Alvin Toffler - Biography
Alvin Tofﬂer (1928- ) is an American writer. His writings on futurism address communication, digitalization, and corporate expansion. The Financial Times declared him “world’s most famous futurologists.” In addition, he is considered to be one of the fifty foreigners who shaped modern China and its preeminent position on the world stage. He was an associate editor at Fortune magazine. His intellectual concerns addressed the potential effects of crippling media saturation. He later wrote about the military and technological expansion and its relationship to late capitalism. The Russell Sage Foundation gave Toffler a visiting scholar position. Toffler has also held faculty positions at the New School For Social Research and Cornell University. Perhaps, his greatest work is the ground breaking Future Shock.
Alvin Tofﬂer has received many awards including the McKinsey Foundation Book Award for Contributions to Management Literature and Ofﬁcier de L’Ordre des Arts et Lettres. He has also been awarded appointments, as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
In addition to Alvin Toffler’s success as a writer and theorist, he is known for his influence as an entrepreneur. Alvin Toffler has been declared one of the important business leaders by Accenture. Accenture placed Toffler at the top of their list immediately after Bill Gates and Peter Druker. In the mid 1990s, Toffler would team up with Tom Johnson to found Toffler Associates—a consulting firm that deals with management. This agency was designed to provide business solutions for many of the problems that Toffler addressed in his writing. The agency has advised businesses, non-profit organizations as well as the American, South Korean, Brazilian, and Australian governments.
Alvin Toffler’s marriage, beyond its social component, has also been an important vehicle for his professional growth. Alvin Toffler’s wife, Heidi, is a writer and so-called futurist like her husband. The Tofflers have collaborated together. Some of their best-known collaborations have included The Eco-Spasm Report , The Third Wave , Previews & Premises, The Adaptive Corporation, Powershift: Knowledge, Wealth and Violence at the Edge of the 21st Century, War and Anti-War, and Revolutionary Wealth. They have also won Brown University’s Independent Award in 2006.
In 1928, Alvin Toffler was born in New York City. He attended New York University. While he was a student, he became acquainted with his future wife. Toffler studied English at an undergraduate level, and Heidi was pursing a graduate degree in linguistics. Their Left wing politics prompted them to leave school. They relocated to the Midwest of the United States. Each took a position on an assembly line. They used this first-hand experience to investigate the affects of mass productions in daily life. Heidi Toffler eventually elevated to the position of union shop steward. Alvin labored as a welder and millwright. Toffler was able to leverage his position as a manual laborer into a job in the Washington office of a union sponsored paper. He covered the political beat of the American Congress and the White house. Heidi Toffler found employment at a library that serviced business and social science research.
When they moved back to New York City, Fortune hired Alvin Tofler to write a column about labor. He later expanded the subjects he covered to include management and business. IBM employed Toffler to write an essay on the role that computers would have on society and organization. This research connected Toffler to many of the original theorists on artificial intelligence. Xerox and AT&T would later hire Toffler to do similar work. Toffler’s research indicated that AT&T should break up. This advice anticipated the government mandate that they must break up by a decade. The Tofflers began working on the body of text that would evolve into Future Shock in the 1960s.
In Future Shock, Toffler anticipates shifts in the society that resulted from the changes in post-industrial society. Toffler identifies one of the main agents in the society is the modular man. In his configuration of identity, each individual can replace any other individual in society. Toffler addresses this formation in regards to employment—it can be see in the customer service ideal of the zero-training service model. Toffler goes further to address how modularity might affect the family lives. Toffler imagines a society in which families are also modular. Each member might be replaced by anyone. This vision, perhaps, is rooted in the serial monogamy that is becoming the standard formation for the post-industrial West. In some ways, Toffler also seems to anticipate Jean Baudrillard’s concept of fractal values.
Future Shock also addressed other ways in which Toffler thought society would change. He envisioned a world in which some nuclear families might center on same sex couples. He also saw that subcultures and interdisciplinary fields would dominate the cultural landscape.
Ultimately, he was concerned about the perception of the changing world and its psychological impact on individuals. He envisioned a condition that was analogous to culture shock or jet lag in which the culture changes too rapidly for people to adapt.
Although Alvin Toffler wrote about how technological advancements should not be the sole focus of advancement. Society should also develop its capacity for empathy. Toffler theorized that the illiterates of the contemporary world would be those who were unable to learn, not those who were unable to read an idea borrowed from Herbert Gerjuoy.
Alvin Toffler argues that society advances in a series of waves. He writes about this extensively in The Third Wave. In this text, Alvin Toffler describes how new societies push older cultures away, subsuming them. The first wave replaced subsistence gatherers and hunters with agricultural societies. The second wave brought the nuclear family, corporate entities as the Industrial Revolution pushed out agrarian societies. The most recent wave, the so-called Third Wave, came with the advent of the post-industrial society. In this society, information can replace the necessities of most material resources. This wave brings with it a diversity of subcultures and fluid organizations. Despite the seeming progression in this formulation, Alvin Toffler insists that these movements can move in any direction.
Alvin Toffler anticipated that this third wave would allow for inexpensive and personalized manufacturing that could satisfy the needs of a small population. In this configuration, corporations are engaged in outsourcing their labor to the consumer. Technology displaces the worker and forces the consumer to become a laborer. Alvin Toffler’s most optimistic theories include that wealth might be generated in all places under the conditions of globalization—and that outer space might hold further potential for economic development.
Starting in the 1960s, Alvin Toffler has felt the common urge to find away of addressing the innovation of technologies and their larger impacts of society. His comprehensible style of writing about the difficult subjects and their potential influence on the culture at large has garnered Alvin Toffler wide spread popularity. His ideas have been embraced by a wide range of individuals including Techno musician Juan Atkins and disgraced former Speaker of the American House of Representatives and disastrous candidate for the American presidency Newt Gingrich.
The works and theories of Alvin Toffler have also faced criticism. Like many futurologists, Alvin Toffler has been accused of trying to predict the future. The urge to predict carries with it the possibility of being mistaken. When this occurs, doubt can be cast on the entire body of work. Of course, this presents a faulty understanding of the larger body of work that displays a great sensitivity to the contemporary world.