Founder of Toffler Associates dies at 87. His groundbreaking book, Future Shock, launched five decades of influence among political leaders, executives and innovators across the globe.
(Reston, VA) – Alvin Toffler, one of the most respected futurists of the modern era and known around the world for ideas that influenced government and business leaders alike, died at age 87 late Monday, June 27. He is survived by his wife of more than 60 years and longtime business partner, Heidi Toffler.
Alvin’s wide life experience infused his work as a keen observer and predictor of global trends. After graduating from New York University, Alvin and Heidi married and moved to the Midwest. For five years, Alvin worked as a welder to study assembly lines and industrial mass production up close. His experience led to a stint as a newspaperman and editor, writing first about labor before shifting his focus to business and management and then to technology.
By the mid-1960s, he began work on Future Shock, the global bestseller that led to the couple’s subsequent career as authors and global lecturers.
“It was an exhilarating ride and we were an amazing team,” Heidi said. “I always will cherish the special personal and professional partnership we shared, as well as the incredible openness with which heads of state and presidents of companies welcomed our insights about the future.”
Alvin authored several books with Heidi. The most notable comprise the acclaimed “Toffler trilogy” of Future Shock, The Third Wave and Powershift, all international bestsellers widely read by contemporary business and political leaders.
Future Shock, which vividly described an emerging global civilization, was published in more than 50 countries and introduced a phrase into our language that is still used today. The Third Wave offered a portrait of a new civilization emerging around the globe and revealed the hidden connections among changes in business, family life, technology and politics. Powershift examined the roles conflict, wealth and knowledge play in our lives as it charted new paths to power opened by a world in upheaval.
In their writing, the Tofflers forecast many of the realities of contemporary society and politics, including the acceleration of daily life, the decline of the nuclear family, cloning, virtual reality, information overload, the threat of terrorism and many other features of contemporary society and politics. Many of these predictions have come to bear and the central thesis of their work has proven true—that a knowledge-based new economy would replace the Industrial Age.
Alvin Toffler’s ideas resonated with political and business leaders around the globe:
In Russia, Alvin was part of a small group gathered in 1986 by then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to create the first non-governmental, non-Communist party organization in the U.S.S.R. since the 1917 Communist revolution. Today there are more than 400,000 NGOs in Russia.
In China, then-Prime Minister Zhao Ziyang used The Third Wave in his speeches to help launch the reform program that led to China’s amazing economic rise. Today, many Chinese still refer to it as the book that changed China.
In South Korea, then-President Kim Dae Jung sought guidance from the Tofflers as he lay the foundations for a peaceful reunification of the two Korean states.
In Mexico, business magnate Carlos Slim, who was ranked as the richest person in the world from 2010 to 2013, acknowledged the critical role that the Tofflers’ work had in helping him anticipate and identify business opportunities throughout the world.
In 1996, Alvin, Heidi and business consultant Tom Johnson co-founded their namesake advisory firm, Toffler Associates, to expand their ability to guide governments and businesses working to transform their organizations for the future. Alvin’s work remains especially relevant today, as the firm celebrates its 20th anniversary this year and still employs many of the concepts and methodologies introduced by its founder in the work it does for organizations around the world.
“As one of the first associates hired by Alvin and as the current leader of the firm charged with advancing his work, I‘m grateful to him for his future-focused vision and passion for understanding the hidden connections in our lives,” said Deborah Westphal, CEO of Toffler Associates. “It’s difficult to find an aspect of modern life not touched by his work. We are ever mindful of his influence as we navigate a world marked by widening artificial intelligence, globally connected societies and a quickening pace of change.”
A private burial will be held in Los Angeles. Plans for a public memorial service will be announced at a later date.
About Toffler Associates
Clients turn to Toffler Associates to capitalize on opportunities and mitigate the challenges of an uncertain future. We are a consulting and advisory firm that delivers strategic advantage to organizations around the globe with an unwavering commitment to being the catalyst for change. Both the public and private sectors rely on Toffler Associates’ unique perspective, disciplined approach and orthogonal thinking to architect better futures.
Note to editors: Toffler Associates is announcing Alvin Toffler’s passing at the request of Heidi Toffler, his widow.
Learn more about the legacy of Alvin Toffler: