US & Canada

Alvin Toffler, futurologist guru, dies at 87

Toffler on a BBC Horizon show, 1995
Image caption Alvin Toffler appeared on a BBC Horizon show in 1995 discussing IT in warfare

Alvin Toffler, the author of Future Shock and other works predicting social, economic and technological change, has died at the age of 87.

Future Shock, which sold 15 million copies, defined people's anxiety at the pace of social change in the 1960s.

Toffler popularised terms such as "information overload" and his works led world leaders and business moguls to seek his advice.

He predicted the rise of the internet and decline of the nuclear family.

He died in his sleep late on Monday at his home in Bel Air, Los Angeles.

Online chat rooms

Although many writers in the 1960s focused on social upheavals related to technological advancement, Toffler wrote in a page-turning style that made difficult concepts easy to understand.

Future Shock (1970) argued that economists who believed the rise in prosperity of the 1960s was just a trend were wrong - and that it would continue indefinitely.

The Third Wave, in 1980, was a hugely influential work that forecast the spread of emails, interactive media, online chat rooms and other digital advancements.

But among the pluses, he also foresaw increased social alienation, rising drug use and the decline of the nuclear family.

Space colonies

Not all of his futurist predictions have come to pass. He thought humanity's frontier spirit would lead to the creation of "artificial cities beneath the waves" as well as colonies in space.

One of his most famous assertions was: "The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn."

Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, China Prime Minister Zhao Ziyang and Mexican business guru Carlos Slim were among those who sought his advice.

The futurologist, also termed futurist by some, was born to Jewish Polish immigrants in 1928 and honed his theories working for IBM and other technology firms in the 60s.

Toffler is survived by his wife, Heidi, with whom he collaborated on many of his books.

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