Learning how to learn

The year was 1970–44 years ago–and the ideas were new and mostly unfamiliar.
I remember well how much I didn’t want to hear them. But by that time, I believed them anyway.
In “Future Shock,” Alvin Toffler proclaimed that the only constant in the future would be change. Our friend, Herman, had insisted five years earlier that the most important thing our young children would have to learn would be how to cope with change.
At the time, I knew the world was changing rapidly; but I still didn’t want to believe Herman’s pronouncement.
But by 1970, the digital age had become a reality. That year, my husband was finishing his Ph.D. in sociology and was using a computer to process the data for his dissertation.
A graduate student, he had to sign up to use the computer and often had to work in the wee hours of the night. One computer served the whole university—and that computer filled a whole room.
I knew the world was changing. But how could I have ever imagined that in my lifetime, I would be able to hold a computer—faster and more powerful than that 1970 computer—in the palm of my hand!
While I remember the impact that “Future Shock” had on me, I don’t remember many details of the book. But one thing I do remember. Toffler said that if the pace of change gets too painful, just hang on to something–even an old car.
I’ve followed that advice ever since the book came out by refusing to give up our out-of-style red plaid kitchen clock. A familiar object–a 1954 wedding gift.
It’s important to hang on to the old. But at the same time, we have to be ready to change. The “information society,” which replaced the “industrial society,” is here to stay!
In “Future Shock,” Toffler said, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”
That means change!
The world was ready for Toffler’s ideas in 1970, and “futurology” and “futurists” became part of the fabric of worldwide society.
Futurists are people who predict the future based on present trends. Toffler was not the first futurist, or the last, but his title and content somehow caught on and more than 70 million copies of his book have been sold.
In his 1982 book, “Megatrends: Ten New Directions Transforming Our Lives,” futurist John Naisbitt corroborated and built on Toffler’s ideas. Naisbitt said that, in a world that’s constantly changing, there is no one skill that will serve you for life, except this one skill: “learning how to learn.”
In our lifetime, technology has exploded. We each need to decide what to learn and what to leave alone.
And if the pace of change begins to overwhelm you, follow Toffler’s advice and hang on to something–even an old cellphone.
Just remember to stay open to new things, and keep learning and adapting.
Then, retaining the freedom to choose, throw yourself into this culture of change and enjoy the ride. As Naisbitt writes in the final line of “Megatrends,” “What a fantastic time to be alive!”
Marie Snider is an award-winning health writer and syndicated columnist.
Write her at thisside60@cox.net