When I heard the news last month that futurist Alvin Toffler had died at 87, I was instantly sad that we did not have even more time with this brilliant, insightful, and prescient person. I like to think of him as the first of the futurists.
I can remember decades ago reading his classic 1970 work, Future Shock, in which he addresses how we as people productively engage the challenges of change even when the rate of that change is ever increasing. He was one of the first powerful voices to champion the cause of stopping to analyze deeply how the future comes at us and what all its implications are. In many ways, he was ahead of his time (isn’t that what every futurist truly is?), and yet he was exquisitely perfect for his time. He was talking about such concepts as techno-social change and globalization before most of us were even aware of them. As a genuine futurist should do, he enlarged our conception of what the future might be.
A generation before PCs came on the scene and we all moved onto the Internet, Toffler was issuing the clarion call that science and technology were on an unavoidable collision course with humanity. For good or for bad, it would be humanity’s brilliance and humanity’s flaws that would create our future world.
Toffler asked us to stop, sit down, and meditate on who we are, where we had been, and where we were going. Toffler demanded that we give the future time before its time. He demanded that we wisely prepare for the future before it became the present when it was too late to prepare.
Much to my happiness, as I look around the world today, I see many Alvin Tofflers. In making that observation, I honor Toffler by tracking his ideas that constantly pulsate on the cutting edge of our culture. Although there can never truly be another Alvin Toffler, each one of us can perpetuate his futurist endeavor to make our world better while it continues to change with its ever quickening pace. Thankfully, I see that more today than I ever have in my life. Our science and technology, our passion for excellence, our dedication to humanity, and our ethical imperatives demand that we do no less.
With many thanks to Alvin Toffler, here’s to a bright—albeit ever changing—future for us all.