Alvin Toffler was an American writer, who wrote on futurism related to communication, digitalization and corporate growth. He was known to be the ‘world’s most famous futurologists’ and is considered as an important influence in shaping of the modern China. He started as being an associate editor at the ‘Fortune’ magazine and did analysis for them in the field of business and management. Before that, he devoted some of his youth in working at the labor’s level and then became a labor columnist, shared his experience and analysis on the working class. His earlier writings focused on the expansion of technology and its impact on the society which got him research works form companies like IBM and AT & T. Toffler from there on wrote books like ‘Future Shock’, ‘The Third Wave’, etc. in which he addressed the problems of information overload, increasing military hardware, weapons and technology proliferation, and capitalism. Owing to his impeccable understanding of the future impact of the current revolutionary technological changes, he was a member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, serves on the advisory board of the Comptroller-General of the United States, and has been elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He married to Heidi Toffler, who was a futurist and intellectual in her own right and had an active influence on Toffler’s professional growth.
Childhood & Early Life
Alvin Toffler was born on 4 October 1928, in New York City and went to the New York University where he studied English literature and met his future wife Heidi. They both were radical thinkers and belonged to the Left Wing ideology.
They left the university together and relocated to the Midwest of the United States, working the blue-collar jobs on the assembly line. After five years, Heidi became a union shop steward and he became a millwright and welder.
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After working as a manual laborer for some time, Toffler got a job in the Washington office of a Union sponsored paper. He used to write on the political affairs of American Congress and the White House for a Pennsylvanian daily.
He worked three years for the Pennsylvanian daily and then moved to New York City to work as a labor columnist for the ‘Fortune’ magazine. He was later asked to write on the topics of business and management.
Thereafter, Toffler left ‘Fortune’ and joined IBM and was asked to write an essay on how computers have changed society and organizations. While working on this essay, he came in contact with many original theorists on artificial intelligence.
Xerox also asked Toffler to write analysis on its research laboratory and AT & T. His study revealed that that company should have broken up more than a decade before the government forced it to break down.
In 1970, Toffler wrote his first book called ‘Future Shock’. In this book he explained the psychological changes that come from ‘too much change in too short period of time’. The book was an international bestseller.
After ‘Future Shock’ his second big book ‘The Third Wave’ came out. It was a sequel to the ‘Future Shock’ and talked about the transition in the developed countries from Industrial Age to Information Age.
In 1983, Toffler got one of his essays ‘Previews and Premises: A Penetrating Conversation About Jobs, Identity, Sex Roles, the New Politics of the Information Age and the Hidden Forces Driving the Economy’ published .
Tofflers’ ‘Powershift: Knowledge, Wealth and Violence at the Edge of the 21st Century’ was published in 1990. It was the third book in his ‘futurist’ trilogy. Around the same time, he wrote ‘War and Anti-War: Making Sense of Today’s Global Chaos’.
Toffler co-founded ‘Toffler Associates’ along with Tom Johnson in 1996. It is an advisory firm that executes the ideas that Toffler has written on. The firm worked with organizations in the US, South Korea, Mexico, Australia, etc.
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In 2006, he published ‘Revolutionary Wealth: How it will be created and how it will change our lives’, a book that expands on the ideas of the ‘Third Wave’. It talks about how in the future the wealth will be created and who will get it.
Personal Life & Legacy
He met his wife Heidi Toffler, also a futurist writer, at the New York University in 1928 and got married to her right after that. They both have a child, Karen Toffler, who died some time back after suffering from Guillain Barre Syndrome.
Alvin Toffler died on June 27, 2016, at his home in Los Angeles.
He is known to be the third most significant business leader after Bill Gates and Peter Drucker by ‘Accenture’, the management consultancy firm.
He has been called the ‘world’s most famous futurologist’ by Financial Times and is known to have been amongst the most important influences in shaping modern China.
He is the recipient of the McKinsey Foundation Book Award for Contributions to Management Literature.
He has the visiting scholar position from the Russell Sage Foundation.
He also received the prestigious Officer de L’Ordre des Arts et Letters.
Heidi Toffler, Toffler’s wife, is on the advisory council of the Center for Global Communications in Tokyo and the scientific committee of the Piu Manzu Foundation in Italy.
Both husband and wife are honorary Co-Chairs of the U.S. Committee for the United Nations Development Fund for Women.