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WORLD FOCUS: Living with future shock

December 29, 2016
By FRANK SHATZ , Lake Placid News

My cell phone rang recently and there was a text message from a friend 700 miles away saying that Linda had died.

For years, she was our picnic-table companion during the summer months at the John Brown Farm, a New York State Historic Site in the town of North Elba.

The news saddened us greatly. In older times, the information would have reached us in a much slower pace, and may have lessened the shock. Alas, nowadays there is no letup in being the recipient of news events happening around the world the instant it is taking place.

Especially, if you are a news junkie as I am who subscribes to online editions of newspapers like The New York Times, Washington Post, Daily Press, Virginia Gazette, Lake Placid News and some periodicals. Thus, the news of Linda's death was followed by a flash report about an Islamic State-inspired attack in Nice, France, on the French Riviera, that killed 84 people and wounded more than 200.

Mohamed Bouhlel, a native of Tunisia, radicalized by ISIS, drove a truck into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day on Promenade des Anglais, a boulevard along the Mediterranean Sea. In the past, during our vacations on the French Riviera, my wife and I often had our afternoon coffee at the sidewalk cafe of Hotel Le Negresco, a stone's throw away from where people died. It makes you think, "There, for the grace of God, go I."

The dispatch from Nice was soon fused with reports about the killings of two black men by the police, one in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the other in Minnesota. It didn't take long before reports of retaliatory killings of police officers in several cities across the country, reached us.

Turmoil in the word that included an attempted military coup in Turkey, a member of NATO, and an important ally of the United States, dominated the airwaves for a while. This was mixed with reports of a series of suicide bombing in Baghdad and Kabul. And just as for the past four years, we had our daily doses of carnage in Syria, and the videos of refugees downing in the Mediterranean Sea, while fleeing their homelands. All this and much more that we encounter in our daily lives validates Alvin Toffler's analysis of the impact the rapid pace of change has on human beings.

In his book, "Future Shock," published in 1970, Toffler, who recently died at age 87, predicted that the Information Age that started in the 1950s will bring on too much change in a too short a period of time. He warned of the danger of "informational tsunamis to come and the dizzying disorientation brought on by the premature arrival of the future."

He had forecast that humans would be overwhelmed by the pace of change in everything from technology to politics, to the instant reporting of the news from around the world.

In his book, he described society's development as a series of waves, from agricultural revolution, to industrial revolution, to the Information Age. His critics, however, maintained that he was often wrong to foresee human's ability to adapt to the pace of change.

Indeed, people seem to adapt.

In the 1970s, I was sent to Bermuda to report on the presentation of the Queen's Honours. In London, the Honours are presented in June, on the Queen's official birthday. But, in Bermuda, it took place in November.

The honours system was created in 1348, by Edward III. Since then, the awards at British Overseas Territories have been presented by the governor. But, not on the official birthday of the reigning monarch. Instead, it was months later, after the arrival of the sailing ship, that delivered the signed documents.

Nowadays, bowing to the technological age, the Queen's Honours are presented in June in Bermuda.


Frank Shatz's column was reprinted with permission from the Virginia Gazette. Shatz, is a Lake Placid seasonal resident. He is the author of "Reports from a Distant Place," a compilation of his selected columns.



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