“civilization.” Stage 2 began in England with the arrival of the Industrial Revolution. During that period, Toffler pointed to the inventions of machine tools and the steam engine. Stage 3 began in thesecond half of the 20th century with the inventions of automated manufacturing, robotics, and the computer. Stage 3 is also associated with the exponential growth of the service sector. As a result, the need for brain work has increased as the need for manual labor (such as factory work) has decreased.Reference: Fretwell, J. (2015, January 07). The Keys to Student Engagement in the Future Shock Classroom. Retrieved April 28, 2016, from - shock-classroom/ William F. Ogburn Toffler’s perspective is not totally without precedent. Although the prominent sociologist William F. Ogburn died in 1959, his concept of cultural lag is still taken quite seriously by academics. The essence of Ogburn’s theory can be stated simply: Material culture, in the form of technology, progresses much faster than nonmaterial culture. Technological advances outrun adaptive changes in social institutions such as family, governance, religion, and the arts. To quote Ogburn: The “invention of the automobile . . . freed young people from direct parental observation, made it possible for them to work at distances from their homes. . . . Half a century earlier, families still were structured as they were in the era of the family farm when young people were under continuous observation and worked right on the homestead.” Economic systems are more likely than other institutions to be early technological adapters. That’s because advances in the use of robotics on assembly lines and innovations in electronic communications, for example, are directly related to business return on investment. For the most part, corporate culture and reasoned (profit-driven) applications of new technology constitute the engine of material culture. Religious institutions are peculiarly impacted by “future shock.” Advances in the sciences and, thus, in related applied technologies, have a long history of antagonism with organized religion. The Roman Catholic hierarchy continues to oppose technologies related to birth control. Meanwhile, evangelical and fundamentalist “megachurches” are still determined to reject Darwin’s theory of evolution by way of natural selection.
Unintended Consequences Toffler’s insights began an ongoing debate over the extent to which people are overwhelmed by rapid technological advances and what he called information overload. That debate continues, and we will have more to say about it later in this lesson. Meanwhile, scholars like Lenski, White, and Ogburn give us some useful insight into the relationship between technology and societal evolution. However, they fail to address the unintended consequences of high-tech, postindustrial development. This is especially the case respecting social, cultural, and technological progress in an era of the theory of anthropogenic (human caused) climate change and global warming.
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