Saturday, July 9, 2016

Monday musings 265 – An ode to Alvin Toffler

Monday musings 265 – An ode to Alvin Toffler
The rock star futurist Alvin Toffler passed away recently. I remember picking up his book ‘The Future Shock’’ during my B school and miserably failing to read it beyond 50 pages. The book and its content did not catch my fancy, which by the way speaks volumes about me more than it speaks about the book or the author.  Years later I picked a copy of it from the dusty (but famous for its collection of titles) pavements of South Mumbai but the book somehow remained unread for many more years. I finally did scan through it around a decade back.
Many of the pet themes and conversation embellishers that we use today in the corporate world can actually be traced to Alvin Toffler. Some of the Tofflerisms are now a part of everyday language and when we look into them in the light of the fact that they were said almost 40 years back, they acquire the halo of brilliance. For instance sample some of them –
  1. ‘’Change is not merely necessary to life — it is life."
  2.  "The illiterate of the future will not be the person who cannot read. It will be the person who does not know how to learn."
  3. "Change is the only constant."
And mind you – all of this was said was only one person!! (Actually two – if you include his wife, who collaborated on most of his work). Anyone who is interested to know which and how many of those predictions of Toffler came out to be true must pick a copy of the book and marvel at his prescience. It will also not be wrong to say that Alvin Toffler made the job of a futurist look sexy.
The sequel to Future Shock was ‘’The Third Wave’’ published in 1980. Some of the ideas postulated in this book may have appeared as fictions during the time of its publication but appear to be clairvoyant brilliance now.
For instance the thought that there will be a roll back of the industrial era creed of standardisation (towards customisation!!), and that there will be progressive attack on the notion of the nation state from below (increasing clout of regional/decentralised) and the top (rise of powerful non national entities like corporations, religions and cartels) or the eclipsing of monetary wealth by knowledge and information, so on and so forth.
Toffler went to write many more books and his ideas were built on by the subsequent generation of futurists. In his death Toffler may have triggered in me an interest in his works. Hopefully I will do better this time and stay with the study.
A few other Tofflerisms that the cubicle-wallah may find interesting for his consumption are -
  1. ‘’Most managers were trained to be the thing they most despise – bureaucrats’’
  2. You've got to think about big things while you're doing small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction.
  3. “You can use all the quantitative data you can get, but you still have to distrust it and use your own intelligence and judgment.’’
  4. “The future always comes too fast and in the wrong order.”
    Rest in Peace Mr. Toffler.

 PS - Sometimes (though not always) a good way of preparing for the road ahead is to look at the road covered.

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