Alvin Toffler

AGE: 73

CLAIM TO FAME: One of the world's pre-eminent and most influential futurists, Toffler has co-authored several books with his wife, Heidi Toffler, including the best-selling trilogy of Future Shock (1970), The Third Wave (1980) and Powershift (1990). He serves as a lecturer and consultant to governments and leading corporations, in fields as diverse as telecommunications, aerospace, biotech and finance. As early as the 1960s, the Tofflers foretold the explosive rise of the computer, writing about PCs, electronic "agents," virtual reality and today's electronic networks decades before they appeared in the marketplace.

WHAT HE'S DOING NOW: Toffler is co-founder of Toffler Associates Inc. in Manchester, Mass.

Q: How have your views about IT changed over the years? Are we in the midst of an IT revolution?
I think IT has changed a great deal ... and technology is a very powerful force that is in a very complex set of feedback relationships with other factors in the system. There is no one driving force that is always the driving force. What's happening today is not just an incremental, straight-line extrapolation of what's happened until now. This is something new, transformatory. If this is really an IT revolution, then the one thing you don't expect is linear change. You expect ups and downs, surprises, zigzags, inversions. A revolution is an upheaval.

Q: I know you don't predict the future, but how do you imagine technology evolving?
I believe we're going to grow chips or replace chips with something you grow. I think that we're going to grow products. Things that we now manufacture, we will biofacture or whatever. This may be further down the line than we normally contemplate, but I do believe we're moving in that direction. Beyond that is when we get serious about going into space.

Q: Do you share Sun Microsystems Inc. founder Bill Joy's fears about the potential dangers to humanity posed by robotics, nanotechnology and genetic research?
I've debated that in print with him. I think there are reasons to be concerned, yes. In fact, in Future Shock, we wrote about cloning and the moral questions of the day. But his answer is what troubles me: which is to turn off the knowledge process. That cure would be worse than the disease.

Copyright © 2002 IDG Communications, Inc.

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