Alvin Toffler

03.05.2015 |

Episode #6 of the course “Significant futurists and their ideas”

Alvin Toffler was an American economist and philosopher who has widely influenced the theories about the “information age” or “knowledge age” of contemporary society. Toffler’s background as an urban worker combined with his training as an intellectual gave him the unique perspective during the late 20th century of understanding America’s place in the development of a cultural revolution. Formulating the idea that the world currently lives in the third wave of social and economic progression, Toffler advocated that contemporary society is based on the commodity of information, of which there is no shortage.

After working industrial jobs, Toffler eventually became the editor of Fortune magazine and a professor at Cornell University. His pinnacle work, The Third Wave, describes his analysis of the history of social economics in patterns he generally describes as waves. After societies settled from their hunter-gatherer roots, they were agricultural and based on limited physical resources that were exchanged in local areas. Then, societies expanded with the industrialized production of goods, placing a high value on commodity and the uniformity of products. Thirdly, societies become more interconnected with the exchange of ideas, placing a higher value on the practical application of information to expand human and social potential. In this third wave, the current knowledge age is leading human society toward groups of consumers who can produce in order to meet their own needs.

Toffler is considered one of the most valuable and influential technological minds of the 20th century. He was a consultant at IBM and AT&T as well as a faculty member at the New School for Social Research. Alvin Toffler had continued to publish social and economic commentaries that received critical acclaim and academic awards until his death in 2016.


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