The Information Age: (1) Future Shock

John A.  Zachman
John A. Zachman Chief Executive Officer, Zachman International Read Author Bio || Read All Articles by John A. Zachman

Here is a little context around the Information Age.  In the interest of time and space, I will try to be brief but there is a key point I have to make.  Having made this observation, I will limit my comments about the Information Age to some well-known works by Alvin Toffler, and I will break this column into three separate parts based on the following:

"FUTURE SHOCK" (1970) — THE RATE OF CHANGE.

"THE THIRD WAVE" (1980) — THE STRUCTURE OF CHANGE.

"POWERSHIFT" (1990) — THE CULTURE OF CHANGE.

                                                                                  ~ ALVIN TOFFLER

Alvin Toffler is a well-known name, certainly in the academic community.  He is a sociological prognosticator, a futurist, and has written a lot of books.  The ones that I refer to above are the ones he wrote that have to do with change.

Future Shock

The first book he wrote about change is "Future Shock" in which he observed that "'Knowledge is change — and accelerating knowledge-acquisition, fueling the great engine of technology, means accelerating change."

He observed that the body of knowledge in this generation (1970) had increased such that it exceeds the total body of knowledge of all the generations of the past!

In a phone conversation with my friend, Roger Greer, he observed that the body of knowledge in 1993 was doubling every six years and that by 2023, it will be doubling every six months!

Another friend of mine ran across an academic, Dr. Nick Bontis of McMaster University, who observed that

"In the 1930s the cumulative codified knowledge base of the world doubled every 30 years...
"In the 1970s the cumulative codified knowledge base of the world doubled every 7 years ...
"By the year 2010, the cumulative codified knowledge base of the world will double every eleven hours!"

The basic idea in "Future Shock" is that when the changes are coming faster than they can be assimilated, you go into "future shock" ... you go catatonic ... you just give up.

I went into "future shock" a few years ago myself ... because of email!  The email was coming so fast I just gave up.  I have several thousand email messages out there that I haven't read yet!  Maybe some of my family died or something ... I don't know.  But, I keep trying to catch up ... but you never get a vacation!!  It just keeps coming!

One thing we know about the Information Age is, the rate of change is escalating ... and it is escalating dramatically.  Not many people take exception to this anymore ... it is no longer simply a corporate problem.  It has become a personal problem!

In my next two pieces I'll do some writing on "The Third Wave" and "Powershift."

This article can also be viewed on John's blog — presented here, with permission.

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Standard citation for this article:


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John A. Zachman , "The Information Age: (1) Future Shock" Business Rules Journal Vol. 17, No. 1, (Jan. 2016)
URL: http://www.brcommunity.com/a2016/b845.html

About our Contributor:


John  A. Zachman
John A. Zachman Chief Executive Officer, Zachman International

John Zachman is the originator of the "Framework for Enterprise Architecture" (The Zachman Framework) which has received broad acceptance around the world as an integrative framework, an ontology for descriptive representations of Enterprises. Mr. Zachman is not only known for this work on Enterprise Architecture, but is also known for his early contributions to IBM's Information Strategy methodology (Business Systems Planning) as well as to their Executive team planning techniques (Intensive Planning).

Mr. Zachman retired from IBM in 1990, having served them for 26 years. He is Chief Executive Officer of his own education and consulting business, Zachman International® and Owner and Executive Director of the Federated Enterprise Architecture Certification Institute in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Zachman has been focusing on Enterprise Architecture since 1970 and has written extensively on the subject. He has directed innumerable executive team planning sessions. He travels nationally and internationally, teaching and consulting, and is a popular conference speaker, known for his motivating messages on Enterprise Architecture issues. He has spoken to many thousands of enterprise managers and information professionals on every continent.

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