- Every part of modern living seems to be looking for a shortcut.
- Alvin Toffler predicted that environmental overstimulation would not only impact our physical and social worlds, but also our psyche.
- Are we witnessing a world obsessed with increased novelty and accelerated change?
Truncated means a shortened version of something. We are not talking life expectancy or longevity here. We are talking about getting something quicker out of our lifestyle. Currently, every part of modern living is looking for a shortcut. Texting has gone from thank you to TY. Our icons on our computer are the shortcuts to getting where we want to go online. Every part of our current existence is designed to speed things up. It used to be just our cars and our love life needed to be faster, now it is everything. How is this truncated lifestyle changing who we are? Like a marriage vow, are we accepting that change for better or for worse?
“Instant gratification takes too long.” –Carrie Fisher
We’ve Got an App For That
We are demanding more and more from our smart devices. Apps for banking, music, shopping, gambling, not gambling—the list goes on ad infinitum. We appear to be insatiable when it comes to new technology, which is all designed to get us someplace faster. We are in the midst of creating more and more time on screens and less and less time for face-to-face interaction with our human colleagues.
“Unfortunately we will never entirely prevent people downloading unsafe apps in the same way as we won’t stop people clicking on links in emails and accidentally allowing hackers access to our corporate machines and networks.” (Paterson, 2017)
What are the expectations of our newfound technology prowess? Can technology provide a better life? Will AI and analytics convert into a more meaningful and satisfactory human existence? Is a truncated lifestyle always better? Have you ever been disappointed by fast food?
Back to the Future Shock (Wilson, 2019)
Almost 50 years ago, Alvin Toffler disturbed and challenged the world with his classic work Future Shock. Toffler predicted that the biggest issue facing future generations would be our ability to adapt to the accelerating pace of change. Does the modern world embody many of Toffler’s ideas? Toffler predicted that environmental overstimulation would not only impact our physical and social worlds, but also our psyche.
We have seen the results of overstimulation in survivors of war and natural disasters like earthquakes and floods. The psychologically overwhelmed are marked by confusion, anxiety, irritability, and withdrawal into apathy. Today, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting some 40 million adults. Toffler predicted that people will attempt to cope with accelerated change through denial, specialism, reversion, and simplification.
Outright denial blocks out an unwelcome reality. Today’s examples for some might include climate change, artificial intelligence, self-driving cars, and genomics. The person in denial is not able to accept changes and believes that all evidence of change is incomplete and superficial. The denier, according to Toffler, sets themselves up for personal catastrophe because they will ultimately be forced to adapt to the denied change, which may be in the form of a massive life crisis.
Toffler described the specialist as someone who avoids change by becoming very insular within their profession or social passion. Ultra-conservative political advocates continue to lobby for the fossil fuel industry despite newer technology that appears to be a much better option. The specialist is rigid and closed to change, which makes them especially vulnerable in an accelerated world.
Revisionists are attempting to cope with change by seeking out past modes of action that may no longer be appropriate. Returning to the glories of yesteryear is the way they respond to rapid change. Authoritarian regimes, terrorist groups, white supremacists, and some religious groups are examples of revisionist thinking, according to Toffler.
The super-simplifier, according to Toffler, is someone who copes with change by oversimplifying anything perceived as too complex. Individuals who turn to addictive pastimes or violence may be subject to this type of coping mechanism.
“The speed of communications is wondrous to behold. It is also true that speed can multiply the distribution of information that we know to be untrue.” –Edward R. Murrow
We are living in a world of social media that allows like-minded thinking to perpetuate permutations of truth very easily. The like-minded feel comforted by having camaraderie with little regard for the accuracy of the misinformation they purvey—especially when the information simplifies the complex. A simple message is easier to pass along.
Are we experiencing similar styles in coping with change in today’s supercharged technological boom? Are we witnessing a world obsessed with increased novelty and accelerated change? Is it possible that many of the psychological issues that we see people facing today are part of this shift to a more truncated lifestyle?
Paterson, A. (2017). We’ve Got An App For That. Huffpost, August 30, 2017.
Wilson, B. (2019). Back to the ‘Future Shock.' The Psychologist (UK), March 12, 2019.