May 2012 issue

Date:1 May 2012 Tags:, , , ,

Welcome to the future. Prepare for some interesting shocks.

Way back in 1970, futurist Alvin Toffler argued that the accelerated rate of technological and social change accompanying society’s transition to a “super-industrial society” was leaving people disconnected, and suffering from stress and disorientation. In his eponymous, best-selling book, he defined “future shock” as a personal perception of too much change in too short a period of time. Interestingly, he popularised the term “information overload” long before the arrival of the Internet.

Where does this leave us? Are we vastly better informed than our parents*, or are we ““ as technophobes and especially jaundiced sceptics would have it ““ no better than aggregators of irrelevant and inconsequential scraps? Are we overwhelmed by a tsunami of information that shows no sign of letting up? If so, are we ignoring telltale cracks in our collective psyche?

It’s all about choice, really, and if we take a little care, we won’t lose the plot. Most of the information we want or need is out there; it’s up to us to locate, filter, verify and use it to our best advantage. To simplify the process, it makes sense to identify a like-minded person or organisation to do the hard work for you ““ Popular Mechanics, for example.

We do our best to provide a compelling mix of content spanning a broad range of interests ““ as spelled out by you in our regular audience surveys ““ and deliver that content across multiple channels. We cannot possibly give you everything you want, but at least we can steer you in the right direction.

Some examples: in this month’s issue, we offer distinctly useful advice on freeing up computer disc space, comment on music piracy (yes, it remains ethically unsound) and tell you how to digitise your old home movies. Our cover story describes a huge aircraft, developed under a veil of secrecy, that’s destined to launch a two-stage rocket into orbit (read about the Stratolaunch project, starting on page 20). Will this change your life? Possibly not, at least in the immediate future. Do you need to know about it? Damn right you do.

In keeping with our policy of surprising (and hopefully, impressing) PM readers at every opportunity, we present a short essay on sexual conflict theory by David Buss, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas. Here’s an extract: “Conversely, women sometimes present themselves as costless sexual opportunities, and then intercalate themselves into a man’s mating mind to such a profound degree that he wakes up one morning and suddenly realises that he can’t live without her ““ one version of the “˜bait and switch’ tactic in women’s evolved arsenal.”

Does this sort of thing belong in the pages of Popular Mechanics? Hey, it’s anthropology; of course it does.

Calling all inventors ““ again
We are about to call for entries into the 2012 Popular Mechanics Inventor of the Year competition, so if you have an invention that deserves attention, now’s the time to get your act together. In the coming weeks and months, we’ll be providing details of the rules, categories, entry and other essential information, including an announcement about big prize money. See page 60 of Pm’s May 2012 issue.

* Are we indeed better informed than our parents? Yes.