Our future in our past

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Our future in our past


There are a billion computer users around the world working on more than 800 million computers. They generate and exchange an enormous amount of information, resulting in an astronomical amount of new knowledge, both vital and unnecessary. Futurist Alvin Toffler took a conceptual approach to this phenomenon, calling it the “obsoledge trap.” He first used the term obsoledge, a portmanteau of “obsolete” and “knowledge,” in his book “Revolutionary Wealth.” Every piece of knowledge has a limited lifespan, and the useless knowledge that pours in is the obsoledge.

Toffler wrote that we are overloaded with information, and the more we have, the further we get from the truth. He argues that wealth will be determined by the ability to find the truth amid the obsoledge.

Even in the information age, relative values coexist. You may feel that the boundary of information is limitless in cyberspace, but it often brings more harm than good. With the mad cow scare and the Cheonan incident we have witnessed harmful ideas spread by people with biased ideology and no scientific knowledge. In addition, the speculation about the academic background of rapper Tablo revealed a baseless capacity for cruelty.

There is an inauspicious prediction that this trend is not likely to cease. In predictions made by Toffler Associates - a management consulting company - about politics, technology, society, the economy and the environment, our battle with obsoledge is not yet over. Because many of Toffler’s predictions have come true, we cannot ignore this most recent forecast for our future. Toffler has predicted power shifts, the digital revolution and the information age.

At this juncture, the best thing we can do is improve our judgment and prepare for what’s to come. A frog trapped in a well cannot discuss the wide ocean, and a grasshopper that only lives through the summer cannot understand the nature of ice. We all live trapped in space and time, limited by the knowledge we currently have.

The road to the future should come from the past. Our ancestors knew that the past is not like running water that just flows by. They said that the things that pass us by are bound to return once again in the future. We can learn new things by practicing and reviewing what has already happened because history repeats itself. Autumn has arrived, and it is the best season for understanding how things pass away and then return.

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Ko Dae-hoon
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