's personal style is ahybrid, it is frequently difficult to disentangle the multiple modelson which it is based.

Once we commit ourselves to a particular model, however, we fightenergetically to build it, and perhaps even more so to preserve itagainst challenge. For the style becomes extremely important to us.This is doubly true of the people of the future, among whom concernfor style is downright passionate. This intense concern for style isnot, however, what literary critics mean by formalism. It is notsimply an interest in outward appearances. For style of life involvesnot merely the external forms of behavior, but the values implicit inthat behavior, and one cannot change one's life style without workingsome change in one's selfimage. The people of the future are not"style conscious" but "life style conscious."

This is why little things often assume great significance for them. Asingle small detail of one's life may be charged with emotional powerif it challenges a hard‑won life style, if it threatens tobreak up the integrity of the style. Aunt Ethel gives us a weddingpresent. We are embarrassed by it, for it is in a style alien to ourown. It irritates and upsets us, even though we know that "AuntEthel doesn't know any better." We banish it hastily to the topshelf of the closet.

Aunt Ethel's toaster or tablewear is not important, in and of itself.But it is a message from a different subcultural world, and unless weare weak in commitment to our own style, unless we happen to be intransition between styles, it represents a potent threat. Thepsychologist Leon Festinger coined the term "cognitivedissonance" to mean the tendency of a person to reject or denyinformation that challenges his preconceptions. We don't want to hearthings that may upset our carefully worked out structure of beliefs.Similarly, Aunt Ethel's gift represents an element of "stylisticdissonance." It threatens to undermine our carefully worked outstyle of life.

Why does the life style have this power to preserve itself? What isthe source of our commitment to it? A life style is a vehicle throughwhich we express ourselves. It is a way of telling the world whichparticular subcult or subcults we belong to. Yet this hardly accountsfor its enormous importance to us. The real reason why life stylesare so significant – and increasingly so as the society diversifies– is that, above all else, the choice of a life style model toemulate is a crucial strategy in our private war against the crowdingpressures of overchoice.

Deciding, whether consciously or not, to be "like" WilliamBuckley or Joan Baez, Lionel Trilling or his surfer equivalent, J. J.Moon, rescues us from the need to make millions of minutelife‑decisions. Once a commitment to a style is made, we areable to rule out many forms of dress and behavior, many ideas andattitudes, as inappropriate to our adopted style. The college boy whochooses the Student Protester Model wastes little energy agonizingover whether to vote for Wallace, carry an attaché case, or investin mutual funds.

By zeroing in on a particular life style we exclude a vast number ofalternatives from further consideration. The fellow who opts for theMotorcyclist Model need no longer concern himself with the hundredsof types of gloves available to him on the open market, but whichviolate the spirit of his style. He need only choose among the farsmaller repertoire of glove types that fit within the limits set byhis model. And what is said of gloves is equally applicable to hisideas and social relationships as well.

The commitment to one style of life over another is thus asuper‑decision. It is a decision of a higher order than thegeneral run of everyday life‑decisions. It is a decision tonarrow the range of alternatives that will concern us in the future.So long as we operate within the confines of the style we havechosen, our choices are relatively simple. The guidelines are clear.The subcult to which we belong helps us answer any questions; itkeeps the guidelines in place.

But when our style is suddenly challenged, when something forces usto reconsider it, we are driven to make another super‑decision.We face the painful need to transform not only ourselves, but ourself‑image as well.

It is painful because, freed of our commitment to any given style,cut adrift from the subcult that gave rise to it, we no longer"belong." Worse yet, our basic principles are called intoquestion and we must face each new life‑decision afresh, alone,without the security of a definite, fixed policy. We are, in short,confronted with the full, crushing burden of overchoice again.


To be "between styles" or "between subcults" is alife‑crisis, and the people of the future spend more time inthis condition, searching for styles, than do the people of the pastor present. Altering his identity as he goes, super‑industrialman traces a private trajectory through a world of collidingsubcults. This is the social mobility of the future: not simplymovement from one economic class to another, but from one tribalgrouping to another. Restless movement from subcult to ephemeralsubcult describes the arc of his life.

There are plenty of reasons for this restlessness. It is not merelythat the individual's psychological needs change more often than inthe past; the subcults also change. For these and other reasons, assubcult membership becomes ever more unstable, the search for apersonal style will become increasingly intense, even frenetic in thedecades to come. Again and again, we shall find ourselves bitter orbored, vaguely dissatisfied with "the way things are" –upset, in other words, with our present style. At that moment, webegin once more to search for a new principle around which toorganize our choices. We arrive again at the moment ofsuper‑decision.

At this moment, if anyone studied our behavior closely, he would finda sharp increase in what might be called the Transience Index. Therate of turnover of things, places, people, organizational andinformational relationships spurts upward. We get rid of that silkdress or tie, the old Tiffany lamp, that horror of a claw‑footedVictorian end table – all those symbols of our links with thesubcult of the past. We begin, bit by bit, to replace them with newitems emblematic of our new identification. The same process occursin our social lives – the through‑put of people speeds up. Webegin to reject ideas we have held (or to explain them or rationalizethem in new ways). We are suddenly free of all the constraints thatour subcult or style imposed on us. A Transience Index would prove asensitive indicator of those moments in our lives when we are mostfree – but, at the same time, most lost.

It is in this interval that we exhibit the wild oscillation engineerscall "searching behavior." We are most vulnerable now tothe messages of new subcults, to the claims and counterclaims thatrend the air. We lean this way and that. A powerful new friend, a newfad or idea, a new political movement, some new hero rising from thedepths of the mass media – all these strike us with particularforce at such a moment. We are more "open," more uncertain,more ready for someone or some group to tell us what to do, how tobehave.

Decisions – even little ones – come harder. This is notaccidental. To cope with the press of daily life we need moreinformation about far more trivial matters than when we were lockedinto a firm life style. And so we feel anxious, pressured, alone, andwe move on. We choose or allow ourselves to be sucked into a newsubcult. We put on a new style.

As we rush toward super‑industrialism, therefore, we findpeople adopting and discarding life styles at a rate that would havestaggered the members of any previous generation. For the life styleitself has become a throw‑away item.

This is no small or easy matter. It accounts for the much lamented"loss of commitment" that is so characteristic of our time.As people shift from subcult to subcult, from style to style, theyare conditioned to guard themselves against the inevitable pain ofdisaffiliation. They learn to armor themselves against the sweetsorrow of parting. The extremely devout Catholic who throws over hisreligion and plunges into the life of a New Left activist, thenthrows himself into some other cause or movement or subcult, cannotgo on doing so forever. He becomes, to adapt Graham Greene's term, a"burnt out case." He learns from past disappointment neverto lay too much of his old self on the line.

And so, even when he seemingly adopts a subcult or style, hewithholds some part of himself. He conforms to the group's demandsand revels in the belongingness that it gives him. But thisbelongingness is never the same as it once was, and secretly heremains ready to defect at a moment's notice. What this means is thateven when he seems most firmly plugged in to his group or tribe, helistens, in the dark of night, to the short‑wave signals ofcompeting tribes.

In this sense, his membership in the group is shallow. He remainsconstantly in a posture of non‑commitment, and without strongcommitment to the values and styles of some group he lacks theexplicit set of criteria that he needs to pick his way through theburgeoning jungle of overchoice.

The super‑industrial revolution, consequently, forces the wholeproblem of overchoice to a qualitatively new level. It forces us nowto make choices not merely among lamps and lampshades, but amonglives, not among life style components, but among whole lifestyles.

This intensification of the problem of overchoice presses us towardorgies of selfexamination, soul‑searching and introversion. Itconfronts us with that most popular of contemporary illnesses, the"identity crisis." Never before have masses of men faced amore complex set of choices. The hunt for identity arises not out ofthe supposed choicelessness of "mass society," butprecisely from the plenitude and complexity of our choices.

Each time we make a style choice, a super‑decision, each timewe link up with some particular subcultural group or groups, we makesome change in our self‑image. We become, in some sense, adifferent person, and we perceive ourselves as different. Our oldfriends, those who knew us in some previous incarnation, raise theireyebrows. They have a harder and harder time recognizing us, and, infact, we experience increasing difficulty in identifying with, oreven sympathizing with, our own past selves.

The hippie becomes the straight‑arrow executive, the executivebecomes the skydiver without noting the exact steps of transition. Inthe process, he discards not only the externals of his style, butmany of his underlying attitudes as well. And one day the questionhits him like a splash of cold water in a sleep‑sodden face:"What remains?" What is there of "self" or"personality" in the sense of a continuous, durableinternal structure? For some, the answer is very little. For they areno longer dealing in "self" but in what might be called"serial selves."

The Super‑industrial Revolution thus requires a basic change inman's conception of himself, a new theory of personality that takesinto account the discontinuities in men's lives, as well as thecontinuities.

The Super‑industrial Revolution also demands a new conceptionof freedom – a recognition that freedom, pressed to its ultimate,negates itself. Society's leap to a new level of differentiationnecessarily brings with it new opportunities for individuation, andthe new technology, the new temporary organizational forms, cry outfor a new breed of man. This is why, despite "backlash" andtemporary reversals, the line of social advance carries us toward awider tolerance, a more easy acceptance of more and more diversehuman types.

The sudden popularity of the slogan "do your thing" is areflection of this historic movement. For the more fragmented ordifferentiated the society, the greater the number of varied lifestyles it promotes. And the more socially accepted life style modelsput forth by the society, the closer that society approaches acondition in which, in fact, each man does his own, unique thing.

Thus, despite all the anti‑technological rhetoric of the Ellulsand Fromms, the Mumfords and Marcuses, it is precisely thesuper‑industrial society, the most advanced technologicalsociety ever, that extends the range of freedom. The people of thefuture enjoy greater opportunities for self‑realization thanany previous group in history.

The new society offers few roots in the sense of truly enduringrelationships. But it does offer more varied life niches, morefreedom to move in and out of these niches, and more opportunity tocreate one's own niche, than all earlier societies put together. Italso offers the supreme exhilaration of riding change, cresting it,changing and growing with it – a process infinitely more excitingthan riding the surf, wrestling steers, playing "knock hubcaps"on an eight‑lane speedway, or the pursuit of pharmaceuticalkicks. It presents the individual with a contest that requiresself‑mastery and high intelligence. For the individual whocomes armed with these, and who makes the necessary effort tounderstand the fastemerging super‑industrial social structure,for the person who finds the "right" life pace, the "right"sequence of subcults to join and life style models to emulate, thetriumph is exquisite.

Undeniably, these grand words do not apply to the majority of men.Most people of the past and present remain imprisoned in life nichesthey have neither made nor have much hope, under present conditions,of ever escaping. For most human beings, the options remainexcruciatingly few.

This imprisonment must – and will – be broken. Yet it will not bebroken by tirades against technology. It will not be broken by callsfor a return to passivity, mysticism and irrationality. It will notbe broken by "feeling" or "intuiting" our wayinto the future while derogating empirical study, analysis, andrational effort. Rather than lashing out, Ludditefashion, against themachine, those who genuinely wish to break the prison‑hold ofthe past and present would do well to hasten the controlled –selective – arrival of tomorrow's technologies. To accomplish this,however, intuition and "mystical insights" are hardlyenough. It will take exact scientific knowledge, expertly applied tothe crucial, most sensitive points of social control.

Nor does it help to offer the principle of the maximization of choiceas the key to freedom. We must consider the possibility, suggestedhere, that choice may become overchoice, and freedom unfreedom.


Despite romantic rhetoric, freedom cannot be absolute. To argue fortotal choice (a meaningless concept) or total individuality is toargue against any form of community or society altogether. If eachperson, busily doing his thing, were to be wholly different fromevery other, no two humans would have any basis for communication. Itis ironic that the people who complain most loudly that people cannot"relate" to one another, or cannot "communicate"with one another, are often the very same people who urge greaterindividuality. The sociologist Karl Mannheim recognized thiscontradiction when he wrote: "The more individualized peopleare, the more difficult it is to attain identification."

Unless we are literally prepared to plunge backward intopre‑technological primitivism, and accept all the consequences– a shorter, more brutal life, more disease, pain, starvation,fear, superstition, xenophobia, bigotry and so on – we shall moveforward to more and more differentiated societies. This raises severeproblems of social integration. What bonds of education, politics,culture must we fashion to tie the super‑industrial ordertogether into a functioning whole? Can this be accomplished? "Thisintegration," writes Bertram M. Gross of Wayne State University,"must be based upon certain commonly accepted values or somedegree of perceived interdependence, if not mutually acceptableobjectives."

A society fast fragmenting at the level of values and life styleschallenges all the old integrative mechanisms and cries out for atotally new basis for reconstitution. We have by no means yet foundthis basis. Yet if we shall face disturbing problems of socialintegration, we shall confront even more agonizing problems ofindividual integration. For the multiplication of life styleschallenges our ability to hold the very self together.

Which of many potential selves shall we choose to be? What sequenceof serial selves will describe us? How, in short, must we deal withoverchoice at this, the most intensely personal and emotion‑ladenlevel of all? In our headlong rush for variety, choice and freedom,we have not yet begun to examine the awesome implications ofdiversity.

When diversity, however, converges with transience and novelty, werocket the society toward an historical crisis of adaptation. Wecreate an environment so ephemeral, unfamiliar and complex as tothreaten millions with adaptive breakdown. This breakdown is futureshock.


Chapter 15


Eons ago the shrinking seas cast millions of unwilling aquaticcreatures onto the newly created beaches. Deprived of their familiarenvironment, they died, gasping and clawing for each additionalinstant of eternity. Only a fortunate few, better suited to amphibianexistence, survived the shock of change. Today, says sociologistLawrence Suhm of the University of Wisconsin, "We are goingthrough a period as traumatic as the evolution of man's predecessorsfrom sea creatures to land creatures ... Those who can adapt will;those who can't will either go on surviving somehow at a lower levelof development or will perish – washed up on the shores."

To assert that man must adapt seems superfluous. He has already shownhimself to be among the most adaptable of life forms. He has survivedEquatorial summers and Antarctic winters. He has survived Dachau andVorkuta. He has walked the lunar surface. Such accomplishments giverise to the glib notion that his adaptive capabilities are"infinite." Yet nothing could be further from the truth.For despite all his heroism and stamina, man remains a biologicalorganism, a "biosystem," and all such systems operatewithin inexorable limits.

Temperature, pressure, caloric intake, oxygen and carbon dioxidelevels, all set absolute boundaries beyond which man, as presentlyconstituted, cannot venture. Thus when we hurl a man into outerspace, we surround him with an exquisitely designed microenvironmentthat maintains all these factors within livable limits. How strange,therefore, that when we hurl a man into the future, we take few painsto protect him from the shock of change. It is as though NASA hadshot Armstrong and Aldrin naked into the cosmos.

It is the thesis of this book that there are discoverable limits tothe amount of change that the human organism can absorb, and that byendlessly accelerating change without first determining these limits,we may submit masses of men to demands they simply cannot tolerate.We run the high risk of throwing them into that peculiar state that Ihave called future shock.

We may define future shock as the distress, both physical andpsychological, that arises from an overload of the human organism'sphysical adaptive systems and its decision‑making processes.Put more simply, future shock is the human response tooverstimulation.

Different people react to future shock in different ways. Itssymptoms also vary according to the stage and intensity of thedisease. These symptoms range all the way from anxiety, hostility tohelpful authority, and seemingly senseless violence, to physicalillness, depression and apathy. Its victims often manifest erraticswings in interest and life style, followed by an effort to "crawlinto their shells" through social, intellectual and emotionalwithdrawal. They feel continually "bugged" or harassed, andwant desperately to reduce the number of decisions they must make.

To understand this syndrome, we must pull together from suchscattered fields as psychology, neurology, communications theory andendocrinology, what science can tell us about human adaptation. Thereis, as yet, no science of adaptation per se. Nor is there anysystematic listing of the diseases of adaptation. Yet evidence nowsluicing in from a variety of disciplines makes it possible to sketchthe rough outlines of a theory of adaptation. For while researchersin these disciplines often work in ignorance of each other's efforts,their work is elegantly compatible. Forming a distinct and excitingpattern, it provides solid underpinning for the concept of futureshock.


What actually happens to people when they are asked to change againand again? To understand the answer, we must begin with the body, thephysical organism, itself. Fortunately, a series of startling, but asyet unpublicized, experiments have recently cast revealing light onthe relationship of change to physical health.

These experiments grow out of the work of the late Dr. Harold G.Wolff at the Cornell Medical Center in New York. Wolff repeatedlyemphasized that the health of the individual is intimately bound upwith the adaptive demands placed on him by the environment. One ofWolff's followers, Dr. Lawrence E. Hinkle, Jr., has termed this the"human ecology" approach to medicine, and has arguedpassionately that disease need not be the result of any single,specific agent, such as a germ or virus, but a consequence of manyfactors, including the general nature of the environment surroundingthe body. Hinkle has worked for years to sensitize the medicalprofession to the importance of environmental factors in medicine.

Today, with spreading alarm over air pollution, water pollution,urban crowding and other such factors, more and more healthauthorities are coming around to the ecological notion that theindividual needs to be seen as part of a total system, and that hishealth is dependent upon many subtle external factors.

It was another of Wolff's colleagues, however, Dr. Thomas H. Holmes,who came up with the idea that change, itself – not this or thatspecific change but the general rate of change in a person's life –could be one of the most important environmental factors of all.Originally from Cornell, Holmes is now at the University ofWashington School of Medicine, and it was there, with the help of ayoung psychiatrist named Richard Rahe, that he created an ingeniousresearch tool named the Life‑Change Units Scale. This was adevice for measuring how much change an individual has experienced ina given span of time. Its development was an important methodologicalbreakthrough, making it possible, for the first time, to qualify, atleast crudely, the rate of change in individual life.

Reasoning that different kinds of life‑changes strike us withdifferent force, Holmes and Rahe began by listing as many suchchanges as they could. A divorce, a marriage, a move to a new home –such events affect each of us differently. Moreover, some carrygreater impact than others. A vacation trip, for example, mayrepresent a pleasant break in the routine. Yet it can hardly comparein impact with, say, the death of a parent.

Holmes and Rahe next took their list of life‑changes tothousands of men and women in many walks of life in the United Statesand Japan. Each person was asked to rank order the specific items onthe list according to how much impact each had. Which changesrequired a great deal of coping or adjustment? Which ones wererelatively minor?

To Holmes' and Rahe's surprise, it turned out that there iswidespread agreement among people as to which changes in their livesrequire major adaptations and which ones are comparativelyunimportant. This agreement about the "impact‑fullness"of various life events extends even across national and languagebarriers. (The work in the United States and Japan is now beingsupplemented by studies in France, Belgium and theNetherlands.)People tend to know and to agree onwhich changes hit the hardest.

Given this information, Holmes and Rahe were able to assign anumerical weight to each type of life change. Thus each item on theirlist was ranked by its magnitude and given a score accordingly. Forexample, if the death of one's spouse is rated as one hundred points,then moving to a new home is rated by most people as worth onlytwenty points, a vacation thirteen. (The death of a spouse,incidentally, is almost universally regarded as the single mostimpactful change that can befall a person in the normal course of hislife.)

Now Holmes and Rahe were ready for the next step. Armed with theirLife‑Change Units Scale, they began to question people aboutthe actual pattern of change in their lives. The scale made itpossible to compare the "changefulness" of one person'slife with that of another. By studying the amount of change in aperson's life, could we learn anything about the influence of changeitself on health?

To find out, Holmes, Rahe and other researchers compiled the "lifechange scores" of literally thousands of individuals and beganthe laborious task of comparing these with the medical histories ofthese same individuals. Never before had there been a way tocorrelate change and health. Never before had there been suchdetailed data on patterns of change in individual lives. And seldomwere the results of an experiment less ambiguous. In the UnitedStates and Japan, among servicemen and civilians, among pregnantwomen and the families of leukemia victims, among college athletesand retirees, the same striking pattern was present: those with highlife change scores were more likely than their fellows to be ill inthe following year. For the first time, it was possible to show indramatic form that the rate of change in a person's life – his paceof life – is closely tied to the state of his health.

"The results were so spectacular," says Dr. Holmes, "thatat first we hesitated to publish them. We didn't release our initialfindings until 1967."

Since then, the Life‑Change Units Scale and the Life ChangesQuestionnaire have been applied to a wide variety of groups fromunemployed blacks in Watts to naval officers at sea. In every case,the correlation between change and illness has held. It has beenestablished that "alterations in life style" that require agreat deal of adjustment and coping, correlate with illness –whether or not these changes are under the individual's own directcontrol, whether or not he sees them as undesirable. Furthermore, thehigher the degree of life change, the higher the risk that subsequentillness will be severe. So strong is this evidence, that it isbecoming possible, by studying life change scores, actually topredict levels of illness in various populations.

Thus in August, 1967, Commander Ransom J. Arthur, head of the UnitedStates Navy Medical Neuropsychiatric Research Unit at San Diego, andRichard Rahe, now a Captain in Commander Arthur's group, set out toforecast sickness patterns in a group of 3000 Navy men. Drs. Arthurand Rahe began by distributing a Life Changes Questionnaire to thesailors on three cruisers in San Diego harbor. The ships were aboutto depart and would be at sea for approximately six months each.During this time it would be possible to maintain exact medicalrecords on each crew member. Could information about a man's lifechange pattern tell us in advance the likelihood of his falling illduring the voyage?

Each crew member was asked to tell what changes had occurred in hislife during the year preceding the voyage. The questionnaire coveredan extremely broad spectrum of topics. Thus it asked whether the manhad experienced either more or less trouble with superiors during thetwelve‑month period. It asked about alterations in his eatingand sleeping habits. It inquired about change in his circle offriends, his dress, his forms of recreation. It asked whether he hadexperienced any change in his social activities, in familyget‑togethers, in his financial condition. Had he been havingmore or less trouble with his in‑laws? More or fewer argumentswith his wife? Had he gained a child through birth or adoption? Hadhe suffered the death of his wife, a friend or relative?

The questionnaire went on to probe such issues as the number of timeshe had moved to a new home. Had he been in trouble with the law overtraffic violations or other minor infractions? Had he spent a lot oftime away from his wife as a result of job‑related travel ormarital difficulties? Had he changed jobs? Won awards or promotions?Had his living conditions changed as a consequence of home remodelingor the deterioration of his neighborhood? Had his wife started orstopped working? Had he taken out a loan or mortgage? How many timeshad he taken a vacation? Was there any major change in his relationswith his parents as a result of death, divorce, remarriage, etc.?

In short, the questionnaire tried to get at the kind of life changesthat are part of normal existence. It did not ask whether a changewas regarded as "good" or "bad," simply whetheror not it had occurred.

For six months, the three cruisers remained at sea. Just before theywere scheduled to return, Arthur and Rahe flew new research teams outto join the ships. These teams proceeded to make a fine‑toothsurvey of the ships' medical records. Which men had been ill? Whatdiseases had they reported? How many days had they been confined tosick bay?

When the last computer runs were completed, the linkage betweenchangefulness and illness was nailed down more firmly than ever. Menin the upper ten percent of life change units – those who had hadto adapt to the most change in the preceding year – turned out tosuffer from one‑and‑a‑half to two times as muchillness as those in the bottom ten percent. Moreover, once again, thehigher the life change score, the more severe the illness was likelyto be. The study of life change patterns – of change as anenvironmental factor – contributed significantly to success inpredicting the amount and severity of illness in widely variedpopulations.

"For the first time," says Dr. Arthur, appraising lifechange research, "we have an index of change. If you've had manychanges in your life within a short time, this places a greatchallenge on your body ... An enormous number of changes within ashort period might overwhelm its coping mechanisms.

"It is clear," he continues, "that there is aconnection between the body's defenses and the demands for changethat society imposes. We are in a continuous dynamic equilibrium ...Various 'noxious' elements, both internal and external, are alwayspresent, always seeking to explode into disease. For example, certainviruses live in the body and cause disease only when the defenses ofthe body wear down. There may well be generalized body defensesystems that prove inadequate to cope with the flood of demands forchange that come pulsing through the nervous and endocrine systems."

The stakes in life‑change research are high, indeed, for notonly illness, but death itself, may be linked to the severity ofadaptational demands placed on the body. Thus a report by Arthur,Rahe, and a colleague, Dr. Joseph D. McKean, Jr., begins with aquotation from Somerset Maugham's literary autobiography, TheSumming Up:

My father ... went to Parisand became solicitor to the British Embassy... . After my mother'sdeath, her maid became my nurse.... I think my father had a romanticmind. He took it into his head to build a house to live in during thesummer. He bought a piece of land on the top of a hill at Suresnes.... It was to be like a villa on the Bosphorous and on the top floorit was surrounded by loggias. ... It was a white house and theshutters were painted red. The garden was laid out. The rooms werefurnished and then my father died.

"The death of Somerset Maugham's father," they write,"seems at first glance to have been an abrupt unheralded event.However, a critical evaluation of the events of a year or two priorto the father's demise reveals changes in his occupation, residence,personal habits, finances and family constellation." Thesechanges, they suggest, may have been precipitating events.

This line of reasoning is consistent with reports that death ratesamong widows and widowers, during the first year after loss of aspouse, are higher than normal. A series of British studies havestrongly suggested that the shock of widowhood weakens resistance toillness and tends to accelerate aging. The same is true for men.Scientists at the Institute of Community Studies in London, afterreviewing the evidence and studying 4,486 widowers, declare that "theexcess mortality in the first six months is almost certainly real ...[Widowerhood] appears to bring in its wake a sudden increment inmortality‑rates of something like 40 percent in the first sixmonths."

Why should this be true? It is speculated that grief, itself, leadsto pathology. Yet the answer may lie not in the state of grief atall, but in the very high impact that loss of a spouse carries,forcing the survivor to make a multitude of major life changes withina short period after the death takes place.

The work of Hinkle, Holmes, Rahe, Arthur, McKean and others nowprobing the relationship of change to illness is still in its earlystages. Yet one lesson already seems vividly clear: change carries aphysiological price tag with it. And the more radical the change, thesteeper the price.


"Life," says Dr. Hinkle, "... implies a constantinteraction between organism and environment." When we speak ofthe change brought about by divorce or a death in the family or a jobtransfer or even a vacation, we are talking about a major life event.Yet, as everyone knows, life consists of tiny events as well, aconstant stream of them flowing into and out of our experience. Anymajor life change is major only because it forces us to make manylittle changes as well, and these, in turn, consist of still smallerand smaller changes. To grapple with the meaning of life in theaccelerative society, we need to see what happens at the level ofthese minute, "micro‑changes" as well.

What happens when something in our environment is altered? All of usare constantly bathed in a shower of signals from our environment –visual, auditory, tactile, etc. Most of these come in routine,repetitive patterns. When something changes within the range of oursenses, the pattern of signals pouring through our sensory channelsinto our nervous system is modified. The routine, repetitive patternsare interrupted – and to this interruption we respond in aparticularly acute fashion.

Significantly, when some new set of stimuli hits us, both body andbrain know almost instantly that they are new. The change may be nomore than a flash of color seen out of the corner of an eye. It maybe that a loved one brushing us tenderly with the fingertipsmomentarily hesitates. Whatever the change, an enormous amount ofphysical machinery comes into play.

When a dog hears a strange noise, his ears prick, his head turns. Andwe do much the same. The change in stimuli triggers what experimentalpsychologists call an "orientation response." Theorientation response or OR is a complex, even massive bodilyoperation. The pupils of the eyes dilate. Photochemical changes occurin the retina. Our hearing becomes momentarily more acute. Weinvoluntarily use our muscles to direct our sense organs toward theincoming stimuli – we lean toward the sound, for example, or squintour eyes to see better. Our general muscle tone rises. There arechanges in our pattern of brain waves. Our fingers and toes grow coldas the veins and arteries in them constrict. Our palms sweat. Bloodrushes to the head. Our breathing and heart rate alter.

Under certain circumstances, we may do all of this – and more –in a very obvious fashion, exhibiting what has been called the"startle reaction." But even when we are unaware of what isgoing on, these changes take place every time we perceive novelty inour environment.

The reason for this is that we have, apparently built into ourbrains, a special noveltydetection apparatus that has only recentlycome to the attention of neurologists. The Soviet scientist E. N.Sokolov, who has put forward the most comprehensive explanation ofhow the orientation response works, suggests that neural cells in thebrain store information about the intensity, duration, quality, andsequence of incoming stimuli. When new stimuli arrive, these arematched against the "neural models" in the cortex. If thestimuli are novel, they do not match any existing neural model, andthe OR takes place. If, however, the matching process reveals theirsimilarity to previously stored models, the cortex shoots signals tothe reticular activating system, instructing it, in effect, to holdits fire.

In this way, the level of novelty in our environment has directphysical consequences. Moreover, it is vital to recognize that the ORis not an unusual affair. It takes place in most of us literallythousands of times in the course of a single day as various changesoccur in the environment around us. Again and again the OR fires off,even during sleep.

"The OR is big!" says research psychologist Ardie Lubin, anexpert on sleep mechanisms. "The whole body is involved. Andwhen you increase novelty in the environment – which is what a lotof change means – you get continual ORs with it. This is probablyvery stressful for the body. It's a helluva load to put on the body.

"If you overload an environment with novelty, you get theequivalent of anxiety neurotics – people who have their systemscontinually flooded with adrenalin, continual heart pumping, coldhands, increased muscle tone and tremors – all the usual ORcharacteristics."

The orientation response is no accident. It is nature's gift to man,one of his key adaptive mechanisms. The OR has the effect ofsensitizing him to take in more information – to see or hearbetter, for instance. It readies his muscles for sudden exertion, ifnecessary. In short, it prepares him for fight or flight. Yet eachOR, as Lubin underscores, takes its toll in wear and tear on thebody, for it requires energy to sustain it.

Thus one result of the OR is to send a surge of anticipatory energythrough the body. Stored energy exists in such sites as the musclesand the sweat glands. As the neural system pulses in response tonovelty, its synaptic vesicles discharge small amounts of adrenalinand nor‑adrenalin. These, in turn, trigger a partial release ofthe stored energy. In short, each OR draws not only upon the body'slimited supply of quick energy, but on its even more limited supplyof energy‑releasers.

It needs to be emphasized, moreover, that the OR occurs not merely inresponse to simple sensory inputs. It happens when we come acrossnovel ideas or information as well as novel sights or sounds. A freshbit of office gossip, a unifying concept, even a new joke or anoriginal turn of phrase can trigger it.

The OR is particularly stressing when a novel event or factchallenges one's whole preconceived world view. Given an elaborateideology, Catholicism, Marxism or whatever, we quickly recognize (orthink we recognize) familiar elements in otherwise novel stimuli, andthis puts us at ease. Indeed, ideologies may be regarded as largemental filing cabinets with vacant drawers or slots waiting to acceptnew data. For this reason, ideologies serve to reduce the intensityand frequency of the OR.

It is only when a new fact fails to fit, when it resists filing, thatthe OR occurs. A classical example is that of the religious personwho is brought up to believe in the goodness of God and who issuddenly faced by what strikes him as a case of overwhelming,senseless evil. Until the new fact can be reconciled or his worldview altered, he suffers acute agitation and anxiety.

The OR is so inherently stressing that we enjoy a vast sense ofrelief when it is over. At the level of ideas or cognition, this isthe "a‑hah!" reaction we experience at a moment ofrevelation, when we finally understand something that has beenpuzzling us. We may be aware of the "a‑hah" reactionon rare occasions only, but OR's and "a‑hah's" arecontinually occurring just below the level of consciousness.

Novelty, therefore – any perceptible novelty – touches offexplosive activity within the body, and especially the nervoussystem. OR's fire off like flashbulbs within us, at a rate determinedby what is happening outside us. Man and environment are in constant,quivering interplay.


While novelty in the environment raises or lowers the rate at whichOR's occur, some novel conditions call forth even more powerfulresponses. We are driving along a monotonous turnpike, listening tothe radio and beginning to daydream. Suddenly, a car speeds by,forcing us to swerve out of our lane. We react automatically, almostinstantaneously, and the OR is very pronounced. We can feel our heartpumping and our hands shaking. It takes a while before the tensionsubsides.

But what if it does not subside? What happens when we are placed in asituation that demands a complex set of physical and psychologicalreactions and in which the pressure is sustained? What happens if,for example, the boss breathes hotly down our collar day after day?What happens when one of our children is seriously ill? Or when, onthe other hand, we look forward eagerly to a "big date" orto closing an important business deal?

Such situations cannot be handled by the quick spurt of energyprovided by the OR, and for these we have what might be termed the"adaptive reaction." This is closely related to the OR.Indeed, the two processes are so intertwined that the OR can beregarded as part of, or the initial phase of, the larger, moreencompassing adaptive reaction. But while the OR is primarily basedon the nervous system, the adaptive reaction is heavily dependentupon the endocrine glands and the hormones they shoot into thebloodstream. The first line of defense is neural; the second ishormonal.

When individuals are forced to make repeated adaptations to novelty,and especially when they are compelled to adapt to certain situationsinvolving conflict and uncertainty, a pea‑sized gland calledthe pituitary pumps out a number of substances. One of these, ACTH,goes to the adrenals. This causes them, in turn, to manufacturecertain chemicals termed corticosteroids. When these are released,they speed up body metabolism. They raise blood pressure. They sendanti‑inflammatory substances through the blood to fightinfection at wound sites, if any. And they begin turning fat andprotein into dispersible energy, thus tapping into the body's reservetank of energy. The adaptive reaction provides a much more potent andsustained flush of energy than the OR.

Like the orientation response, the adaptive reaction is no rarity. Ittakes longer to arouse and it lasts longer, but it happens countlesstimes even within the course of a single day, responding to changesin our physical and social environment. The adaptive reaction,sometimes known by the more dramatic term "stress," can betouched off by shifts and changes in the psychological climate aroundus. Worry, upset, conflict, uncertainty, even happy anticipation,hilarity and joy, all set the ACTH factory working. The veryanticipation of change can trigger the adaptive reaction. The need toalter one's way of life, to trade an old job for a new one, socialpressures, status shifts, life style modifications, in fact, anythingthat forces us to confront the unknown, can switch on the adaptivereaction.

Dr. Lennart Levi, director of the Clinical Stress Laboratory at theKarolinska Hospital in Stockholm, has shown, for example, that evenquite small changes in the emotional climate or in interpersonalrelationships can produce marked changes in body chemistry. Stress isfrequently measured by the amount of corticosteroids andcatecholamines (adrenalin and nor adrenalin, for example) found inthe blood and urine. In one series of experiments Levi used films togenerate emotions and plotted the resultant chemical changes.

A group of Swedish male medical students were shown film clipsdepicting murders, fights, torture, execution and cruelty to animals.The adrenalin component of their urine rose an average 70 percent asmeasured before and after. Nor‑adrenalin rose an average 35percent. Next a group of young female office workers were shown fourdifferent films on successive nights. The first was a bland travelog.They reported feelings of calmness and equanimity, and their outputof catecholamines fell. The second night they watched StanleyKubrick's Paths of Glory and reported feeling intenseexcitement and anger. Adrenalin output shot upward. The third nightthey viewed Charley's Aunt, and roared with laughter at thecomedy. Despite the pleasant feelings and the absence of any scenesof aggression or violence, their catecholamines rose significantlyagain. The fourth night they saw The Devil's Mask, athriller during which they actually screamed with fright. Notunexpectedly, catecholamine output soared. In short, emotionalresponse, almost without regard for its character, is accompanied by(or, indeed, reflects) adrenal activity.

Similar findings have been demonstrated again and again in the caseof men and women – not to speak of rats, dogs, deer and otherexperimental animals – involved in "real" as distinctfrom "vicarious" experiences. Sailors in underwaterdemolition training, men stationed in lonely outposts in Antarctica,astronauts, factory workers, executives have all shown similarchemical responsiveness to change in the external environment.

The implications of this have hardly begun to register, yet there isincreasing evidence that repeated stimulation of the adaptivereaction can be seriously damaging, that excessive activation of theendocrine system leads to irreversible "wear and tear."Thus, we are warned by Dr. René Dubos, author of Man Adapting,that such changeful circumstances as "competitive situations,operation within a crowded environment, change in a very profoundmanner the secretion of hormones. One can type‑read that in theblood or the urine. Just a mere contact with the complex humansituation almost automatically brings this about, this stimulation ofthe whole endocrine system."

What of it?

"There is," Dubos declares, "absolutely no questionthat one can overshoot the stimulation of the endocrine system andthat this has physiological consequences that last throughout thewhole lifetime of the organs."

Years ago, Dr. Hans Selye, a pioneer investigator of the body'sadaptive responses, reported that "animals in which intense andprolonged stress is produced by any means suffer from sexualderangements ... Clinical studies have confirmed the fact that peopleexposed to stress react very much like experimental animals in allthese respects. In women the monthly cycles become irregular or stopaltogether, and during lactation milk secretion may becomeinsufficient for the baby. In men both the sexual urge and sperm‑cellformation are diminished."

Since then population experts and ecologists have compiled impressiveevidence that heavily stressed populations of rats, deer – andpeople – show lower fertility levels than less stressed controlgroups. Crowding, for example, a condition that involves a constanthigh level of interpersonal interaction and compels the individual tomake extremely frequent adaptive reactions has been shown, at leastin animals, to enlarge the adrenals and cause a noticeable drop infertility.

The repeated firing of the OR and the adaptive reaction, byoverloading the neural and endocrine systems, is linked to otherdiseases and physical problems as well. Rapid change in theenvironment makes repeated calls on the energy supply of the body.This leads to a speedup of fat metabolism. In turn, this createsgrave difficulties for certain diabetics. Even the common cold hasbeen shown to be affected by the rate of change in the environment.In studies reported by Dr. Hinkle it was found that the frequency ofcolds in a sample of New York working women correlated with "changesin the mood and pattern of activity of the woman, in response tochanging relationships to the people around her and the events thatshe encountered."

In short, if we understand the chain of biological events touched offby our efforts to adapt to change and novelty, we can begin tounderstand why health and change seem to be inextricably linked toone another. The findings of Holmes, Rahe, Arthur and others nowengaged in life change research are entirely compatible with on‑goingresearch in endocrinology and experimental psychology. It is quiteclearly impossible to accelerate the rate of change in society, or toraise the novelty ratio in society, without triggering significantchanges in the body chemistry of the population. By stepping up thepace of scientific, technological and social change, we are tamperingwith the chemistry and biological stability of the human race.

This, one must immediately add, is not necessarily bad. "Thereare worse things than illness," Dr. Holmes wryly reminds us. "Noone can live without experiencing some degree of stress all thetime," Dr. Selye has written. To eliminate ORs and adaptivereactions would be to eliminate all change, including growth,self‑development, maturation. It presupposes complete stasis.Change is not merely necessary to life; it is life. By the sametoken, life is adaptation.

There are, however, limits on adaptability. When we alter our lifestyle, when we make and break relationships with things, places orpeople, when we move restlessly through the organizational geographyof society, when we learn new information and ideas, we adapt; welive. Yet there are finite boundaries; we are not infinitelyresilient. Each orientation response, each adaptive reaction exacts aprice, wearing down the body's machinery bit by minute bit, untilperceptible tissue damage results.

Thus man remains in the end what he started as in the beginning: abiosystem with a limited capacity for change. When this capacity isoverwhelmed, the consequence is future shock.

Chapter 16


If future shock were a matter of physical illness alone, it might beeasier to prevent and to treat. But future shock attacks the psycheas well. Just as the body cracks under the strain of environmentaloverstimulation, the "mind" and its decision processesbehave erratically when overloaded. By indiscriminately racing theengines of change, we may be undermining not merely the health ofthose least able to adapt, but their very ability to act rationallyon their own behalf.

The striking signs of confusional breakdown we see around us – thespreading use of drugs, the rise of mysticism, the recurrentoutbreaks of vandalism and undirected violence, the politics ofnihilism and nostalgia, the sick apathy of millions – can all beunderstood better by recognizing their relationship to future shock.These forms of social irrationality may well reflect thedeterioration of individual decision‑making under conditions ofenvironmental overstimulation.

Psychophysiologists studying the impact of change on variousorganisms have shown that successful adaptation can occur only whenthe level of stimulation – the amount of change and novelty in theenvironment – is neither too low nor too high. "The centralnervous system of a higher animal," says Professor D. E. Berlyneof the University of Toronto, "is designed to cope withenvironments that produce a certain rate of ... stimulation ... Itwill naturally not perform at its best in an environment thatoverstresses or overloads it." He makes the same point aboutenvironments that understimulate it. Indeed, experiments with deer,dogs, mice and men all point unequivocally to the existence of whatmight be called an "adaptive range" below which and abovewhich the individual's ability to cope simply falls apart.

Future shock is the response to overstimulation. It occurs when theindividual is forced to operate above his adaptive range.Considerable research has been devoted to studying the impact ofinadequate change and novelty on human performance. Studies of men inisolated Antarctic outposts, experiments in sensory deprivation,investigations into on‑the‑job performance in factories,all show a falling off of mental and physical abilities in responseto understimulation. We have less direct data on the impact ofoverstimulation, but such evidence as does exist is dramatic andunsettling.


Soldiers in battle often find themselves trapped in environments thatare rapidly changing, unfamiliar, and unpredictable. The soldier istorn this way and that. Shells burst on every side. Bullets whiz pasterratically. Flares light the sky. Shouts, groans and explosions fillhis ears. Circumstances change from instant to instant. To survive insuch overstimulatiog environments, the soldier is driven to operatein the upper reaches of his adaptive range. Sometimes, he is pushedbeyond his limits.

During World War II a bearded Chindit soldier, fighting with GeneralWingate's forces behind the Japanese lines in Burma, actually fellasleep while a storm of machine gun bullets splattered around him.Subsequent investigation revealed that this soldier was not merelyreacting to physical fatigue or lack of sleep, but surrendering to asense of overpowering apathy.

Death‑inviting lassitude was so common, in fact, amongguerrilla troops who had penetrated behind enemy lines that Britishmilitary physicians gave it a name. They termed it Long RangePenetration Strain. A soldier who suffered from it became, in theirwords, "incapable of doing the simplest thing for himself andseemed to have the mind of a child." This deadly lethargy,moreover, was not confined to guerrilla troops. One year after theChindit incident, similar symptoms cropped up en masse among theallied troops who invaded Normandy, and British researchers, afterstudying 5000 American and English combat casualties, concluded thatthis strange apathy was merely the final stage in a complex processof psychological collapse.

Mental deterioration often began with fatigue. This was followed byconfusion and nervous irritability. The man became hypersensitive tothe slightest stimuli around him. He would "hit the dirt"at the least provocation. He showed signs of bewilderment. He seemedunable to distinguish the sound of enemy fire from other, lessthreatening sounds. He became tense, anxious, and heatedly irascible.His comrades never knew when he would flail out in anger, evenviolence, in response to minor inconvenience.

Then the final stage of emotional exhaustion set in. The soldierseemed to lose the very will to live. He gave up the struggle to savehimself, to guide himself rationally through the battle. He became,in the words of R. L. Swank, who headed the British investigation,"dull and listless ... mentally and physically retarded,preoccupied." Even his face became dull and apathetic. The fightto adapt had ended in defeat. The stage of total withdrawal wasreached.

That men behave irrationally, acting against their own clearinterest, when thrown into conditions of high change and novelty isalso borne out by studies of human behavior in times of fire, flood,earthquake and other crises. Even the most stable and "normal"people, unhurt physically, can be hurled into anti‑adaptivestates. Often reduced to total confusion and mindlessness, they seemincapable of the most elementary rational decision‑making.

Thus in a study of the responses to tornadoes in Texas, H. E. Moorewrites that "the first reaction ... may be one of dazedbewilderment, sometimes one of disbelief, or at least of refusal toaccept the fact. This, it seems to us, is the essential explanationof the behavior of persons and groups in Waco when it was devastatedin 1953 ... On the personal level, it explains why a girl climbedinto a music store through a broken display window, calmly purchaseda record, and walked out again, even though the plate glass front ofthe building had blown out and articles were flying through the airinside the building."

A study of a tornado in Udall, Kansas, quotes a housewife as saying:"After it was over, my husband and I just got up and jumped outthe window and ran. I don't know where we were running to but ... Ididn't care. I just wanted to run." The classic disasterphotograph shows a mother holding a dead or wounded baby in her arms,her face blank and numb as though she could no longer comprehend thereality around her. Sometimes she sits rocking gently on her porchwith a doll, instead of a baby, in her arms.

In disaster, therefore, exactly as in certain combat situations,individuals can be psychologically overwhelmed. Once again the sourcemay be traced to a high level of environmental stimulation. Thedisaster victim finds himself suddenly caught in a situation in whichfamiliar objects and relationships are transformed. Where once hishouse stood, there may be nothing more than smoking rubble. He mayencounter a cabin floating on the flood tide or a rowboat sailingthrough the air. The environment is filled with change and novelty.And once again the response is marked by confusion, anxiety,irritability and withdrawal into apathy.

Culture shock, the profound disorientation suffered by the travelerwho has plunged without adequate preparation into an alien culture,provides a third example of adaptive breakdown. Here we find none ofthe obvious elements of war or disaster. The scene may be totallypeaceful and riskless. Yet the situation demands repeated adaptationto novel conditions. Culture shock, according to psychologist SvenLundstedt, is a "form of personality maladjustment which is areaction to a temporarily unsuccessful attempt to adjust to newsurroundings and people."

The culture shocked person, like the soldier and disaster victim, isforced to grapple with unfamiliar and unpredictable events,relationships and objects. His habitual ways of accomplishing things– even simple tasks like placing a telephone call – are no longerappropriate. The strange society may itself be changing only veryslowly, yet for him it is all new. Signs, sounds and otherpsychological cues rush past him before he can grasp their meaning.The entire experience takes on a surrealistic air. Every word, everyaction is shot through with uncertainty.

In this setting, fatigue arrives more quickly than usual. Along withit, the cross‑cultural traveler often experiences whatLundstedt describes as "a subjective feeling of loss, and asense of isolation and loneliness."

The unpredictability arising from novelty undermines his sense ofreality. Thus he longs, as Professor Lundstedt puts it, "for anenvironment in which the gratification of important psychological andphysical needs is predictable and less uncertain." He becomes"anxious, confused and often appears apathetic." In fact,Lundstedt concludes, "culture shock can be viewed as a responseto stress by emotional and intellectual withdrawal."

It is hard to read these (and many other) accounts of behaviorbreakdown under a variety of stresses without becoming acutely awareof their similarities. While there are differences, to be sure,between a soldier in combat, a disaster victim, and a culturallydislocated traveler, all three face rapid change, high novelty, orboth. All three are required to adapt rapidly and repeatedly tounpredictable stimuli. And there are striking parallels in the wayall three respond to this overstimulation.

First, we find the same evidences of confusion, disorientation, ordistortion of reality. Second, there are the same signs of fatigue,anxiety, tenseness, or extreme irritability. Third, in all casesthere appears to be a point of no return – a point at which apathyand emotional withdrawal set in.

In short, the available evidence strongly suggests thatoverstimulation may lead to bizarre and anti‑adaptive behavior.


We still know too little about this phenomenon to explainauthoritatively why overstimulation seems to produce maladaptivebehavior. Yet we pick up important clues if we recognize thatoverstimulation can occur on at least three different levels: thesensory, the cognitive and the decisional. (The line between each ofthese is not completely clear, even to psychologists, but if wesimply, in commonsense fashion, equate the sensory level withperceiving, the cognitive with thinking, and the decisional withdeciding, we will not go too far astray.)

The easiest to understand is the sensory level. Experiments insensory deprivation, during which volunteers are cut off from normalstimulation of their senses, have shown that the absence of novelsensory stimuli can lead to bewilderment and impaired mentalfunctioning. By the same token, the input of too much disorganized,patternless or chaotic sensory stimuli can have similar effects. Itis for this reason that practitioners of political or religiousbrainwashing make use not only of sensory deprivation (solitaryconfinement, for example) but of sensory bombardment involvingflashing lights, rapidly shifting patterns of color, chaotic soundeffects – the whole arsenal of psychedelic kaleidoscopy.

The religious fervor and bizarre behavior of certain hippie cultistsmay arise not merely from drug abuse, but from group experimentationwith both sensory deprivation and bombardment. The chanting ofmonotonous mantras, the attempt to focus the individual's attentionon interior, bodily sensation to the exclusion of outside stimuli,are efforts to induce the weird and sometimes hallucinatory effectsof understimulation. At the other end of the scale, we note theglazed stares and numb, expressionless faces of youthful dancers atthe great rock music auditoriums where light shows, split‑screenmovies, high decibel screams, shouts and moans, grotesque costumesand writhing, painted bodies create a sensory environmentcharacterized by high input and extreme unpredictability and novelty.

An organism's ability to cope with sensory input is dependent uponits physiological structure. The nature of its sense organs and thespeed with which impulses flow through its neural system setbiological bounds on the quantity of sensory data it can accept. Ifwe examine the speed of signal transmission within various organisms,we find that the lower the evolutionary level, the slower themovement. Thus, for example, in a sea urchin egg, lacking a nervoussystem as such, a signal moves along a membrane at a rate of about acentimeter an hour. Clearly, at such a rate, the organism can respondto only a very limited part of its environment. By the time we moveup the ladder to a jellyfish, which already has a primitive nervoussystem, the signal travels 36,000 times faster: ten centimeters persecond. In a worm, the rate leaps to 100 cps. Among insects andcrustaceans, neural pulses race along at 1000 cps. Among anthropoidsthe rate reaches 10,000 cps. Crude as these figures no doubt are,they help explain why man is unquestionably among the most adaptableof creatures.

Yet even in man, with a neural transmission rate of about 30,000 cps,the boundaries of the system are imposing. (Electrical signals in acomputer, by contrast, travel billions of times faster.) Thelimitations of the sense organs and nervous system mean that manyenvironmental events occur at rates too fast for us to follow, and weare reduced to sampling experience at best. When the signals reachingus are regular and repetitive, this sampling process can yield afairly good mental representation of reality. But when it is highlydisorganized, when it is novel and unpredictable, the accuracy of ourimagery is necessarily reduced. Our image of reality is distorted.This may explain why, when we experience sensory overstimulation, wesuffer confusion, a blurring of the line between illusion andreality.


If overstimulation at the sensory level increases the distortion withwhich we perceive reality, cognitive overstimulation interferes withour ability to "think." While some human responses tonovelty are involuntary, others are preceded by conscious thought,and this depends upon our ability to absorb, manipulate, evaluate andretain information.

Rational behavior, in particular, depends upon a ceaseless flow ofdata from the environment. It depends upon the power of theindividual to predict, with at least fair success, the outcome of hisown actions. To do this, he must be able to predict how theenvironment will respond to his acts. Sanity, itself, thus hinges onman's ability to predict his immediate, personal future on the basisof information fed him by the environment.

When the individual is plunged into a fast and irregularly changingsituation, or a novelty‑loaded context, however, his predictiveaccuracy plummets. He can no longer make the reasonably correctassessments on which rational behavior is dependent.

To compensate for this, to bring his accuracy up to the normal levelagain, he must scoop up and process far more information than before.And he must do this at extremely high rates of speed. In short, themore rapidly changing and novel the environment, the more informationthe individual needs to process in order to make effective, rationaldecisions.

Yet just as there are limits on how much sensory input we can accept,there are in‑built constraints on our ability to processinformation. In the words of psychologist George A. Miller ofRockefeller University, there are "severe limitations on theamount of information that we are able to receive, process, andremember." By classifying information, by abstracting and"coding" it in various ways, we manage to stretch theselimits, yet ample evidence demonstrates that our capabilities arefinite.

To discover these outer limits, psychologists and communicationstheorists have set about testing what they call the "channelcapacity" of the human organism. For the purpose of theseexperiments, they regard man as a "channel." Informationenters from the outside. It is processed. It exits in the form ofactions based on decisions. The speed and accuracy of humaninformation processing can be measured by comparing the speed ofinformation input with the speed and accuracy of output.

Information has been defined technically and measured in terms ofunits called "bits." (A bit is the amount of informationneeded to make a decision between two equally likely alternatives.The number of bits needed increases by one as the number of suchalternatives doubles.)By now, experiments have establishedrates for the processing involved in a wide variety of tasks fromreading, typing, and playing the piano to manipulating dials or doingmental arithmetic. And while researchers differ as to the exactfigures, they strongly agree on two basic principles: first, that manhas limited capacity; and second, that overloading the system leadsto serious breakdown of performance.

Imagine, for example, an assembly line worker in a factory makingchildrens' blocks. His job is to press a button each time a red blockpasses in front of him on the conveyor belt. So long as the beltmoves at a reasonable speed, he will have little difficulty. Hisperformance will approach 100 percent accuracy. We know that if thepace is too slow, his mind will wander, and his performance willdeteriorate. We also know that if the belt moves too fast, he willfalter, miss, grow confused and uncoordinated. He is likely to becometense and irritable. He may even take a swat at the machine out ofpure frustration. Ultimately, he will give up trying to keep pace.

Here the information demands are simple, but picture a more complextask. Now the blocks streaming down the line are of many differentcolors. His instructions are to press the button only when a certaincolor pattern appears – a yellow block, say, followed by two redsand a green. In this task, he must take in and process far moreinformation before he can decide whether or not to hit the button.All other things being equal, he will have even greater difficultykeeping up as the pace of the line accelerates.

In a still more demanding task, we not only force the worker toprocess a lot of data before deciding whether to hit thebutton, but we then force him to decide which of severalbuttons to press. We can also vary the number of times each buttonmust be pressed. Now his instructions might read: For color patternyellow‑red‑red‑green, hit button number two once;for pattern green‑blue‑yellow‑green, hit buttonnumber six three times; and so forth. Such tasks require the workerto process a large amount of data in order to carry out his task.Speeding up the conveyor now will destroy his accuracy even morerapidly.

Experiments like these have been built up to dismaying degrees ofcomplexity. Tests have involved flashing lights, musical tones,letters, symbols, spoken words, and a wide array of other stimuli.And subjects, asked to drum fingertips, speak phrases, solve puzzles,and perform an assortment of other tasks, have been reduced toblithering ineptitude. The results unequivocally show that no matterwhat the task, there is a speed above which it cannot be performed –and not simply because of inadequate muscular dexterity. The topspeed is often imposed by mental rather than muscular limitations.These experiments also reveal that the greater the number ofalternative courses of action open to the subject, the longer ittakes him to reach a decision and carry it out.

Clearly, these findings can help us understand certain forms ofpsychological upset. Managers plagued by demands for rapid, incessantand complex decisions; pupils deluged with facts and hit withrepeated tests; housewives confronted with squalling children,jangling telephones, broken washing machines, the wail of rock androll from the teenager's living room and the whine of the televisionset in the parlor – may well find their ability to think and actclearly impaired by the waves of information crashing into theirsenses. It is more than possible that some of the symptoms notedamong battle‑stressed soldiers, disaster victims, and cultureshocked travelers are related to this kind of information overload.

One of the men who has pioneered in information studies, Dr. James G.Miller, director of the Mental Health Research Institute at theUniversity of Michigan, states flatly that "Glutting a personwith more information than he can process may ... lead todisturbance." He suggests, in fact, that information overloadmay be related to various forms of mental illness.

One of the striking features of schizophrenia, for example, is"incorrect associative response." Ideas and words thatought to be linked in the subject's mind are not, and vice versa. Theschizophrenic tends to think in arbitrary or highly personalizedcategories. Confronted with a set of blocks of various kinds –triangles, cubes, cones, etc. – the normal person is likely tocategorize them in terms of geometric shape. The schizophrenic askedto classify them is just as likely to say "They are allsoldiers" or "They all make me feel sad."

In the volume Disorders of Communication, Miller describesexperiments using word association tests to compare normals andschizophrenics. Normal subjects were divided into two groups, andasked to associate various words with other words or concepts. Onegroup worked at its own pace. The other worked under time pressure –i.e., under conditions of rapid information input. The time‑pressedsubjects came up with responses more like those of schizophrenicsthan of self‑paced normals.

Similar experiments conducted by psychologists G. Usdansky and L. J.Chapman made possible a more refined analysis of the types of errorsmade by subjects working under forced‑pace, highinformation‑input rates. They, too, concluded that increasingthe speed of response brought out a pattern of errors among normalsthat is peculiarly characteristic of schizophrenics.

"One might speculate," Miller suggests, "... thatschizophrenia (by some as‑yetunknown process, perhaps ametabolic fault which increases neural 'noise') lowers the capacitiesof channels involved in cognitive information processing.Schizophrenics consequently ... have difficulties in coping withinformation inputs at standard rates like the difficultiesexperienced by normals at rapid rates. As a result, schizophrenicsmake errors at standard rates like those made by normals under fast,forced‑input rates."

In short, Miller argues, the breakdown of human performance underheavy information loads may be related to psychopathology in ways wehave not yet begun to explore. Yet, even without understanding itspotential impact, we are accelerating the generalized rate of changein society. We are forcing people to adapt to a new life pace, toconfront novel situations and master them in ever shorter intervals.We are forcing them to choose among fast‑multiplying options.We are, in other words, forcing them to process information at a farmore rapid pace than was necessary in slowly‑evolvingsocieties. There can be little doubt that we are subjecting at leastsome of them to cognitive overstimulation. What consequences this mayhave for mental health in the techno‑societies has yet to bedetermined.


Whether we are submitting masses of men to information overload ornot, we are affecting their behavior negatively by imposing on themstill a third form of overstimulation – decision stress. Manyindividuals tapped in dull or slowly changing environments yearn tobreak out into new jobs or roles that require them to make faster andmore complex decisions. But among the people of the future, theproblem is reversed. "Decisions, decisions ..." they mutteras they race anxiously from task to task. The reason they feelharried and upset is that transience, novelty and diversity posecontradictory demands and thus place them in an excruciating doublebind.

The accelerative thrust and its psychological counterpart,transience, force us to quicken the tempo of private and publicdecision‑making. New needs, novel emergencies and crises demandrapid response.

Yet the very newness of the circumstances brings about arevolutionary change in the nature of the decisions they are calledupon to make. The rapid injection of novelty into the environmentupsets the delicate balance of "programmed" and"non‑programmed" decisions in our organizations andour private lives.

A programmed decision is one that is routine, repetitive and easy tomake. The commuter stands at the edge of the platform as the 8:05rattles to a stop. He climbs aboard, as he has done every day formonths or years. Having long ago decided that the 8:05 is the mostconvenient run on the schedule, the actual decision to board thetrain is programmed. It seems more like a reflex than a decision atall. The immediate criteria on which the decision is based arerelatively simple and clear‑cut, and because all thecircumstances are familiar, he scarcely has to think about it. He isnot required to process very much information. In this sense,programmed decisions are low in psychic cost.

Contrast this with the kind of decisions that same commuter thinksabout on his way to the city. Should he take the new job CorporationX has just offered him? Should he buy a new house? Should he have anaffair with his secretary? How can he get the Management Committee toaccept his proposals about the new ad campaign? Such questions demandnonroutine answers. They force him to make one‑time orfirst‑time decisions that will establish new habits andbehavioral procedures. Many factors must be studied and weighed. Avast amount of information must be processed. These decisions arenon‑programmed. They are high in psychic cost.

For each of us, life is a blend of the two. If this blend is too highin programmed decisions, we are not challenged; we find life boringand stultifying. We search for ways, even unconsciously, to introducenovelty into our lives, thereby altering the decision "mix."But if this mix is too high in non‑programmed decisions, if weare hit by so many novel situations that programming becomesimpossible, life becomes painfully disorganized, exhausting andanxiety‑filled. Pushed to its extreme, the end‑point ispsychosis.

"Rational behavior ...," writes organization theoristBertram M. Gross, "always includes an intricate combination ofroutinization and creativity. Routine is essential ... [because it]frees creative energies for dealing with the more baffling array ofnew problems for which routinization is an irrational approach."When we are unable to program much of our lives, we suffer. "Thereis no more miserable person," wrote William James, "thanone ... for whom the lighting of every cigar, the drinking of everycup ... the beginning of every bit of work, are subjects ofdeliberation." For unless we can extensively program ourbehavior, we waste tremendous amounts of information‑processingcapacity on trivia.

This is why we form habits. Watch a committee break for lunch andthen return to the same room: almost invariably its members seek outthe same seats they occupied earlier. Some anthropologists drag inthe theory of "territoriality" to explain this behavior –the notion that man is forever trying to carve out for himself asacrosanct "turf." A simpler explanation lies in the factthat programming conserves information‑processing capacity.Choosing the same seat spares us the need to survey and evaluateother possibilities.

In a familiar context, we are able to handle many of our lifeproblems with low‑cost programmed decisions. Change and noveltyboost the psychic price of decision‑making. When we move to anew neighborhood, for example, we are forced to alter oldrelationships and establish new routines or habits. This cannot bedone without first discarding thousands of formerly programmeddecisions and making a whole series of costly new first‑time,nonprogrammed decisions. In effect, we are asked to re‑programourselves.

Precisely the same is true of the unprepared visitor to an alienculture, and it is equally true of the man who, still in his ownsociety, is rocketed into the future without advance warning. Thearrival of the future in the form of novelty and change makes all hispainfully pieced‑together behavioral routines obsolete. Hesuddenly discovers to his horror that these old routines, rather thansolving his problems, merely intensify them. New and as yetunprogrammable decisions are demanded. In short, novelty disturbs thedecision mix, tipping the balance toward the most difficult, mostcostly form of decision‑making.

It is true that some people can tolerate more novelty than others.The optimum mix is different for each of us. Yet the number and typeof decisions demanded of us are not under our autonomous control. Itis the society that basically determines the mix of decisions we mustmake and the pace at which we must make them. Today there is a hiddenconflict in our lives between the pressures of acceleration and thoseof novelty. One forces us to make faster decisions while the othercompels us to make the hardest, most time‑consuming type ofdecisions.

The anxiety generated by this head‑on collision is sharplyintensified by expanding diversity. Incontrovertible evidence showsthat increasing the number of choices open to an individual alsoincreases the amount of information he needs to process if he is todeal with them. Laboratory tests on men and animals alike prove thatthe more the choices, the slower the reaction time.

It is the frontal collision of these three incompatible demands thatis now producing a decision‑making crisis in thetechno‑societies. Taken together these pressures justify theterm "decisional overstimulation," and they help explainwhy masses of men in these societies already feel themselves harried,futile, incapable of working out their private futures. Theconviction that the rat‑race is too tough, that things are outof control, is the inevitable consequence of these clashing forces.For the uncontrolled acceleration of scientific, technological andsocial change subverts the power of the individual to make sensible,competent decisions about his own destiny.


When we combine the effects of decisional stress with sensory andcognitive overload, we produce several common forms of individualmaladaptation. For example, one widespread response to high‑speedchange is outright denial. The Denier's strategy is to "blockout" unwelcome reality. When the demand for decisions reachescrescendo, he flatly refuses to take in new information. Like thedisaster victim whose face registers total disbelief, The Denier,too, cannot accept the evidence of his senses. Thus he concludes thatthings really are the same, and that all evidences of change aremerely superficial. He finds comfort in such clichés as "youngpeople were always rebellious" or "there's nothing new onthe face of the earth," or "the more things change, themore they stay the same."

An unknowing victim of future shock, The Denier sets himself up forpersonalcatastrophe. His strategy for coping increases thelikelihood that when he finally is forced to adapt, his encounterwith change will come in the form of a single massive life crisis,rather than a sequence of manageable problems.

A second strategy of the future shock victim is specialism. TheSpecialist doesn't block out all novel ideas or information.Instead, he energetically attempts to keep pace with change – butonly in a specific narrow sector of life. Thus we witness thespectacle of the physician or financier who makes use of all thelatest innovations in his profession, but remains rigidly closed toany suggestion for social, political, or economic innovation. Themore universities undergo paroxysms of protest, the more ghettos goup in flames, the less he wants to know about them, and the moreclosely he narrows the slit through which he sees the world.

Superficially, he copes well. But he, too, is running the oddsagainst himself. He may awake one morning to find his specialtyobsolete or else transformed beyond recognition by events explodingoutside his field of vision.

A third common response to future shock is obsessive reversion topreviously successful adaptive routines that are now irrelevant andinappropriate. The Reversionist sticks to his previously programmeddecisions and habits with dogmatic desperation. The more changethreatens from without, the more meticulously he repeats past modesof action. His social outlook is regressive. Shocked by the arrivalof the future, he offers hysterical support for the not‑so‑statusquo, or he demands, in one masked form or another, a return to theglories of yesteryear.

The Barry Goldwaters and George Wallaces of the world appeal to hisquivering gut through the politics of nostalgia. Police maintainedorder in the past; hence, to maintain order, we need only supply morepolice. Authoritarian treatment of children worked in the past;hence, the troubles of the present spring from permissiveness. Themiddle‑aged, rightwing reversionist yearns for the simple,ordered society of the small town – the slow‑paced socialenvironment in which his old routines were appropriate. Instead ofadapting to the new, he continues automatically to apply the oldsolutions, growing more and more divorced from reality as he does so.

If the older reversionist dreams of reinstating a small‑townpast, the youthful, left‑wing reversionist dreams of revivingan even older social system. This accounts for some of thefascination with rural communes, the bucolic romanticism that fillsthe posters and poetry of the hippie and post‑hippiesubcultures, the deification of Ché Guevara (identified withmountains and jungles, not with urban or post‑urbanenvironments), the exaggerated veneration of pre‑technologicalsocieties and the exaggerated contempt for science and technology.For all their fiery demands for change, at least some sectors of theleft share with the Wallacites and Goldwaterites a secret passion forthe past.

Just as their Indian headbands, their Edwardian capes, theirDeerslayer boots and goldrimmed glasses mimic various eras of thepast, so, too, their ideas. Turn‑of‑the‑centuryterrorism and quaint Black Flag anarchy are suddenly back in vogue.The Rousseauian cult of the noble savage flourishes anew. AntiqueMarxist ideas, applicable at best to yesterday's industrialism, arehauled out as knee‑jerk answers for the problems of tomorrow'ssuperindustrialism. Reversionism masquerades as revolution.

Finally, we have the Super‑Simplifier. With old heroes andinstitutions toppling, with strikes, riots, and demonstrationsstabbing at his consciousness, he seeks a single neat equation thatwill explain all the complex novelties threatening to engulf him.Grasping erratically at this idea or that, he becomes a temporarytrue believer.

This helps account for the rampant intellectual faddism that alreadythreatens to outpace the rate of turnover in fashion. McLuhan?Prophet of the electric age? Levi‑Strauss? Wow! Marcuse? Now Isee it all! The Maharishi of Whatchmacallit? Fantastic! Astrology?Insight of the ages!

The Super‑Simplifier, groping desperately, invests every ideahe comes across with universal relevance – often to theembarrassment of its author. Alas, no idea, not even mine or thine,is omni‑insightful. But for the Super‑Simplifier nothingless than total relevance suffices. Maximization of profits explainsAmerica. The Communist conspiracy explains race riots. Participatorydemocracy is the answer. Permissiveness (or Dr. Spock) are the rootof all evil.

This search for a unitary solution at the intellectual level has itsparallels in action. Thus the bewildered, anxious student, pressuredby parents, uncertain of his draft status, nagged at by aneducational system whose obsolescence is more strikingly revealedevery day, forced to decide on a career, a set of values, and aworthwhile life style, searches wildly for a way to simplify hisexistence. By turning on to LSD, Methedrine or heroin, he performs anillegal act that has, at least, the virtue of consolidating hismiseries. He trades a host of painful and seemingly insolubletroubles for one big problem, thus radically, if temporarily,simplifying existence.

The teen‑age girl who cannot cope with the daily mountingtangle of stresses may choose another dramatic act ofsuper‑simplification: pregnancy. Like drug abuse, pregnancy mayvastly complicate her life later, but it immediately plunges all herother problems into relative insignificance.

Violence, too, offers a "simple" way out of burgeoningcomplexity of choice and general overstimulation. For the oldergeneration and the political establishment, police truncheons andmilitary bayonets loom as attractive remedies, a way to end dissentonce and for all. Black extremists and white vigilantes both employviolence to narrow their choices and clarify their lives. For thosewho lack an intelligent, comprehensive program, who cannot cope withthe novelties and complexities of blinding change, terrorismsubstitutes for thought. Terrorism may not topple regimes, but itremoves doubts.

Most of us can quickly spot these patterns of behavior in others –even in ourselves – without, at the same time, understanding theircauses. Yet information scientists will instantly recognize denial,specialization, reversion and super‑simplification as classicaltechniques for coping with overload.

All of them dangerously evade the rich complexity of reality. Theygenerate distorted images of reality. The more the individual denies,the more he specializes at the expense of wider interests, the moremechanically he reverts to past habits and policies, the moredesperately he super‑simplifies, the more inept his responsesto the novelty and choices flooding into his life. The more he relieson these strategies, the more his behavior exhibits wild and erraticswings and general instability.

Every information scientist recognizes that some of these strategiesmay, indeed, be necessary in overload situations. Yet, unless theindividual begins with a clear grasp of relevant reality, and unlesshe begins with cleanly defined values and priorities, his reliance onsuch techniques will only deepen his adaptive difficulties.

These preconditions, however, are increasingly difficult to meet.Thus the future shock victim who does employ these strategiesexperiences a deepening sense of confusion and uncertainty. Caught inthe turbulent flow of change, called upon to make significant,rapidfire life decisions, he feels not simply intellectualbewilderment, but disorientation at the level of personal values. Asthe pace of change quickens, this confusion is tinged with selfdoubt,anxiety and fear. He grows tense, tires easily. He may fall ill. Asthe pressures relentlessly mount, tension shades into irritability,anger, and sometimes, senseless violence. Little events triggerenormous responses; large events bring inadequate responses.

Pavlov many years ago referred to this phenomenon as the "paradoxicalphase" in the breakdown of the dogs on whom he conducted hisconditioning experiments. Subsequent research has shown that humans,too, pass through this stage under the impact of overstimulation, andit may explain why riots sometimes occur even in the absence ofserious provocation, why, as though for no reason, thousands ofteenagers at a resort will suddenly go on the rampage, smashingwindows, heaving rocks and bottles, wrecking cars. It may explain whypointless vandalism is a problem in all of the techno‑societies,to the degree that an editorialist in the Japan Times reportsin cracked, but passionate English: "We have never before seenanything like the extensive scope that these psychopathic acts areindulged in today."

And finally, the confusion and uncertainty wrought by transience,novelty and diversity may explain the profound apathy thatde‑socializes millions, old and young alike. This is not thestudied, temporary withdrawal of the sensible person who needs tounwind or slow down before coping anew with his problems. It is totalsurrender before the strain of decisionmaking in conditions ofuncertainty and overchoice.

Affluence makes it possible, for the first time in history, for largenumbers of people to make their withdrawal a full‑timeproposition. The family man who retreats into his evening with thehelp of a few martinis and allows televised fantasy to narcotize him,at least works during the day, performing a social function uponwhich others are dependent. His is a parttime withdrawal. But forsome (not all) hippie dropouts, for many of the surfers andlotuseaters, withdrawal is full‑time and total. A check from anindulgent parent may be the only remaining link with the largersociety.

On the beach at Matala, a tiny sun‑drenched village in Crete,are forty or fifty caves occupied by runaway American troglodytes,young men and women who, for the most part, have given up any furthereffort to cope with the exploding high‑speed complexities oflife. Here decisions are few and time plentiful. Here the choices arenarrowed. No problem of overstimulation. No need to comprehend oreven to feel. A reporter visiting them in 1968 brought them news ofthe assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. Their response: silence. "Noshock, no rage, no tears. Is this the new phenomenon? Running awayfrom America and running away from emotion? I understanduninvolvement, disenchantment, even noncommitment. But where has allthe feeling gone?"

The reporter might understand where all the feeling has gone if heunderstood the impact of overstimulation, the apathy of the Chinditguerrilla, the blank face of the disaster victim, the intellectualand emotional withdrawal of the culture shock victim. For these youngpeople, and millions of others – the confused, the violent, and theapathetic – already evince the symptoms of future shock. They areits earliest victims.


It is impossible to produce future shock in large numbers ofindividuals without affecting the rationality of the society as awhole. Today, according to Daniel P. Moynihan, the chief White Houseadvisor on urban affairs, the United States "exhibits thequalities of an individual going through a nervous breakdown."For the cumulative impact of sensory, cognitive or decisionaloverstimulation, not to mention the physical effects of neural orendocrine overload, creates sickness in our midst.

This sickness is increasingly mirrored in our culture, ourphilosophy, our attitude toward reality. It is no accident that somany ordinary people refer to the world as a "madhouse" orthat the theme of insanity has recently become a staple inliterature, art, drama and film. Peter Weiss in his play Marat/Sadeportrays a turbulent world as seen through the eyes of the inmates ofthe Charenton asylum. In movies like Morgan, life within amental institution is depicted as superior to that in the outsideworld. In Blow‑Up , the climax comes when the hero joinsin a tennis game in which players hit a non‑existent ball backand forth over the net. It is his symbolic acceptance of the unrealand irrational – recognition that he can no longer distinguishbetween illusion and reality. Millions of viewers identified with thehero in that moment.

The assertion that the world has "gone crazy," the graffitislogan that "reality is a crutch," the interest inhallucinogenic drugs, the enthusiasm for astrology and the occult,the search for truth in sensation, ecstasy and "peakexperience," the swing toward extreme subjectivism, the attackson science, the snowballing belief that reason has failed man,reflect the everyday experience of masses of ordinary people who findthey can no longer cope rationally with change.

Millions sense the pathology that pervades the air, but fail tounderstand its roots. These roots lie not in this or that politicaldoctrine, still less in some mystical core of despair or isolationpresumed to inhere in the "human condition." Nor do theylie in science, technology, or legitimate demands for social change.They are traceable, instead, to the uncontrolled, non‑selectivenature of our lunge into the future. They lie in our failure todirect, consciously and imaginatively, the advance towardsuper‑industrialism.

Thus, despite its extraordinary achievements in art, science,intellectual, moral and political life, the United States is a nationin which tens of thousands of young people flee reality by opting fordrug‑induced lassitude; a nation in which millions of theirparents retreat into video‑induced stupor or alcoholic haze; anation in which legions of elderly folk vegetate and die inloneliness; in which the flight from family and occupationalresponsibility has become an exodus; in which masses tame theirraging anxieties with Miltown, or Librium, or Equanil, or a score ofother tranquilizers and psychic pacifiers. Such a nation, whether itknows it or not, is suffering from future shock.

"I'm not going back to America," says Ronald Bierl, a youngexpatriate in Turkey. "If you can establish your own sanity, youdon't have to worry about other people's sanity. And so manyAmericans are going stone insane." Multitudes share thisunflattering view of American reality. Lest Europeans or Japanese orRussians rest smugly on their presumed sanity, however, it is well toask whether similar symptoms are not already present in their midstas well. Are Americans unique in this respect, or are they simplysuffering the initial brunt of an assault on the psyche that soonwill stagger other nations as well?

Social rationality presupposes individual rationality, and this, inturn, depends not only on certain biological equipment, but oncontinuity, order and regularity in the environment. It is premisedon some correlation between the pace and complexity of change andman's decisional capacities. By blindly stepping up the rate ofchange, the level of novelty, and the extent of choice, we arethoughtlessly tampering with these environmental preconditions ofrationality. We are condemning countless millions to future shock.


Chapter 17


In the blue vastness of the South Pacific just north of New Guinealies the island of Manus, where, as every first‑yearanthropology student knows, a stone age population emerged into thetwentieth century within a single generation. Margaret Mead, in NewLives for Old, tells the story of this seeming miracle ofcultural adaptation and argues that it is far more difficult for aprimitive people to accept a few fragmentary crumbs of Westerntechnological culture than it is for them to adopt a whole new way oflife at once.

"Each human culture, like each language, is a whole," shewrites, and if "individuals or groups of people have to change... it is most important that they should change from one wholepattern to another."

There is sense in this, for it is clear that tensions arise fromincongruities between cultural elements. To introduce cities withoutsewage, anti‑malarial medicines without birth control, is totear a culture apart, and to subject its members to excruciating,often insoluble problems.

Yet this is only part of the story, for there are definite limits tothe amount of newness that any individual or group can absorb in ashort span of time, regardless of how well integrated the whole maybe. Nobody, Manus or Muscovite, can be pushed above his adaptiverange without suffering disturbance and disorientation. Moreover, itis dangerous to generalize from the experience of this small SouthSea population.

The success story of the Manus, told and retold like a modern folktale, is often cited as evidence that we, in the high‑technologycountries, will also be able to leap to a new stage of developmentwithout undue hardship. Yet our situation, as we speed into thesuper‑industrial era, is radically different from that of theislanders.

We are not in a position, as they were, to import wholesale anintegrated, well‑formed culture, matured and tested in anotherpart of the world. We must invent super‑industrialism, notimport it. During the next thirty or forty years we must anticipatenot a single wave of change, but a series of terrible heaves andshudders. The parts of the new society, rather than being carefullyfitted, one to the other, will be strikingly incongruous filled withmissing linkages and glaring contradictions. There is no "wholepattern" for us to adopt.

More important, the transience level has risen so high, the pace isnow so forced, that a historically unprecedented situation has beenthrust upon us. We are not asked, as the Manus were, to adapt to anew culture, but to a blinding succession of new temporary cultures.This is why we may be approaching the upper limits of the adaptiverange. No previous generation has ever faced this test.

It is only now, therefore, in our lifetime, and only in thetechno‑societies as yet, that the potential for mass futureshock has crystallized.

To say this, however, is to court grave misunderstanding. First, anyauthor who calls attention to a social problem runs the risk ofdeepening the already profound pessimism that envelops thetechno‑societies. Self‑indulgent despair is a highlysalable literary commodity today. Yet despair is not merely a refugefor irresponsibility; it is unjustified. Most of the problemsbesieging us, including future shock, stem not from implacablenatural forces but from man‑made processes that are at leastpotentially subject to our control.

Second, there is danger that those who treasure the status quo mayseize upon the concept of future shock as an excuse to argue for amoratorium on change. Not only would any such attempt to suppresschange fail, triggering even bigger, bloodier and more unmanageablechanges than any we have seen, it would be moral lunacy as well. Byany set of human standards, certain radical social changes arealready desperately overdue. The answer to future shock is notnon‑change, but a different kind of change.

The only way to maintain any semblance of equilibrium during thesuper‑industrial revolution will be to meet invention withinvention – to design new personal and social change‑regulators.Thus we need neither blind acceptance nor blind resistance, but anarray of creative strategies for shaping, deflecting, accelerating ordecelerating change selectively. The individual needs new principlesfor pacing and planning his life along with a dramatically new kindof education. He may also need specific new technological aids toincrease his adaptivity. The society, meanwhile, needs newinstitutions and organizational forms, new buffers and balancewheels.

All this implies still further change, to be sure – but of a typedesigned from the beginning to harness the accelerative thrust, tosteer it and pace it. This will not be easy to do. Moving swiftlyinto uncharted social territory, we have no time‑triedtechniques, no blueprints. We must, therefore, experiment with a widerange of change‑regulating measures, inventing and discardingthem as we go along. It is in this tentative spirit that thefollowing tactics and strategies are suggested – not as sure‑firepanaceas, but as examples of new approaches that need to be testedand evaluated. Some are personal, others technological and social.For the struggle to channel change must take place at all theselevels simultaneously.

Given a clearer grasp of the problems and more intelligent control ofcertain key processes, we can turn crisis into opportunity, helpingpeople not merely to survive, but to crest the waves of change, togrow, and to gain a new sense of mastery over their own destinies.


We can begin our battle to prevent future shock at the most personallevel. It is clear, whether we know it or not, that much of our dailybehavior is, in fact, an attempt to ward off future shock. We employa variety of tactics to lower the levels of stimulation when theythreaten to drive us above our adaptive range. For the most part,however, these techniques are employed unconsciously. We can increasetheir effectiveness by raising them to consciousness.

We can, for example, introvert periodically to examine our own bodilyand psychological reactions to change, briefly tuning out theexternal environment to evaluate our inner environment. This is not amatter of wallowing in subjectivity, but of coolly appraising our ownperformance. In the words of Hans Selye, whose work on stress openednew frontiers in biology and psychiatry, the individual can"consciously look for signs of being keyed up too much."

Heart palpitations, tremors, insomnia or unexplained fatigue may wellsignal overstimulation, just as confusion, unusual irritability,profound lassitude and a panicky sense that things are slipping outof control are psychological indications. By observing ourselves,looking back over the changes in our recent past, we can determinewhether we are operating comfortably within our adaptive range orpressing its outer limits. We can, in short, consciously assess ourown life pace.

Having done this, we can also begin consciously to influence it –speeding it up or slowing it down – first with respect to smallthings, the micro‑environment, and then in terms of the larger,structural patterns of experience. We can learn how by scrutinizingour own unpremeditated responses to overstimulation.

We employ a de‑stimulating tactic, for example, when we storminto the teen‑ager's bedroom and turn off a stereo unit thathas been battering our eardrums with unwanted and interruptivesounds. We virtually sigh with relief when the noise level drops. Weact to reduce sensory bombardment in other ways, too – when we pulldown the blinds to darken a room, or search for silence on a desertedstrip of beach. We may flip on an air conditioner not so much tolower the temperature as to mask novel and unpredictable streetsounds with a steady, predictable drone.

We close doors, wear sunglasses, avoid smelly places and shy awayfrom touching strange surfaces when we want to decrease novel sensoryinput. Similarly, when we choose a familiar route home from theoffice, instead of turning a fresh corner, we opt for sensorynonnovelty. In short, we employ "sensory shielding" – athousand subtle behavioral tricks to "turn off" sensorystimuli when they approach our upper adaptive limit.

We use similar tactics to control the level of cognitive stimulation.Even the best of students periodically gazes out the window, blockingout the teacher, shutting off the flow of new data from that source.Even voracious readers sometimes go through periods when they cannotbear to pick up a book or magazine.

Why, during a gregarious evening at a friend's house, does one personin the group refuse to learn a new card game while others urge heron? Many factors play a part: the selfesteem of the individual, thefear of seeming foolish, and so on. But one overlooked factoraffecting willingness to learn may well be the general level ofcognitive stimulation in the individual's life at the time. "Don'tbother me with new facts!" is a phrase usually uttered in jest.But the joke often disguises a real wish to avoid being pressed toohard by new data.

This accounts in part for our specific choices of entertainment –of leisure‑time reading, movies or television programs.Sometimes we seek a high novelty ratio, a rich flow of information.At other moments we actively resist cognitive stimulation and reachfor "light" entertainment. The typical detective yarn, forexample, provides a trace of unpredictability – who‑dunnit? –within a carefully structured ritual framework, a set of non‑novel,hence easily predictable relationships. In this way, we employentertainment as a device to raise or lower stimulation, adjustingour intake rates so as not to overload our capacities.

By making more conscious use of such tactics, we can "fine‑tune"our microenvironment. We can also cut down on unwanted stimulation byacting to lighten our cognitive burdens. "Trying to remember toomany things is certainly one of the major sources of psychologicstress," writes Selye. "I make a conscious effort to forgetimmediately all that is unimportant and to jot down data of possiblevalue ... This technique can help anyone to accomplish the greatestsimplicity compatible with the degree of complexity of hisintellectual life."

We also act to regulate the flow of decisioning. We postponedecisions or delegate them to others when we are suffering fromdecision overload. Sometimes we "freeze up" decisionally. Ihave seen a woman sociologist, just returned from a crowded, highlystimulating professional conference, sit down in a restaurant andabsolutely refuse to make any decisions whatever about her meal."What would you like?" her husband asked. "You decidefor me," she replied. When pressed to choose between specificalternatives, she still explicitly refused, insisting angrily thatshe lacked the "energy" to make the decision.

Through such methods we attempt, as best we can, to regulate the flowof sensory, cognitive and decisional stimulation, perhaps alsoattempting in some complicated and as yet unknown way to balance themwith one another. But we have stronger ways of coping with the threatof overstimulation. These involve attempts to control the rates oftransience, novelty and diversity in our milieu.


The rate of turnover in our lives, for example, can be influenced byconscious decisions. We can, for example, cut down on change andstimulation by consciously maintaining longerterm relationships withthe various elements of our physical environment. Thus, we can refuseto purchase throw‑away products. We can hang onto the oldjacket for another season; we can stoutly refuse to follow the latestfashion trend; we can resist when the salesman tells us it's time totrade in our automobile. In this way, we reduce the need to make andbreak ties with the physical objects around us.

We can use the same tactic with respect to people and the otherdimensions of experience. There are times when even the mostgregarious person feels anti‑social and refuses invitations toparties or other events that call for social interaction. Weconsciously disconnect. In the same way, we can minimize travel. Wecan resist pointless reorganizations in our company, church,fraternal or community groups. In making important decisions, we canconsciously weigh the hidden costs of change against the benefits.

None of this is to suggest that change can or should be stopped.Nothing is less sensible than the advice of the Duke of Cambridge whois said to have harumphed: "Any change, at any time, for anyreason is to be deplored." The theory of the adaptive rangesuggests that, despite its physical costs, some level of change is asvital to health as too much change is damaging.

Some people, for reasons still not clear, are pitched at a muchhigher level of stimulus hunger than others. They seem to cravechange even when others are reeling from it. A new house, a new car,another trip, another crisis on the job, more house guests, visits,financial adventures and misadventures – they seem to accept allthese and more without apparent ill effect.

Yet close analysis of such people often reveals the existence of whatmight be called "stability zones" in their lives –certain enduring relationships that are carefully maintained despiteall kinds of other changes.

One man I know has run through a series of love affairs, a divorceand remarriage – all within a very short span of time. He thriveson change, enjoys travel, new foods, new ideas, new movies, plays andbooks. He has a high intellect and a low "boring point," isimpatient with tradition and restlessly eager for novelty.Ostensibly, he is a walking exemplar of change.When we look moreclosely, however, we find that he has stayed on the same job for tenyears. He drives a battered, seven‑year‑old automobile.His clothes are several years out of style. His closest friends arelong‑time professional associates and even a few old collegebuddies.

Another case involves a man who has changed jobs at a mind‑staggeringrate, has moved his family thirteen times in eighteen years, travelsextensively, rents cars, uses throwaway products, prides himself onleading the neighborhood in trying out new gadgets, and generallylives in a restless whirl of transience, newness and diversity. Oncemore, however, a second look reveals significant stability zones inhis life: a good, tightly woven relationship with his wife ofnineteen years; continuing ties with his parents; old college friendsinterspersed with the new acquaintances.

A different form of stability zone is the habit pattern that goeswith the person wherever he travels, no matter what other changesalter his life. A professor who has moved seven times in ten years,who travels constantly in the United States, South America, Europeand Africa, who has changed jobs repeatedly, pursues the same dailyregimen wherever he is. He reads between eight and nine in themorning, takes forty‑five minutes for exercise at lunch time,and then catches a half‑hour cat‑nap before plunging intowork that keeps him busy until 10:00 P.M.

The problem is not, therefore, to suppress change, which cannot bedone, but to manage it. If we opt for rapid change in certain sectorsof life, we can consciously attempt to build stability zoneselsewhere. A divorce, perhaps, should not be too closely followed bya job transfer. Since the birth of a child alters all the human tieswithin a family, it ought not, perhaps, be followed too closely by arelocation which causes tremendous turnover in human ties outside thefamily. The recent widow should not, perhaps, rush to sell her house.

To design workable stability zones, however, to alter the largerpatterns of life, we need far more potent tools. We need, first ofall, a radically new orientation toward the future. Ultimately, tomanage change we must anticipate it. However, the notion that one'spersonal future can be, to some extent, anticipated, flies in theface of persistent folk prejudice. Most people, deep down, believethat the future is a blank. Yet the truth is that we canassign probabilities to some of the changes that lie in store for us,especially certain large structural changes, and there are ways touse this knowledge in designing personal stability zones.

We can, for example, predict with certainty that unless deathintervenes, we shall grow older; that our children, our relatives andfriends will also grow older; and that after a certain point ourhealth will begin to deteriorate. Obvious as this may seem, we can,as a result of this simple statement, infer a great deal about ourlives one, five or ten years hence, and about the amount of change wewill have to absorb in the interim.

Few individuals or families plan ahead systematically. When they do,it is usually in terms of a budget. Yet we can forecast and influenceour expenditure of time and emotion as well as money. Thus it ispossible to gain revealing glimpses of one's own future, and toestimate the gross level of change lying ahead, by periodicallypreparing what might be called a Time and Emotion Forecast. This isan attempt to assess the percentage of time and emotional energyinvested in various important aspects of life – and to see how thismight change over the years.

One can, for example, list in a column those sectors of life thatseem most important to us: Health, Occupation, Leisure, MaritalRelations, Parental Relations, Filial Relations, etc. It is thenpossible to jot down next to each item a "guesstimate" ofthe amount of time we presently allocate to that sector. By way ofillustration: given a nine‑to‑five job, a half‑hourcommute, and the usual vacations and holidays, a man employing thismethod would find that he devotes approximately 25 percent of histime to work. Although it is, of course, much more difficult, he canalso make a subjective assessment of the percentage of his emotionalenergy invested in the job. If he is bored and secure, he may investvery little – there being no necessary correlation between timedevoted and emotion invested.

If he performs this exercise for each of the important sectors of hislife, forcing himself to write in a percentage even when it is nomore than an extremely crude estimate, and toting up the figures tomake sure they never exceed 100 percent, he will be rewarded withsome surprising insights. For the way he distributes his time andemotional energies is a direct clue to his value system and hispersonality.

The payoff for engaging in this process really begins, however, whenhe projects forward, asking himself honestly and in detail how hisjob, or his marriage, or his relationship with his children or hisparents is likely to develop within the years ahead.

If, for example, he is a forty‑year‑old middle managerwith two teen‑age sons, two surviving parents or in‑laws,and an incipient duodenal ulcer, he can assume that within half adecade his boys will be off to college or living away on their own.Time devoted to parental concerns will probably decline. Similarly,he can anticipate some decline in the emotional energies demanded byhis parental role. On the other hand, as his own parents and in‑lawsgrow older, his filial responsibility will probably loom larger. Ifthey are sick, he may have to devote large amounts of time andemotion to their care. If they are statistically likely to die withinthe period under study, he needs to face this fact. It tells him thathe can expect a major change in his commitments. His own health, inthe meantime, will not be getting any better. In the same way, he canhazard some guesses about his job – his chances for promotion, thepossibility of reorganization, relocation, retraining, etc.

All this is difficult, and it does not yield "knowledge of thefuture." Rather, it helps him make explicit some of hisassumptions about the future. As he moves forward, filling in theforecast for the present year, the next year, the fifth or tenthyear, patterns of change will begin to emerge. He will see that incertain years there are bigger shifts and redistributions to beexpected than in others. Some years are choppier, more change‑filledthan others. And he can then, on the strength of these systematicassumptions, decide how to handle major decisions in the present.

Should the family move next year – or will there be enough turmoiland change without that? Should he quit his job? Buy a new car? Takea costly vacation? Put his elderly father‑inlaw in a nursinghome? Have an affair? Can he afford to rock his marriage or changehis profession? Should he attempt to maintain certain levels ofcommitment unchanged?

These techniques are extremely crude tools for personal planning.Perhaps the psychologists and social psychologists can design sharperinstruments, more sensitive to differences in probability, morerefined and insight‑yielding. Yet, if we search for cluesrather than certainties, even these primitive devices can help usmoderate or channel the flow of change in our lives. For, by helpingus identify the zones of rapid change, they also help us identify –or invent – stability zones, patterns of relative constancy in theoverwhelming flux. They improve the odds in the personal struggle tomanage change.

Nor is this a purely negative process – a struggle to suppress orlimit change. The issue for any individual attempting to cope withrapid change is how to maintain himself within the adaptive range,and, beyond that, how to find the exquisite optimum point at which helives at peak effectiveness. Dr. John L. Fuller, a senior scientistat the Jackson Laboratory, a biomedical research center in BarHarbor, Maine, has conducted experiments in the impact ofexperiential deprivation and overload. "Some people," hesays, "achieve a certain sense of serenity, even in the midst ofturmoil, not because they are immune to emotion, but because theyhave found ways to get just the 'right' amount of change in theirlives." The search for that optimum may be what much of the"pursuit of happiness" is about.

Trapped, temporarily, with the limited nervous and endocrine systemsgiven us by evolution, we must work out new tactics to help usregulate the stimulation to which we subject ourselves.


The trouble is that such personal tactics become less effective withevery passing day. As the rate of change climbs, it becomes harderfor individuals to create the personal stability zones they need. Thecosts of non‑change escalate.

We may stay in the old house – only to see the neighborhoodtransformed. We may keep the old car – only to see repair billsmount beyond reach. We may refuse to transfer to a new location –only to lose our job as a result. For while there are steps we cantake to reduce the impact of change in our personal lives, the realproblem lies outside ourselves.

To create an environment in which change enlivens and enriches theindividual, but does not overwhelm him, we must employ not merelypersonal tactics but social strategies. If we are to carry peoplethrough the accelerative period, we must begin now to build "futureshock absorbers" into the very fabric of super‑industrialsociety. And this requires a fresh way of thinking about change andnon‑change in our lives. It even requires a different way ofclassifying people.

Today we tend to categorize individuals not according to the changesthey happen to be undergoing at the moment, but according to theirstatus or position between changes. We consider a union man assomeone who has joined a union and not yet quit. Our designationrefers not to joining or quitting, but to the "non‑change"that happens in between. Welfare recipient, college student,Methodist, executive – all refer to the person's condition betweenchanges, as it were.

There is, however, a radically different way to view people. Forexample, "one who is moving to a new residence" is aclassification into which more than 100,000 Americans fit on anygiven day, yet they are seldom thought of as a group. Theclassification "one who is changing his job" or "onewho is joining a church," or "one who is getting a divorce"are all based on temporary, transitional conditions, rather than onthe more enduring conditions between transitions.

This sudden shift of focus, from thinking about what people "are"to thinking aboutwhat they are "becoming," suggests awhole array of new approaches to adaptation.

One of the most imaginative and simplest of these comes from Dr.Herbert Gerjuoy, a psychologist on the staff of the Human ResourcesResearch Organization. He terms it "situational grouping,"and like most good ideas, it sounds obvious once it is described. Yetit has never been systematically exploited. Situational grouping maywell become one of the key social services of the future.

Dr. Gerjuoy argues that we should provide temporary organizations –"situational groups" – for people who happen to bepassing through similar life transitions at the same time. Suchsituational groups should be established, Gerjuoy contends, "forfamilies caught in the upheaval of relocation, for men and womenabout to be divorced, for people about to lose a parent or a spouse,for those about to gain a child, for men preparing to switch to a newoccupation, for families that have just moved into a community, forthose about to marry off their last child, for those facing imminentretirement – for anyone, in other words, who faces an importantlife change.

"Membership in the group would, of course, be temporary – justlong enough to help the person with the transitional difficulties.Some groups might meet for a few months, others might not do morethan hold a single meeting."

By bringing together people who are sharing, or are about to share, acommon adaptive experience, he argues, we help equip them to copewith it. "A man required to adapt to a new life situation losessome of his bases for self‑esteem. He begins to doubt his ownabilities. If we bring him together with others who are movingthrough the same experience, people he can identify with and respect,we strengthen him. The members of the group come to share, even ifbriefly, some sense of identity. They see their problems moreobjectively. They trade useful ideas and insights. Most important,they suggest future alternatives for one another."

This emphasis on the future, says Gerjuoy, is critical. Unlike somegroup therapy sessions, the meetings of situational groups should notbe devoted to hashing over the past, or to griping about it, or tosoul‑searching self‑revelation, but to discussingpersonal objectives, and to planning practical strategies for futureuse in the new life situation. Members might watch movies of othersimilar groups wrestling with the same kinds of problems. They mighthear from others who are more advanced in the transition than theyare. In short, they are given the opportunity to pool their personalexperiences and ideas before the moment of change is upon them.

In essence, there is nothing novel about this approach. Even nowcertain organizations are based on situational principles. A group ofPeace Corps volunteers preparing for an overseas mission is, ineffect, just such a situational grouping, as are pre– andpost‑natal classes. Many American towns have a "Newcomer'sClub" that invites new residents to casserole dinners or othersocials, permitting them to mix with other recent arrivals andcompare problems and plans. Perhaps there ought to be an "OutmoversClub" as well. What is new is the suggestion that wesystematically honeycomb the society with such "copingclassrooms."


Not all help for the individual can, or necessarily should come fromgroups. In many cases, what the change‑pressed person needsmost is one‑to‑one counseling during the crisis ofadaptation. In psychiatric jargon a "crisis" is anysignificant transition. It is roughly synonymous with "majorlife change."

Today persons in transitional crisis turn to a variety of experts –doctors, marriage counselors, psychiatrists, vocational specialistsand others – for individualized advice. Yet for many kinds ofcrisis there are no appropriate experts. Who helps the family orindividual faced with the need to move to a new city for the thirdtime in five years? Who is available to counsel a leader who is up–or down‑graded by a reorganization of his or her club orcommunity organization? Who is there to help the secretary justbounced back to the typing pool?

People like these are not sick. They neither need nor should receivepsychiatric attention, yet there is, by and large, no counselingmachinery available to them.

Not only are there many kinds of present‑day life transitionsfor which no counseling help is provided, but the invasion of noveltywill slam individuals up against wholly new kinds of personal crisesin the future. And as the society races toward heterogeneity, thevariety of problems will increase. In slowly changing societies thetypes of crises faced by individuals are more uniform and the sourcesof specialized advice more easily identifiable. The crisis‑caughtperson went to his priest, his witch doctor or his local chief. Todaypersonalized counseling services in the high technology countrieshave become so specialized that we have developed, in effect,second‑layer advice‑givers who do nothing but counsel theindividual about where to seek advice.

These referral services interpose additional red tape and delaybetween the individual and the assistance he needs. By the time helpreaches him, he may already have made the crucial decision – anddone so badly. So long as we assume that advice is something thatmust come from evermore specialized professionals, we can anticipateever greater difficulty. Moreover, so long as we base specialties onwhat people "are" instead of what they are "becoming"we miss many of the real adaptive problems altogether. Conventionalsocial service systems will never be able to keep up.

The answer is a counterpart to the situational grouping system – acounseling set‑up that not only draws on full‑timeprofessional advice givers, but on multitudes of lay experts as well.We must recognize that what makes a person an expert in one type ofcrisis is not necessarily formal education, but the very experienceof having undergone a similar crisis himself.

To help tide millions of people over the difficult transitions theyare likely to face, we shall be forced to "deputize" largenumbers of non‑professional people in the community –businessmen, students, teachers, workers, and others – to serve as"crisis counselors." Tomorrow's crisis counselors will beexperts not in such conventional disciplines as psychology or health,but in specific transitions such as relocation, job promotion,divorce, or subcult‑hopping. Armed with their own recentexperience, working on a volunteer basis or for minimal pay, theywill set aside some small part of their time for listening to otherlay people talk out their problems, apprehensions and plans. Inreturn, they will have access toothers for similar assistance in thecourse of their own adaptive development.

Once again, there is nothing new about people seeking advice from oneanother. What is new is our ability, through the use of computerizedsystems, to assemble situational groups swiftly, to match upindividuals with counselors, and to do both with considerable respectfor privacy and anonymity.

We can already see evidence of a move in this direction in the spreadof "listening" and "caring" services. InDavenport, Iowa, lonely people can dial a telephone number and beconnected with a "listener" – one of a rotating staff ofvolunteers who man the telephone twenty‑four hours a day. Theprogram, initiated by a local commission on the aging, is similar to,but not the same as, the Care‑Ring service in New York.Care‑Ring charges its subscribers a fee, in return for whichthey receive two check‑in calls each day at designated times.Subscribers provide the service with the names of their doctor, aneighbor, their building superintendent, and a close relative. In theevent they fail to respond to a call, the service tries again half anhour later. If they still do not respond, the doctor is notified anda nurse dispatched to the scene. Care‑Ring services are nowbeing franchised in other cities. In both these services we seeforerunners of the crisis‑counseling system of the future.

Under that system, the giving and getting of advice becomes not a"social service" in the usual bureaucratic, impersonalsense, but a highly personalized process that not only helpsindividuals crest the currents of change in their own lives, buthelps cement the entire society together in a kind of "lovenetwork" – an integrative system based on the principle of "Ineed you as much as you need me." Situational grouping andperson‑to‑person crisis counseling are likely to become asignificant part of everyone's life as we all move together into theuncertainties of the future.


A "future shock absorber" of a quite different type is the"half‑way house" idea already employed by progressiveprison authorities to ease the convict's way back into normal life.According to criminologist Daniel Glaser, the distinctive feature ofthe correctional institutions of the future will be the idea of"gradual release."

Instead of taking a man out of the under‑stimulating, tightlyregimented life of the prison and plunging him violently and withoutpreparation into open society, he is moved first to an intermediateinstitution which permits him to work in the community by day, whilecontinuing to return to the institution at night. Gradually,restrictions are lifted until he is fully adjusted to the outsideworld. The same principle has been explored by various mentalinstitutions.

Similarly it has been suggested that the problems of ruralpopulations suddenly shifted to urban centers might be sharplyreduced if something like this half‑way house principle wereemployed to ease their entry into the new way of life. What citiesneed, according to this theory, are reception facilities wherenewcomers live for a time under conditions halfway between those ofthe rural society they are leaving behind and the urban society theyare seeking to penetrate. If instead of treating city‑boundmigrants with contempt and leaving them to find their own way, theywere first acclimatized, they would adapt far more successfully.

A similar idea is filtering through the specialists who concernthemselves with "squatter housing" in major cities in thetechnologically underdeveloped world. Outside Khartoum in the Sudan,thousands of former nomads have created a concentric ring ofsettlements. Those furthest from the city live in tents, much likethe ones they occupied before migration. The next‑closer grouplives in mud‑walled huts with tent roofs. Those still closer tothe city occupy huts with mud walls and tin roofs.

When police set out to tear down the tents, urban plannerConstantinos Doxiadis recommended that they not only notdestroy them, but that certain municipal services be provided totheir inhabitants. Instead of seeing these concentric rings in whollynegative terms, he suggested, they might be viewed as a tremendousteaching machine through which individuals and families move,becoming urbanized step by step.

The application of this principle, however, need not be limited tothe poor, the insane or the criminal. The basic idea of providingchange in controlled, graduated stages, rather than abrupttransitions, is crucial to any society that wishes to cope with rapidsocial or technological upheaval. The veteran, for example, could bereleased from service more gradually. The student from a ruralcommunity could spend a few weeks at a college in a medium‑sizecity before entering the large urban university. The long‑termhospital patient might be encouraged to go home on a trial basis,once or twice, before being discharged.

We are already experimenting with these strategies, but others arepossible. Retirement, for example, should not be the abrupt,all‑or‑nothing, ego‑crushing change that it now isfor most men. There is no reason why it cannot be gradualized.Military induction, which typically separates a young man from hisfamily in a sudden and almost violent fashion, could be done bystages. Legal separation, which is supposed to serve as a kind ofhalf‑way house on the way to divorce, could be made lesslegally complicated and psychologically costly. Trial marriage couldbe encouraged, instead of denigrated. In short, wherever a change ofstatus is contemplated, the possibility of gradualizing it should beconsidered.


No society racing through the turbulence of the next several decadeswill be able to do without specialized centers in which the rate ofchange is artificially depressed. To phrase it differently, we shallneed enclaves of the past – communities in which turnover, noveltyand choice are deliberately limited.

These may be communities in which history is partially frozen, likethe Amish villages of Pennsylvania, or places in which the past isartfully simulated, like Williamsburg, Virginia or Mystic,Connecticut.

Unlike Williamsburg or Mystic, however, through which visitors streamat a steady and rapid clip, tomorrow's enclaves of the past must beplaces where people faced with future shock can escape the pressuresof overstimulation for weeks, months, even years, if they choose.

In such slow‑paced communities, individuals who need or want amore relaxed, less stimulating existence should be able to find it.The communities must be consciously encapsulated, selectively cut offfrom the surrounding society. Vehicular access should be limited toavoid traffic. Newspapers should be weeklies instead of dailies. Ifpermitted at all, radio and television should be broadcast only for afew hours a day, instead of round the clock. Only special emergencyservices – health, for example – should be maintained at themaximum efficiency permitted by advanced technology.

Such communities not only should not be derided, they should besubsidized by the larger society as a form of mental and socialinsurance. In times of extremely rapid change, it is possible for thelarger society to make some irreversible, catastrophic error.Imagine, for instance, the widespread diffusion of a food additivethat accidentally turns out to have thalidomide‑like effects.One can conceive of accidents capable of sterilizing or even killingwhole populations.

By proliferating enclaves of the past, living museums as it were, weincrease the chances that someone will be there to pick up the piecesin case of massive calamity. Such communities might also serve asexperiential teaching machines. Thus children from the outside worldmight spend a few months in a simulated feudal village, living andactually working as children did centuries ago. Teenagers might berequired to spend some time living in a typical early industrialcommunity and to actually work in its mill or factory. Such livingeducation would give them a historical perspective no book could everprovide. In these communities, the men and women who want a slowerlife might actually make a career out of "being"Shakespeare or Ben Franklin or Napoleon – not merely acting outtheir parts on stage, but living, eating, sleeping, as they did. Thecareer of "historical simulant" would attract a great manynaturally talented actors.

In short, every society will need sub‑societies whose membersare committed to staying away from the latest fads. We may even wantto pay people not to use the latest goods, not to enjoy the mostautomated and sophisticated conveniences.


By the same token, just as we make it possible for some people tolive at the slower pace of the past, we must also make it possiblefor individuals to experience aspects of their future in advance.Thus, we shall also have to create enclaves of the future.

In a limited sense, we are already doing this. Astronauts, pilots andother specialists are often trained by placing them in carefullyassembled simulations of the environments they will occupy at somedate in the future when they actually participate in a mission. Byduplicating the interior of a cockpit or a capsule, we allow them tobecome accustomed, by degrees, to their future environment. Policeand espionage agents, as well as commandos and other militaryspecialists, are pre‑trained by watching movies of the peoplethey will have to deal with, the factories they are supposed toinfiltrate, the terrain they will have to cover. In this way they areprepared to cope with a variety of future contingencies.

There is no reason why the same principle cannot be extended. Beforedispatching a worker to a new location, he and his family ought to beshown detailed movies of the neighborhood they will live in, theschool their children will attend, the stores in which they willshop, perhaps even of the teachers, shopkeepers, and neighbors theywill meet. By preadapting them in this way, we can lower theiranxieties about the unknown and prepare them, in advance, to copewith many of the problems they are likely to encounter.

Tomorrow, as the technology of experiential simulation advances, weshall be able to go much further. The pre‑adapting individualwill be able not merely to see and hear, but to touch, taste andsmell the environment he is about to enter. He will be able tointeract vicariously with the people in his future, and to undergocarefully contrived experiences designed to improve his copingabilities.

The "psych‑corps" of the future will find a fertilemarket in the design and operation of such preadaptive facilities.Whole families may go to "work‑learn‑and‑play"enclaves which will, in effect, constitute museums of the future,preparing them to cope with their own personal tomorrows.


"Mesmerized as we are by the very idea of change," writesJohn Gardner in Self‑Renewal, "we must guardagainst the notion that continuity is a negligible – if notreprehensible – factor in human history. It is a vitally importantingredient in the life of individuals, organizations and societies."

In the light of theory of the adaptive range, it becomes clear thatan insistence on continuity in our experience is not necessarily"reactionary," just as the demand for abrupt ordiscontinuous change is not necessarily "progressive." Instagnant societies, there is a deep psychological need for noveltyand stimulation. In an accelerative society, the need may well be forthe preservation of certain continuities.

In the past, ritual provided an important change‑buffer.Anthropologists tell us that certain repeated ceremonial forms –rituals surrounding birth, death, puberty, marriage and so on –helped individuals in primitive societies to re‑establishequilibrium after some major adaptive event had taken place.

"There is no evidence," writes S. T. Kimball, "that asecularized urban world has lessened the need for ritualizedexpression ..." Carleton Coon declares that "Wholesocieties, whatever their sizes and degrees of complexity, needcontrols to ensure the maintenance of equilibrium, and control comesin several forms. One is ritual." He points out that ritualsurvives today in the public appearances of heads of state, inreligion, in business.

These, however, represent the merest tip of the ritual iceberg. InWestern societies, for example, the sending of Christmas cards is anannual ritual that not only represents continuity in its own right,but which helps individuals prolong their all‑too‑temporaryfriendships or acquaintanceships. The celebration of birthdays,holidays or anniversaries are additional examples. Thefast‑burgeoning greeting‑card industry – 2,248,000,000Christmas cards are sold annually in the United States alone – isan economic monument to the society's continuing need for somesemblance of ritual.

Repetitive behavior, whatever else its functions, helps give meaningto non‑repetitive events, by providing the backdrop againstwhich novelty is silhouetted. Sociologists James Bossard and EleanorBoll, after examining one hundred published autobiographies, foundseventy‑three in which the writers described procedures whichwere "unequivocally classifiable as family rituals." Theserituals, arising from "some simple or random bits of familyinteraction, started to set, because they were successful orsatisfying to members, and through repetition they 'jelled' into verydefinite forms."

As the pace of change accelerates, many of these rituals are brokendown or denatured. Yet we struggle to maintain them. Onenon‑religious family periodically offers a secular grace at thedinner table, to honor such benefactors of mankind as JohannSebastian Bach or Martin Luther King. Husbands and wives speak of"our song" and periodically revisit "the place wefirst met." In the future, we can anticipate greater variety inthe kinds of rituals adhered to in family life.

As we accelerate and introduce arhythmic patterns into the pace ofchange, we need to mark off certain regularities for preservation,exactly the way we now mark off certain forests, historicalmonuments, or bird sanctuaries for protection. We may even need tomanufacture ritual.

No longer at the mercy of the elements as we once were, no longercondemned to darkness at night or frost in the morning, no longerpositioned in an unchanging physical environment, we are helped toorient ourselves in space and time by social, as distinct fromnatural, regularities.

In the United States, the arrival of spring is marked for most urbandwellers not by a sudden greenness – there is little green inManhattan – but by the opening of the baseball season. The firstball is thrown by the President or some other dignitary, andthereafter millions of citizens follow, day by day, the unfolding ofa mass ritual. Similarly, the end of summer is marked as much by theWorld Series as by any natural symbol.

Even those who ignore sports cannot help but be aware of these largeand pleasantly predictable events. Radio and television carrybaseball into every home. Newspapers are filled with sports news.Images of baseball form a backdrop, a kind of musical obbligato thatenters our awareness. Whatever happens to the stock market, or toworld politics, or to family life, the American League and theNational League run through their expected motions. Outcomes ofindividual games vary. The standings of the teams go up and down. Butthe drama plays itself out within a set of reassuringly rigid anddurable rules.

The opening of Congress every January; the appearance of new carmodels in the fall; seasonal variations in fashion; the April 15deadline for filing income tax; the arrival of Christmas; the NewYear's Eve party; the fixed national holidays. All these punctuateour time predictably, supplying a background of temporal regularitythat is necessary (though hardly sufficient) for mental health.

The pressure of change, however, is to "unhitch" these fromthe calendar, to loosen and irregularize them. Often there areeconomic benefits for doing so. But there may also be hidden coststhrough the loss of stable temporal points of reference that todaystill lend some pattern and continuity to everyday life. Instead ofeliminating these wholesale, we may wish to retain some, and, indeed,to introduce certain regularities where they do not exist. (Boxingchampionship matches are held at irregular, unpredictable times.Perhaps these highly ritualistic events should be held at fixedintervals as the Olympic games are.)

As leisure increases, we have the opportunity to introduce additionalstability points and rituals into the society, such as new holidays,pageants and games. Such mechanisms could not only provide a backdropof continuity in everyday life, but serve to integrate societies, andcushion them somewhat against the fragmenting impact ofsuper‑industrialism. We might, for example, create holidays tohonor Galileo or Mozart, Einstein or Cezanne. We might create aglobal pageantry based on man's conquest of outer space.

Even now the succession of space launchings and capsule retrievals isbeginning to take on a kind of ritual dramatic pattern. Millionsstand transfixed as the countdown begins and the mission works itselfout. For at least a fleeting instant, they share a realization of theoneness of humanity and its potential competence in the face of theuniverse.

By regularizing such events and by greatly adding to the pageantrythat surrounds them, we can weave them into the ritual framework ofthe new society and use them as sanitypreserving points of temporalreference. Certainly, July 20, the day Astronaut Armstrong took "onesmall step for man, one giant leap for mankind," ought to bemade into an annual global celebration of the unity of man.

In this way, by making use of new materials, as well as alreadyexisting rituals, by introducing change, wherever possible, in theform of predictable, rather than erratic chains of events, we canhelp provide elements of continuity even in the midst of socialupheaval.

The cultural transformation of the Manus Islanders was simplecompared with the one we face. We shall survive it only if we movebeyond personal tactics to social strategies – providing newsupport services for the change‑harassed individual, buildingcontinuity and change‑buffers into the emergent civilization oftomorrow.

All this is aimed at minimizing the human damage wrought by rapidchange. But there is another way of attacking the problem, too. Thisis to expand man's adaptive capacities – the central task ofeducation during the Super‑industrial Revolution.

Chapter 18


In the quickening race to put men and machines on the planets,tremendous resources are devoted to making possible a "softlanding." Every sub‑system of the landing craft isexquisitely designed to withstand the shock of arrival. Armies ofengineers, geologists, physicists, metallurgists and otherspecialists concentrate years of work on the problem of landingimpact. Failure of any sub‑system to function after touch‑downcould destroy human lives, not to mention billions of dollars worthof apparatus and tens of thousands of manyears of labor.

Today one billion human beings, the total population of thetechnology‑rich nations, are speeding toward a rendezvous withsuper‑industrialism. Must we experience mass future shock? Orcan we, too, achieve a "soft landing?" We are rapidlyaccelerating our approach. The craggy outlines of the new society areemerging from the mists of tomorrow. Yet even as we speed closer,evidence mounts that one of our most critical sub‑systems –education – is dangerously malfunctioning.

What passes for education today, even in our "best" schoolsand colleges, is a hopeless anachronism. Parents look to education tofit their children for life in the future. Teachers warn that lack ofan education will cripple a child's chances in the world of tomorrow.Government ministries, churches, the mass media – all exhort youngpeople to stay in school, insisting that now, as never before, one'sfuture is almost wholly dependent upon education.

Yet for all this rhetoric about the future, our schools face backwardtoward a dying system, rather than forward to the emerging newsociety. Their vast energies are applied to cranking out IndustrialMen – people tooled for survival in a systern that will be deadbefore they are.

To help avert future shock, we must create a super‑industrialeducation system. And to do this, we must search for our objectivesand methods in the future, rather than the past.


Every society has its own characteristic attitude toward past,present and future. This timebias, formed in response to the rate ofchange, is one of the least noticed, yet most powerful determinantsof social behavior, and it is clearly reflected in the way thesociety prepares its young for adulthood.

In stagnant societies, the past crept forward into the present andrepeated itself in the future. In such a society, the most sensibleway to prepare a child was to arm him with the skills of the past –for these were precisely the same skills he would need in the future."With the ancient is wisdom," the Bible admonished.

Thus father handed down to son all sorts of practical techniquesalong with a clearly defined, highly traditional set of values.Knowledge was transmitted not by specialists concentrated in schools,but through the family, religious institutions, and apprenticeships.Learner and teacher were dispersed throughout the entire community.The key to the system, however, was its absolute devotion toyesterday. The curriculum of the past was the past.

The mechanical age smashed all this, for industrialism required a newkind of man. It demanded skills that neither family nor church could,by themselves, provide. It forced an upheaval in the value system.Above all, it required that man develop a new sense of time.

Mass education was the ingenious machine constructed by industrialismto produce the kind of adults it needed. The problem was inordinatelycomplex. How to pre‑adapt children for a new world – a worldof repetitive indoor toil, smoke, noise, machines, crowded livingconditions, collective discipline, a world in which time was to beregulated not by the cycle of sun and moon, but by the factorywhistle and the clock.

The solution was an educational system that, in its very structure,simulated this new world. This system did not emerge instantly. Eventoday it retains throw‑back elements from pre‑industrialsociety. Yet the whole idea of assembling masses of students (rawmaterial) to be processed by teachers (workers) in a centrallylocated school (factory) was a stroke of industrial genius. The wholeadministrative hierarchy of education, as it grew up, followed themodel of industrial bureaucracy. The very organization of knowledgeinto permanent disciplines was grounded on industrial assumptions.Children marched from place to place and sat in assigned stations.Bells rang to announce changes of time.

The inner life of the school thus became an anticipatory mirror, aperfect introduction to industrial society. The most criticizedfeatures of education today – the regimentation, lack ofindividualization, the rigid systems of seating, grouping, gradingand marking, the authoritarian role of the teacher – are preciselythose that made mass public education so effective an instrument ofadaptation for its place and time.

Young people passing through this educational machine emerged into anadult society whose structure of jobs, roles and institutionsresembled that of the school itself. The schoolchild did not simplylearn facts that he could use later on; he lived, as well as learned,a way of life modeled after the one he would lead in the future.

The schools, for example, subtly instilled the new time‑biasmade necessary by industrialism. Faced with conditions that had neverbefore existed, men had to devote increasing energy to understandingthe present. Thus the focus of education itself began to shift, everso slowly, away from the past and toward the present.

The historic struggle waged by John Dewey and his followers tointroduce "progressive" measures into American educationwas, in part, a desperate effort to alter the old time‑bias.Dewey battled against the past‑orientation of traditionaleducation, trying to refocus education on the here‑and‑now."The way out of scholastic systems that make the past an end initself," he declared, "is to make acquaintance with thepast a means of understanding the present"

Nevertheless, decades later traditionalists like Jacques Maritain andneo‑Aristotelians like Robert Hutchins still lashed out againstanyone who attempted to shift the balance in favor of the present.Hutchins, former president of the University of Chicago and now headof the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, accusededucators who wanted their students to learn about modern society ofbeing members of a "cult of immediacy." The progressiveswere accused of a dastardly crime: "presentism."

Echoes of this conflict over the time‑bias persist even now, inthe writings, for example, of Jacques Barzun, who insists that "Itis ... absurd to try educating ... 'for' a present day that defiesdefinition." Thus our education systems had not yet fullyadapted themselves to the industrial age when the need for a newrevolution – the super‑industrial revolution – burst uponthem. And just as the progressives of yesterday were accused of"presentism," it is likely that the education reformers oftomorrow will be accused of "futurism." For we shall findthat a truly super‑industrial education is only possible if weonce more shift our timebias forward.

(Video) Big Thinkers - Alvin Toffler [Futurist]


In the technological systems of tomorrow – fast, fluid andself‑regulating – machines will deal with the flow ofphysical materials; men with the flow of information and insight.Machines will increasingly perform the routine tasks; men theintellectual and creative tasks. Machines and men both, instead ofbeing concentrated in gigantic factories and factory cities, will bescattered across the globe, linked together by amazingly sensitive,near‑instantaneous communications. Human work will move out ofthe factory and mass office into the community and the home.

Machines will be synchronized, as some already are, to the billionthof a second; men will be desynchronized. The factory whistle willvanish. Even the clock, "the key machine of the modernindustrial age," as Lewis Mumford called it a generation ago,will lose some of its power over human, as distinct from purelytechnological, affairs. Simultaneously, the organizations needed tocontrol technology will shift from bureaucracy to Ad‑hocracy,from permanence to transience, and from a concern with the present toa focus on the future.

In such a world, the most valued attributes of the industrial erabecome handicaps. The technology of tomorrow requires not millions oflightly lettered men, ready to work in unison at endlesslyrepetitious jobs, it requires not men who take orders in unblinkingfashion, aware that the price of bread is mechanical submission toauthority, but men who can make critical judgments, who can weavetheir way through novel environments, who are quick to spot newrelationships in the rapidly changing reality. It requires men who,in C. P. Snow's compelling term, "have the future in theirbones."

Finally, unless we capture control of the accelerative thrust – andthere are few signs yet that we will – tomorrow's individual willhave to cope with even more hectic change than we do today. Foreducation the lesson is clear: its prime objective must be toincrease the individual's "cope‑ability" – thespeed and economy with which he can adapt to continual change. Andthe faster the rate of change, the more attention must be devoted todiscerning the pattern of future events.

It is no longer sufficient for Johnny to understand the past. It isnot even enough for him to understand the present, for thehere‑and‑now environment will soon vanish. Johnny mustlearn to anticipate the directions and rate of change. He must, toput it technically, learn to make repeated, probabilistic,increasingly long‑range assumptions about the future. And somust Johnny's teachers.

To create a super‑industrial education, therefore, we shallfirst need to generate successive, alternative images of the future –assumptions about the kinds of jobs, professions, and vocations thatmay be needed twenty to fifty years in the future; assumptions aboutthe kind of family forms and human relationships that will prevail;the kinds of ethical and moral problems that will arise; the kind oftechnology that will surround us and the organizational structureswith which we must mesh.

It is only by generating such assumptions, defining, debating,systematizing and continually updating them, that we can deduce thenature of the cognitive and affective skills that the people oftomorrow will need to survive the accelerative thrust.

In the United States there are now two federally funded "educationpolicy research centers" – one at Syracuse University, anotherat Stanford Research Institute – charged with scanning the horizonwith these purposes in mind. In Paris, the Organization for EconomicCooperation and Development has recently created a division withsimilar responsibilities. A handful of people in the student movementhave also begun to turn attention to the future. Yet these effortsare pitifully thin compared with the difficulty of shifting thetime‑bias of education. What is needed is nothing less than afuture‑responsive mass movement.

We must create a "Council of the Future" in every schooland community: Teams of men and women devoted to probing the futurein the interests of the present. By projecting "assumedfutures," by defining coherent educational responses to them, byopening these alternatives to active public debate, such councils –similar in some ways to the "prognostic cells" advocated byRobert Jungk of the Technische Hochschule in Berlin – could have apowerful impact on education.

Since no group holds a monopoly of insight into tomorrow, thesecouncils must be democratic. Specialists are vitally needed in them.But Councils of the Future will not succeed if they are captured byprofessional educators, planners, or any unrepresentative elite. Thusstudents must be involved from the very start – and not merely asco‑opted rubber stamps for adult notions. Young people musthelp lead, if not, in fact, initiate, these councils so that "assumedfutures" can be formulated and debated by those who willpresumably invent and inhabit the future.

The council of the future movement offers a way out of the impasse inour schools and colleges. Trapped in an educational system intent onturning them into living anachronisms, today's students have everyright to rebel. Yet attempts by student radicals to base a socialprogram on a pastiche of nineteenth‑century Marxism and earlytwentieth‑century Freudianism have revealed them to be asresolutely chained to the past and present as their elders. Thecreation of future‑oriented, future‑shaping task forcesin education could revolutionize the revolution of the young.

For those educators who recognize the bankruptcy of the presentsystem, but remain uncertain about next steps, the council movementcould provide purpose as well as power, through alliance with, ratherthan hostility toward, youth. And by attracting community andparental participation – businessmen, trade unionists, scientists,and others – the movement could build broad political support forthe super‑industrial revolution in education.

It would be a mistake to assume that the present‑dayeducational system is unchanging. On the contrary, it is undergoingrapid change. But much of this change is no more than an attempt torefine the existent machinery, making it ever more efficient inpursuit of obsolete goals. The rest is a kind of Brownian motion,self‑canceling, incoherent, directionless. What has beenlacking is a consistent direction and a logical starting point.

The council movement could supply both. The direction issuper‑industrialism. The starting point: the future.


Such a movement will have to pursue three objectives – to transformthe organizational structure of our educational system, torevolutionize its curriculum, and to encourage a more future‑focusedorientation. It must begin by asking root questions about the statusquo.

We have noted, for example, that the basic organization of thepresent school system parallels that of the factory. For generations,we have simply assumed that the proper place for education to occuris in a school. Yet if the new education is to simulate the societyof tomorrow, should it take place in school at all?

As levels of education rise, more and more parents are intellectuallyequipped to assume some responsibilities now delegated to theschools. Near Santa Monica, California, where the RAND Corporationhas its headquarters, in the research belt around Cambridge,Massachusetts, or in such science cities as Oak Ridge, Los Alamos orHuntsville, many parents are clearly more capable of teaching certainsubjects to their children than are the teachers in the localschools. With the move toward knowledge‑based industry and theincrease of leisure, we can anticipate a small but significanttendency for highly educated parents to pull their children at leastpartway out of the public education system, offering them homeinstruction instead.

This trend will be sharply encouraged by improvements incomputer‑assisted education, electronic video recording,holography and other technical fields. Parents and students mightsign short‑term "learning contracts" with the nearbyschool, committing them to teach‑learn certain courses orcourse modules. Students might continue going to school for socialand athletic activities or for subjects they cannot learn on theirown or under the tutelage of parents or family friends. Pressures inthis direction will mount as the schools grow more anachronistic, andthe courts will find themselves deluged with cases attacking thepresent obsolete compulsory attendance laws. We may witness, inshort, a limited dialectical swing back toward education in the home.

At Stanford, learning theorist Frederick J. McDonald has proposed a"mobile education" that takes the student out of theclassroom not merely to observe but to participate in significantcommunity activity.

In New York's Bedford‑Stuyvesant District, a sprawlingtension‑ridden black slum, a planned experimental college woulddisperse its facilities throughout the stores, offices, and homes ofa forty‑five‑block area, making it difficult to tellwhere the college ends and the community begins. Students would betaught skills by adults in the community as well as by regularfaculty. Curricula would be shaped by students and community groupsas well as professional educators. The former United StatesCommissioner of Education, Harold Howe, II, has also suggested thereverse: bringing the community into the school so that local stores,beauty parlors, printing shops, be given free space in the schools inreturn for free lessons by the adults who run them. This plan,designed for urban ghetto schools, could be given more bite through adifferent conception of the nature of the enterprises invited intothe school: computer service bureaus, for example, architecturaloffices, perhaps even medical laboratories, broadcasting stations andadvertising agencies.

Elsewhere, discussion centers on the design of secondary and highereducation programs that make use of "mentors" drawn fromthe adult population. Such mentors would not only transmit skills,but would show how the abstractions of the textbook are applied inlife. Accountants, doctors, engineers, businessmen, carpenters,builders and planners might all become part of an "outsidefaculty" in another dialectical swing, this time toward a newkind of apprenticeship.

Many similar changes are in the wind. They point, howevertentatively, to a long overdue breakdown of the factory‑modelschool.

This dispersal in geographical and social space must be accompaniedby dispersal in time. The rapid obsolescence of knowledge and theextension of life span make it clear that the skills learned in youthare unlikely to remain relevant by the time old age arrives.Superindustrial education must therefore make provision for life‑longeducation on a plug‑in/plugout basis.

If learning is to be stretched over a lifetime, there is reducedjustification for forcing kids to attend school full time. For manyyoung people, part‑time schooling and part‑time work atlow‑skill, paid and unpaid community service tasks will provemore satisfying and educational.

Such innovations imply enormous changes in instructional techniquesas well. Today lectures still dominate the classroom. This methodsymbolizes the old top‑down, hierarchical structure ofindustry. While still useful for limited purposes, lectures mustinevitably give way to a whole battery of teaching techniques,ranging from role playing and gaming to computer‑mediatedseminars and the immersion of students in what we might call"contrived experiences." Experiential programming methods,drawn from recreation, entertainment and industry, developed by thepsych‑corps of tomorrow, will supplant the familiar, frequentlybrain‑draining lecture. Learning may be maximized through theuse of controlled nutrition or drugs to raise IQ, to acceleratereading, or to enhance awareness. Such changes and the technologiesunderlying them will facilitate basic change in the organizationalpattern.

The present administrative structures of education, based onindustrial bureaucracy, will simply not be able to cope with thecomplexities and rate of change inherent in the system justdescribed: They will be forced to move toward ad‑hocratic formsof organization merely to retain some semblance of control. Moreimportant, however, are the organizational implications for theclassroom itself.

Industrial Man was machine‑tooled by the schools to occupy acomparatively permanent slot in the social and economic order.Super‑industrial education must prepare people to function intemporary organizations – the Ad‑hocracies of tomorrow.

Today children who enter school quickly find themselves part of astandard and basically unvarying organizational structure: ateacher‑led class. One adult and a certain number ofsubordinate young people, usually seated in fixed rows facing front,is the standardized basic unit of the industrial‑era school. Asthey move, grade by grade, to the higher levels, they remain in thissame fixed organizational frame: They gain no experience with otherforms of organization, or with the problems of shifting from oneorganizational form to another. They get no training for roleversatility.

Nothing is more clearly anti‑adaptive. Schools of the future,if they wish to facilitate adaptation later in life, will have toexperiment with far more varied arrangements. Classes with severalteachers and a single student; classes with several teachers and agroup of students; students organized into temporary task forces andproject teams; students shifting from group work to individual orindependent work and back – all these and their permutations willneed to be employed to give the student some advance taste of theexperience he will face later on when he begins to move through theimpermanent organizational geography of super‑industrialism.

Organizational goals for the Councils of the Future thus becomeclear: dispersal, decentralization, interpenetration with thecommunity, ad‑hocratic administration, a break‑up of therigid system of scheduling and grouping. When these objectives areaccomplished, any organizational resemblance between education andthe industrial‑era factory will be purely coincidental.


As for curriculum, the Councils of the Future, instead of assumingthat every subject taught today is taught for a reason, should beginfrom the reverse premise: nothing should be included in a requiredcurriculum unless it can be strongly justified in terms of thefuture. If this means scrapping a substantial part of the formalcurriculum, so be it.

This is not intended as an "anti‑cultural" statementor a plea for total destruction of the past. Nor does it suggest thatwe can ignore such basics as reading, writing and math. What it doesmean is that tens of millions of children today are forced by law tospend precious hours of their lives grinding away at material whosefuture utility is highly questionable. (Nobody even claims it hasmuch present utility.) Should they spend as much time as they dolearning French, or Spanish or German? Are the hours spent on Englishmaximally useful? Should all children be required to study algebra?Might they not benefit more from studying probability? Logic?Computer programming? Philosophy? Aesthetics? Mass communications?

Anyone who thinks the present curriculum makes sense is invited toexplain to an intelligent fourteen‑year‑old why algebraor French or any other subject is essential for him. Adult answersare almost always evasive. The reason is simple: the presentcurriculum is a mindless holdover from the past.

Why, for example, must teaching be organized around such fixeddisciplines as English, economics, mathematics or biology? Why notaround stages of the human life cycle: a course on birth, childhood,adolescence, marriage, career, retirement, death. Or aroundcontemporary social problems? Or around significant technologies ofthe past and future? Or around countless other imaginablealternatives?

The present curriculum and its division into airtight compartments isnot based on any well thought out conception of contemporary humanneeds. Still less is it based on any grasp of the future, anyunderstanding of what skills Johnny will require to live in thehurricane's eye of change. It is based on inertia – and a bloodyclash of academic guilds, each bent on aggrandizing its budget, payscales and status.

This obsolete curriculum, furthermore, imposes standardization on theelementary and secondary schools. Youngsters are given little choicein determining what they wish to learn. Variations from school toschool are minimal. The curriculum is nailed into place by the rigidentrance requirements of the colleges, which, in turn, reflect thevocational and social requirements of a vanishing society.

In fighting to update education, the prognostic cells of therevolution must set themselves up as curriculum review boards.Attempts by the present educational leadership to revise the physicscurriculum, or improve the methods for teaching English or math arepiecemeal at best. While it may be important to preserve aspects ofthe present curriculum and to introduce changes gradually, we needmore than haphazard attempts to modernize. We need a systematicapproach to the whole problem.

These revolutionary review groups must not, however, set out todesign a single allpurpose, permanent new curriculum. Instead, theymust invent sets of temporary curricula – along with procedures forevaluation and renovation as time goes by. There must be a systematicway to make curricular changes without necessarily triggering bloodyintramural conflict each time.

A fight must also be waged to alter the balance betweenstandardization and variety in the curriculum. Diversity carried toits extreme could produce a non‑society in which the lack ofcommon frames of reference would make communication between peopleeven more difficult than it is today. Yet the dangers of socialfragmentation cannot be met by maintaining a highly homogeneouseducation system while the rest of the society races towardheterogeneity.

One way to resolve the conflict between the need for variety and theneed for common reference points is to distinguish in educationbetween "data," as it were, and "skills."


Society is differentiating. What is more, we shall never, no matterhow refined our predictive tools become, be able to forecast theexact sequence of future states of the society. In this situation, itmakes eminent good sense to hedge our educational bets. Just asgenetic diversity favors the survival of species, educationaldiversity increases the odds for the survival of societies. Insteadof a standardized elementary and secondary school curriculum in whichall students are essentially exposed to the same data base – thesame history, math, biology, literature, grammar, foreign languages,etc. – the futurist movement in education must attempt to createwidely diversified data offerings. Children should be permitted fargreater choice than at present; they should be encouraged to taste awide variety of short‑term courses (perhaps two or three weeksin length) before making longer‑term commitments. Each schoolshould provide scores of optional subjects, all based on identifiableassumptions about future needs.

The range of subject matter should be broad enough so that apart fromdealing with the "known" (i.e., highly probable) elementsof the super‑industrial future, some provision would be madefor dealing with the unknown, the unexpected, the possible. We mightdo this by designing "contingency curricula" –educational programs aimed at training people to handle problems thatnot only do not exist now, but which may, in fact, never materialize.We need, for example, a wide range of specialists to cope withpotentially calamitous, though perhaps unlikely, contingencies:back‑contamination of the earth from the planets or stars, theneed to communicate with extra‑terrestrial life, monstrositiesproduced by genetic experimentation, etc.

Even now we should be training cadres of young people for life insubmarine communities. Part of the next generation may well finditself living under the oceans. We should be taking groups ofstudents out in submarines, teaching them to dive, introducing themto underwater housing materials, power requirements, the perils andpromises involved in a human invasion of the oceans. And we should bedoing this not merely with graduate students, but with children drawnfrom elementary schools, even the nurseries. Simultaneously, otheryoung people should be introduced to the wonders of outer space,living with or near the astronauts, learning about planetaryenvironments, becoming as familiar with space technology as mostteen‑agers today are with that of the family car. Still othersshould be encouraged, not discouraged, from experimenting withcommunal and other family forms of the future. Such experimentation,under responsible supervision and constructively channeled, should beseen as part of an appropriate education, not as an interruption ornegation of the learning process.

The principle of diversity will dictate fewer required courses,increasing choice among esoteric specialties. By moving in thisdirection and creating contingency curricula, the society can bank awide range of skills, including some it may never have to use, butwhich it must have at its instant command in the event our highestprobability assumptions about the future turn out to be mistaken.

The result of such a policy will be to produce far moreindividualized human beings, more differences among people, morevaried ideas, political and social sub‑systems, and more color.


Unfortunately, this necessary diversification of data offerings willdeepen the problems of overchoice in our lives. Any program ofdiversification must therefore be accompanied by strong efforts tocreate common reference points among people through a unifying systemof skills. While all students should not study the samecourse, imbibe the same facts, or store the same sets of data, allstudents should be grounded in certain common skills neededfor human communication and social integration.

If we assume a continuing rise in transience, novelty and diversity,the nature of some of these behavioral skills becomes clear. Apowerful case can be made, for example, that the people who must livein super‑industrial societies will need new skills in threecrucial areas: learning, relating and choosing.

Learning. Given further acceleration, we can conclude thatknowledge will grow increasingly perishable. Today's "fact"becomes tomorrow's "misinformation." This is no argumentagainst learning facts or data – far from it. But a society inwhich the individual constantly changes his job, his place ofresidence, his social ties and so forth, places an enormous premiumon learning efficiency. Tomorrow's schools must therefore teach notmerely data, but ways to manipulate it. Students must learn how todiscard old ideas, how and when to replace them. They must, in short,learn how to learn.

Early computers consisted of a "memory" or bank of dataplus a "program" or set of instructions that told themachine how to manipulate the data. Large late‑generationcomputer systems not only store greater masses of data, but multipleprograms, so that the operator can apply a variety of programs to thesame data base. Such systems also require a "master program"that, in effect, tells the machine which program to apply and when.The multiplication of programs and addition of a master programvastly increased the power of the computer.

A similar strategy can be used to enhance human adaptability. Byinstructing students how to learn, unlearn and relearn, a powerfulnew dimension can be added to education.

Psychologist Herbert Gerjuoy of the Human Resources ResearchOrganization phrases it simply: "The new education must teachthe individual how to classify and reclassify information, how toevaluate its veracity, how to change categories when necessary, howto move from the concrete to the abstract and back, how to look atproblems from a new direction – how to teach himself. Tomorrow'silliterate will not be the man who can't read; he will be the man whohas not learned how to learn."

Relating. We can also anticipate increasing difficulty inmaking and maintaining rewarding human ties, if life pace continuesits acceleration.

Listening intently to what young people are saying makes it clearthat the once‑simple business of forging real friendships hasalready assumed new complexity for them. When students complain, forinstance, that "people can't communicate," they are notsimply referring to crossing the generational divide, but to problemsthey have among themselves as well. "New people in the last fourdays are all the ones that I remember," writes Rod McKuen, asongwriter and poet currently popular among the youth.

Once the transience factor is recognized as a cause of alienation,some of the superficially puzzling behavior of young people becomescomprehensible. Many of them, for example, regard sex as a quick wayto "get to know someone." Instead of viewing sexualintercourse as something that follows a long process ofrelationship‑building, they see it, rightly or not, as ashortcut to deeper human understanding.

The same wish to accelerate friendship helps explain theirfascination with such psychological techniques as "sensitivitytraining," "T‑grouping," "micro‑labs,"so‑called "touchie‑feelie" or non‑verbalgames, and the whole group dynamics phenomenon in general. Theirenthusiasm for communal living, too, expresses the underlying senseof loneliness and inability to "open up" with others.

All these activities throw participants into intimate psychologicalcontact without lengthy preparation, often without advanceacquaintanceship. In many cases, the relationships are short‑livedby design, the purpose of the game being to intensify affectiverelationships despite the temporariness of the situation.

By speeding the turnover of people in our lives, we allow less timefor trust to develop, less time for friendships to ripen. Thus wewitness a search for ways to cut through the polite "public"behavior directly to the sharing of intimacy.

One may doubt the effectiveness of these experimental techniques forbreaking down suspicion and reserve, but until the rate of humanturnover is substantially slowed, education must help people toaccept the absence of deep friendships, to accept loneliness andmistrust – or it must find new ways to accelerate friendshipformation. Whether by more imaginative grouping of students, or byorganizing new kinds of work‑teams, or through variations ofthe techniques discussed above, education will have to teach us torelate.

Choosing. If we also assume that the shift towardsuper‑industrialism will multiply the kinds and complexities ofdecisions facing the individual, it becomes apparent that educationmust address the issue of overchoice directly.

Adaptation involves the making of successive choices. Presented withnumerous alternatives, an individual chooses the one most compatiblewith his values. As overchoice deepens, the person who lacks a cleargrasp of his own values (whatever these may be) is progressivelycrippled. Yet the more crucial the question of values becomes, theless willing our present schools are to grapple with it. It is nowonder that millions of young people trace erratic pathways into thefuture, ricocheting this way and that like unguided missiles.

In pre‑industrial societies, where values are relativelystable, there is little question about the right of the oldergeneration to impose its values on the young. Education concernsitself as much with the inculcation of moral values as with thetransmission of skills. Even during early industrialism, HerbertSpencer maintained that "Education has for its object theformation of character," which, freely translated, means theseduction or terrorization of the young into the value systems of theold.

As the shock waves of the industrial revolution rattled the ancientarchitecture of values and new conditions demanded new values,educators backed off. As a reaction against clerical education,teaching facts and "letting the student make up his own mind"came to be regarded as a progressive virtue. Cultural relativism andan appearance of scientific neutrality displaced the insistence ontraditional values. Education clung to the rhetoric of characterformation, but educators fled from the very idea of valueinculcation, deluding themselves into believing that they were not inthe value business at all.

Today it embarrasses many teachers to be reminded that all sorts ofvalues are transmitted to students, if not by their textbooks then bythe informal curriculum – seating arrangements, the school bell,age segregation, social class distinctions, the authority of theteacher, the very fact that students are in a school instead of thecommunity itself. All such arrangements send unspoken messages to thestudent, shaping his attitudes and outlook. Yet the formal curriculumcontinues to be presented as though it were value‑free. Ideas,events, and phenomena are stripped of all value implications,disembodied from moral reality.

Worse yet, students are seldom encouraged to analyze their own valuesand those of their teachers and peers. Millions pass through theeducation system without once having been forced to search out thecontradictions in their own value systems, to probe their own lifegoals deeply, or even to discuss these matters candidly with adultsand peers. Students hurry from class to class. Teachers andprofessors are harried and grow increasingly remote. Even the "bullsession" – informal, extra‑curricular discussions aboutsex, politics or religion that help participants identify and clarifytheir values – grow less frequent and less intimate as transiencerises.

Nothing could be better calculated to produce people uncertain oftheir goals, people incapable of effective decision‑makingunder conditions of overchoice. Super‑industrial educators mustnot attempt to impose a rigid set of values on the student; but theymust systematically organize formal and informal activities that helpthe student define, explicate and test his values, whatever they are.Our schools will continue to turn out industrial men until we teachyoung people the skills necessary to identify and clarify, if notreconcile, conflicts in their own value systems.

The curriculum of tomorrow must thus include not only an extremelywide range of data‑oriented courses, but a strong emphasis onfuture‑relevant behavioral skills. It must combine variety offactual content with universal training in what might be termed "lifeknow‑how." It must find ways to do both at the same time,transmitting one in circumstances or environments that produce theother.

In this way, by making definite assumptions about the future anddesigning organizational and curricular objectives based on them, theCouncils of the Future can begin to shape a truly super‑industrialeducation system. One final critical step remains, however. For it isnot enough to refocus the system on the future. We must shiftthe time‑bias of the individual as well.


Three hundred and fifty years after his death, scientists are stillfinding evidence to support Cervantes' succinct insight intoadaptational psychology: "Forewarned fore‑armed."Selfevident as it may seem, in most situations we can helpindividuals adapt better if we simply provide them with advanceinformation about what lies ahead.

Studies of the reactions of astronauts, displaced families, andindustrial workers almost uniformly point to this conclusion."Anticipatory information," writes psychologist Hugh Bowen,"allows ... a dramatic change in performance." Whether theproblem is that of driving a car down a crowded street, piloting aplane, solving intellectual puzzles, playing a cello or dealing withinterpersonal difficulties, performance improves when the individualknows what to expect next.

The mental processing of advance data about any subject presumablycuts down on the amount of processing and the reaction time duringthe actual period of adaptation. It was Freud, I believe, who said:"Thought is action in rehearsal."

Even more important than any specific bits of advance information,however, is the habit of anticipation. This conditioned ability tolook ahead plays a key role in adaptation. Indeed, one of the hiddenclues to successful coping may well lie in the individual's sense ofthe future. The people among us who keep up with change, who manageto adapt well, seem to have a richer, better developed sense of whatlies ahead than those who cope poorly. Anticipating the future hasbecome a habit with them. The chess player who anticipates the movesof his opponent, the executive who thinks in long range terms, thestudent who takes a quick glance at the table of contents beforestarting to read page one, all seem to fare better.

People vary widely in the amount of thought they devote to thefuture, as distinct from past and present. Some invest far moreresources than others in projecting themselves forward – imagining,analyzing and evaluating future possibilities and probabilities. Theyalso vary in how far they tend to project. Some habituallythink in terms of the "deep future." Others penetrate onlyinto the "shallow future."

We have, therefore, at least two dimensions of "futureness"– how much and how far. There is evidence that among normalteenagers maturation is accompanied by what sociologist Stephen L.Klineberg of Princeton describes as "an increasing concern withdistant future events." This suggests that people of differentages characteristically devote different amounts of attention to thefuture. Their "time horizons" may also differ. But age isnot the only influence on our futureness. Cultural conditioningaffects it, and one of the most important cultural influences of allis the rate of change in the environment.

This is why the individual's sense of the future plays so critical apart in his ability to cope. The faster the pace of life, the morerapidly the present environment slips away from us, the more rapidlydo future potentialities turn into present reality. As theenvironment churns faster, we are not only pressured to devote moremental resources to thinking about the future, but to extend our timehorizon – to probe further and further ahead. The driver dawdlingalong an expressway at twenty miles per hour can successfullynegotiate a turn into an exit lane, even if the sign indicating thecut‑off is very close to the exit. The faster he drives,however, the further back the sign must be placed to give him thetime needed to read and react. In quite the same way, the generalizedacceleration of life compels us to lengthen our time horizon or riskbeing overtaken and overwhelmed by events. The faster the environmentchanges, the more the need for futureness.

Some individuals, of course, project themselves so far into thefuture for such long periods that their anticipations become escapistfantasies. Far more common, however, are those individuals whoseanticipations are so thin and short‑range that they arecontinually surprised and flustered by change.

The adaptive individual appears to be able to project himself forwardjust the "right" distance in time, to examine and evaluatealternative courses of action open to him before the need for finaldecision, and to make tentative decisions beforehand.

Studies by social scientists like Lloyd Warner in the United Statesand Elliott Jaques in Britain, for example, have shown how importantthis time element is in management decision‑making. The man onthe assembly line is given work that requires him to concern himselfonly with events close to him in time. The men who rise in managementare expected, with each successive promotion, to concern themselveswith events further in the future.

Sociologist Benjamin D. Singer of the University of Western Ontario,whose field is social psychiatry, has gone further. According toSinger, the future plays an enormous, largely unappreciated part inpresent behavior. He argues, for instance, that "the 'self' ofthe child is in part feedback from what it is toward what it isbecoming." The target toward which the child is moving is his"future focused role image" – a conception of what he orshe wishes to be like at various points in the future.

This "future focused role image," Singer writes, "tends... to organize and give meaning to the pattern of life he isexpected to take. Where, however, there is only a hazily defined orfunctionally non‑existent future role, then the meaning whichis attached to behavior valued by the larger society does not exist;schoolwork becomes meaningless, as do the rules of middle‑classsociety and of parental discipline."

Put more simply, Singer asserts that each individual carries in hismind not merely a picture of himself at present, a self‑image,but a set of pictures of himself as he wishes to be in the future."This person of the future provides a focus for the child; it isa magnet toward which he is drawn; the framework for the present, onemight say, is created by the future." One would think thateducation, concerned with the development of the individual and theenhancement of adaptability, would do all in its power to helpchildren develop the appropriate time‑bias, the suitable degreeof futureness. Nothing could be more dangerously false.

Consider, for example, the contrast between the way schools todaytreat space and time. Every pupil, in virtually every school, iscarefully helped to position himself in space. He is required tostudy geography. Maps, charts and globes all help pinpoint hisspatial location. Not only do we locate him with respect to his city,region, or country, we even try to explain the spatial relationshipof the earth to the rest of the solar system and, indeed, to theuniverse.

When it comes to locating the child in time, however, we play a crueland disabling trick on him. He is steeped, to the extent possible, inhis nation's past and that of the world. He studies ancient Greeceand Rome, the rise of feudalism, the French Revolution, and so forth.He is introduced to Bible stories and patriotic legends. He ispeppered with endless accounts of wars, revolutions and upheavals,each one dutifully tagged with its appropriate date in the past.

At some point he is even introduced to "current events." Hemay be asked to bring in newspaper clippings, and a reallyenterprising teacher may go so far as to ask him to watch the eveningnews on television. He is offered, in short, a thin sliver of thepresent.

And then time stops. The school is silent about tomorrow. "Notonly do our history courses terminate with the year they are taught,"wrote Professor Ossip Flechtheim a generation ago, "but the samesituation exists in the study of government and economics, psychologyand biology." Time comes racing to an abrupt halt. The studentis focused backward instead of forward. The future, banned as it werefrom the classroom, is banned from his consciousness as well. It isas though there were no future.

This violent distortion of his time sense shows up in a revealingexperiment conducted by psychologist John Condry, Professor in theDepartment of Human Development, Cornell University. In separatestudies at Cornell and UCLA, Condry gave groups of students theopening paragraph of a story. This paragraph described a fictional"Professor Hoffman," his wife and their adopted Koreandaughter. The daughter is found crying, her clothes torn, a group ofother children staring at her. The students were asked to completethe story.

What the subjects did not know is that they had previously beendivided into two groups. In the case of one group, the openingparagraph was set in the past. The characters "heard,""saw" or "ran." The students were asked to "Tellwhat Mr. and Mrs. Hoffman did and what was said by the children."For the second group, the paragraph was set entirely in the futuretense. They were asked to "Tell what Mr. and Mrs. Hoffman willdo and what will be said by the children." Apart from this shiftof tense, both paragraphs and instructions were identical.

The results of the experiment were sharply etched. One group wrotecomparatively rich and interesting story‑endings, peoplingtheir accounts with many characters, creatively introducing newsituations and dialogue. The other produced extremely sketchyendings, thin, unreal and forced. The past was richly conceived; thefuture empty. "It is," Professor Condry commented, "asif we find it easier to talk about the past than the future."

If our children are to adapt more successfully to rapid change, thisdistortion of time must be ended. We must sensitize them to thepossibilities and probabilities of tomorrow. We must enhance theirsense of the future.

Society has many built‑in time spanners that help to link thepresent generation with the past. Our sense of the past is developedby contact with the older generation, by our knowledge of history, bythe accumulated heritage of art, music, literature, and sciencepassed down to us through the years. It is enhanced by immediatecontact with the objects that surround us, each of which has a pointof origin in the past, each of which provides us with a trace ofidentification with the past.

No such time spanners enhance our sense of the future. We have noobjects, no friends, no relatives, no works of art, no music orliterature, that originate in the future. We have, as it were, noheritage of the future.

Despite this, there are ways to send the human mind arching forwardas well as backward. We need to begin by creating a strongerfuture‑consciousness on the part of the public, and not just bymeans of Buck Rogers comic strips, films like Barbarella, orarticles about the marvels of space travel or medical research. Thesemake a contribution, but what is needed is a concentrated focus onthe social and personal implications of the future, not merely on itstechnological characteristics.

If the contemporary individual is going to have to cope with theequivalent of millennia of change within the compressed span of asingle lifetime, he must carry within his skull reasonably accurate(even if gross) images of the future.

Medieval men possessed an image of the afterlife, complete with vividmental pictures of heaven and hell. We need now to propagate dynamic,non‑supernatural images of what temporal life will be like,what it will sound and smell and taste and feel like in thefastonrushing future.

To create such images and thereby soften the impact of future shock,we must begin by making speculation about the future respectable.Instead of deriding the "crystal‑ball gazer," we needto encourage people, from childhood on, to speculate freely, evenfancifully, not merely about what next week holds in store for thembut about what the next generation holds in store for the entirehuman race. We offer our children courses in history; why not alsocourses in "Future," courses in which the possibilities andprobabilities of the future are systematically explored, exactly aswe now explore the social system of the Romans or the rise of thefeudal manor?

Robert Jungk, one of Europe's leading futurist‑philosophers,has said: "Nowadays almost exclusive stress is laid on learningwhat has happened and has been done. Tomorrow ... at least one thirdof all lectures and exercises ought to be concerned with scientific,technical, artistic and philosophical work in progress, anticipatedcrises and possible future answers to these challenges."

We do not have a literature of the future for use in these courses,but we do have literature about the future, consisting notonly of the great utopias but also of contemporary science fiction.Science fiction is held in low regard as a branch of literature, andperhaps it deserves this critical contempt. But if we view it as akind of sociology of the future, rather than as literature, sciencefiction has immense value as a mind‑stretching force for thecreation of the habit of anticipation. Our children should bestudying Arthur C. Clarke, William Tenn, Robert Heinlein, RayBradbury and Robert Sheckley, not because these writers can tell themabout rocket ships and time machines but, more important, becausethey can lead young minds through an imaginative exploration of thejungle of political, social, psychological, and ethical issues thatwill confront these children as adults. Science fiction should berequired reading for Future I.

But students should not only read. Various games have been designedto educate young people and adults about future possibilities andprobabilities. Future, a game distributed by Kaiser Aluminumand Chemical Corporation on the occasion of its twentiethanniversary, introduces players to various technological and socialalternatives of the future, and forces them to choose among them. Itreveals how technological and social events are linked to oneanother, encourages the player to think in probabilistic terms, and,with various modifications, can help clarify the role of values indecision‑making. At Cornell, Professor Jose Villegas of theDepartment of Design and Environmental Analysis, has, with the aid ofa group of students, created a number of games having to do withhousing and community action in the future. Another game developedunder his direction is devoted to elucidating the ways in whichtechnology and values will interact in the world of tomorrow.

With younger children, other exercises are possible. To sharpen theindividual's futurefocused role image, students can be asked to writetheir own "future autobiographies" in which they picturethemselves five, ten or twenty years in the future. By submittingthese to class discussion, by comparing different assumptions inthem, contradictions in the child's own projections can be identifiedand examined. At a time when the self is being broken into successiveselves, this technique can be used to provide continuity for theindividual. If children at fifteen, for example, are given the futureautobiographies they themselves wrote at age twelve, they can see howmaturation has altered their own images of the future. They can behelped to understand how their values, talents, skills, and knowledgehave shaped their own possibilities.

Students, asked to imagine themselves several years hence, might bereminded that their brothers, parents, and friends will also beolder, and asked to imagine the "important others" in theirlives as they will be.

Such exercises, linked with the study of probability and simplemethods of prediction that can be used in one's personal life, candelineate and modify each individual's conception of the future, bothpersonal and social. They can create a new individual time‑bias,a new sensitivity to tomorrow that will prove helpful in coping withthe exigencies of the present.

Among highly adaptive individuals, men and women who are truly alivein, and responsive to, their times, there is a virtual nostalgia forthe future. Not an uncritical acceptance of all the potential horrorsof tomorrow, not a blind belief in change for its own sake, but anoverpowering curiosity, a drive to know what will happen next.

This drive does strange and wonderful things. One winter night Iwitnessed a poignant quiver run through a seminar room when awhite‑haired man explained to a group of strangers what hadbrought him there to attend my class on the Sociology of the Future.The group included corporate long‑range planners, staff frommajor foundations, publishers and research centers. Each participantspieled off his reason for attending. Finally, it was the turn of thelittle man in the corner. He spoke in cracked, but eloquent English:"My name is Charles Stein. I am a needle worker all my life. Iam seventy‑seven years old, and I want to get what I didn't getin my youth. I want to know about the future. I want to die aneducated man!"

The abrupt silence that greeted this simple affirmation still ringsin the ears of those present. Before this eloquence, all the armor ofgraduate degrees, corporate titles and prestigious rank fell. I hopeMr. Stein is still alive, enjoying his future, and teaching others,as he did us that night.

When millions share this passion about the future we shall have asociety far better equipped to meet the impact of change. To createsuch curiosity and awareness is a cardinal task of education. Tocreate an education that will create this curiosity is the third, andperhaps central, mission of the super‑industrial revolution inthe schools.

Education must shift into the future tense.

Chapter 19


Future shock – the disease of change – can be prevented. But itwill take drastic social, even political action. No matter howindividuals try to pace their lives, no matter what psychic crutcheswe offer them, no matter how we alter education, the society as awhole will still be caught on a runaway treadmill until we capturecontrol of the accelerative thrust itself.

The high velocity of change can be traced to many factors. Populationgrowth, urbanization, the shifting proportions of young and old –all play their part. Yet technological advance is clearly a criticalnode in the network of causes; indeed, it may be the node thatactivates the entire net. One powerful strategy in the battle toprevent mass future shock, therefore, involves the consciousregulation of technological advance.

We cannot and must not turn off the switch of technological progress.Only romantic fools babble about returning to a "state ofnature." A state of nature is one in which infants shrivel anddie for lack of elementary medical care, in which malnutritionstultifies the brain, in which, as Hobbes reminded us, the typicallife is "poor, nasty, brutish, and short." To turn our backon technology would be not only stupid but immoral.

Given that a majority of men still figuratively live in the twelfthcentury, who are we even to contemplate throwing away the key toeconomic advance? Those who prate antitechnological nonsense in thename of some vague "human values" need to be asked "whichhumans?" To deliberately turn back the clock would be to condemnbillions to enforced and permanent misery at precisely the moment inhistory when their liberation is becoming possible. We clearly neednot less but more technology.

At the same time, it is undeniably true that we frequently apply newtechnology stupidly and selfishly. in our haste to milk technologyfor immediate economic advantage, we have turned our environment intoa physical and social tinderbox.

The speed‑up of diffusion, the self‑reinforcing characterof technological advance, by which each forward step facilitates notone but many additional further steps, the intimate link‑upbetween technology and social arrangements – all these create aform of psychological pollution, a seemingly unstoppable accelerationof the pace of life.

This psychic pollution is matched by the industrial vomit that fillsour skies and seas. Pesticides and herbicides filter into our foods.Twisted automobile carcasses, aluminum cans, non‑returnableglass bottles and synthetic plastics form immense kitchen middens inour midst as more and more of our detritus resists decay. We do noteven begin to know what to do with our radioactive wastes – whetherto pump them into the earth, shoot them into outer space, or pourthem into the oceans.

Our technological powers increase, but the side effects and potentialhazards also escalate. We risk thermopollution of the oceansthemselves, overheating them, destroying immeasurable quantities ofmarine life, perhaps even melting the polar icecaps. On land weconcentrate such large masses of population in such smallurban‑technological islands, that we threaten to use up theair's oxygen faster than it can be replaced, conjuring up thepossibility of new Saharas where the cities are now. Through suchdisruptions of the natural ecology, we may literally, in the words ofbiologist Barry Commoner, be "destroying this planet as asuitable place for human habitation."


As the effects of irresponsibly applied technology become more grimlyevident, a political backlash mounts. An offshore drilling accidentthat pollutes 800 square miles of the Pacific triggers a shock waveof indignation all over the United States. A multi‑millionaireindustrialist in Nevada, Howard Hughes, prepares a lawsuit to preventthe Atomic Energy Commission from continuing its underground nucleartests. In Seattle, the Boeing Company fights growing public clamoragainst its plans to build a supersonic jet transport. In Washington,public sentiment forces a reassessment of missile policy. At MIT,Wisconsin, Cornell, and other universities, scientists lay down testtubes and slide rules during a "research moratorium" calledto discuss the social implications of their work. Students organize"environmental teach‑ins" and the President lecturesthe nation about the ecological menace. Additional evidences of deepconcern over our technological course are turning up in Britain,France and other nations.

We see here the first glimmers of an international revolt that willrock parliaments and congresses in the decades ahead. This protestagainst the ravages of irresponsibly used technology couldcrystallize in pathological form – as a future‑phobic fascismwith scientists substituting for Jews in the concentration camps.Sick societies need scapegoats. As the pressures of change impingemore heavily on the individual and the prevalence of future shockincreases, this nightmarish outcome gains plausibility. It issignificant that a slogan scrawled on a wall by striking students inParis called for "death to the technocrats!"

The incipient worldwide movement for control of technology, however,must not be permitted to fall into the hands of irresponsibletechnophobes, nihilists and Rousseauian romantics. For the power ofthe technological drive is too great to be stopped by Ludditeparoxysms. Worse yet, reckless attempts to halt technology willproduce results quite as destructive as reckless attempts to advanceit.

Caught between these twin perils, we desperately need a movement forresponsible technology. We need a broad political grouping rationallycommitted to further scientific research and technological advance –but on a selective basis only. Instead of wasting its energies indenunciations of The Machine or in negativistic criticism of thespace program, it should formulate a set of positive technologicalgoals for the future.

Such a set of goals, if comprehensive and well worked out, couldbring order to a field now in total shambles. By 1980, according toAurelio Peccei, the Italian economist and industrialist, combinedresearch and development expenditures in the United States and Europewill run to $73 billion per year. This level of expense adds up tothree‑quarters of a trillion dollars per decade. With suchlarge sums at stake, one would think that governments would plantheir technological development carefully, relating it to broadsocial goals, and insisting on strict accountability. Nothing couldbe more mistaken.

"No one – not even the most brilliant scientist alive today –really knows where science is taking us," says Ralph Lapp,himself a scientist‑turned‑writer. "We are aboard atrain which is gathering speed, racing down a track on which thereare an unknown number of switches leading to unknown destinations. Nosingle scientist is in the engine cab and there may be demons at theswitch. Most of society is in the caboose looking backward."

It is hardly reassuring to learn that when the Organization forEconomic Cooperation and Development issued its massive report onscience in the United States, one of its authors, a former premier ofBelgium, confessed: "We came to the conclusion that we werelooking for something ... which was not there: a science policy."The committee could have looked even harder, and with still lesssuccess, for anything resembling a conscious technological policy.

Radicals frequently accuse the "ruling class" or the"establishment" or simply "they" of controllingsociety in ways inimical to the welfare of the masses. Suchaccusations may have occasional point. Yet today we face an even moredangerous reality: many social ills are less the consequence ofoppressive control than of oppressive lack of control. The horrifyingtruth is that, so far as much technology is concerned, no one is incharge.


So long as an industrializing nation is poor, it tends to welcomewithout argument any technical innovation that promises to improveeconomic output or material welfare. This is, in fact, a tacittechnological policy, and it can make for extremely rapid economicgrowth. It is, however, a brutally unsophisticated policy, and as aresult all kinds of new machines and processes are spewed into thesociety without regard for their secondary or long‑rangeeffects.

Once the society begins its take‑off for super‑industrialism,this "anything goes" policy becomes wholly and hazardouslyinadequate. Apart from the increased power and scope of technology,the options multiply as well. Advanced technology helps createoverchoice with respect to available goods, cultural products,services, subcults and life styles. At the same time overchoice comesto characterize technology itself.

Increasingly diverse innovations are arrayed before the society andthe problems of selection grow more and more acute. The old simplepolicy, by which choices were made according to short‑runeconomic advantage, proves dangerous, confusing, destabilizing.

Today we need far more sophisticated criteria for choosing amongtechnologies. We need such policy criteria not only to stave offavoidable disasters, but to help us discover tomorrow'sopportunities. Faced for the first time with technologicaloverchoice, the society must now select its machines, processes,techniques and systems in groups and clusters, instead of one at atime. It must choose the way an individual chooses his life style. Itmust make super‑decisions about its future.

Furthermore, just as an individual can exercise conscious choiceamong alternative life styles, a society today can consciously chooseamong alternative cultural styles. This is a new fact in history. Inthe past, culture emerged without premeditation. Today, for the firsttime, we can raise the process to awareness. By the application ofconscious technological policy – along with other measures – wecan contour the culture of tomorrow.

In their book, The Year 2000, Herman Kahn and Anthony Wienerlist one hundred technical innovations "very likely in the lastthird of the twentieth century." These range from multipleapplications of the laser to new materials, new power sources, newairborne and submarine vehicles, three‑dimensional photography,and "human hibernation" for medical purposes. Similar listsare to be found elsewhere as well. In transportation, incommunications, in every conceivable field and some that are almostinconceivable, we face an inundation of innovation. In consequence,the complexities of choice are staggering.

This is well illustrated by new inventions or discoveries that beardirectly on the issue of man's adaptability. A case in point is theso‑called OLIVER (On‑Line Interactive Vicarious Expediterand Responder. The acronym was chosen to honor Oliver Selfridge,originator of the concept.)that some computer experts arestriving to develop to help us deal with decision overload. In itssimplest form, OLIVER would merely be a personal computer programmedto provide the individual with information and to make minordecisions for him. At this level, it could store information abouthis friends' preferences for Manhattans or martinis, data abouttraffic routes, the weather, stock prices, etc. The device could beset to remind him of his wife's birthday – or to order flowersautomatically. It could renew his magazine subscriptions, pay therent on time, order razor blades and the like.

As computerized information systems ramify, moreover, it would tapinto a worldwide pool of data stored in libraries, corporate files,hospitals, retail stores, banks, government agencies anduniversities. OLIVER would thus become a kind of universalquestion‑answerer for him.

However, some computer scientists see much beyond this. It istheoretically possible, to construct an OLIVER that would analyze thecontent of its owner's words, scrutinize his choices, deduce hisvalue system, update its own program to reflect changes in hisvalues, and ultimately handle larger and larger decisions for him.

Thus OLIVER would know how its owner would, in all likelihood, reactto various suggestions made at a committee meeting. (Meetings couldtake place among groups of OLIVERs representing their respectiveowners, without the owners themselves being present. Indeed, some"computer‑mediated" conferences of this type havealready been held by the experimenters.)

OLIVER would know, for example, whether its owner would vote forcandidate X, whether he would contribute to charity Y, whether hewould accept a dinner invitation from Z. In the words of one OLIVERenthusiast, a computer‑trained psychologist: "If you arean impolite boor, OLIVER will know and act accordingly. If you are amarital cheater, OLIVER will know and help. For OLIVER will benothing less than your mechanical alter ego." Pushed to theextremes of science fiction, one can even imagine pinsize OLIVERsimplanted in baby brains, and used, in combination with cloning, tocreate living – not just mechanical – alter egos.

Another technological advance that could enlarge the adaptive rangeof the individual pertains to human IQ. Widely reported experimentsin the United States, Sweden and elsewhere, strongly suggest that wemay, within the foreseeable future, be able to augment man'sintelligence and informational handling abilities. Research inbiochemistry and nutrition indicate that protein, RNA and othermanipulable properties are, in some still obscure way, correlatedwith memory and learning. A large‑scale effort to crack theintelligence barrier could pay off in fantastic improvement of man'sadaptability.

It may be that the historic moment is right for such amplificationsof humanness, for a leap to a new superhuman organism. But what arethe consequences and alternatives? Do we want a world peopled withOLIVERs? When? Under what terms and conditions? Who should haveaccess to them? Who should not? Should biochemical treatments be usedto raise mental defectives to the level of normals, should they beused to raise the average, or should we concentrate on trying tobreed super‑geniuses?

In quite different fields, similar complex choices abound. Should wethrow our resources behind a crash effort to achieve low‑costnuclear energy? Or should a comparable effort be mounted to determinethe biochemical basis of aggression? Should we spend billions ofdollars on a supersonic jet transport – or should these funds bedeployed in the development of artificial hearts? Should we tinkerwith the human gene? Or should we, as some quite seriously propose,flood the interior of Brazil to create an inland ocean the size ofEast and West Germany combined? We will soon, no doubt, be able toput super‑LSD or an anti‑aggression additive or someHuxleyian soma into our breakfast foods. We will soon be able tosettle colonists on the planets and plant pleasure probes in theskulls of our newborn infants. But should we? Who is to decide? Bywhat human criteria should such decisions be taken?

It is clear that a society which opts for OLIVER, nuclear energy,supersonic transports, macroengineering on a continental scale, alongwith LSD and pleasure probes, will develop a culture dramaticallydifferent from the one that chooses, instead, to raise intelligence,diffuse anti‑aggression drugs and provide low‑costartificial hearts.

Sharp differences would quickly emerge between the society thatpresses technological advance selectively, and that which blindlysnatches at the first opportunity that comes along. Even sharperdifferences would develop between the society in which the pace oftechnological advance is moderated and guided to prevent futureshock, and that in which masses of ordinary people are incapacitatedfor rational decision‑making. In one, political democracy andbroad‑scale participation are feasible; in the other powerfulpressures lead toward political rule by a tiny techno‑managerialelite. Our choice of technologies, in short, will decisively shapethe cultural styles of the future.

This is why technological questions can no longer be answered intechnological terms alone. They are political questions. Indeed, theyaffect us more deeply than most of the superficial political issuesthat occupy us today. This is why we cannot continue to maketechnological decisions in the old way. We cannot permit them to bemade haphazardly, independently of one another. We cannot permit themto be dictated by short‑run economic considerations alone. Wecannot permit them to be made in a policy vacuum. And we cannotcasually delegate responsibility for such decisions to businessmen,scientists, engineers or administrators who are unaware of theprofound consequences of their own actions.


To capture control of technology, and through it gain some influenceover the accelerative thrust in general, we must, therefore, begin tosubmit new technology to a set of demanding tests before we unleashit in our midst. We must ask a whole series of unaccustomed questionsabout any innovation before giving it a clean bill of sale.

First, bitter experience should have taught us by now to look farmore carefully at the potential physical side effects of any newtechnology. Whether we are proposing a new form of power, a newmaterial, or a new industrial chemical, we must attempt to determinehow it will alter the delicate ecological balance upon which wedepend for survival. Moreover, we must anticipate its indirecteffects over great distances in both time and space. Industrial wastedumped into a river can turn up hundreds, even thousands of milesaway in the ocean. DDT may not show its effects until years after itsuse. So much has peen written about this that it seems hardlynecessary to belabor the point further.

Second, and much more complex, we must question the long‑termimpact of a technical innovation on the social, cultural andpsychological environment. The automobile is widely believed to havechanged the shape of our cities, shifted home ownership and retailtrade patterns, altered sexual customs and loosened family ties. Inthe Middle East, the rapid spread of transistor radios is creditedwith having contributed to the resurgence of Arab nationalism. Thebirth control pill, the computer, the space effort, as well as theinvention and diffusion of such "soft" technologies assystems analysis, all have carried significant social changes intheir wake.

We can no longer afford to let such secondary social and culturaleffects just "happen." We must attempt to anticipate themin advance, estimating, to the degree possible, their nature,strength and timing. Where these effects are likely to be seriouslydamaging, we must also be prepared to block the new technology. It isas simple as that. Technology cannot be permitted to rampage throughthe society.

It is quite true that we can never know all the effects of anyaction, technological or otherwise. But it is not true that we arehelpless. It is, for example, sometimes possible to test newtechnology in limited areas, among limited groups, studying itssecondary impacts before releasing it for diffusion. We could, if wewere imaginative, devise living experiments, even volunteercommunities, to help guide our technological decisions. Just as wemay wish to create enclaves of the past where the rate of change isartificially slowed, or enclaves of the future in which individualscan pre‑sample future environments, we may also wish to setaside, even subsidize, special high‑novelty communities inwhich advanced drugs, power sources, vehicles, cosmetics, appliancesand other innovations are experimentally used and investigated.

A corporation today will routinely field test a product to make sureit performs its primary function. The same company will market testthe product to ascertain whether it will sell. But, with rareexception, no one post‑checks the consumer or the community todetermine what the human side effects have been. Survival in thefuture may depend on our learning to do so.

Even when life‑testing proves unfeasible, it is still possiblefor us systematically to anticipate the distant effects of varioustechnologies. Behavioral scientists are rapidly developing new tools,from mathematical modeling and simulation to so‑called Delphianalyses, that permit us to make more informed judgments about theconsequences of our actions. We are piecing together the conceptualhardware needed for the social evaluation of technology; we need butto make use of it.

Third, an even more difficult and pointed question: Apart from actualchanges in the social structure, how will a proposed new technologyaffect the value system of the society? We know little about valuestructures and how they change, but there is reason to believe thatthey, too, are heavily impacted by technology. Elsewhere I haveproposed that we develop a new profession of "value impactforecasters" – men and women trained to use the most advancedbehavioral science techniques to appraise the value implications ofproposed technology.

At the University of Pittsburgh in 1967 a group of distinguishedeconomists, scientists, architects, planners, writers, andphilosophers engaged in a day‑long simulation intended toadvance the art of value forecasting. At Harvard, the Program onTechnology and Society has undertaken work relevant to this field. AtCornell and at the Institute for the Study of Science in HumanAffairs at Columbia, an attempt is being made to build a model of therelationship between technology and values, and to design a gameuseful in analyzing the impact of one on the other. All theseinitiatives, while still extremely primitive, give promise of helpingus assess new technology more sensitively than ever before.

Fourth and finally, we must pose a question that until now has almostnever been investigated, and which is, nevertheless, absolutelycrucial if we are to prevent widespread future shock. For each majortechnological innovation we must ask: What are its accelerativeimplications?

The problems of adaptation already far transcend the difficulties ofcoping with this or that invention or technique. Our problem is nolonger the innovation, but the chain of innovations, not thesupersonic transport, or the breeder reactor, or the ground effectmachine, but entire inter‑linked sequences of such innovationsand the novelty they send flooding into the society.

Does a proposed innovation help us control the rate and direction ofsubsequent advance? Or does it tend to accelerate a host of processesover which we have no control? How does it affect the level oftransience, the novelty ratio, and the diversity of choice? Until wesystematically probe these questions, our attempts to harnesstechnology to social ends – and to gain control of the accelerativethrust in general – will prove feeble and futile.

Here, then, is a pressing intellectual agenda for the social andphysical sciences. We have taught ourselves to create and combine themost powerful of technologies. We have not taken pains to learn abouttheir consequences. Today these consequences threaten to destroy us.We must learn, and learn fast.


The challenge, however, is not solely intellectual; it is politicalas well. In addition to designing new research tools – new ways tounderstand our environment – we must also design creative newpolitical institutions for guaranteeing that these questions are, infact, investigated; and for promoting or discouraging (perhaps evenbanning) certain proposed technologies. We need, in effect, amachinery for screening machines.

A key political task of the next decade will be to create thismachinery. We must stop being afraid to exert systematic socialcontrol over technology. Responsibility for doing so must be sharedby public agencies and the corporations and laboratories in whichtechnological innovations are hatched.

Any suggestion for control over technology immediately raisesscientific eyebrows. The specter of ham‑handed governmentalinterference is invoked. Yet controls over technology need not implylimitations on the freedom to conduct research. What is at issue isnot discovery but diffusion, not invention but application.Ironically, as sociologist Amitai Etzioni points out, "manyliberals who have fully accepted Keynesian economic controls take alaissez‑faire view of technology. Theirs are the arguments onceused to defend laissez‑faire economics: that any attempt tocontrol technology would stifle innovation and initiative."

Warnings about overcontrol ought not be lightly ignored. Yet theconsequences of lack of control may be far worse. In point of fact,science and technology are never free in any absolute sense.Inventions and the rate at which they are applied are both influencedby the values and institutions of the society that gives rise tothem. Every society, in effect, does pre‑screen technicalinnovations before putting them to widespread use.

The haphazard way in which this is done today, however, and thecriteria on which selection is based, need to be changed. In theWest, the basic criterion for filtering out certain technicalinnovations and applying others remains economic profitability. Incommunist countries, the ultimate tests have to do with whether theinnovation will contribute to overall economic growth and nationalpower. In the former, decisions are private and pluralisticallydecentralized. In the latter, they are public and tightlycentralized.

Both systems are now obsolete – incapable of dealing with thecomplexity of superindustrial society. Both tend to ignore all butthe most immediate and obvious consequences of technology. Yet,increasingly, it is these non‑immediate and non‑obviousimpacts that must concern us. "Society must so organize itselfthat a proportion of the very ablest and most imaginative ofscientists are continually concerned with trying to foresee thelong‑term effects of new technology," writes O. M.Solandt, chairman of the Science Council of Canada. "Our presentmethod of depending on the alertness of individuals to foresee dangerand to form pressure groups that try to correct mistakes will not dofor the future."

One step in the right direction would be to create a technologicalombudsman – a public agency charged with receiving, investigating,and acting on complaints having to do with the irresponsibleapplication of technology.

Who should be responsible for correcting the adverse effects oftechnology? The rapid diffusion of detergents used in home washingmachines and dishwashers intensified water purification problems allover the United States. The decisions to launch detergents on thesociety were privately taken, but the side effects have resulted incosts borne by the taxpayer and (in the form of lower water quality)by the consumer at large.

The costs of air pollution are similarly borne by taxpayer andcommunity even though, as is often the case, the sources of pollutionare traceable to individual companies, industries or governmentinstallations. Perhaps it is sensible for de‑pollution costs tobe borne by the public as a form of social overhead, rather than byspecific industries. There are many ways to allocate the cost. Butwhichever way we choose, it is absolutely vital that the lines ofresponsibility are made clear. Too often no agency, group orinstitution has clear responsibility.

A technology ombudsman could serve as an official sounding board forcomplaints. By calling press attention to companies or governmentagencies that have applied new technology irresponsibly or withoutadequate forethought, such an agency could exert pressure for moreintelligent use of new technology. Armed with the power to initiatedamage suits where necessary, it could become a significant deterrentto technological irresponsibility.


But simply investigating and apportioning responsibility after thefact is hardly sufficient. We must create an environmental screen toprotect ourselves against dangerous intrusions as well as a system ofpublic incentives to encourage technology that is both safe andsocially desirable. This means governmental and private machinery forreviewing major technological advances before they arelaunched upon the public.

Corporations might be expected to set up their own "consequenceanalysis staffs" to study the potential effects of theinnovations they sponsor. They might, in some cases, be required notmerely to test new technology in pilot areas but to make a publicreport about its impact before being permitted to spread theinnovation through the society at large. Much responsibility shouldbe delegated to industry itself. The less centralized the controlsthe better. If self‑policing works, it is preferable toexternal, political controls.

Where self‑regulation fails, however, as it often does, publicintervention may well be necessary, and we should not evade theresponsibility. In the United States, Congressman Emilio Q. Daddario,chairman of the House Subcommittee on Science, Research andDevelopment, has proposed the establishment of a TechnologyAssessment Board within the federal government. Studies by theNational Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering,the Legislative Reference Service of the Library of Congress, and bythe science and technology program of the George WashingtonUniversity are all aimed at defining the appropriate nature of suchan agency. We may wish to debate its form; its need is beyonddispute.

The society might also set certain general principles fortechnological advance. Where the introduction of an innovationentails undue risk, for example, it might require that funds be setaside by the responsible agency for correction of adverse effectsshould they materialize. We might also create a "technologicalinsurance pool" to which innovationdiffusing agencies might paypremiums.

Certain large‑scale ecological interventions might be delayedor prohibited altogether – perhaps in line with the principle thatif an incursion on nature is too big and sudden for its effects to bemonitored and possibly corrected, it should not take place. Forexample, it has been suggested that the Aswan Dam, far from helpingEgyptian agriculture, might someday lead to salinization of the landon both banks of the Nile. This could prove disastrous. But such aprocess would not occur overnight. Presumably, therefore, it can bemonitored and prevented. By contrast, the plan to flood the entireinterior of Brazil is fraught with such instant and imponderableecological effects that it should not be permitted at all untiladequate monitoring can be done and emergency corrective measures areavailable.

At the level of social consequences, a new technology might besubmitted for clearance to panels of behavioral scientists –psychologists, sociologists, economists, political scientists – whowould determine, to the best of their ability, the probable strengthof its social impact at different points in time. Where an innovationappears likely to entail seriously disruptive consequences, or togenerate unrestrained accelerative pressures, these facts need to beweighed in a social cost‑benefit accounting procedure. In thecase of some high‑impact innovations, the technologicalappraisal agency might be empowered to seek restraining legislation,or to obtain an injunction forcing delay until full public discussionand study is completed. In other cases, such innovations might stillbe released for diffusion – provided ample steps were taken inadvance to offset their negative consequences. In this way, thesociety would not need to wait for disaster before dealing with itstechnologyinduced problems.

By considering not merely specific technologies, but theirrelationship to one another, the time lapse between them, theproposed speed of diffusion, and similar factors, we might eventuallygain some control over the pace of change as well as its direction.

Needless to say, these proposals are themselves fraught withexplosive social consequences, and need careful assessment. There maybe far better ways to achieve the desired ends. But the time is late.We simply can no longer afford to hurtle blindfolded towardsuper‑industrialism. The politics of technology control willtrigger bitter conflict in the days to come. But conflict or no,technology must be tamed, if the accelerative thrust is to be broughtunder control. And the accelerative thrust must be brought undercontrol, if future shock is to be prevented.

Chapter 20


Can one live in a society that is out of control? That is thequestion posed for us by the concept of future shock. For that is thesituation we find ourselves in. If it were technology alone that hadbroken loose, our problems would be serious enough. The deadly factis, however, that many other social processes have also begun to runfree, oscillating wildly, resisting our best efforts to guide them.

Urbanization, ethnic conflict, migration, population, crime – athousand examples spring to mind of fields in which our efforts toshape change seem increasingly inept and futile. Some of these arestrongly related to the breakaway of technology; others partiallyindependent of it. The uneven, rocketing rates of change, the shiftsand jerks in direction, compel us to ask whether thetechno‑societies, even comparatively small ones like Sweden andBelgium, have grown too complex, too fast to manage?

How can we prevent mass future shock, selectively adjusting thetempos of change, raising or lowering levels of stimulation, whengovernments – including those with the best intentions – seemunable even to point change in the right direction?

Thus a leading American urbanologist writes with unconcealed disgust:"At a cost of more than three billion dollars, the Urban RenewalAgency has succeeded in materially reducing the supply of low costhousing in American cities." Similar debacles could be cited ina dozen fields. Why do welfare programs today often cripple ratherthan help their clients? Why do college students, supposedly apampered elite, riot and rebel? Why do expressways add to trafficcongestion rather than reduce it? In short, why do so manywell‑intentioned liberal programs turn rancid so rapidly,producing side effects that cancel out their central effects? Nowonder Raymond Fletcher, a frustrated Member of Parliament inBritain, recently complained: "Society's gone random!"

If random means a literal absence of pattern, he is, of course,overstating the case. But if random means that the outcomes of socialpolicy have become erratic and hard to predict, he is right ontarget. Here, then, is the political meaning of future shock. Forjust as individual future shock results from an inability to keeppace with the rate of change, governments, too, suffer from a kind ofcollective future shock – a breakdown of their decisionalprocesses.

With chilling clarity, Sir Geoffrey Vickers, the eminent Britishsocial scientist, has identified the issue: "The rate of changeincreases at an accelerating speed, without a correspondingacceleration in the rate at which further responses can be made; andthis brings us nearer the threshold beyond which control is lost."


What we are witnessing is the beginning of the final breakup ofindustrialism and, with it, the collapse of technocratic planning. Bytechnocratic planning, I do not mean only the centralized nationalplanning that has, until recently, characterized the USSR, but alsothe less formal, more dispersed attempts at systematic changemanagement that occur in all the high technology nations, regardlessof their political persuasion. Michael Harrington, the socialistcritic, arguing that we have rejected planning, has termed ours the"accidental century." Yet, as Galbraith demonstrates, evenwithin the context of a capitalist economy, the great corporations goto enormous lengths to rationalize production and distribution, toplan their future as best they can. Governments, too, are deep intothe planning business. The Keynesian manipulation of post‑wareconomies may be inadequate, but it is not a matter of accident. InFrance, Le Plan has become a regular feature of national life.In Sweden, Italy, Germany and Japan, governments actively intervenein the economic sector to protect certain industries, to capitalizeothers, and to accelerate growth. In the United States and Britain,even local governments come equipped with what are at least calledplanning departments.

Why, therefore, despite all these efforts, should the system bespinning out of control? The problem is not simply that we plan toolittle; we also plan too poorly. Part of the trouble can be traced tothe very premises implicit in our planning.

First, technocratic planning, itself a product of industrialism,reflects the values of that fast‑vanishing era. In both itscapitalist and communist variants, industrialism was a system focusedon the maximization of material welfare. Thus, for the technocrat, inDetroit as well as Kiev, economic advance is the primary aim;technology the primary tool. The fact that in one case the advanceredounds to private advantage and in the other, theoretically, to thepublic good, does not alter the core assumptions common to both.Technocratic planning is econocentric.

Second, technocratic planning reflects the time‑bias ofindustrialism. Struggling to free itself from the stiflingpast‑orientation of previous societies, industrialism focusedheavily on the present. This meant, in practice, that its planningdealt with futures near at hand. The idea of a five‑year planstruck the world as insanely futuristic when it was first put forwardby the Soviets in the 1920's. Even today, except in the most advancedorganizations on both sides of the ideological curtain, one– ortwo‑year forecasts are regarded as "long‑rangeplanning." A handful of corporations and government agencies, aswe shall see, have begun to concern themselves with horizons ten,twenty, even fifty years in the future. The majority, however, remainblindly biased toward next Monday. Technocratic planning isshort‑range.

Third, reflecting the bureaucratic organization of industrialism,technocratic planning was premised on hierarchy. The world wasdivided into manager and worker, planner and plannee, with decisionsmade by one for the other. This system, adequate while change unfoldsat an industrial tempo, breaks down as the pace reachessuper‑industrial speeds. The increasingly unstable environmentdemands more and more non‑programmed decisions down below; theneed for instant feedback blurs the distinction between line andstaff; and hierarchy totters. Planners are too remote, too ignorantof local conditions, too slow in responding to change. As suspicionspreads that top‑down controls are unworkable, plannees beginclamoring for the right to participate in the decision‑making.Planners, however, resist. For like the bureaucratic system itmirrors, technocratic planning is essentially undemocratic.

The forces sweeping us toward super‑industrialism can no longerbe channeled by these bankrupt industrial‑era methods. For atime they may continue to work in backward, slowly moving industriesor communities. But their misapplication in advanced industries, inuniversities, in cites – wherever change is swift – cannot butintensify the instability, leading to wilder and wilder swings andlurches. Moreover, as the evidences of failure pile up, dangerouspolitical, cultural and psychological currents are set loose.

One response to the loss of control, for example, is a revulsionagainst intelligence. Science first gave man a sense of mastery overhis environment, and hence over the future. By making the future seemmalleable, instead of immutable, it shattered the opiate religionsthat preached passivity and mysticism. Today, mounting evidence thatsociety is out of control breeds disillusionment with science. Inconsequence, we witness a garish revival of mysticism. Suddenlyastrology is the rage. Zen, yoga, seances, and witchcraft becomepopular pastimes. Cults form around the search for Dionysianexperience, for non‑verbal and supposedly non‑linearcommunication. We are told it is more important to "feel"than to "think," as though there were a contradictionbetween the two. Existentialist oracles join Catholic mystics,Jungian psychoanalysts, and Hindu gurus in exalting the mystical andemotional against the scientific and rational.

This reversion to pre‑scientific attitudes is accompanied, notsurprisingly, by a tremendous wave of nostalgia in the society.Antique furniture, posters from a bygone era, games based on theremembrance of yesterday's trivia, the revival of Art Nouveau, thespread of Edwardian styles, the rediscovery of such faded pop‑cultcelebrities as Humphrey Bogart or W. C. Fields, all mirror apsychological lust for the simpler, less turbulent past. Powerful fadmachines spring into action to capitalize on this hunger. Thenostalgia business becomes a booming industry.

The failure of technocratic planning and the consequent sense of lostcontrol also feeds the philosophy of "now‑ness."Songs and advertisements hail the appearance of the "nowgeneration," and learned psychiatrists, discoursing on thepresumed dangers of repression, warn us not to defer ourgratifications. Acting out and a search for immediate payoff areencouraged. "We're more oriented to the present," says ateen‑age girl to a reporter after the mammoth Woodstock rockmusic festival. "It's like do what you want to do now... If youstay anywhere very long you get into a planning thing... . So youjust move on." Spontaneity, the personal equivalent of socialplanlessness, is elevated into a cardinal psychological virtue.

All this has its political analog in the emergence of a strangecoalition of right wingers and New Leftists in support of what canonly be termed a "hang loose" approach to the future. Thuswe hear increasing calls for anti‑planning or non‑planning,sometimes euphemized as "organic growth." Among someradicals, this takes on an anarchist coloration. Not only is itregarded as unnecessary or unwise to make long‑range plans forthe future of the institution or society they wish to overturn, it issometimes even regarded as poor taste to plan the next hour and ahalf of a meeting. Planlessness is glorified.

Arguing that planning imposes values on the future, the anti‑plannersoverlook the fact that non‑planning does so, too – often withfar worse consequence. Angered by the narrow, econocentric characterof technocratic planning, they condemn systems analysis, cost benefitaccounting, and similar methods, ignoring the fact that, useddifferently, these very tools might be converted into powerfultechniques for humanizing the future.

When critics charge that technocratic planning is anti‑human,in the sense that it neglects social, cultural and psychologicalvalues in its headlong rush to maximize economic gain, they areusually right. When they charge that it is shortsighted andundemocratic, they are usually right. When they charge it is inept,they are usually right.

But when they plunge backward into irrationality, anti‑scientificattitudes, a kind of sick nostalgia, and an exaltation of now‑ness,they are not only wrong, but dangerous. Just as, in the main, theiralternatives to industrialism call for a return to pre‑industrialinstitutions, their alternative to technocracy is not post‑,but pre‑technocracy.

Nothing could be more dangerously maladaptive. Whatever thetheoretical arguments may be, brute forces are loose in the world.Whether we wish to prevent future shock or control population, tocheck pollution or defuse the arms race, we cannot permit decisionsof earth‑jolting importance to be taken heedlessly, witlessly,planlessly. To hang loose is to commit collective suicide.

We need not a reversion to the irrationalisms of the past, not apassive acceptance of change, not despair or nihilism. We need,instead, a strong new strategy. For reasons that will become clear, Iterm this strategy "social futurism." I am convinced that,armed with this strategy, we can arrive at a new level of competencein the management of change. We can invent a form of planning morehumane, more far‑sighted, and more democratic than any so farin use. In short, we can transcend technocracy.


Technocrats suffer from econo‑think. Except during war and direemergency, they start from the premise that even non‑economicproblems can be solved with economic remedies.

Social futurism challenges this root assumption of both Marxist andKeynesian managers. In its historical time and place, industrialsociety's single‑minded pursuit of material progress served thehuman race well. As we hurtle toward super‑industrialism,however, a new ethos emerges in which other goals begin to gainparity with, and even supplant those of economic welfare. In personalterms, self‑fulfillment, social responsibility, aestheticachievement, hedonistic individualism, and an array of other goalsvie with and often overshadow the raw drive for material success.Affluence serves as a base from which men begin to strive for variedpost‑economic ends.

At the same time, in societies arrowing toward super‑industrialism,economic variables – wages, balance of payments, productivity –grow increasingly sensitive to changes in the non‑economicenvironment. Economic problems are plentiful, but a whole range ofissues that are only secondarily economic break into prominence.Racism, the battle between the generations, crime, cultural autonomy,violence – all these have economic dimensions; yet none can beeffectively treated by econocentric measures alone.

The move from manufacturing to service production, thepsychologization of both goods and services, and ultimately the shifttoward experiential production all tie the economic sector much moretightly to non‑economic forces. Consumer preferences turn overin accordance with rapid life style changes, so that the coming andgoing of subcults is mirrored in economic turmoil. Super‑industrialproduction requires workers skilled in symbol manipulation, so thatwhat goes on in their heads becomes much more important than in thepast, and much more dependent upon cultural factors.

There is even evidence that the financial system is becoming moreresponsive to social and psychological pressures. It is only in anaffluent society on its way to super‑industrialism that onewitnesses the invention of new investment vehicles, such as mutualfunds, that are consciously motivated or constrained by non‑economicconsiderations. The Vanderbilt Mutual Fund and the Provident Fundrefuse to invest in liquor or tobacco shares. The giant Mates Fundspurns the stock of any company engaged in munitions production,while the tiny Vantage 10/90 Fund invests part of its assets inindustries working to alleviate food and population problems indeveloping nations. There are funds that invest only, or primarily,in racially integrated housing. The Ford Foundation and thePresbyterian Church both invest part of their sizeable portfolios incompanies selected not for economic payout alone, but for theirpotential contribution to solving urban problems. Such developments,still small in number, accurately signal the direction of change.

In the meantime, major American corporations with fixed investmentsin urban centers, are being sucked, often despite themselves, intothe roaring vortex of social change. Hundreds of companies are nowinvolved in providing jobs for hard‑core unemployed, inorganizing literacy and job‑training programs, and in scores ofother unfamiliar activities. So important have these new involvementsgrown that the largest corporation in the world, the AmericanTelephone and Telegraph Company, recently set up a Department ofEnvironmental Affairs. A pioneering venture, this agency has beenassigned a range of tasks that include worrying about air and waterpollution, improving the aesthetic appearance of the company's trucksand equipment, and fostering experimental pre‑school learningprograms in urban ghettos. None of this necessarily implies that bigcompanies are growing altruistic; it merely underscores theincreasing intimacy of the links between the economic sector andpowerful cultural, psychological and social forces.

While these forces batter at our doors, however, most technocraticplanners and managers behave as though nothing had happened. Theycontinue to act as though the economic sector were hermeticallysealed off from social and psychocultural influences. Indeed,econocentric premises are buried so deeply and held so widely in boththe capitalist and communist nations, that they distort the veryinformation systems essential for the management of change.

For example, all modern nations maintain elaborate machinery formeasuring economic performance. We know virtually day by day thedirections of change with respect to productivity, prices,investment, and similar factors. Through a set of "economicindicators" we gauge the overall health of the economy, thespeed at which it is changing, and the overall directions of change.Without these measures, our control of the economy would be far lesseffective.

By contrast, we have no such measures, no set of comparable "socialindicators" to tell us whether the society, as distinct from theeconomy, is also healthy. We have no measures of the "quality oflife." We have no systematic indices to tell us whether men aremore or less alienated from one another; whether education is moreeffective; whether art, music and literature are flourishing; whethercivility, generosity or kindness are increasing. "Gross NationalProduct is our Holy Grail," writes Stewart Udall, former UnitedStates Secretary of the Interior, "... but we have noenvironmental index, no census statistics to measure whether thecountry is more livable from year to year."

On the surface, this would seem a purely technical matter –something for statisticians to debate. Yet it has the most seriouspolitical significance, for lacking such measures it becomesdifficult to connect up national or local policies with appropriatelong‑term social goals. The absence of such indices perpetuatesvulgar technocracy.

Little known to the public, a polite, but increasingly bitter battleover this issue has begun in Washington. Technocratic planners andeconomists see in the social indicators idea a threat to theirentrenched position at the ear of the political policy maker. Incontrast, the need for social indicators has been eloquently arguedby such prominent social scientists as Bertram M. Gross of WayneState University, Eleanor Sheldon and Wilbert Moore of the RussellSage Foundation, Daniel Bell and Raymond Bauer of Harvard. We arewitnessing, says Gross, a "widespread rebellion against what hasbeen called the 'economic philistinism' of the United Statesgovernment's present statistical establishment."

This revolt has attracted vigorous support from a small group ofpoliticians and government officials who recognize our desperate needfor a post‑technocratic social intelligence system. Theseinclude Daniel P. Moynihan, a key White House adviser; SenatorsWalter Mondale of Minnesota and Fred Harris of Oklahoma; and severalformer Cabinet officers. In the near future, we can expect the samerevolt to break out in other world capitals as well, once againdrawing a line between technocrats and post‑technocrats.

The danger of future shock, itself, however, points to the need fornew social measures not yet even mentioned in the fast‑burgeoningliterature on social indicators. We urgently need, for example,techniques for measuring the level of transience in differentcommunities, different population groups, and in individualexperience. It is possible, in principle, to design a "transienceindex" that could disclose the rate at which we are making andbreaking relationships with the things, places, people, organizationsand informational structures that comprise our environment.

Such an index would reveal, among other things, the fantasticdifferences in the experiences of different groups in the society –the static and tedious quality of life for very large numbers ofpeople, the frenetic turnover in the lives of others. Governmentpolicies that attempt to deal with both kinds of people in the sameway are doomed to meet angry resistance from one or the other – orboth.

Similarly, we need indices of novelty in the environment. How oftendo communities, organizations or individuals have to cope withfirst‑time situations? How many of the articles in the home ofthe average working‑class family are actually "new"in function or appearance; how many are traditional? What level ofnovelty – in terms of things, people or any other significantdimension – is required for stimulation without over‑stimulation?How much more novelty can children absorb than their parents – ifit is true that they can absorb more? In what way is aging related tolower novelty tolerances, and how do such differences correlate withthe political and intergenerational conflict now tearing thetechno‑societies apart? By studying and measuring the invasionof newness, we can begin, perhaps, to control the influx of changeinto our social structures and personal lives.

And what about choice and overchoice? Can we construct measures ofthe degree of significant choice in human lives? Can any governmentthat pretends to be democratic not concern itself with such an issue?For all the rhetoric about freedom of choice, no government agency inthe world can claim to have made any attempt to measure it. Theassumption simply is that more income or affluence means more choiceand that more choice, in turn, means freedom. Is it not time toexamine these basic assumptions of our political systems?Post‑technocratic planning must deal with precisely suchissues, if we are to prevent future shock and build a humanesuper‑industrial society.

A sensitive system of indicators geared to measuring the achievementof social and cultural goals, and integrated with economicindicators, is part of the technical equipment that any society needsbefore it can successfully reach the next stage of eco‑technologicaldevelopment. It is an absolute precondition for post‑technocraticplanning and change management.

This humanization of planning, moreover, must be reflected in ourpolitical structures as well. To connect the super‑industrialsocial intelligence system with the decisional centers of society, wemust institutionalize a concern for the quality of life. Thus BertramGross and others in the social indicators movement have proposed thecreation of a Council of Social Advisers to the President. Such aCouncil, as they see it, would be modeled after the already existingCouncil of Economic Advisers and would perform parallel functions inthe social field. The new agency would monitor key social indicatorsprecisely the way the CEA keeps its eye on economic indices, andinterpret changes to the President. It would issue an annual reporton the quality of life, clearly spelling out our social progress (orlack of it) in terms of specified goals. This report would thussupplement and balance the annual economic report prepared by theCEA. By providing reliable, useful data about our social condition,the Council of Social Advisers would begin to influence planninggenerally, making it more sensitive to social costs and benefits,less coldly technocratic and econocentric. (Proponents differ as towhether the Council of Social Advisers ought to be organizationallyindependent or become a part of a larger Council of Economic andSocial Advisers. All sides agree, however, on the need forintegrating economic and social intelligence.)

The establishment of such councils, not merely at the federal levelbut at state and municipal levels as well, would not solve all ourproblems; it would not eliminate conflict; it would not guaranteethat social indicators are exploited properly. In brief, it would noteliminate politics from political life. But it would lend recognition– and political force – to the idea that the aims of progressreach beyond economics. The designation of agencies to watch over theindicators of change in the quality of life would carry us a long waytoward that humanization of the planner which is the essential firststage of the strategy of social futurism.


Technocrats suffer from myopia. Their instinct is to think aboutimmediate returns, immediate consequences. They are premature membersof the now generation.

If a region needs electricity, they reach for a power plant. The factthat such a plant might sharply alter labor patterns, that within adecade it might throw men out of work, force large‑scaleretraining of workers, and swell the social welfare costs of a nearbycity – such considerations are too remote in time to concern them.The fact that the plant could trigger devastating ecologicalconsequences a generation later simply does not register in theirtime frame. In a world of accelerant change, next year is nearer tous than next month was in a more leisurely era. This radicallyaltered fact of life must be internalized by decision‑makers inindustry, government and elsewhere. Their time horizons must beextended.

To plan for a more distant future does not mean to tie oneself todogmatic programs. Plans can be tentative, fluid, subject tocontinual revision. Yet flexibility need not mean shortsightedness.To transcend technocracy, our social time horizons must reachdecades, even generations, into the future. This requires more than alengthening of our formal plans. It means an infusion of the entiresociety, from top to bottom, with a new socially awarefuture‑consciousness.

One of the healthiest phenomena of recent years has been the suddenproliferation of organizations devoted to the study of the future.This recent development is, in itself, a homeostatic response of thesociety to the speed‑up of change. Within a few years we haveseen the creation of future‑oriented think tanks like theInstitute for the Future; the formation of academic study groups likethe Commission on the Year 2000 and the Harvard Program on Technologyand Society; the appearance of futurist journals in England, France,Italy, Germany and the United States; the spread of universitycourses in forecasting and related subjects; the convocation ofinternational futurist meetings in Oslo, Berlin and Kyoto; thecoalescence of groups like Futuribles, Europe 2000, Mankind 2000, theWorld Future Society.

Futurist centers are to be found in West Berlin, in Prague, inLondon, in Moscow, Rome and Washington, in Caracas, even in theremote jungles of Brazil at Belém and Belo Horizonte. Unlikeconventional technocratic planners whose horizons usually extend nofurther than a few years into tomorrow, these groups concernthemselves with change fifteen, twenty‑five, even fifty yearsin the future.

Every society faces not merely a succession of probablefutures, but an array of possible futures, and a conflict overpreferable futures. The management of change is the effort toconvert certain possibles into probables, in pursuit of agreed‑onpreferables. Determining the probable calls for a science offuturism. Delineating the possible calls for an art of futurism.Defining the preferable calls for a politics of futurism.

The worldwide futurist movement today does not yet differentiateclearly among these functions. Its heavy emphasis is on theassessment of probabilities. Thus in many of these centers,economists, sociologists, mathematicians, biologists, physicists,operations researchers and others invent and apply methods forforecasting future probabilities. At what date could aquaculture feedhalf the world's population? What are the odds that electric carswill supplant gas‑driven automobiles in the next fifteen years?How likely is a Sino‑Soviet détente by 1980? What changes aremost probable in leisure patterns, urban government, race relations?

Stressing the interconnectedness of disparate events and trends,scientific futurists are also devoting increasing attention to thesocial consequences of technology. The Institute for the Future is,among other things, investigating the probable social and culturaleffects of advanced communications technology. The group at Harvardis concerned with social problems likely to arise from bio‑medicaladvances. Futurists in Brazil examine the probable outcomes ofvarious economic development policies.

The rationale for studying probable futures is compelling. It isimpossible for an individual to live through a single working daywithout making thousands of assumptions about the probable future.The commuter who calls to say, "I'll be home at six" baseshis prediction on assumptions about the probability that the trainwill run on time. When mother sends Johnny to school, she tacitlyassumes the school will be there when he arrives. Just as a pilotcannot steer a ship without projecting its course, we cannot steerour personal lives without continually making such assumptions,consciously or otherwise.

Societies, too, construct an architecture of premises about tomorrow.Decision‑makers in industry, government, politics, and othersectors of society could not function without them. In periods ofturbulent change, however, these socially‑shaped images of theprobable future become less accurate. The breakdown of control insociety today is directly linked to our inadequate images of probablefutures.

Of course, no one can "know" the future in any absolutesense. We can only systematize and deepen our assumptions and attemptto assign probabilities to them. Even this is difficult. Attempts toforecast the future inevitably alter it. Similarly, once a forecastis disseminated, the act of dissemination (as distinct frominvestigation) also produces a perturbation. Forecasts tend to becomeself‑fulfilling or self‑defeating. As the time horizon isextended into the more distant future, we are forced to rely oninformed hunch and guesswork. Moreover, certain unique events –assassinations, for example – are, for all intents and purposes,unpredictable at present (although we can forecast classes of suchevents).

Despite all this, it is time to erase, once and for all, the popularmyth that the future is "unknowable." The difficultiesought to chasten and challenge, not paralyze. William F. Ogburn, oneof the world's great students of social change, once wrote: "Weshould admit into our thinking the idea of approximations, that is,that there are varying degrees of accuracy and inaccuracy ofestimate." A rough idea of what lies ahead is better than none,he went on, and for many purposes extreme accuracy is whollyunnecessary.

We are not, therefore, as helpless in dealing with futureprobabilities as most people assume. The British social scientistDonald G. MacRae correctly asserts that "modern sociologists canin fact make a large number of comparatively short term and limitedpredictions with a good deal of assurance." Apart from thestandard methods of social science, however, we are experimentingwith potentially powerful new tools for probing the future. Theserange from complex ways of extrapolating existing trends, to theconstruction of highly intricate models, games and simulations, thepreparation of detailed speculative scenarios, the systematic studyof history for relevant analogies, morphological research, relevanceanalysis, contextual mapping and the like. In a comprehensiveinvestigation of technological forecasting, Dr. Erich Jantsch,formerly a consultant to the OECD and a research associate at MIT,has identified scores of distinct new techniques either in use or inthe experimental stage.

The Institute for the Future in Middletown, Connecticut, a prototypeof the futurist think tank, is a leader in the design of newforecasting tools. One of these is Delphi – a method largelydeveloped by Dr. Olaf Helmer, the mathematician‑philosopher whois one of the founders of the IFF. Delphi attempts to deal with verydistant futures by making systematic use of the "intuitive"guesstimates of large numbers of experts. The work on Delphi has ledto a further innovation which has special importance in the attemptto prevent future shock by regulating the pace of change. Pioneeredby Theodore J. Gordon of the IFF, and called Cross Impact MatrixAnalysis, it traces the effect of one innovation on another, makingpossible, for the first time, anticipatory analysis of complex chainsof social, technological and other occurrences – and the rates atwhich they are likely to occur.

We are, in short, witnessing a perfectly extraordinary thrust towardmore scientific appraisal of future probabilities, a ferment likely,in itself, to have a powerful impact on the future. It would befoolish to oversell the ability of science, as yet, to forecastcomplex events accurately. Yet the danger today is not that we willoverestimate our ability; the real danger is that we willunder‑utilize it. For even when our still‑primitiveattempts at scientific forecasting turn out to be grossly in error,the very effort helps us identify key variables in change, it helpsclarify goals, and it forces more careful evaluation of policyalternatives. In these ways, if no others, probing the future paysoff in the present.

Anticipating probable futures, however, is only part of whatneeds doing if we are to shift the planner's time horizon and infusethe entire society with a greater sense of tomorrow. For we must alsovastly widen our conception of possible futures. To the rigorousdiscipline of science, we must add the flaming imagination of art.

Today as never before we need a multiplicity of visions, dreams andprophecies – images of potential tomorrow. Before we can rationallydecide which alternative pathways to choose, which cultural styles topursue, we must first ascertain which are possible. Conjecture,speculation and the visionary view thus become as coldly practical anecessity as feet‑on‑the‑floor "realism"was in an earlier time.

This is why some of the world's biggest and most tough‑mindedcorporations, once the living embodiment of presentism, today hireintuitive futurists, science fiction writers and visionaries asconsultants. A gigantic European chemical company employs a futuristwho combines a scientific background with training as a theologian.An American communications empire engages a future‑mindedsocial critic. A glass manufacturer searches for a science fictionwriter to imagine the possible corporate forms of the future.Companies turn to these "blue‑skyers" and "wildbirds" not for scientific forecasts of probabilities, but formind‑stretching speculation about possibilities.

Corporations must not remain the only agencies with access to suchservices. Local government, schools, voluntary associations andothers also need to examine their potential futures imaginatively.One way to help them do so would be to establish in each community"imaginetic centers" devoted to technically assistedbrainstorming. These would be places where people noted for creativeimagination, rather than technical expertise, are brought together toexamine present crises, to anticipate future crises, and to speculatefreely, even playfully, about possible futures.

What, for example, are the possible futures of urban transportation?Traffic is a problem involving space. How might the city of tomorrowcope with the movement of men and objects through space? To speculateabout this question, an imaginetic center might enlist artists,sculptors, dancers, furniture designers, parking lot attendants, anda variety of other people who, in one way or another, manipulatespace imaginatively. Such people, assembled under the rightcircumstances, would inevitably come up with ideas of which thetechnocratic city planners, the highway engineers and transitauthorities have never dreamed.

Musicians, people who live near airports, jackhammer men and subwayconductors might well imagine new ways to organize, mask or suppressnoise. Groups of young people might be invited to ransack their mindsfor previously unexamined approaches to urban sanitation, crowding,ethnic conflict, care of the aged, or a thousand other present andfuture problems.

In any such effort, the overwhelming majority of ideas put forwardwill, of course, be absurd, funny or technically impossible. Yet theessence of creativity is a willingness to play the fool, to toy withthe absurd, only later submitting the stream of ideas to harshcritical judgment. The application of the imagination to the futurethus requires an environment in which it is safe to err, in whichnovel juxtapositions of ideas can be freely expressed before beingcritically sifted. We need sanctuaries for social imagination.

While all sorts of creative people ought to participate in conjectureabout possible futures, they should have immediate access – inperson or via telecommunications – to technical specialists, fromacoustical engineers to zoologists, who could indicate when asuggestion is technically impossible (bearing in mind that evenimpossibility is often temporary).

Scientific expertise, however, might also play a generative, ratherthan merely a damping role in the imaginetic process. Skilledspecialists can construct models to help imagineers examine allpossible permutations of a given set of relationships. Such modelsare representations of real life conditions. In the words ofChristoph Bertram of the Institute for Strategic Studies in London,their purpose is "not so much to predict the future, but, byexamining alternative futures, to show the choices open."

An appropriate model, for example, could help a group of imagineersvisualize the impact on a city if its educational expenditures wereto fluctuate – how this would affect, let us say, the transportsystem, the theaters, the occupational structure and health of thecommunity. Conversely, it could show how changes in these otherfactors might affect education.

The rushing stream of wild, unorthodox, eccentric or merely colorfulideas generated in these sanctuaries of social imagination must,after they have been expressed, be subjected to merciless screening.Only a tiny fraction of them will survive this filtering process.These few, however, could be of the utmost importance in callingattention to new possibilities that might otherwise escape notice. Aswe move from poverty toward affluence, politics changes from whatmathematicians call a zero sum game into a non‑zero sum game.In the first, if one player wins another must lose. In the second,all players can win. Finding non‑zero sum solutions to oursocial problems requires all the imagination we can muster. A systemfor generating imaginative policy ideas could help us take maximumadvantage of the non‑zero opportunities ahead.

While imaginetic centers concentrate on partial images of tomorrow,defining possible futures for a single industry, an organization, acity or its subsystems, however, we also need sweeping, visionaryideas about the society as a whole. Multiplying our images ofpossible futures is important; but these images need to be organized,crystallized into structured form. In the past, utopian literaturedid this for us. It played a practical, crucial role in orderingmen's dreams about alternative futures. Today we suffer for lack ofutopian ideas around which to organize competing images of possiblefutures.

Most traditional utopias picture simple and static societies –i.e., societies that have nothing in common with super‑industrialism.B. F. Skinner's Walden Two, the model for several existingexperimental communes, depicts a pre‑industrial way of life –small, close to the earth, built on farming and handcraft. Even thosetwo brilliant anti‑utopias, Brave New World and1984 , now seem oversimple. Both describe societies based onhigh technology and low complexity: the machines are sophisticatedbut the social and cultural relationships are fixed and deliberatelysimplified.

Today we need powerful new utopian and anti‑utopian conceptsthat look forward to super‑industrialism, rather than backwardto simpler societies. These concepts, however, can no longer beproduced in the old way. First, no book, by itself, is adequate todescribe a super‑industrial future in emotionally compellingterms. Each conception of a superindustrial utopia or anti‑utopianeeds to be embodied in many forms – films, plays, novels and worksof art – rather than a single work of fiction. Second, it may nowbe too difficult for any individual writer, no matter how gifted, todescribe a convincingly complex future. We need, therefore, arevolution in the production of utopias: collaborative utopianism. Weneed to construct "utopia factories."

One way might be to assemble a small group of top social scientists –an economist, a sociologist, an anthropologist, and so on – askingthem to work together, even live together, long enough to hammer outamong themselves a set of well‑defined values on which theybelieve a truly super‑industrial utopian society might bebased.

Each member of the team might then attempt to describe in nonfictionform a sector of an imagined society built on these values. Whatwould its family structure be like? Its economy, laws, religion,sexual practices, youth culture, music, art, its sense of time, itsdegree of differentiation, its psychological problems? By workingtogether and ironing out inconsistencies, where possible, acomprehensive and adequately complex picture might be drawn of aseamless, temporary form of super‑industrialism.

At this point, with the completion of detailed analysis, the projectwould move to the fiction stage. Novelists, film‑makers,science fiction writers and others, working closely withpsychologists, could prepare creative works about the lives ofindividual characters in the imagined society.

Meanwhile, other groups could be at work on counter‑utopias.While Utopia A might stress materialist, success‑orientedvalues, Utopia B might base itself on sensual, hedonistic values, Con the primacy of aesthetic values, D on individualism, E oncollectivism, and so forth. Ultimately, a stream of books, plays,films and television programs would flow from this collaborationbetween art, social science and futurism, thereby educating largenumbers of people about the costs and benefits of the variousproposed utopias.

Finally, if social imagination is in short supply, we are even morelacking in people willing to subject utopian ideas to systematictest. More and more young people, in their dissatisfaction withindustrialism, are experimenting with their own lives, formingutopian communities, trying new social arrangements, from groupmarriage to living‑learning communes. Today, as in the past,the weight of established society comes down hard on the visionarywho attempts to practice, as well as merely preach. Rather thanostracizing utopians, we should take advantage of their willingnessto experiment, encouraging them with money and tolerance, if notrespect.

Most of today's "intentional communities" or utopiancolonies, however, reveal a powerful preference for the past. Thesemay be of value to the individuals in them, but the society as awhole would be better served by utopian experiments based on super–rather than pre‑industrial forms. Instead of a communal farm,why not a computer software company whose program writers live andwork communally? Why not an education technology company whosemembers pool their money and merge their families? Instead of raisingradishes or crafting sandals, why not an oceanographic researchinstallation organized along utopian lines? Why not a group medicalpractice that takes advantage of the latest medical technology butwhose members accept modest pay and pool their profits to run acompletely new‑style medical school? Why not recruit livinggroups to try out the proposals of the utopia factories?

In short, we can use utopianism as a tool rather than an escape, ifwe base our experiments on the technology and society of tomorrowrather than that of the past. And once done, why not the mostrigorous, scientific analysis of the results? The findings could bepriceless, were they to save us from mistakes or lead us toward moreworkable organizational forms for industry, education, family life orpolitics.

Such imaginative explorations of possible futures would deepen andenrich our scientific study of probable futures. They would lay abasis for the radical forward extension of the society's timehorizon. They would help us apply social imagination to the future offuturism itself.

Indeed, with these as a background, we must consciously begin tomultiply the scientific future‑sensing organs of society.Scientific futurist institutes must be spotted like nodes in a loosenetwork throughout the entire governmental structure in thetechno‑societies, so that in every department, local ornational, some staff devotes itself systematically to scanning theprobable long‑term future in its assigned field. Futuristsshould be attached to every political party, university, corporation,professional association, trade union and student organization.

We need to train thousands of young people in the perspectives andtechniques of scientific futurism, inviting them to share in theexciting venture of mapping probable futures. We also need nationalagencies to provide technical assistance to local communities increating their own futurist groups. And we need a similar center,perhaps jointly funded by American and European foundations, to helpincipient futurist centers in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

We are in a race between rising levels of uncertainty produced by theacceleration of change, and the need for reasonably accurate imagesof what at any instant is the most probable future. The generation ofreliable images of the most probable future thus becomes a matter ofthe highest national, indeed, international urgency.

As the globe is itself dotted with future‑sensors, we mightconsider creating a great international institute, a world futuresdata bank. Such an institute, staffed with top caliber men and womenfrom all the sciences and social sciences, would take as its purposethe collection and systematic integration of predictive reportsgenerated by scholars and imaginative thinkers in all theintellectual disciplines all over the world.

Of course, those working in such an institute would know that theycould never create a single, static diagram of the future. Instead,the product of their effort would be a constantly changing geographyof the future, a continually re‑created overarching image basedon the best predictive work available. The men and women engaged inthis work would know that nothing is certain; they would know thatthey must work with inadequate data; they would appreciate thedifficulties inherent in exploring the uncharted territories oftomorrow. But man already knows more about the future than he hasever tried to formulate and integrate in any systematic andscientific way. Attempts to bring this knowledge together wouldconstitute one of the crowning intellectual efforts in history –and one of the most worthwhile.

Only when decision‑makers are armed with better forecasts offuture events, when by successive approximation we increase theaccuracy of forecast, will our attempts to manage change improveperceptibly. For reasonably accurate assumptions about the future area precondition for understanding the potential consequences of ourown actions. And without such understanding, the management of changeis impossible.

If the humanization of the planner is the first stage in the strategyof social futurism, therefore, the forward extension of our timehorizon is the second. To transcend technocracy, we need not only toreach beyond our economic philistinism, but to open our minds to moredistant futures, both probable and possible.


In the end, however, social futurism must cut even deeper. Fortechnocrats suffer from more than econo‑think and myopia; theysuffer, too, from the virus of elitism. To capture control of change,we shall, therefore, require a final, even more radical breakawayfrom technocratic tradition: we shall need a revolution in the veryway we formulate our social goals.

Rising novelty renders irrelevant the traditional goals of our chiefinstitutions – state, church, corporation, army and university.Acceleration produces a faster turnover of goals, a greatertransience of purpose. Diversity or fragmentation leads to arelentless multiplication of goals. Caught in this churning,goal‑cluttered environment, we stagger, future shocked, fromcrisis to crisis, pursuing a welter of conflicting andself‑cancelling purposes.

Nowhere is this more starkly evident than in our pathetic attempts togovern our cities. New Yorkers, within a short span, have suffered anightmarish succession of near disasters: a water shortage, a subwaystrike, racial violence in the schools, a student insurrection atColumbia University, a garbage strike, a housing shortage, a fuel oilstrike, a breakdown of telephone service, a teacher walkout, a powerblackout, to name just a few. In its City Hall, as in a thousand cityhalls all over the high‑technology nations, technocrats dash,firebucket in fist, from one conflagration to another without theleast semblance of a coherent plan or policy for the urban future.

This is not to say no one is planning. On the contrary; in thisseething social brew, technocratic plans, sub‑plans andcounter‑plans pour forth. They call for new highways, newroads, new power plants, new schools. They promise better hospitals,housing, mental health centers, welfare programs. But the planscancel, contradict and reinforce one another by accident. Few arelogically related to one another, and none to any overall image ofthe preferred city of the future. No vision – utopian or otherwise– energizes our efforts. No rationally integrated goals bring orderto the chaos. And at the national and international levels, theabsence of coherent policy is equally marked and doubly dangerous.

It is not simply that we do not know which goals to pursue, as a cityor as a nation. The trouble lies deeper. For accelerating change hasmade obsolete the methods by which we arrive at social goals. Thetechnocrats do not yet understand this, and, reacting to the goalscrisis in knee‑jerk fashion, they reach for the tried and truemethods of the past.

Thus, intermittently, a change‑dazed government will try todefine its goals publicly. Instinctively, it establishes acommission. In 1960 President Eisenhower pressed into service, amongothers, a general, a judge, a couple of industrialists, a few collegepresidents, and a labor leader to "develop a broad outline ofcoordinated national policies and programs" and to "set upa series of goals in various areas of national activity." In duecourse, a red‑white‑andblue paperback appeared with thecommission's report, Goals for Americans. Neither thecommission nor its goals had the slightest impact on the public or onpolicy. The juggernaut of change continued to roll through Americauntouched, as it were, by managerial intelligence.

A far more significant effort to tidy up governmental priorities wasinitiated by President Johnson, with his attempt to apply PPBS(Planning‑Programming‑Budgeting– System) throughout thefederal establishment. PPBS is a method for tying programs much moreclosely and rationally to organizational goals. Thus, for example, byapplying it, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare canassess the costs and benefits of alternative programs to accomplishspecified goals. But who specifies these larger, more importantgoals? The introduction of PPBS and the systems approach is a majorgovernmental achievement. It is of paramount importance in managinglarge organizational efforts. But it leaves entirely untouched theprofoundly political question of how the overall goals of agovernment or a society are to be chosen in the first place.

President Nixon, still snarled in the goals crisis, tried a thirdtack. "It is time," he declared, "we addressedourselves, consciously and systematically, to the question of whatkind of a nation we want to be ..." He thereupon put his fingeron the quintessential question. But once more the method chosen foranswering it proved to be inadequate. "I have today ordered theestablishment, within the White House, of a National Goals ResearchStaff," the President announced. "This will be a small,highly technical staff, made up of experts in the collection ... andprocessing of data relating to social needs, and in the projection ofsocial trends."

Such a staff, located within shouting distance of the Presidency,could be extremely useful in compiling goal proposals, in reconciling(at least on paper) conflicts between agencies, in suggesting newpriorities. Staffed with excellent social scientists and futurists,it could earn its keep if it did nothing but force high officials toquestion their primary goals.

Yet even this step, like the two before it, bears the unmistakableimprint of the technocratic mentality. For it, too, evades thepolitically charged core of the issue. How are preferable futures tobe defined? And by whom? Who is to set goals for the future?

Behind all such efforts runs the notion that national (and, byextension, local) goals for the future of society ought to beformulated at the top. This technocratic premise perfectly mirrorsthe old bureaucratic forms of organization in which line and staffwere separated, in which rigid, undemocratic hierarchiesdistinguished leader from led, manager from managed, planner fromplannee.

Yet the real, as distinct from the glibly verbalized, goals of anysociety on the path to super‑industrialism are already toocomplex, too transient and too dependent for their achievement uponthe willing participation of the governed, to be perceived anddefined so easily. We cannot hope to harness the runaway forces ofchange by assembling a kaffee klatsch of elders to set goals for usor by turning the task over to a "highly technical staff."A revolutionary new approach to goal‑setting is needed.

Nor is this approach likely to come from those who play‑act atrevolution. One radical group, seeing all problems as a manifestationof the "maximization of profits" displays, in allinnocence, an econocentricism as narrow as that of the technocrats.Another hopes to plunge us willy‑nilly back into thepre‑industrial past. Still another sees revolution exclusivelyin subjective and psychological terms. None of these groups iscapable of advancing us toward post‑technocratic forms ofchange management.

By calling attention to the growing ineptitudes of the technocratsand by explicitly challenging not merely the means, but the verygoals of industrial society, today's young radicals do us all a greatservice. But they no more know how to cope with the goals crisis thanthe technocrats they scorn. Exactly like Messrs. Eisenhower, Johnsonand Nixon, they have been noticeably unable to present any positiveimage of a future worth fighting for.

Thus Todd Gitlin, a young American radical and former president ofthe Students for a Democratic Society, notes that while "anorientation toward the future has been the hallmark of everyrevolutionary – and, for that matter, liberal – movement of thelast century and a half," the New Left suffers from "adisbelief in the future." After citing all the ostensiblereasons why it has so far not put forward a coherent vision of thefuture, he succinctly confesses: "We find ourselves incapable offormulating the future."

Other New Left theorists fuzz over the problem, urging theirfollowers to incorporate the future in the present by, in effect,living the life styles of tomorrow today. So far, this has led to apathetic charade – "free societies," cooperatives,pre‑industrial communes, few of which have anything to do withthe future, and most of which reveal, instead, only a passionatepenchant for the past.

The irony is compounded when we consider that some (though hardlyall) of today's young radicals also share with the technocrats astreak of virulent elitism. While decrying bureaucracy and demanding"participatory democracy" they, themselves, frequentlyattempt to manipulate the very groups of workers, blacks or studentson whose behalf they demand participation.

The working masses in the high‑technology societies are totallyindifferent to calls for a political revolution aimed at exchangingone form of property ownership for another. For most people, the risein affluence has meant a better, not a worse, existence, and theylook upon their much despised "suburban middle class lives"as fulfillment rather than deprivation.

Faced with this stubborn reality, undemocratic elements in the NewLeft leap to the Marcusian conclusion that the masses are toobourgeoisified, too corrupted and addled by Madison Avenue to knowwhat is good for them. And so, a revolutionary elite must establish amore humane and democratic future even if it means stuffing it downthe throats of those who are too stupid to know their own interests.In short, the goals of society have to be set by an elite. Technocratand anti‑technocrat often turn out to be elitist brothers underthe skin.

Yet systems of goal formulation based on elitist premises are simplyno longer "efficient." In the struggle to capture controlof the forces of change, they are increasingly counter‑productive.For under super‑industrialism, democracy becomes not apolitical luxury, but a primal necessity.

Democratic political forms arose in the West not because a fewgeniuses willed them into being or because man showed an"unquenchable instinct for freedom." They arose because thehistorical pressure toward social differentiation and toward fasterpaced systems demanded sensitive social feedback. In complex,differentiated societies, vast amounts of information must flow atever faster speeds between the formal organizations and subculturesthat make up the whole, and between the layers and sub‑structureswithin these.

Political democracy, by incorporating larger and larger numbers insocial decisionmaking, facilitates feedback. And it is precisely thisfeedback that is essential to control. To assume control overaccelerant change, we shall need still more advanced – and moredemocratic – feedback mechanisms.

The technocrat, however, still thinking in topdown terms, frequentlymakes plans without arranging for adequate and instantaneous feedbackfrom the field, so that he seldom knows how well his plans areworking. When he does arrange for feedback, what he usually asks forand gets is heavily economic, inadequately social, psychological orcultural. Worse yet, he makes these plans without sufficiently takinginto account the fast‑changing needs and wishes of those whoseparticipation is needed to make them a success. He assumes the rightto set social goals by himself or he accepts them blindly from somehigher authority.

He fails to recognize that the faster pace of change demands – andcreates – a new kind of information system in society: a loop,rather than a ladder. Information must pulse through this loop ataccelerating speeds, with the output of one group becoming the inputfor many others, so that no group, however politically potent it mayseem, can independently set goals for the whole.

As the number of social components multiplies, and change jolts anddestabilizes the entire system, the power of subgroups to wreak havocon the whole is tremendously amplified. There is, in the words of W.Ross Ashby, a brilliant cyberneticist, a mathematically provable lawto the effect that "when a whole system is composed of a numberof subsystems, the one that tends to dominate is the one that isleast stable."

Another way of stating this is that, as the number of socialcomponents grows and change makes the whole system less stable, itbecomes less and less possible to ignore the demands of politicalminorities – hippies, blacks, lower‑middle‑classWallacites, school teachers, or the proverbial little old ladies intennis shoes. In a slower‑moving, industrial context, Americacould turn its back on the needs of its black minority; in the new,fast‑paced cybernetic society, this minority can, by sabotage,strike, or a thousand other means, disrupt the entire system. Asinterdependency grows, smaller and smaller groups within societyachieve greater and greater power for critical disruption. Moreover,as the rate of change speeds up, the length of time in which they canbe ignored shrinks to near nothingness. Hence: "Freedom now!"

This suggests that the best way to deal with angry or recalcitrantminorities is to open the system further, bringing them into it asfull partners, permitting them to participate in social goal‑setting,rather than attempting to ostracize or isolate them. A Red Chinalocked out of the United Nations and the larger internationalcommunity, is far more likely to destabilize the world than one lacedinto the system. Young people forced into prolonged adolescence anddeprived of the right to partake in social decision‑making willgrow more and more unstable until they threaten the overall system.In short, in politics, in industry, in education, goals set withoutthe participation of those affected will be increasingly hard toexecute. The continuation of top‑down technocratic goal‑settingprocedures will lead to greater and greater social instability, lessand less control over the forces of change; an ever greater danger ofcataclysmic, man‑destroying upheaval.

To master change, we shall therefore need both a clarification ofimportant long‑range social goals and a democratizationof the way in which we arrive at them. And this means nothing lessthan the next political revolution in the techno‑societies –a breathtaking affirmation of popular democracy.

The time has come for a dramatic reassessment of the directions ofchange, a reassessment made not by the politicians or thesociologists or the clergy or the elitist revolutionaries, not bytechnicians or college presidents, but by the people themselves. Weneed, quite literally, to "go to the people" with aquestion that is almost never asked of them: "What kind of aworld do you want ten, twenty, or thirty years from now?" Weneed to initiate, in short, a continuing plebiscite on the future.

The moment is right for the formation in each of the high‑technologynations of a movement for total self‑review, a publicself‑examination aimed at broadening and defining in social, aswell as merely economic, terms, the goals of "progress." Onthe edge of a new millennium, on the brink of a new stage of humandevelopment, we are racing blindly into the future. But where do wewant to go?

What would happen if we actually tried to answer this question?

Imagine‑the historic drama, the power and evolutionary impact,if each of the hightechnology nations literally set aside the nextfive years as a period of intense national selfappraisal; if at theend of five years it were to come forward with its own tentativeagenda for the future, a program embracing not merely economictargets but, equally important, broad sets of social goals – ifeach nation, in effect, stated to the world what it wished toaccomplish for its people and mankind in general during the remainingquarter century of the millennium.

Let us convene in each nation, in each city, in each neighborhood,democratic constituent assemblies charged with social stock‑taking,charged with defining and assigning priorities to specific socialgoals for the remainder of the century.

Such "social future assemblies" might represent not merelygeographical localities, but social units – industry, labor, thechurches, the intellectual community, the arts, women, ethnic andreligious groups, students, with organized representation for theunorganized as well. There are no sure‑fire techniques forguaranteeing equal representation for all, or for eliciting thewishes of the poor, the inarticulate or the isolated. Yet once werecognize the need to include them, we shall find the ways. Indeed,the problem of participating in the definition of the future is notmerely a problem of the poor, the inarticulate and the isolated.Highly paid executives, wealthy professionals, extremely articulateintellectuals and students – all at one time or another feel cutoff from the power to influence the directions and pace of change.Wiring them into the system, making them a part of the guidancemachinery of the society, is the most critical political task of thecoming generation. Imagine the effect if at one level or another aplace were provided where all those who will live in the future mightvoice their wishes about it. Imagine, in short, a massive, globalexercise in anticipatory democracy.

Social future assemblies need not – and, given the rate oftransience – cannot be anchored, permanent institutions. Instead,they might take the form of ad hoc groupings, perhaps called intobeing at regular intervals with different representativesparticipating each time. Today citizens are expected to serve onjuries when needed. They give a few days or a few weeks of their timefor this service, recognizing that the jury system is one of theguarantees of democracy, that, even though service may beinconvenient, someone must do the job. Social future assemblies couldbe organized along similar lines, with a constant stream of newparticipants brought together for short periods to serve as society's"consultants on the future."

Such grass roots organisms for expressing the will of large numbersof hitherto unconsulted people could become, in effect, the townhalls of the future, in which millions help shape their own distantdestinies.

To some, this appeal for a form of neo‑populism will no doubtseem naive. Yet nothing is more naive than the notion that we cancontinue politically to run the society the way we do at present. Tosome, it will appear impractical. Yet nothing is more impracticalthan the attempt to impose a humane future from above. What was naiveunder industrialism may be realistic under super‑industrialism;what was practical may be absurd.

The encouraging fact is that we now have the potential for achievingtremendous breakthroughs in democratic decision‑making if wemake imaginative use of the new technologies, both "hard"and "soft," that bear on the problem. Thus, advancedtelecommunications mean that participants in a social future assemblyneed not literally meet in a single room, but might simply be hookedinto a communications net that straddles the globe. A meeting ofscientists to discuss research goals for the future, or goals forenvironmental quality, could draw participants from many countries atonce. An assembly of steelworkers, unionists and executives, convenedto discuss goals for automation and for the improvement of work,itself, could link up participants from many mills, offices andwarehouses, no matter how scattered or remote.

A meeting of the cultural community in New York or Paris – artistsand gallery‑goers, writers and readers, dramatists andaudiences – to discuss appropriate long‑range goals for thecultural development of the city could be shown, through the use ofvideo recordings and other techniques, actual samples of the kinds ofartistic production under discussion, architectural designs for newfacilities, samples of new artistic media made available bytechnological advance, etc. What kind of cultural life should a greatcity of the future enjoy? What resources would be needed to realize agiven set of goals?

All social future assemblies, in order to answer such questions,could and should be backed with technical staff to provide data onthe social and economic costs of various goals, and to show the costsand benefits of proposed trade‑offs, so that participants wouldbe in a position to make reasonably informed choices, as it were,among alternative futures.

In this way, each assembly might arrive, in the end, not merely invaguely expressed, disjointed hopes, but at coherent statements ofpriorities for tomorrow – posed in terms that could be comparedwith the goal statements of other groups.

Nor need these social future assemblies be glorified "talkfests."We are fast developing games and simulation exercises whose chiefbeauty is that they help players clarify their own values. At theUniversity of Illinois, in Project Plato, Charles Osgood isexperimenting with computers and teaching machines that would involvelarge sectors of the public in planning imaginary, preferable futuresthrough gaming.

At Cornell University, José Villegas, a professor in the Departmentof Design and Environmental Analysis, has begun constructing with theaid of black and white students, a variety of "ghetto games"which reveal to the players the consequences of various proposedcourses of action and thus help them clarify goals. Ghetto 1984showed what would happen if the recommendations made by the Kernerriot commission – the U. S. National Advisory Commission on CivilDisorder – were actually to be adopted. It showed how the sequencein which these recommendations were enacted would affect theirultimate impact on the ghetto. It helped players, both black andwhite, to identify their shared goals as well as their unresolvedconflicts. In games like Peru 2000 and Squatter City 2000,players design communities for the future.

In Lower East Side, a game Villegas hopes actually to play inthe Manhattan community that bears that name, players would not bestudents, but real‑life residents of the community – povertyworkers, middle‑class whites, Puerto Rican small businessmen oryouth, unemployed blacks, police, landlords and city officials.

In the spring of 1969, 50,000 high school students in Boston, inPhiladelphia and in Syracuse, New York, participated in a televisedgame involving a simulated war in the Congo in 1975. While televisedteams simulated the cabinets of Russia, Red China, and the UnitedStates, and struggled with the problems of diplomacy and policyplanning, students and teachers watched, discussed, and offeredadvice via telephone to the central players.

Similar games, involving not tens, but hundreds of thousands, evenmillions of people, could be devised to help us formulate goals forthe future. While televised players act out the role of highgovernment officials attempting to deal with a crisis – anecological disaster, for example – meetings of trade unions,women's clubs, church groups, student organizations and otherconstituencies might be held at which large numbers could view theprogram, reach collective judgments about the choices to be made, andforward those judgments to the primary players. Special switchboardsand computers could pick up the advice or tabulate the yes‑novotes and pass them on to the "decision‑makers." Vastnumbers of people could also participate from their own homes, thusopening the process to unorganized, otherwise nonparticipatingmillions. By imaginatively constructing such games, it becomes notonly possible but practical to elicit futural goals from previouslyunconsulted masses.

Such techniques, still primitive today, will become fantasticallymore sophisticated in the years immediately ahead, providing us witha systematic way to collect and reconcile conflicting images of thepreferable future, even from people unskilled in academic debate orparliamentary procedure.

It would be pollyanna‑like to expect such town halls of thefuture to be tidy or harmonious affairs, or that they would beorganized in the same way everywhere. In some places, social futureassemblies might be called into being by community organizations,planning councils or government agencies. Elsewhere, they might besponsored by trade unions, youth groups, or individual,future‑oriented political leaders. In other places, churches,foundations or voluntary organizations might initiate the call. Andin still other places, they might arise not from a formal conventioncall, but as a spontaneous response to crisis.

It would similarly be a mistake to think of the goals drawn up bythese assemblies as constituting permanent, Platonic ideals, floatingsomewhere in a metaphysical never‑never land. Rather, they mustbe seen as temporary direction‑indicators, broad objectivesgood for a limited time only, and intended as advisory to the electedpolitical representatives of the community or nation.

Nevertheless, such future‑oriented, future‑forming eventscould have enormous political impact. Indeed, they could turn out tobe the salvation of the entire system of representative politics –a system now in dire crisis.

The mass of voters today are so far removed from contact with theirelected representatives, the issues dealt with are so technical, thateven well educated middle‑class citizens feel hopelesslyexcluded from the goal‑setting process. Because of thegeneralized acceleration of life, so much happens so fast betweenelections, that the politician grows increasingly less accountable to"the folks back home." What's more, these folks back homekeep changing. In theory, the voter unhappy with the performance ofhis representative can vote against him the next time around. Inpractice, millions find even this impossible. Mass mobility removesthem from the district, sometimes disenfranchising them altogether.Newcomers flood into the district. More and more, the politicianfinds himself addressing new faces. He may never be called to accountfor his performance – or for promises made to the last set ofconstituents.

Still more damaging to democracy is the time‑bias of politics.The politician's time horizon usually extends no further than thenext election. Congresses, diets, parliaments, city councils –legislative bodies in general – lack the time, the resources, orthe organizational forms needed to think seriously about thelong‑term future. As for the citizen, the last thing he is everconsulted about are the larger, more distant, goals of his community,state or nation.

The voter may be polled about specific issues, never about thegeneral shape of the preferable future. Indeed, nowhere in politicsis there an institution through which an ordinary man can express hisideas about what the distant future ought to look, feel or tastelike. He is never asked to think about this, and on the rareoccasions when he does, there is no organized way for him to feed hisideas into the arena of politics. Cut off from the future, he becomesa political eunuch.

We are, for these and other reasons, rushing toward a fatefulbreakdown of the entire system of political representation. Iflegislatures are to survive at all, they will need new links withtheir constituencies, new ties with tomorrow. Social futureassemblies could provide the means for reconnecting the legislatorwith his mass base, the present with the future.

Conducted at frequent and regular intervals, such assemblies couldprovide a more sensitive measure of popular will than any nowavailable to us. The very act of calling such assemblies wouldattract into the flow of political life millions who now ignore it.By confronting men and women with the future, by asking them to thinkdeeply about their own private destinies as well as our acceleratingpublic trajectories, it would pose profound ethical issues.

Simply putting such questions to people would, by itself, proveliberating. The very process of social assessment would brace andcleanse a population weary to death of technical discussions of howto get someplace it is not sure it wants to go. Social futureassemblies would help clarify the differences that increasinglydivide us in our fastfragmenting societies; they would, conversely,identify common social needs – potential grounds for temporaryunities. In this way, they would bring various polities together in afresh framework out of which new political mechanisms wouldinevitably spring.

Most important of all, however, social future assemblies would helpshift the culture toward a more super‑industrial time‑bias.By focusing public attention for once on long‑range goalsrather than immediate programs alone, by asking people to choose apreferable future from among a range of alternative futures, theseassemblies could dramatize the possibilities for humanizing thefuture – possibilities that all too many have already given up aslost. In so doing, social future assemblies could unleash powerfulconstructive forces – the forces of conscious evolution.

By now the accelerative thrust triggered by man has become the key tothe entire evolutionary process on the planet. The rate and directionof the evolution of other species, their very survival, depends upondecisions made by man. Yet there is nothing inherent in theevolutionary process to guarantee man's own survival.

Throughout the past, as successive stages of social evolutionunfolded, man's awareness followed rather than preceded the event.Because change was slow, he could adapt unconsciously, "organically."Today unconscious adaptation is no longer adequate. Faced with thepower to alter the gene, to create new species, to populate theplanets or depopulate the earth, man must now assume consciouscontrol of evolution itself. Avoiding future shock as he rides thewaves of change, he must master evolution, shaping tomorrow to humanneed. Instead of rising in revolt against it, he must, from thishistoric moment on, anticipate and design the future.

This, then, is the ultimate objective of social futurism, not merelythe transcendence of technocracy and the substitution of more humane,more far‑sighted, more democratic planning, but the subjectionof the process of evolution itself to conscious human guidance. Forthis is the supreme instant, the turning point in history at whichman either vanquishes the processes of change or vanishes, at which,from being the unconscious puppet of evolution he becomes either itsvictim or its master.

A challenge of such proportions demands of us a dramatically new, amore deeply rational response toward change. This book has had changeas its protagonist – first as potential villain and then, it wouldseem, as potential hero. In calling for the moderation and regulationof change, it has called for additional revolutionary changes. Thisis less paradoxical than it appears. Change is essential to man, asessential now in our 800th lifetime as it was in our first. Change islife itself. But change rampant, change unguided and unrestrained,accelerated change overwhelming not only man's physical defenses buthis decisional processes – such change is the enemy of life.

Our first and most pressing need, therefore, before we can begin togently guide our evolutionary destiny, before we can build a humanefuture, is to halt the runaway acceleration that is subjectingmultitudes to the threat of future shock while, at the very samemoment, intensifying all the problems they must deal with – war,ecological incursions, racism, the obscene contrast between rich andpoor, the revolt of the young, and the rise of a potentially deadlymass irrationalism.

There is no facile way to treat this wild growth, this cancer inhistory. There is no magic medicine, either, for curing theunprecedented disease it bears in its rushing wake: future shock. Ihave suggested palliatives for the change‑pressed individualand more radically curative procedures for the society – new socialservices, a future‑facing education system, new ways toregulate technology, and a strategy for capturing control of change.Other ways must also be found. Yet the basic thrust of this book isdiagnosis. For diagnosis precedes cure, and we cannot begin to helpourselves until we become sensitively conscious of the problem.

These pages will have served their purpose if, in some measure, theyhelp create the consciousness needed for man to undertake the controlof change, the guidance of his evolution. For, by making imaginativeuse of change to channel change, we cannot only spare ourselves thetrauma of future shock, we can reach out and humanize distanttomorrows.


Among the more hallowed clichés of our time are the notions that anauthor's life is a lonely one, that his ideas spring from somemystical inner source, and that he writes under the spell ofinspiration. Most professional writers know better. However wellthese descriptions may apply to other authors and other books, theydo not apply to this one. Future Shock is a product ofgregarious, face‑to‑face and mind‑to‑mindcontact with hundreds of people, so many, in fact, in so manydifferent universities, research institutes and offices, that itwould be impossible for me to list them all.

Apart from my own, the single most important influence on the bookhas been that of my wife, Heidi, who has been not the proverbial"patient spouse who kept the children out of the authorial den,"but, rather, an active intellectual partner in the enterprise,arguing through point after point, forcing me to clarify andintegrate the concepts on which the book is based. As in the past,she also served as resident editor, reading or listening to eachchapter, suggesting cuts, additions, and fresh insights. It is, inlarge measure, her book as well as mine.

Several friends also read all or part of the manuscript in advance,offering valuable comments. Dr. Donald F. Klein, director ofpsychiatric research, Hillside Hospital, New York, Dr. HerbertGerjuoy, a psychologist, Dr. Benjamin Singer, a sociologist, andHarold Lee Strudler, Esq., were each kind enough to help me in thisway. I must also thank Miss Bonnie Brower who served as researchassistant during the early stages of the project, and cheerfullyhelped me filter the masses of material that mounted depressingly attimes on my desk.

A special note of gratitude is owed to Professor Ellis L. Phillips ofthe Columbia University School of Law and to the Ellis L. PhillipsFoundation for displaying superhuman patience, allowing me, again andagain, to defer important commitments to the Foundation whilecompleting this book.

Pobierz cały dokument
toffler future shock.docx


(Video) Future Shock by Alvin Toffler

Podobne podstrony:
A Toffler Future Shock
141 Future Perfect Continuous
2010 regional future plid 27071 ppt
2006 SOM 208 Microbiology Syllabus Septic Shock
hawking the future of quantum cosmology
Future Simple Użycie
zabezpieczenie przy zastosowaniu kontraktu futures i koncepc, [Finanse]
Lekcja 20 Czas Future Perfect, lekcje
28 Future neurosurgery
Future Simple Budowa
Future Perfect Simple Użycie
Linear Motor Powered Transportation History, Present Status and Future Outlook
Edmond Hamilton Captain Future's Worlds of Tomorrow 17 Futuria
Edmond Hamilton Captain Future's Worlds of Tomorrow 05 Mars
test Exercise 9 Verbs Future
Future Continuous Użycie
Future War

więcej podobnych podstron


1. Alvin Toffler - "Creating a New Civilization"
(Chris Nix)
2. future shock by Alvin Toffler
(Harry Ngitngit)
3. Future Shock by Alvin Toffler
(Salma El Bourkadi)
4. Future Shock - The Futuristic Predictions of Alvin Toffler (1970)
5. Future Shock: The Third Wave with Alvin Toffler
(Kathy Strand)
6. Future Shock Alvin Toffler 1970 audiobook Introduction
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Cheryll Lueilwitz

Last Updated: 07/07/2023

Views: 5398

Rating: 4.3 / 5 (54 voted)

Reviews: 93% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Cheryll Lueilwitz

Birthday: 1997-12-23

Address: 4653 O'Kon Hill, Lake Juanstad, AR 65469

Phone: +494124489301

Job: Marketing Representative

Hobby: Reading, Ice skating, Foraging, BASE jumping, Hiking, Skateboarding, Kayaking

Introduction: My name is Cheryll Lueilwitz, I am a sparkling, clean, super, lucky, joyous, outstanding, lucky person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.