It’s not many people who can invent a phrase that becomes part of the language. Alvin Toffler did just that. “Future Shock,” the title of his 1970 book, is now in every dictionary, defined as the inability to cope with the many, fast-paced changes of modern society.
Toffler was once the nation’s leading “futurist,” a person who studies where we’re going. “Future Shock,” published when he lived on Deer Hill Drive, discussed what happens “when too much change hits too fast for people to absorb.”
It sold millions of copies and has been translated into dozens of languages.
In his sequel 1980 best seller, “The Third Wave,” he predicted that a worldwide technological revolution, like the agricultural and industrial revolutions before it, would change the way in which the world lives and works.
The New York Times reported that Prime Minister Zhao Ziyang of China convened conferences to discuss “The Third Wave” in the early 1980s, and in 1985 the book was the No. 2 best seller in China. Only the speeches of the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping sold more copies.
Toffler was born in New York in 1928, the only son of Polish immigrants. He was writing poetry by the time he was 7. Though he admitted he was hardly a scholar in college and more interested in political activism, he managed to graduate from New York University with a degree in English and, there, met his wife, Adelaide Elizabeth “Heidi” Farrell.
He began his writing career as a reporter for a trade magazine called “Industry and Welding” in 1954, primarily because he was experienced in mechanics.
“The editor told me, ‘You’re getting this job because you know how to weld,” Toffler once recalled. “Now show me you know how to write.’”
He eventually got a job at Fortune magazine, and wrote many free-lance articles for both scholarly and popular magazines. The Times said his 1964 Playboy interview with Russian novelist Vladimir Nabokov was considered one of Playboy’s best.
Heidi Toffler, who survives him, helped in writing all his books, including “Powershift” (1990), the final volume in their trilogy, and War and Anti-War (1995). In all, he wrote 13 books. The Tofflers lived here from 1967 to 1974. He died June 27, 2016, in Los Angeles where he had lived for many years. He was 87 years old.
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