In the first of a series of blogs business editor Tom Herbert explores the long-predicted phenomenon known as ‘future shock’.
Predicting the future is like trying to drive down a country road at night with no lights while looking out of the back window, according to author and management consultant Peter Drucker.
However, for ‘futurologist’ Ray Hammond it’s all in a day’s work. He has been predicting the future for the past 30 years, and while he has correctly called things as diverse as the internet, genetic cloning and military drones, Hammond is the first to admit that he has got a few things wrong along the way.
Speaking at Oracle’s Modern Business Experience, Hammond confessed that perhaps his biggest failure was to confidently hail the end of cash in society by the year 2000.
“I was looking at technology, not people”, said Hammond. “I underestimated how incredibly conservative people are when it comes to money. It’s almost as if they suspect that money doesn’t exist…”
One of the key planks of Hammond’s talk rested on ‘future shock’. The term refers to a best-selling book written by fellow futurist Alvin Toffler in 1970. Toffler defines the term as a psychological state of both individuals and societies; the easiest way to describe this is “too much change in too short a period of time”.
According to Tofler, in the early part of the 21st Century humans would begin to feel a dislocation at the speed of events and the rapid development of technology.
Hammond believes that the recent political decisions made in both Europe and the US are future shock becoming manifest – people almost fighting back against impact of globalisation and technology.
“It’s not really to do with unemployment or living standards, which are both at high levels,” said Hammond. “It’s more to do with a feeling that the world has left you behind – a feeling that will only become exacerbated in the next few years”.
Clinging on by my fingertips
As a 37-year-old who submitted handwritten essays in my first year at university and researched my final year dissertation on the then new-fangled internet, I’m somewhat in no man’s land between the digital natives and the baby boomers.
I enjoy the benefits technology brings, but often feel I’m clinging on by my fingertips. And I’m filled with nothing but a deep sense of foreboding when my smartphone contract expires and I’m invited to swap it for a new model.
Making Tax Digital
Sorry, sorry. I had to get MTD in here somewhere - it's part of my contract. One of the curious things about covering this unwieldy and mysterious beast of a tax project is the huge assortment of opinion available on the topic. I didn’t get Ray Hammond’s view on the digital tax account, but he or his followers might say those complaining so adamantly about the move are suffering from future shock. However, one of the many counter arguments could run something like ‘change for change’s sake doesn’t always equal progress’.
It’s also ironic that here on AccountingWEB (and all around the financial press) we pen breathless pieces about how software, machine learning and AI will free up accountants to focus on ‘higher level’ activities, while today tech site Wired showcased the news-writing bots quietly taking our jobs.
I reckon we’ve got about five years before they come for us journalists, and let me be the first to welcome our new robot editor overlords… Perhaps they’ll have better luck driving down that country road?