Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

"Future Shock" Author Alvin Toffler Dead at 87 in Bel Air

He predicted the rise of the internet and decline of the nuclear family.


The Illiterate of the 21st Century will be those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn, not those who cannot read and write, said Alvin Toffler

Alvin Toffler, the author of Future Shock and other works predicting social, economic and technological trends, has died at the age of 87 at his Bel Air home.

Future Shock, which sold 15 million copies, defined people's anxiety at the pace of social change in the 1960s. He connected social change to technological change and foresaw the information age.

Toffler popularized terms such as "information overload" and his works led world leaders and business moguls to seek his advice.

He predicted the rise of the internet and decline of the nuclear family.

Although many writers in the 1960s focused on social upheavals related to technological advancement, Toffler wrote in a popular and fluid style that made difficult concepts easy to understand.

Future Shock (1970) argued that economists who believed the rise in prosperity of the 1960s was just a trend were wrong - and that it would continue indefinitely.

The Third Wave published in 1980, was a hugely influential work that forecast the spread of emails, interactive media, online chat rooms and other digital advancements.

But among the pluses, he also foresaw increased social alienation, rising drug use and the decline of the nuclear family.

Space colonies

Not all of his futurist predictions have come to pass. He thought humanity's frontier spirit would lead to the creation of "artificial cities beneath the waves" as well as colonies in space.

Evolution of the information man.

One of his most famous thoughts was: "The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn." Anyone who has had his job replaced by a computer, then needed to learn how to somehow service that computer or collect unemployment, will appreciate the thought.

Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, China Prime Minister Zhao Ziyang and Mexican business guru Carlos Slim were among those who asked Toffler for his advice.

The futurologist, also termed futurist by some, was born to Jewish Polish immigrants in 1928 and honed his theories working for IBM and other technology firms in the 60s.

Toffler is survived by his wife, Heidi, with whom he collaborated on many of his books.


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