"Alvin Toffler, 87; his ‘Future Shock’ provided prescient glimpse forward" by Keith Schneider New York Times June 29, 2016
NEW YORK — Alvin Toffler, the celebrated author of “Future Shock,” the first in a trilogy of best-selling books that presciently forecast how people and institutions of the late 20th century would contend with the immense strains and soaring opportunities of accelerating change, died Monday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 87.
His death was confirmed by his consulting firm, Toffler Associates, based in Reston, Virginia.
Toffler was a self-trained social science scholar and successful freelance magazine writer in the mid-1960s when he decided to spend five years studying the underlying causes of a cultural upheaval that he saw overtaking the United States and other developed countries.
The fruit of his research, “Future Shock” (1970), was published in more than 100 countries, selling millions of copies, and catapulted Toffler to international fame. It is still in print.
In the book, in which he synthesized disparate facts from every corner of the globe, he concluded that the convergence of science, capital and communications was producing such swift change that it was creating an entirely new kind of society.
His predictions about the consequences to culture, the family, government and the economy were remarkably accurate. He foresaw the development of cloning, the popularity and influence of personal computers and the invention of the internet, cable television and telecommuting.
“The roaring current of change,” he said, was producing visible and measurable affects in individuals that fractured marriages, overwhelmed families and caused “confusional breakdowns” manifested in rising crime, drug use and social alienation. He saw these phenomena as very human psychological responses to disorientation and proposed that they were challenging the very structures of communities, institutions and nations.
He continued these themes in two successful follow-up books, “The Third Wave” (1980) and “Powershift” (1990), assisted by his wife, Heidi Toffler, who served as a researcher and editor for the trilogy and was a named co-author in subsequent books. She survives him.
Then he saw the future.
“The Third Wave” was the No. 2 best seller in China.
Toffler popularized the phrase “information overload.”
His warnings could be bleak, cautioning that people and institutions that failed to keep pace with change would face ruin. But he was generally optimistic. He was among the first authors to recognize that knowledge, not labor and raw materials, would become the most important economic resource of advanced societies.
Critics were not sure what to make of Toffler.
In recent years, benefiting from hindsight, some critics said Toffler had gotten much wrong. Shel Israel, an author and commentator who writes about social media for Forbes, took issue with Toffler in 2012 for painting “a picture of people who were isolated and depressed, cut off from human intimacy by a relentless fire hose of messages and data barraging us.”
But, he added: “We are not isolated by it. And when the information overloads us, most people are still wise enough to use the power of the ‘Off’ button to gain some peace.”
Yup. Soon to be hit here.
In writing “Future Shock” 46 years ago, Toffler acknowledged that the future he saw coming might ultimately differ in the details from what actually came to pass.
“No serious futurist deals in ‘predictions,’” he wrote in the book’s introduction. “These are left for television oracles and newspaper astrologers.”
He advised readers to “concern themselves more and more with general theme, rather than detail.” That theme, he emphasized, was that “the rate of change has implications quite apart from, and sometimes more important than, the directions of change.”