Alvin Toffler

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Alvin Toffler
Alvin Toffler 02.jpg
Alvin Toffler (2006)
Born (1928-10-04) October 4, 1928 (age 93)
New York City[1]
Residence Los Angeles, California
Nationality United States
Education Multiple honorary doctorates
Alma mater New York University (BA)
Occupation Futurist, journalist, writer
Known for Future Shock,
The Third Wave, Powershift
Board member of International Institute for Strategic Studies
Spouse(s) Adelaide Elizabeth "Heidi" (Farrell) Toffler[2]
Children Karen Toffler
Awards McKinsey Foundation Book Award for Contributions to Management Literature,
Officier de L’Ordre des Arts et Lettres

Alvin Toffler (born October 4, 1928) is an American writer and futurist, known for his works discussing the digital revolution, communication revolution and technological singularity.

Toffler is a former associate editor of Fortune magazine. In his early works he focused on technology and its impact through effects like information overload. He moved on to examining the reaction to changes in society. His later focus has been on the increasing power of 21st-century military hardware, the proliferation of new technologies, and capitalism.

He founded Toffler Associates, a management consulting company, and was a visiting scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation, visiting professor at Cornell University, faculty member of the New School for Social Research, a White House correspondent, an editor of Fortune magazine, and a business consultant.[4]

Toffler is married to Heidi Toffler, also a writer and futurist. They live in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles, California, just north of Sunset Boulevard.

The couple’s only child, Karen Toffler, (1954–2000), died at the age of 46 after more than a decade suffering from Guillain–Barré syndrome.[5][6]

Early life and career

Alvin Toffler was born in 1928 in New York City, the son of Rose (Albaum) and Sam Toffler.[2] His family was Jewish. He met his future wife, Adelaide Elizabeth Farrell (now known as Heidi Toffler), at New York University where he was an English major and she was starting a graduate course in linguistics. Being radical students, they decided against further graduate work, moved to the Midwestern United States, and married, spending the next five years as blue-collar workers on assembly lines while studying industrial mass production in their daily work. Heidi became a union shop steward in the aluminum foundry where she worked. Alvin became a millwright and welder.[7]

Their hands-on practical labor experience got Toffler a position on a union-backed newspaper, a transfer to its Washington bureau, then three years as a White House Correspondent covering Congress and the White House for a Pennsylvania daily. Meanwhile, his wife worked at a specialized library for business and behavioral science.[7]

They returned to New York City when Fortune magazine invited Alvin to become its labor columnist, later having him write about business and management.[7]

After leaving Fortune magazine, Alvin Toffler was hired by IBM to do research and write a paper on the social and organizational impact of computers, leading to his contact with the earliest computer "gurus" and artificial intelligence researchers and proponents. Xerox invited him to write about its research laboratory and AT&T consulted him for strategic advice. This AT&T work led to a study of telecommunications which advised its top management for the company to break up more than a decade before the government forced AT&T to break up.[7]

In the mid-’60s, the Tofflers began work on what would later become Future Shock.[7]

In 1996, with Tom Johnson, an American business consultant, they co-founded Toffler Associates, an advisory firm designed to implement many of the ideas the Tofflers had written on. The firm worked with businesses, NGOs, and governments in the U.S., South Korea, Mexico, Brazil, Singapore, Australia, and other countries.[7]

His ideas

Toffler explains, "Society needs people who take care of the elderly and who know how to be compassionate and honest. Society needs people who work in hospitals. Society needs all kinds of skills that are not just cognitive; they’re emotional, they’re affectional. You can’t run the society on data and computers alone."[8] Toffler is also frequently cited as stating: "Tomorrow's illiterate will not be the man who can't read; he will be the man who has not learned how to unlearn." The words came from Herbert Gerjuoy, whom Toffler cites in full as follows: "The new education must teach the individual how to classify and reclassify information, how to evaluate its veracity, how to change categories when necessary, how to move from the concrete to the abstract and back, how to look at problems from a new direction — how to teach himself."[9]

In his book The Third Wave, Toffler describes three types of societies, based on the concept of "waves"—each wave pushes the older societies and cultures aside.

In this post-industrial society, there is a wide diversity of lifestyles ("subcultures"). Adhocracies (fluid organizations) adapt quickly to changes. Information can substitute most of the material resources (see ersatz) and becomes the main material for workers (cognitarians instead of proletarians), who are loosely affiliated. Mass customization offers the possibility of cheap, personalized, production catering to small niches (see just-in-time production).

The gap between producer and consumer is bridged by technology using a so-called configuration system. "Prosumers" can fill their own needs (see open source, assembly kit, freelance work). This was the notion that new technologies are enabling the radical fusion of the producer and consumer into the prosumer. In some cases, prosuming entails a "third job" where the corporation "outsources" its labor not to other countries, but to the unpaid consumer, such as when we do our own banking through an ATM instead of a teller that the bank must employ, or trace our own postal packages on the Internet instead of relying on a paid clerk.

Since the 1960s, people have been trying to make sense out of the impact of new technologies and social change. Toffler's writings have been influential beyond the confines of scientific, economic, and public policy discussions. Techno music pioneer Juan Atkins cites Toffler's phrase "techno rebels" in The Third Wave as inspiring him to use the word "techno" to describe the musical style he helped to create[10] Toffler’s works and ideas have been subject to various criticisms, usually with the same argumentation used against futurology: that foreseeing the future is nigh impossible. In the 1990s, his ideas were publicly lauded by Newt Gingrich.

The development Toffler believes may go down as this era’s greatest turning point is the creation of wealth in outer space. Wealth today, he argues, is created everywhere (globalisation), nowhere (cyberspace), and out there (outer space). Global positioning satellites are key to synchronising precision time and data streams for everything from cellphone calls to ATM withdrawals. They allow just-in-time (JIT) productivity because of precise tracking. GPS is also becoming central to air traffic control. And satellites increase agricultural productivity through tracking weather, enabling more accurate forecasts.

Critical assesment

Accenture, the management consultancy firm, dubbed Toffler[when?] the third-most influential voice among business leaders, after Bill Gates and Peter Drucker. The 2002 Accenture list of Top 50 business intellectuals ranked him eighth.[11] Toffler has also been described in a Financial Times interview as the "world’s most famous futurologist".[12] In 2006 the People's Daily classed him among the 50 foreigners who shaped modern China.[13][14] Author Mark Satin characterizes Toffler as an important early influence on radical centrist political thought.[15]

Selected awards

He is the recipient of several prestigious prizes, including the McKinsey Foundation Book Award for Contributions to Management Literature, Officier de L’Ordre des Arts et Lettres, and appointments, including Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the International Institute for Strategic Studies.[4]

In late 2006, the Tofflers were recipients of Brown University’s Independent Award.[16]


Alvin Toffler co-wrote his books with his wife Heidi.

See also


  1. The European Graduate School. "ALVIN TOFFLER - BIOGRAPHY". Retrieved January 7, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Who's who in U.S. Writers, Editors & Poets".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "alvin + heidi toffler {futurists}".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 “Alvin Toffler Speaker Biography”Milken Institute, 2003.
  5. "Paid Notice: Deaths TOFFLER, KAREN". New York Times. July 11, 2000.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Karen Toffler-1985". Flickr - Photo Sharing!.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 “Alvin and Heidi Toffler: Partnership—Toffler website
  8. Alvin Toffler interviewed by Norman Swann, Australian Broadcasting Corporation Radio National, "Life Matters,” March 5, 1998.
  9. Toffler, Alvin (1970). Future Shock. New York: Random House. p. 367.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Ferguson, Benjamin (June 15, 2010). "Label of love: Metroplex". The Guardian.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Accenture Study Yields Top 50 'Business Intellectuals' Ranking of Top Thinkers and Writers on Management Topics". Accenture. May 22, 2002. Archived from the original on March 15, 2006. Retrieved January 7, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Lunch with the FT: He has seen the future". Financial Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "0 foreigners shaping China's modern development". People's Daily. Retrieved September 4, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "alvin + heidi toffler {futurists} :: Bios". Archived from the original on December 20, 2006.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Satin, Mark (2004). Radical Middle: The Politics We Need Now. Westview Press and Basic Books, p. 30. ISBN 978-0-8133-4190-3.
  16. Bios and Affiliations—Toffler website

External links