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The world is in the throes of its third great socioeconomic revolution, and if we want to adapt and survive, we need to realize this, Alvin Toffler, the author of "Future Shock," told a group of 100 people at Kirkland House Saturday afternoon.
"If we are to survive the next few decades, we must be willing to drastically reevaluate and transform our social mores, basic values and political system," Toffler said at the conference on future planning sponsored by the Institute of Politics.
Toffler said the first great revolution occurred when agricultural societies replaced hunting and gathering societies. The transformation of agricultural societies to industrial societies was the second great revolution.
Now the world is entering a new "super-technological age" that will barely resemble the epochs before it, he said.
"This historic wave of change which began 15 or 20 years ago and will go on for several decades has completely altered one of the most fundamental aspects of life--its tempo," he said.
Toffler used many examples, including President Carter's meteoric rise from Georgia farmer to president of one of the world's two superpowers, to illustrate this change in speed.
"Carter is a perfect example of the Twiggy phenomenon I described in "Future Shock." His sudden rise to power typifies the acceleration and oscillation in modern society which has resulted from new technological advances, particularly in communication," he said.
The speed with which hand calculators and C.B. radios have become popular consumer goods is another example of this change in tempo, Toffler said, adding this acceleration has rendered social institutions ineffective.
"Things are happening so quickly that we can't remember yesterday's crisis in time to learn from it. Political leaders are forced to make increasingly complex decisions in diminishing amounts of time. This increases instability and insecurity and further complicates the problem," Toffler said.
Although the industrial revolution created a more homogeneous society, the technological revolution seems to be reversing this trend, and heading back towards heterogeneity and decentralization, he said.
"The trend toward increasing massification of individuals ended in the 1950s. At that time a widely read national media standardized thought throughout the country. We are now in the process of becoming a multi-channel society," he said.
This diversity is good in some ways, Toffler said. "It's a survival mechanism.
There is an increased likelihood that some element of our culture will survive. It also allows people to find a particular niche which is suitable to their cultural and genetic make-up," he said.
Toffler called for a "reconstitution" of the U. S. Constitution to readjust in stitutions to society, but was quick to add that he thought the document was a "work of genius."
In a discussion period after his speech, Toffler was asked if he thought his theoretical third revolution will culminate in as much bloodshed as the last one.
"Although brother Karl would perhaps find my hope of a bloodless transformation Utopian, I feel it is our moral duty--to use a corny phrase--to try to make it through with as few sanguinary repercussions as possible," he said.
Other speakers at the conference were Senator Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.); Clement Bejold, director of the Alternative Futures at Antioch College; Frank Keefe, director for State Planning of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts: and Peter L. Szanton '52, associate director for Organization Studies, Office of Management and Budget.
Sarbanes said he didn't think society was going through such tumultous changes.
"I'm tired of everybody talking about all these crises. People throw that word around too much. Sure we have problems, but these are modern and can be overcome. Everybody's talking about the good ol' days, but these days aren't so bad themselves," he said.
In response, Toffler said, "You may be underestimating this feeling of dissatisfaction with our political and social system. People are not stupid, nor are they complacent.
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