12/27/2012 11:59 am ET Updated Feb 25, 2013

3-D Pizza Printer and the Present Shock

A couple of weeks ago I wrote up the following fake news story (just for kicks):

3-D Pizza Printer

Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Pizza Hut (PH) are rumored to have partnered to develop the first ever 3-D pizza printer. The HP/PH Pizza Printer (HP/PH-PP) is positioned to revolutionize pizza delivery. A prospective HP/PH-PP owner will have the option of subscribing to a monthly supply of "ingredient cartridges" and to an online feed of downloadable recipes. For added convenience, the accompanying mobile app would allow the consumer to print out pizzas wirelessly, for example, on the way home from work.

And Then...

And then, in the January 2013 issue of Popular Science (which arrived in December, by the way), I read that a company called Modern Meadow "is working on a device that prints edible meat."


The first book I read in English (not without much difficulty!) was Alvin Toffler's Future Shock. The book is about "too much change in too short a period of time." I loved it. It took me about a year to plow through it with an English-Russian dictionary. It was quite an education -- in English and in the future.

Yet here I am, in this exponentially-accelerated future, and I am comfortably unshocked. Just a few weeks ago I penned this bit of silliness about a 3-D pizza printer, and a few days later I am reading about "devices" that print meat.

The reality always seems to be ahead of itself: January 2013 issue of Popular Science arrives in early December, Christmas shopping begins the day after Thanksgiving, and all that jazz. And yet I am (and, I presume, you are) unshocked...

20 Years Ago

Twenty years ago, when I came to this country (from Russia), I wasn't shocked. Neither was my mom when 10 years later she too immigrated to the U.S. and walked into WalMart. "What in the world is all this stuff?!" she asked, and added, "And how is it that I've been able to live my entire life just fine not knowing what any of this sh#t is for?!" So here she was, introduced to an entire universe of unknown (futuristic, from her perspective) goods and she was... unshocked.

Alvin Toffler's notion that we were going to burn out because of the accelerating pace of progress doesn't seem to be the case, at least not in my experience of this world. As I sit in the therapy room and watch my clients, year after year, silence their ever-upgraded mobile interfaces, I hear no particular "future shock" as a presenting problem.

I've given this a moment of thought and came up with the following: It's the "past shock" that we have to worry about. Try checking your email on your old (slower) laptop to know what I mean! Try switching from your modern-day toilet to a hole-in-the-ground squat toilet to know what I mean! Try waiting on a cassette tape to blindly search for your favorite song to know what I mean! It's going back that seems to really shock us, not going forward.

20 Years Ahead

On average (and I am just ballparking), human mind is about 20 years ahead of reality. And this is both a problem and a solution. By thinking ahead, we inoculate ourselves to change. And by thinking ahead, we escape the most jarring kind of shock of them all -- the present shock, the shock of being here now, the shock of non-doing, the shock of just being.

20 Years On Time

Mind only approximates reality (in an asymptote of pseudo-knowledge). While we think ahead, reality keeps converting future into past. And then one day, we awaken to this incessant impermanence of our existence and first, feel shocked, and then, if we stay in the present long enough, we start to fall out of love with what could have been and with what still could be and begin to fall in love with what still is.

May you live your next 20 years on time!


Popular Science, January 2013 issue, Clone Wars, p. 30.