Alvin Toffler, one of the most important and influential futurists of the 20th century, has passed away at the age of 87. He is best known for writing the book (and popularizing the term) Future Shock, about the anxiety many people felt when thinking about the future. Part of that future shock is another term Toffler popularized, “information overload.”
Some of the worries and predictions articulated in Toffler’s books seem quaint now, but others have become remarkably commonplace. For example, “information overload” as described in the 1972 Orson Welles-narrated documentary based on the book Future Shock, should be familiar to anyone who’s been following publishing for the last ten years.
Technology feeds on knowledge. Knowledge expands at a phenomenal rate. Throughout the world, more than a thousand books are published every day. Over 30,000 a month—365,000 a year.
How many new books are published (and self-published) every year now? The “Internet slushpile” phenomenon would not have been news to Alvin Toffler.
And in Toffler’s book The Third Wave, cited as a formative influence on AOL founder Steve Case, he predicted the very high-tech interactive society that we live in now, with email, teleconferencing, personal digital devices, and so on. He lived to see that society take shape.
Toffler is survived by his wife and largely uncredited collaborator Heidi Toffler, and his sister Caroline Sitter.