In Memoriam – Alvin Toffler

Toffler’s Prescription for Future Shock = Anticipatory Democracy

Alvin Toffler’s book, Future Shock, was a major event in the futures field.  He identified the side effects of increasingly rapid change (future shock) and he gave a prescription – Anticipatory Democracy.  His focus and advocacy spawned community efforts around the country to consider goals and alternative futures.

As part of Al and Heidi Toffler’s advocacy, they started the Committee for Anticipatory Democracy that was active in the 1970s, including putting on the first Congressional symposium on foresight in 1975.  The Committee had national thought leaders including Margaret Mead, Betty Friedan, Jonas Salk, as well as leading futurists Roy Amara, Jim Dator, Buckminster Fuller, Ted Gordon, and Willis Harman.  Newt Gingrich, Al Gore, and John Culver were active at various times as well.  I was on the Committee as a graduate student from the University of Florida’s Center for Governmental Responsibility and ran many of the Committee’s efforts.  Toffler organized a major review of futures efforts at the time – a compendium on Anticipatory Democracy and asked me to be the editor.  The book was a celebration of developments around the world and a call for action.

Given our high level of activities, Toffler convinced William Birenbaum, then President of Antioch University, to put up the seed money for us to start the Institute for Alternative Futures.  We were initially housed at Antioch’s School of Law in Washington D.C.  Our agenda at IAF had been set by the work of the Committee for Anticipatory Democracy and laid out in the book.  Toffler had invented, inspired, cajoled, and reinforced leaders and communities to have more foresight.  He defined Anticipatory Democracy as “people in the politics of the future” – where the politics was smarter, more focused on the future, and more participatory.  Al and Heidi went on to produce major works that brought the future to the present, particularly Third Wave and Power Shift.  Toffler was the creator of the Institute for Alternative Futures and my mentor, along with, in becoming a futurist.

Alvin Toffler was witty, warm, and friendly.  He described the present and the future in ways that the public can grasp.  In the process he promoted genuine foresight and anticipatory democracy.

We are thankful for his insight and leadership in the futures field and for the Institute for Alternative Futures.

Clem Bezold, PhD
Chairman and Senior Futurist

July 27, 2017