Alvin Toffler biography and quotes

Alvin Toffler (Alvin Eugene Toffler; 1928 – 2016) was an American author, businessman, and futurologist. This article covers his biography, quotes and books. Alvin Toffler is known for his research on the social effects of modern technologies, including research on the digital- and communication revolution.

His books include the bestsellers ‘Future Shock’, in which he discusses how emerging technologies are impacting the future, and ‘The Third Wave’, in which he discusses how the explosion of choice and ease of communication would transform commercial, public, and private life. Toffler is also credited with research focussed on information overload.

Alvin Toffler biography

Alvin Toffler was born in New York City where he grew up and spent his early life. He and his little sister are children of Poland migrants. By the age of 7, he was inspired by his uncle and aunt, an editor and poet, to become a writer in the future. Alvin Toffler started since this time writing poetry and stories.

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After High School, Alvin Toffler studied English at New York University where he also obtained his degree. During his study period, Alvin met his future wife Adelaide Elizabeth Farrell, also known as Heidi. He met her when he was on his way walking to Washington Square Park, and since they met, they have been inseparable.

Heidi was in that time also coincidentally studying a course at New York University. Alvin Toffler immediately married Heidi after graduating in 1950. The pair shared approximately the same vision and were both interested in writing.

Alvin Toffler was inspired by authors who write about a personal experience. For this reason, he and his wife decided to work as blue-collar workers while at the same time study industrial mass production in their work. Later, after five years working as blue-collar workers, Alvin Toffler was offered a job as an editor at a Union newspaper.

He next worked as a correspondent for the White House where he wrote on the political affairs of the American Congress and the White House. In about three years, Alvin Toffler was requested by Fortune Magazine to work as a labor columnist. From this period, he began writing about business and management.

Although Toffler was already offered various positions, he decided to become an independent writer. He next wrote for scholarly journals and magazines. His name became more known.

Alvin was next requested by IBM to execute research and write on the social- and organizational impact of computers. This initiative made him come in contact with the earliest computer scientists and artificial intelligence theorists.

As a result of the insights he gained, Alvin Toffler was stimulated to execute research on what the impact would be on society if changes happen too fast. The outcome of his work was published in 1970 in his book ‘Future Shock’. The book has sold millions of copies and is translated in many languages.

In 1980, he published ‘The Third Wave’, a book that describes the type of revolutions that already happened in the past and the one that will occur in the future.

According to Toffler, the first two revolutions were the agricultural and industrial revolutions, and the third revolution is the technological revolution. In his book, he predicted that technologies such as cable television, internet, and other digital technologies would emerge.

In 1996, Alvin Toffler founded, together with Tom Johnson, the Toffler Associates, a consultancy firm specialized in and committed to providing consultancy services in Risk Management, Strategic Advisory, Organizational Transformation, and Innovation and Agility. The establishment of the company was successful. Toffler Associates currently has an international customer portfolio which comprises businesses, governmental institutions, and NGO’s.

Many people and institutions have recognized Alvin Toffler’s work. Toffler’s work captured the attention of global figures including Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, China Prime Minister Zhao Ziyang and more important figures. He predicted that the Asian economies would emerge, and according to Chinese national representatives, Alvin Toffler had a great influence on China. The Financial Times even stated that Alvin Toffler’s influence on China helped the country shape modern China.

Influenced countries and people were not limited to only Asian countries. Alvin Toffler inspired many well-known people such as Carlos Slim, business magnate and one of the wealthiest person in the world, but also Ted Turner, founder of CNN.

Alvin Toffler was honored various times. He received the Order of Arts and Letters Award, an award provided by the French Minister of Culture to people who have offered significant contributions to arts or literature. He also received a book award for his contributions to management literature, provided by the McKinsey Foundation.

More awards and recognitions have been given to Alvin Toffler. Next tot his work, for example writing books such as The Third Wave (1980), he worked as a lecturer at various schools and is according to Accenture, an international consultancy firm, one of the most significant business leaders in the world. His books and other publications are translated into dozens of languages.

Alvin Toffler died at the age of 87. His wife Heidi Toffler, also a futurist, gave birth their daughter Karen Toffler, Alvin’s only child. The family lived in their home in Los Angeles. Heidi positively influenced Alvin Toffler’s personal and professional growth. She is later in his work also acknowledged as co-author. Heidi died two years later after Alvin past away.

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Alvin Toffler Quotes

  1. “Nobody knows the future with certainty. We can, however, identify ongoing patterns of change.”
  2. “Technology feeds on itself. Technology makes more technology possible.”
  3. “It is better to err on the side of daring than the side of caution.”
  4. “No serious futurist deals in prediction. These are left for television oracles and newspaper astrologers.”
  5. “Future shock is the shattering stress and disorientation that we induce in individuals by subjecting them to too much change in too short a time.”
  6. “One of the definitions of sanity is the ability to tell real from unreal. Soon we’ll need a new definition.”
  7. “The great growling engine of change – technology.”
  8. “Most managers were trained to be the thing they most despise – bureaucrats.”
  9. “Our technological powers increase, but the side effects and potential hazards also escalate.”
  10. “Change is not merely necessary to life – it is life.”
  11. “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”
  12. “Our moral responsibility is not to stop future, but to shape it…to channel our destiny in humane directions and to ease the trauma of transition.”
  13. “The first rule of survival is clear: Nothing is more dangerous than yesterday’s success.”

Books and publications

  • 2011. Rethinking the Future: Rethinking Business Principles, Competition, Control and Complexity, Leadership, Markets and the World. Hachette UK.
  • 2007. Alvin Toffler: The perspective of the future. Confrontation, (100), 35-38.
  • 2006. Revolutionary wealth. Crown Business.
  • 1999. Shocks, waves and power in the Digital Age. Masters of the wired world: cyberspace speaks out, 22-30.
  • 1998. The Discontinuous Future-A Bold but Overoptimistic Forecast. Foreign Aff., 77, 134.
  • 1998. Preparing for conflict in the information age. The Futurist, 32(5), 26.
  • 1997. The Playboy interview with Ayn Rand. The Libertarian reader, 161-168.
  • 1997. The new intangibles. In Athena’s Camp: Preparing for Conflict in the Information Age, RAND, MR, 880.
  • 1995. The politics of the third wave. Kansas City: Turner Pub.
  • 1995. Getting set for the coming millennium. The Futurist, 29(2), 10.
  • 1995. Creating a New Civilization: The Politics of the Third Wave.
  • 1993. War and anti-war: Survival at the dawn of the 21st century. Little Brown & Company.
  • 1993. Societies at hyper-speed. The New York Times, 31, E17.
  • 1991. War, wealth, and a new era in history. World Monitor, 4(5), 46-52.
  • 1990. Toffler’s next shock. World Monitor, 3(11), 34-44.
  • 1990. The future of law enforcement: Dangerous and different. FBI L. Enforcement Bull., 59, 2.
  • 1990. Powershift: Knowledge. Wealth and Violence at the Edge of the 21st Century.
  • 1990. Future shock. Bantam.
  • 1987. The Future and the Functions of Art: A Conversation between Alvin Toffler and John McHale. Leonardo, 20(4), 391-396.
  • 1987. Science and change. CUADERNOS DEL NORTE, 8(40), 2-11.
  • 1985. Adaptive corporation. McGraw-Hill.
  • 1984. Foreword: Science and change. Order Out of Chaos. Bantam Books, Toronto.
  • 1980. The third wave (Vol. 484). New York: Bantam books.
  • 1980. The electronic cottage. The third wave, 194-207.
  • 1975. What is Anticipatory. Futurist, 9(5), 224-229.
  • 1975. The eco-spasm report.
  • 1974. The Psychology of the Future. Law in American Society, 3(4), 17-25.
  • 1974. Learning for tomorrow: The role of the future in education. Random House Inc.
  • 1973. The Future of Law and Order. Ecounter. Vol. 41. Jily, (1), 13.
  • 1973. The culture consumers: A study of art and affluence in America (Vol. 848). Vintage Books.
  • 1973. Organizations: The coming ad-hocracy. Managerial Innovation, comp. Rowell Boise, Goodyear Publications. California.

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Alexander Zeeman
Article by:

Alexander Zeeman

Alexander Zeeman is Content Manager at ToolsHero where he focuses on Content production, Content management and marketing. He is also an International Business student at Rotterdam Business school. Currently, in his study, working on the development of various management competencies and improving operational business processes.


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