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Surviving the Future and the Role of Science Fiction

Future ShockChange is not constant. It is increasing. Through technological innovation and scientific discovery, we are populating a planet that becomes less and less recognizable each day. This will likely have many benefits—for instance, the possibility of immortality and augmented abilities—but also many potential pitfalls.

In Future Shock, Alvin Toffler details the uncertainty brought forth through these changes.

“To survive, to avert what we have termed future shock, the individual must become infinitely more adaptable and capable than ever before. We must search out totally new ways to anchor ourselves, for all the old roots – religion, nation, community, family, or profession – are now shaking under the hurricane impact of the accelerative thrust. It is no longer resources that limit decisions, it is the decision that makes the resources.”

Toffler also describes the unique and under-appreciated role that science fiction has in preparing and also predicting the future.

“Science fiction is held in low regard as a branch of literature, and perhaps it deserves this critical contempt. But if we view it as a kind of sociology of the future, rather than as literature, science fiction has immense value as a mind-stretching force for the creation of the habit of anticipation. Our children should be studying Arthur C. Clarke, William Tenn, Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury and Robert Sheckley, not because these writers can tell them about rocket ships and time machines but, more important, because they can lead young minds through an imaginative exploration of the jungle of political, social, psychological, and ethical issues that will confront these children as adults.”

Though-provoking in its entirety, Future Shock is well worth the read.

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