(born October 3
) is an American writer
, known for his works discussing the digital revolution
, communications revolution
, corporate revolution
and technological singularity
. A former associate editor of Fortune
magazine, his early work focused on technology and its impact (through effects like information overload
). Then he moved to examining the reaction of and changes in society
. His later focus has been on the increasing power of 21st century military hardware, weapons and technology proliferation, and capitalism
. He is married to Heidi Toffler, also a writer and futurist. They live in Los Angeles
. They wrote the books credited to "Alvin Toffler" together.
Accenture, the management consultancy, has dubbed him the third most influential voice among business leaders, after Bill Gates and Peter Drucker. He has also been described in the Financial Times as the "world's most famous futurologist".
People's Daily classes him among the 50 foreigners that shaped modern China.
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 skill that are not just cognitive; they're emotional, they're affectional. You can't run the society on data and computers alone. Toffler also states in, Rethinking the Future, that "The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.
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.
- First Wave is the society after agrarian revolution and replaced the first hunter-gatherer cultures.
- Second Wave is the society during the Industrial Revolution (ca. late 1600s through the mid-1900s). The main components of the Second Wave society are nuclear family, factory-type education system and the corporation. Toffler writes: "The Second Wave Society is industrial and based on mass production, mass distribution, mass consumption, mass education, mass media, mass recreation, mass entertainment, and weapons of mass destruction. You combine those things with standardization, centralization, concentration, and synchronization, and you wind up with a style of organization we call bureaucracy."
- Third Wave is the post-industrial society. Toffler would also add that since late 1950s most countries are moving away from a Second Wave Society into what he would call a Third Wave Society. He coined lots of words to describe it and mentions names invented by him (super-industrial society) and other people (like the Information Age, Space Age, Electronic Era, Global Village, technetronic age, scientific-technological revolution), which to various degrees predicted demassification, diversity, knowledge-based production, and the acceleration of change (one of Toffler’s key maxims is "change is non-linear and can go backwards, forwards and sideways").
In this post-industrial society, there is a lot of diversity in 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.
Aging societies will be using new (medical) technologies from self-diagnosis to instant toilet urinalysis to self-administered therapies delivered by nanotechnology to do for themselves what doctors used to do. This will change the way the whole health industry works.
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 Future Shock as inspiring him to use the word "techno" to describe the musical style he helped to create.
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.
In 1996 Alvin and Heidi Toffler founded Toffler Associates, an executive advisory firm committed to helping commercial firms and government agencies adjust to the changes described in the Tofflers' works.
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 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.
Two major predictions of Toffler's - the paperless office and human cloning - have yet to be realized, not due to technological barriers but to sociological and politico-religious conditions.
Also influenced Timothy Leary (see Info-Psychology; New Falcon Press, 2004)
Alvin Toffler co-wrote his books with his wife Heidi. A few of their well-known works are:
List of political leaders tutored by Alvin and Heidi Toffler
- Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, in 1986 as he was formulating perestroika.
- Zhao Ziyang, the reformist Chinese premier in 1988.
- Most of the Japanese leaders from Hirofumi Nakasone to Junichiro Koizumi. In Japan, he is highly respected by both politicians and business leaders alike.
- Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad, former prime minister of Malaysia
- Abdul Kalam, former President of India
- L. K. Advani, former Deputy Prime Minister of India
- Kim Dae Jung, former South Korean president and the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize recipient
- Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
- Richard Danzig, former Secretary of the Navy