The Future Shock Of Alvin Toffler

The FUTURE SHOCK Of Alvin Toffler
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Published in 1970, Alvin Toffler’s book Future Shock, is a foresight into the future which has unravelled to be the truth of today. It is as relevant today as it was decades ago at predicting the economy, technology, politics, and socialization of this generation and the adaptability to the process of change. The term “future shock” is applied to our human response to overstimulation, simply the rate at which we can adapt to the acceleration of change. He even questions what the progress and determination will be for the mental health factor of “techno-societies“.

I recently came across an article about “Computational Psychology,” a relatively new field of study that uses digital technology to research the behaviours of, for example, borderline personality disorder. Although I do not agree with the process of the research they are conducting due to the bias of “psychotherapy”, it is a sign that the field of psychology is advancing to address technology and its impact on mental health. As I’ve stated before, the initial response is to simply, “get off” our devices. As gaming addiction has recently been identified as a mental disorder by the World Health Organization, we must question this addiction to the Internet as well. And the rate at which we, in society, are experiencing the global impact of change on all levels of environmental, economic, technological, psychological, societal and political change, to name a few.

In the 1980s-1990s, during the rise of foreign global economies, Toffler met with many foreign dignitaries, especially from Asia. He had a strong influence on China and South Korea, at the time having meetings with Kim Dae Jung (S.K. president 1996-2002). ] Kim Dae Jung was on a path of using Toffler’s writing and applying it to the future of South Korea, as a player in technology and the information age… the so-called “Third Wave” for an established economy that does not ignore the concurrent events of social or political change. [As a side note: My father, has a letter written by Kim from 1971, which he was given when he was a member of the KCIA] Nations such as South Korea and Japan are dealing with the future today by their emboldened leverage of technology, while the rest of the world is trying to catch up.

“Where an earlier generation of Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese revolutionaries wanted to re-enact the Paris Commune as imagined by Karl Marx, their post-revolutionary successors now want to re-enact Silicon Valley as imagined by Alvin Toffler” [Daedalus]

Toffler’s “predictions” in Future Shock, as well as many of his other books, have come to life in the 21st Century. The decay of social relations, the demands of social justice, the psychology of humankind, the waste of fast fashion, the speed at which tech is changing (think Apple); there is this incessant need to keep up with all the change happening around us. The change is similar to the rate of the online algorithm and how fast it reacts to your online use. The latter is as fast as the pace at which a person with psychosis (let alone a mentally “healthy” individual) can keep up to date with the racing of their own thoughts. Combine psychosis and the acceleration of online algorithmic change/dialogue and you get information overload and paranoia. This is one aspect of the mental health factor Toffler could have been questioning in his vision of a “techno-society.” At least that is my perspective having experienced this interchange personally as an individual diagnosed with psychosis, fully being aware of my capacity to function while being in a mental state of dysfunction, online. It becomes information overload. The result is an inability to distinguish ones reality as separated from physical and virtual, upon which delusions can be formed based on some underlying truth.

The mental state of today’s younger generation is heavily influenced by Internet usage, especially with the many platforms of social media. They are bullied, they are influenced (pos or neg), and they engage in a way without privacy. There are often news stories of the latest violence reprimanded via sharing online shootings, suicides, self-harm… the list goes on. How do we keep up today (for tomorrow) with the epidemic of mental health care in which the digital age is heavily used as an instrument to spread information? Do we share more resources on prevention? Do we call out the corporations for more censorship? Or do we study a new discourse on mental health/illness for future generations immersed in online culture?

Personally, I do hope we pave the way for open communication on how to observe mental health, without just the simplicity of “take a break” and “get outside”. Although that is a key facet to staying mentally healthy, I want to know about how online culture triggers new ways to look at and study mental health care. New definitions and new boundaries on staying healthy online. Virtual Reality is already being used as a device to help stabilize people with addiction through simulated situations. For me, virtual reality of my own doing through actions on social media, helped me manage a lot of my psychosis triggering delusions, as well as cognitive healing. Wouldn’t it be great to have a guidebook on how to stay sane in the 21st Century, while embracing the acceleration of digital change. Alvin Toffler gave us foresight, now it’s up to this generation to continue that insight.

The Storyteller: Wodiczko

The Storyteller: Wodiczko

I was first introduced to the work of Krzysztof Wodiczko, in 1998. I spent my time as an undergrad at Concordia University re-using, re-working, and rewriting essays about him. I was fascinated by his work and with access to the Internet today, have come across smaller details about his personal life. He is an important figure (past/present/future) in using Art/Design and Technology, but he is also a visiting professor at the Warsaw Department of Social Psychology, and a professor at MIT since 1991. In 2002, I was able to have a brief discussion about my essay with my professor Tim Clark, who had personally known him and worked on a project with Wodiczko, who first emigrated to Canada from Poland in 1977.

Wodiczko is well known for his politically motivated, large-scale, video projections on monumental buildings and surfaces, throughout the 1980s and to this day. What intrigued me most during my studies, were his philosophies and use of commonplace and modern technology, readily available during that period for works that focused around ideas of Xenology and the identity of the immigrant(or ‘other’). Works such as Alien Staff (1992), and Mouthpiece/Porte-Parole (1993), both utilized digital technology, such as a display monitor, speech recorder that could be manipulated to speed -up/slow-down or change the sex of its users voice, to address communication and the public sphere of an Ethnic Minority. Immigrants have in the past been referred to as “aliens” that migrate to foreign lands. They cannot easily assimilate and blend in to a culture where they appear as “other”. This is prevalent to what countries all over the world are facing even today, with high immigration and migration of refugees. Of course there is also a looming doom on the rise of Nationalism, predominantly White Nationalism, that brings Wodiczko’s work back to mind. His beliefs about the consequences of global capitalism and conflict created by the unfair distribution of resources and opportunities, focus around the political landscape of the marginalized.

Alien Staff, was designed so that the person carrying the object in public, could communicate a story of his/her history to any passerby that was interested in approaching the user. The staff itself is something that would draw attention and would be hard to ignore in a public space. If a stranger approached the user, they would then start asking questions, opening up a dialogue. Atop the staff is a mini video monitor with pre-recorded footage of the users face, narrating stories about his/her past life experiences, to “humanize” them and replace notions of otherness. Juxtaposed to the physical person carrying the staff, was a way to close the gap between a version of “us” and “them”, as well as time and space.

The implications of his work have remained with us to today, which back then could have been an insight to the future. In history, art has often been a way for us to look back at the social discourse and climate of that specific time period.

Today, although there is still a strong plight of “us” vs. “them”, there is an ongoing dialogue in the general community about how we can close this gap. How we can represent each person as their own individual without having to regard them only through stereotypes, prejudices, or assumptions. The global market is more open because of the Internet and the access we have online. The world’s history has always involved immigration and belonging, and it will continue to do so. Rather than focus on the negatives, there is a future(present) of technology that opens up culture. We are able to translate foreign languages to our native language online. Babel Fish (the original online translator) has introduced Babel Fish earphones through Google. You can experience nearly real-time translation by having someone speak their language into the speaker on your phone, and have it translate into your native language back into your earphones… giving the ability to have an open dialogue in real time.

Language is the biggest barrier to communication. In hand it is the biggest barrier in learning about individual stories and understanding other people. Knowledge is the key to understanding and hopefully abolishing ignorance. Information gets misused, especially in today’s age, so the further along we move into the future… the more we have to learn and communicate.

Natural User Interface: Steve Mann

Natural User Interface: Steve Mann

I don’t remember when I had my first introduction to readings about Steve Mann, but it was before I had been diagnosed with mental illness, in 2005. Research states that the onset of psychosis can generally happen between your teens into your early or mid-twenties. Outside of that range, you’re usually clear. It was a shock to me and my family when I had my first psychotic episode because no one understood what was happening; why I was behaving the way I was behaving, or why I was saying the things I was saying, why I was believing the thoughts I was believing.

One of the first unusual behaviors displayed was that I was no longer wearing my glasses, which I usually only take off to sleep. I began hiding all the pairs of glasses that were lying around. I was rambling on about how we could no longer wear them because they were tools of surveillance, and that was how I had been infiltrated to be spied on by the government. (The ideation of surveillance are an overall common occurrence with psychosis)

My knowledge of Steve Mann inspired my belief that eyeglasses were being used as a “spy” tool. Not only to be used to watch my surroundings, but also to read my thoughts and transmit them to some foreign databank. Pop Culture at the time already had movies like Terminator and Robocop, that played with the fantasy of visual computing recognition along with many other sci-fi fiction. Then there was Steve Mann, a Canadian born Researcher/Engineer/ Inventor. Mann was creating this “sci-fi” reality before it was even a concept to the general public that this was becoming our future(past/present). Mann is responsible for the invention of many technologies(digital and analog) that, for the layman with no second thought to how they came about, are simply readily available marketed products.

In 1978, Mann designed a pair of eyewear that essentially made it possible for him to wear an electronic camera and visual television display, as glasses. Later in life he had it redesigned so that part of it was implanted into his skull (he was regarded as the first Canadian human-cyborg). Not only is he the godfather of wearable technology, but his CyborGlogs were a way to stream his everyday events as news worthy events to a “social networking” cyborg community, through the use of his glasses and other computing devices, before the Internet. He was the predecessor to many things that are part of our regular online culture today, such as blogs/blogging/social networking. Later he coined the term ‘sousveillance’, as meaning ‘inverse surveillance’, which may be best understood in regards to the technology of the “bodycam”, which he is also responsible for.

During the 1970s, as a student, he opened up a new school of thought and direction for the MIT program. A trailblazer. We have Steve Mann to thank for all the contributions, in the past/present/future, he made towards the advancement of technology and continues to make as a Professor at the University of Toronto. Some may not agree with this, as the incident that occurred in 2012, when he was allegedly attacked for his appearance by having a wearable device on his face (which by that time had been connected to his skull), to which the assailants tried to rip off his face.

Google glasses failed with their first marketed wearable glasses, but as virtual reality has returned stronger than the first/second time it came around, people are normalizing this culture and buying it (Oculus).

We will be living in a time when such wearable devices become second skin like our smartphones have become. When the cellphone came into the public market, we didn’t believe it would eventually consume our lives , but they basically revolutionized the old technology of the telephone and how we function in society. Many unfathomable technologies exist, or have existed, or are coming into existence… it’s just a matter of when they become affordable to the public.

Canada produces a lot of innovators/innovation that pave the way for multiple disciplines. And for my personal interest, these innovators fall under the guise of media and technology. [i.e. Read Marshall McLuhan as a starting point]

[Update to my psychosis and warning signals: I am no longer triggered to believe my glasses are wearable technology/surveillance devices. I only wear them to see and continue to wear them if I am experiencing a psychotic episode. What does trigger me into a psychotic episode these days, is online culture. I must now often distance myself from my iPhone and social media, when my mental health starts to decline]

The Third Wave

The advice of choice, is to simply disconnect. Get off your smartphones and other smart devices that keep you connected to the Internet. As easy as this sounds, many people rely on this technology to fill out their daily lives. Whether it be for work or “play”. It is not as easy, in today’s society to just, “shut it off”. As Marshall McLuhan might say, they have become extensions of ourselves.

If a generation is born into this technology and style of living, does the mental health challenge of disconnecting for improved mental health still apply? Or does the scope of what mental health will look like, change in the future, because people are more reluctant to disengage? There are many dystopic views of what the future looks like (heavily influenced by science-fiction), in terms of technology taking over human welfare. More recent 21st Century films like “Surrogates”(2009) and Pixar created “Wall-E” (2008), hold as examples of the future of the human condition immersed as reflections of ourselves engaged with technology.

The advancement of the tech world is often beyond our layman scope, but in the wings of tech giants and industry, there is a lot more going on than we are aware of. Think about the Internet, (1983- Network of Networks, 1990- WWW) how long ago it was conceived before it came into the hands and available to the public masses. Just think about the cost of computers and how far along that old technology has come. Today we basically hold mini-computers in our hands. Now chip implants in our bodies are gaining traction, which began with ideas of “The Cyborg”. (Kevin Warwick’s 1998- “Project Cyborg” is when he had an array of chips implanted into his arms to ideations of becoming a cyborg)

As social commentators, a lot of insight can be gained by watching the artists of past generations, where you can see the involvement of technology and art collide. You can view it either in present state of today or as past history. Between 1997-2002 is where I retained most of my information on the implications of the use of technology and art, and future implications. Today’s age(or perhaps it’s already history), you now see many MIT graduates collaborating with artists on projects that have more inclusion on the advancements of technology. Artists have been attracted to the implications of technology since the Digital Revolution (Third Industrial Revolution)

Navigating The Human Condition Of Online Culture

Navigating The Human Condition Of Online Culture
The Mission: To create an online space/gallery which transfigures time and space, in the Digital Age.

Becoming Conscious Online.

Since 2013 I’ve lived both consciously and subconsciously online. It has been my creative “medium”, in which I can explore art, history, the future, as well as, the past and present. There are many facets to the human condition such as behaviour and tolerance. One that can be experienced through the user as a player, or bystander.

As being diagnosed with psychosis and depression, it has been an integral part of my life to understand today’s culture and obsession with social media, and its effects on mental health. I returned to personal social media after a 5 year hiatus and now I have become a “slave” to online culture like many others. It seems staying connected online is how we rely and function in today’s day and age. In turn, we now rely on and have replaced ourselves with virtual representation and recognition that impacts our offline lives. Majority of the world’s population is dictated by how we use technology.

This, interweaved with my personal “real” life and “online” life. Always personal and always truthful from my perspective of psychological thought process, relevant to the moment I am living at the time and with the relevance of algorithms presented online, online culture has become a tale of history and life. This impacts a whole onset of generations, to a level where it has become normalized. And I must question whether the general public is aware that this is our present day state of mind and conditioning, and what it means for the future. And the boundaries surrounding how we define mental health in the future.