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August 1 2020
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Futurist and author Alvin Toffler on Fifth Avenue, in New York City, 1974.

In the summer of 1970 Gary Small was getting ready to begin his studies at the University of California, Los Angeles when he read a book that blew him away. “It seemed like the bridge between science and science fiction,” said Dr Small, now 68 and an eminent neuroscientist and authority on the intersection of technology and the human brain.

The book, published 50 years ago this week, was Future Shock, by Alvin Toffler, written with his wife and intellectual partner, Heidi. It popularized the phrase “information overload” and predicted a “roaring” acceleration of technological and social change that would overwhelm human beings’ capacity to cope, leading to mass disorientation and collective anxiety akin to experiencing severe culture shock.

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