Alvin Toffler (born October 3, 1928) is an American writer and futurist, 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.
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."
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.
- 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 other people, like the Information Age.
In this post-industrial society, there is a lot of diversity in lifestyles ("subcults"). Adhocracies (fluid organizations like, say, the Wikipedia community) adapt quickly to changes. Information can substitute most of the material resources (see ersatz) and becomes the main material for workers (cognitarian s instead of proletarians), who are loosely affiliated. Mass customization enables cheap production of personalized products catering to small niches (see just in time production). The gap between producer and consumer is bridged by technology. "Prosumers" can fill their own needs (see Open Source, assembly kit , freelance work).
During the 1980s, he was read and listened to across the world as people tried to make sense 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 criticism, usually with the same argumentation used against futurology, that is that foreseeing the future is nigh impossible. In the 1990s, his ideas were publicly lauded by Newt Gingrich.
A few of his well-known works are:
- Future Shock (1970) Bantam Books ISBN 0553277375
- The Eco-Spasm Report (1975) Bantam Books ISBN 055314474X
- The Third Wave (1980) Bantam Books ISBN 0553246984
- (1990) Bantam Books ISBN 0553292153
- War and Anti-War (1995) Warner Books ISBN 0446602590
The Shockwave Rider is a science-fiction novel inspired by his Future Shock.
- Norman Swan
- The National Committee For U.S.-China Relations
- The U.S. Committee for Unifem
- The United Nations Fund for Women (UNIFEM)
- The Rand Corporation
- The Progress and Freedom Foundation
- The Institute for Policy Studies
- The United Nations
- The World Trade Organization
- The Pentagon