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Present Shock

When Everything Happens Now

By Douglas Rushkoff
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Present Shock by Douglas Rushkoff

These blinks are all about the mental and emotional state we all live in thanks to our rapidly changing technological culture. Present Shock (2013) explains the roots of this problem and what it means for our mental well-being.

Key idea 1 of 5

We’re disoriented and stuck in an eternal present.

Imagine you’re practicing tennis with a ball machine, when the machine suddenly starts shooting balls out faster and faster until you can’t keep up. That’s how cultural and technological change has progressed for the last few decades.

Around 1970, the futurist Alvin Toffler predicted that we’d soon reach a rate of progress that was so fast we would enter a state called future shock.

In the twentieth century, we had a future-oriented view of technology. People obsessed over revolutionary inventions and business models they thought were on the way. Everyone was excited by the possibilities afforded by new technologies, like cell phones that let us talk to our friends, relatives or co-workers at any time.

The pace of change kept increasing, however. Computer processing speed doubled every two years.

That’s why Toffler predicted that we’d reach a point where we wouldn’t be able to keep up, mentally or emotionally. We’d experience future shock – a kind of culture shock that happens within your own culture.

That “future” is already here. People increasingly feel lost in the modern world and we’re no longer motivated by the technological optimism of the twentieth century. Future shock has turned into present shock.

We’re surrounded by change and lack a clear sense of direction, so we’ve given up on planning for a better tomorrow. Instead, we want everything now.

This feeling manifests in many ways. Few traders look for long-term investments, for instance, preferring deals with instant benefits instead.

Just think about the investors who already had Facebook shares the first day the company went public. Many sold them the very next day because they hadn’t risen enough.

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