Seven Great Quotes by Alvin Toffler

28 July 2016 | Think­ing in New Ways

Alvin Tof­fler was emi­nent­ly quotable because he was emi­nent­ly bril­liant. His lega­cy will be a long one [link].

The future arrives too soon and in the wrong order,” was one Tof­fler line that has stuck with me. And his sen­ti­ment that “our moral respon­si­bil­i­ty is not to stop the future, but to shape it… to chan­nel our des­tiny in humane direc­tions and to try to ease the trau­ma of tran­si­tion” was a call to action that still inspires me. He died in late June at the age of 87.

Said The New York Times [link]:

Mr. Tof­fler was a self-trained social sci­ence schol­ar and suc­cess­ful free­lance mag­a­zine writer in the mid-1960s when he decid­ed to spend five years study­ing the under­ly­ing caus­es of a cul­tur­al upheaval that he saw over­tak­ing the Unit­ed States and oth­er devel­oped countries.

The fruit of his research, “Future Shock” (1970), sold mil­lions of copies and was trans­lat­ed into dozens of lan­guages, cat­a­pult­ing Mr. Tof­fler to inter­na­tion­al fame. It is still in print.

My first encounter with Future Shock was as a teenag­er in 1976, after my old­er broth­er brought it home as high school read­ing. To say the least, I was shocked and (at the same time) fas­ci­nat­ed by things in the future; and it was Tof­fler’s point of view from the 70s that has steered so many of us who have pur­sued relat­ed studies.

Today, I both admire and share Tof­fler’s focus on the impact of tech­nol­o­gy and change on the human expe­ri­ence. Almost 50 years after Future Shock, too many still allow them­selves to become obsessed with advances in tech­nol­o­gy while for­get­ting or dis­miss­ing the impact on human­i­ty, some­thing Tof­fler warned so strong­ly about.

Many econ­o­mists and oth­ers have had to learn the hard way that to leave out the human fac­tor is to put any and all pro­jec­tions in per­il. We may nev­er move beyond the kind of shock pro­filed by Tof­fler in his sev­er­al (all great) books [list­ed here]. Then again, The Nextsens­ing Project is ded­i­cat­ed to help­ing lead­ers deal with such shock as a nor­mal (or, at least, unavoid­able) occur­rence that we can face with con­fi­dence — if are well-equipped to deal with it.

Tof­fler, to my mind, want­ed to enable a new mind­set; and he has left to all who admire his work the daunt­ing task of design­ing firms that embrace, not block, such new think­ing. As said, Tof­fler was emi­ni­nent­ly quotable, so much so that any sev­en quotes do not do his career jus­tice. But per­haps these sev­en will spur you to read (or re-read) Tof­fler’s works or per­haps catch him on a YouTube video. You will not regret any time you spend with this notable thought leader.

7 Great Quotes

Change is not mere­ly nec­es­sary to life — it is life.

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.

If you don’t have a strat­e­gy, you’re part of some­one else’s strategy.

Human­i­ty faces a quan­tum leap for­ward. It faces the deep­est social upheaval and cre­ative restruc­tur­ing of all time. With­out clear­ly rec­og­niz­ing it, we are engaged in build­ing a remark­able new civ­i­liza­tion from the ground up. This is the mean­ing of the Third Wave.

One of the def­i­n­i­tions of san­i­ty is the abil­i­ty to tell real from unre­al. Soon we’ll need a new definition.

The next major explo­sion is going to be when genet­ics and com­put­ers come togeth­er. I’m talk­ing about an organ­ic com­put­er — about bio­log­i­cal sub­stances that can func­tion like a semiconductor.

The illit­er­ate of the 21st cen­tu­ry will not be those who can­not read and write, but those who can­not learn, unlearn, and relearn.

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