Alvin Toffler, who died last week at age 87, was a self-taught social scientist, writer, and futurist - that is, one who engaged in wide interdisciplinary and systems thinking on such matters as diverse global trends, and possible scenarios. Toffler taught one of the first college course in futurism at the New School in New York City. But Toffler was no remote ivy-tower academic. He began his career as a welder in a Cleveland factory, and wrote: My wife and I spent five years working on assembly lines. We came to fully understand the criticisms of the industrial age, in which you are an appendage of a machine.