Old Future Shock Documentary Reflects on Same Pessimistic Fears We Hear about Today

by on January 13, 2011 · 4 comments

Over at the Brain Pickings blog, Maria Popova has posted an amazing 1972 documentary based on Alvin Toffler’s famous 1970 book, Future Shock.  The documentary, like the book, focuses on many of the themes we hear Internet optimists and pessimists debating all the time today:  “information overload,” excessive consumerism, artificial intelligence and robotics, biotechnology, cryonics, the nature of humanity and how technology impacts it, etc, etc.  Again, all the same stuff people are still fighting about today.

Popova correctly notes that “The film, darkly dystopian and oozing techno-paranoia, is a valuable reminder that… societies have always feared new technology but ultimately adapted to it.”  Indeed, at one point in the film we hear, “The future has burst upon us… [but] is technology always desirable?”  And that’s just in reference to the (now-obsolete) supersonic jet transport, or Concorde!  “Changes bombard our nervous systems, clamoring for decisions. New values, new technologies, flood into our lives… Escape from change in today’s society become more and more impossible. But change itself is out of control.”  Geez.. how did we make it past 1972!

The documentary is narrated by Orson Welles, which makes it even more fun.  Welles had a presence that just made everything seem larger than life, and his voice-of-God narration here really added a nice touch to this film.

It’s an absolutely great find.  Here’s the first 10-minute segment from the documentary. Watch all five segments over at Brain Pickings.

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