Alvin Toffler, who invented the future of futurism, is dead at 87

Working with his uncredited wife Heidi, Toffler was a celebrity in the 1970s and early 1980s—the author of bestsellers dense with predictions of amazing technological change that would shake society to its core. Since then, countless authors have tried to play the role of techno-seer that Toffler played so successfully in his time.

The Tofflers’ Future Shock and The Third Wave are both available for free on the Internet Archive (here and here, respectively), and are worth revisiting. This bit from The Third Wave, for instance, is a pretty savvy prediction for 1980:

The giant centralized computer with its whirring tapes and complex cooling system—where it still exists—will be supplemented by myriad chips of intelligence, embedded in one form or another in every home, hospital, and hotel, every vehicle and appliance, virtually every building-brick. The electronic environment will literally converse with us. 

When Future Shock turned 40 in 2010, Fast Company‘s Greg Lindsay took a look at what the book got right and wrong, and checked in with Alvin and Heidi Toffler for their current predictions.

Side note: My father reviewed Future Shock for Commentary magazine back in 1971. He wasn’t impressed, but his reservations had less to do with the book’s tech prognostications than with Toffler’s stance that the rate of change to come was unprecedented and that humans would have trouble dealing with it—the “future shock” of the book’s title. 

[Photo: Vern Evans via Wikipedia]