FUTURE SHOCK: Environment is Changing Too Fast for the Human Mind


Scientific American’s 1913 “Future Car” (available in 1933)

We are currently suffering from too much change in too short a period of time, according to an English specialist quoted at length in the New York TimesIn particular, people are experiencing “mind failure” due to rapid changes in the business environment — the presence of all sorts of ingenious filing systems in which information is stored in filing cabinets and in memoranda, and the practice of business leaders hiring people to remember information for them.

According to the specialist, this mind failure

is largely due to the unnatural swiftness with which our environment is changing.  The most valuable faculty man has is the unconscious memory — the faculty which does for him what he calls instinctive things. . .  So long as the changes were natural changes and, therefore, slow and measured, the faculty of unconscious memory was able to keep up with them.  As soon as man became capable of doing almost anything he liked with his environment he began to move things outside of him too fast, and the faculty was unable to respond quickly enough.   . . . External things do not change one at a time now, but in dozens . . . .  [I]f external changes prove too sudden and too numerous, that part of the mental machine which deals with them stops through sheer congestion and strain.

Fascinating. The specialist ought to come up with a catchy name for this thesis, write a book about it, and possibly even encourage an actor with an impressive-sounding voice, suited for one of those newfangled talking moving pictures, to do a moving picture on it.

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