Sweeping cultural transformations sometimes accompany the kinds of technological changes and institutional innovations, including the founding of the Rensselaer School, that happened in Troy in the 19th century. Such transformations do not occur solely in the machines we use and in the structures we inhabit. They also occur inside the heads of people, often first among those who participate in making the transformations happen, and eventually throughout society. At least since Alvin Toffler's Future Shock, for example, today's Silicon Valley enthusiasts have been excitedly reporting to the rest of us that the world that middle-class Americans have until recently found familiar—regular workweeks, lifetime careers with one employer, single-family homes, locally owned hardware stores and bookstores, cash in one's pocket—is being swept aside by a global, wired political economy replete with flextime, telecommuting, downsizing, job-hopping, edge cities, nomadic lifestyles, NAFTA, Lands End catalogs, Amazon.com, and smart debit cards. Quoting Dorothy's famous remark to Toto that "we're not in Kansas any more," such enthusiasts assure us, with considerable justification, that today's Tomorrowland will be an exotic, foreign country.

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