Alvin Toffler, and his wife Heidi, are among the smartest people in my opinion when it comes to looking into the future and examining the present. This is another quote from their book: Revolutionary Wealth, published back in 2006.
The third and last wealth wave, still explosively spreading as we write, challenges all the principles of industrialism as it substitutes ever-more-refined knowledge for the traditional factors of industrial production – land, labor and capital.
Where the Second Wave wealth system brought massification, the Third Wave de-massifies production, markets and society.
Where the Second Wave societies substituted the one-size-fits-all nuclear family for the large extended family of most First Wave agrarian societies, the Third Wave recognizes and accepts a diversity of family formats.
Where the Second Wave built ever-more-towering vertical hierarchies, the Third Wave tends to flatten organizations and brings them a shift to networks and many alternative structures.
And these only begin the lengthy list of radical changes. Thus, manufacturing things we can touch – the core function of Second Wave economies – has increasingly become an easily commoditized, comparatively simple, low-value-added activity.
By contrast, such intangible functions as financing, designing, planning, researching, marketing, advertising, distributing, managing, servicing and recycling are frequently more difficult and costly. They often add more value and generate more profit than metal bending and muscle work. The result is a profound change in the relations of different sectors in the economy.
As each wealth wave swelled, it moved unevenly across the world, so that today in countries such as China, Brazil and India we can find all three waves overlapping and moving at the same time – vestigial hunters and gatherers dying away as First Wave peasants take over their land; peasants moving to cities for jobs in Second Wave factories; and Internet cafés and software startups cropping up as the Third Wave arrives.
With these shifts comes a combination of decadence, innovation and experiment as old institutions become dysfunctional and people try out new ways of life, new values, new belief systems, new family structures, new political forms; new types of art, literature and music; new relations between genders.
No wealth system can sustain itself without a host society and culture. And the host and culture themselves are shaken up as two or more wealth systems collide.
These crude sketches only begin to hint at the differences in the world’s three wealth systems and the three great civilizations that come with them. But they are enough to suggest their main themes: If the First Wave wealth system was chiefly based on growing tings, and the Second Wave on making things, the Third Wave wealth system is increasingly based on serving, thinking, knowing and experiencing.