The 800th Lifetime

One of the most striking statements of this theme has come from Kenneth Boulding, an eminent economist and imaginative social thinker. In justifying his view that the present moment represents a crucial turning point in human history, Boulding observes that ‘as far as many statistical series related to activities of mankind are concerned, the date that divides human history into two equal parts is well within living memory.’ In effect, our century represents The Great Median Strip running down the center of human history. Thus he asserts, ‘The world of today…is as different from the world in which I was born as that world was from Julius Caesar’s. I was born in the middle of human history, to date, roughly. Almost as much has happened since I was born as happened before.’

This startling statement can be illustrated in a number of ways. It has been observed, for example, that if the last 50,000 years of man’s existence were divided into lifetimes of approximately sixty-two years each, there have been about 800 such lifetimes. Of these 800, fully 650 were spent in caves.

Only during the last seventy lifetimes has it been possible to communicate effectively from one lifetime to another—as writing made it possible to do. Only during the last six lifetimes did masses of men ever see a printed word. Only during the last four has it been possible to measure time with any precision. Only in the last two has anyone anywhere used an electric motor. And the overwhelming majority of all the material goods we use in daily life today have been developed within the present, the 800th, lifetime.

Future Shock, Alvin Toffler

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