THE FUTURE IS (SHOCKINGLY) NOW

"Man has a limited biological capacity for change. When this capacity is overwhelmed, the capacity is in future shock."Alvin Toffler

If it wasn't clear before, it is now: the future has arrived and there's nothing we can do to postpone it. When you can't walk down a street and avoid getting bumped by strangers on their cellphones, consulting their PDAs, too busy to watch where they're going, you're in a new world.

Today's model professional is wall-to-wall wired and wireless — all day long — at home, on the road, in the office, and virtually anywhere else you can think of.

The surest sign, though, that something has moved beyond success is the news story that says people are beginning to wonder whether too much of a good thing is a bad thing, and that's where we find ourselves today.

This afternoon's top story at CNN.Com is "Wireless Technology Changing Work and Play". Of an executive who runs an institute that studies science, technology, and society, the writer notes that being connected wherever the scientist goes has "made him more productive, but he's not entirely satisfied."

In a New York Times Magazine piece entitled "Meet the Life Hackers", last Sunday, a scientist who studies how high-tech devices affect our behavior noted that her daily interaction with wired colleagues, associates, and friends had become "madness."

Now, when the people who study how complex our technology has made our lives find that we're going a little bonkers with the constant interruptions of non-stop connectivity, it may be time to take a deep breath and think for a moment about where we're going.

What Toffler meant in his groundbreaking 1970 book Future Shock, we believe, is not that the future will be shocking but that if we absorb too much change too fast we will, at some future point, be shocked. Has that point now arrived?

(To be continued . . .)

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