What books have influenced you?

Written by Jim Walsh

If you ask yourself that question the answer may come quickly or it might take a little thought.

I was prompted to ask the question while reading a recent Sunday Times tech magazine.  It covered some of the rapid changes, particularly in terms of communication that have engulfed our lives in the past 20 years.

The extraordinary changes in society over those years are incomprehensible to those born in the 90s or even the 80s.

Changes, which took place in people’s lives in the 60s and 70s, seemed momentous at the time but now look pedestrian when compared with the changes since the turn of the century. Today there are over 2million emails sent every second and a message sent between two people with iPhones in London travels 8,000 miles across the Atlantic and back in a second or two from the time the send button is pressed until the message lands in the receiver’s inbox.

But to return to the question posed at the beginning about what books influenced you. Reading the Sunday Times magazine reminded me of a book that exhilarated and confused me when I first read it. It was called Future Shock by Alvin Toffler.  It was published first in 1970 and predicted many of the technological changes that we see today.  He also got a lot wrong including the prediction that the drive to produce disposable goods would lead us to wearing paper clothes.

But Toffler’s main thesis set out a challenging vision of a society being torn apart by the premature arrival of the future. Toffler argued that the increased pace of change would cause a shock to people’s lives and that many would be unable to cope.  I am not sure that prediction was entirely fulfilled. We humans have proved many times in our history that we are more resilient than we might think.

Future Shock introduced me to the concept that change is constant.  That has been a liberating thought throughout my life. Despite Toffler’s view my experience is that embracing the concept of permanent change can be a steadying rather than a disruptive influence.

It is very true in the PR world where a willingness to embrace change is an essential attribute.

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