An open letter to Alvin Toffler

Dear Mr. Toffler: Though your latest futurological tome, "The Third Wave," is not supposed to be published until March 24, we've been seeing it for weeks in every bookstore window we pass. All 541 pages of it -- and that's a lot of tome.

Maybe we should "respect" the publication date, as publishers like to put it. But we made ourselves a laughingstock by being about an hour late in commenting on your earlier tome, "Future Shock." We don't dare wait any longer to speak our piece now for fear "The Fourth Wave" will crash upon us. Please consider these premature remarks as part of the general "decisional speedup," to borrow your own words.

Here tomorrow, gone today. That's the way it is with futurology, Mr. Toffler , as your well know.

The "overview," as futurologists say, is favorable. For instance, you've got us convinced that you really understand the dizzy ins-and-outs of multinational economics.

At least you made usm dizzy.

Above all, you deserve highest marks for good will. You want the future to come out right for everybody, including the people who dislike your notion of the future. Such kindness is rare from futurologists.

Our quarrel is not with "The Fourth Wave" -- we mean, "The Third Wave" -- but with the art-form of futurology. We contend that, while endlessly preaching flexibility, futurology itself is becoming more and more rigig.

Think of the rah-rah rhetoric of the futurologist. It threatens to be as predictable as a football cheerleader's routine. All too invariably on your pages "wholly" goes with "new," "spectacular" goes with "advances," "daringly" goes with innovative," "mind-boggling" goes with "possibilities," and "revolutionary" goes with everything else.

If "the old system is now broken beyond repair" and all things are "revolutionary," then one has to prove it -- by frantically coining new terms. You no longer live in a mental climate, Mr. Toffler, you inhabit a "psycho-sphere," it seems, made more habitable by "para-professional life organizers."

Memo to all futurologists: When in doubt, toss in the word "super". You say that, after a "super-struggle" against reactionary Second Wave types, all those "represento-kit institutions" of the past, set up by our "Founding Parents," will be replaced by the "semi-direct democracy" of a "de-massified society." In a word, "practopia."

We know we lack a Third Wave "post-standardized mind," because, for the life of us, we can't figure out what a "practopia" looks like. We sense, Mr. Toffler , that you feel it has a lot do to with The Computer. But isn't the "electronic cottage" -- not to mention the "Gene Industry" and "non-nuclear life-styles" of the family -- becoming the rather stale scenario of every futurologist?

We have been reading Amitai Etzioni in the first issue of Next magazine, which calls itself the only "mass publication giving the future exclusive attention." We hate to be the one to break the news, Mr. Toffler. But Mr. Etzioni says that "OPEC and the aging of our industrial machinery is about to turn upside down and number once cliche of American sociology" -- your whole vision of more services and less product, with everybody working out of the home with data phones and minicomputers for 20 hours a week while majoring in lifelong education.

"In the 1980s," Mr. Etzioni writes, "instead of replacing the farming and mining and manufacturing sectors, we might well wind up restoring them."

Is he right? Or are you right? Who knows? You write a nice script, Mr. Toffler. But we worry about that tone of certainty.We feel all futurology should be filed under science fiction in what you call your "infosphere."

In fact, if you want to know, we think futurology is the intellectual equivalent of living under a domed city. We imagine a futurologist could take this as a compliment. Maybe that is where we finally differ.

None too impatiently anticipating that Fourth Wave, we remain, your faithful surfer, A Second Wave Citizen

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