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    The Third Wave

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    Lucid Memes
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    The Third Wave

    Post by Lucid Memes on Sun Mar 22, 2009 7:46 pm

    Alvin Toffler is an interesting futurist who wrote a series of books detailing his views of future technological and economic change. In the Third Wave (the first in the series) Toffler divides human history into 2 technological/economic eras. The first era/wave is our long agricultural history. The second wave is the last 3 centuries of our industrial society. And right now, we've already begun entering into the third wave, characterized by the fusion of world economies with information technology. A lot of the change he predicts is already coming true...and although much of it falls in line with the system's plans, he does give a bit of hope for the masses in his later books, by saying it could be a good opportunity for the masses to seize wealth and power during the turbulent transition ahead.

    Toffler explains, "Society needs people who take care of the elderly and who know how to be compassionate and honest. Society needs people who work in hospitals. Society needs all kinds of skills that are not just cognitive; they're emotional, they're affectional. You can't run the society on data and computers alone."[2] Toffler also states, in Rethinking the Future, that "The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn."

    In his book The Third Wave Toffler describes three types of societies, based on the concept of 'waves' - each wave pushes the older societies and cultures aside.

    • First Wave is the society after agrarian revolution and replaced the first hunter-gatherer cultures.

    • Second Wave is the society during the Industrial Revolution (ca. late 1600s through the mid-1900s). The main components of the Second Wave society are nuclear family, factory-type education system and the corporation. Toffler writes: "The Second Wave Society is industrial and based on mass production, mass distribution, mass consumption, mass education, mass media, mass recreation, mass entertainment, and weapons of mass destruction. You combine those things with standardization, centralization, concentration, and synchronization, and you wind up with a style of organization we call bureaucracy."

    • Third Wave is the post-industrial society. Toffler would also add that since late 1950s most countries are moving away from a Second Wave Society into what he would call a Third Wave Society. He coined lots of words to describe it and mentions names invented by him (super-industrial society) and other people (like the Information Age, Space Age, Electronic Era, Global Village, technetronic age, scientific-technological revolution), which to various degrees predicted demassification, diversity, knowledge-based production, and the acceleration of change (one of Toffler’s key maxims is "change is non-linear and can go backwards, forwards and sideways").


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    Key Characteristics Of The Third Wave Society

    Though the society foreseen is still emerging, with the dramatic transitions of the past two decades (e.g. Cell Phones, Internet, the rise of non-national and super-national powers, etc.), several distinguishing features were posed as characteristic of this new society. Among others, these included

    • The rolling back of the Industrial-Era creed of "standardization", as exemplified in the one-size-fits-all approach typical of institutions of this era, such as the education system, factories, governments, mass media, high volume mass production and distribution, etc.

    • The attack on the nation-state from above and below and progressive obsolescence of the nation-state, itself.

    • The assault on the nation-state from below would include both the gradual loss of consensus, such as has characterized the politics of the United States in the 21st century, as well as political turmoil in China (largely split amongst urban-rural lines), Israel (orthodox vs. secular), Germany (the deadlock following the 2005 elections), the Islamic world (fundamentalist or traditional vs. secular) and elsewhere. It would include the rise of regional interests and the progressive devolution of the nation-state itself; e.g. the autonomization of Wales and Scotland in Britain; of Nunavut and Canada; the frequent incidence of separatist movements, such as in Chechnya, the dissolution of Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, the USSR, Ethiopia, the emergence of microstates, such as East Timor.

    • The assault on the nation-state from above would include the rise of powerful non-national entities: IGO's, multinational corporations, religions with global reach, and even terrorist organizations or cartels. It would include the progressive hemming-in of national economies and of nation-state under a growing network of super-national organizations and affiliations; e.g. the European Union, the North American Union, the newly formed African Union, as well as organizations such as the WTO, NAFTA or International Criminal Court.

    • The eclipsing of monetary wealth by knowledge and information as the primary determinant of power and its distribution. This was also discussed more fully in the sequel Powershift.

    • The eclipsing of manufacturing and manufacturing goods by knowledge-production and information-processing as the primary economic activity. This was significantly expanded on in the sequel Powershift, where Toffler nearly drew the line between the two along gender lines, coining the term "Material-Ismo" (a play on "machismo") to represent the infatuation with the industrial era world of manufacturing (as opposed to paper-pushing), and equating value with product (as opposed equating value with information). The criticism came down particularly hard on the former Stalinist societies, that have in recent years seen a substantial dislocation, particularly along gender lines, with female life expectancy now as much as 10 years greater than male life expectancy throughout the former USSR.

    • The emergence of various high technologies, such as cloning, global communications networks, nanotechnology, etc. However, these aspects were discussed in greater depth in Future Shock and somewhat deemphasized in the Third Wave.

    • A transformation of the very character of democracy, itself, from rule-by-periodic polling at the election booth, toward a more direct interaction between the government and its populace. To a large extent, this has already emerged with the rise of the Internet, though it has not yet congealed in the form of a fundamental revision of the constitution of any state. The trend toward on-line voting in the United States, following the election crisis of 2000, may be seen as a first step in this direction.


    Despite the forecast of the obsolescence of the order of nation-states, and the rise of super-national entities, what was not forecast was the emergence of a world political union cast in the form of the United States of Earth. In the framework of the Wave Theory of Toffler, such an institution, if constituted along lines similar to present-day nation states, would represent the very archetype of the Second Wave writ large. Curiously, the potential of a federal world union cast in the mould of a heterogeneous mix (e.g. nations, labor unions, religions affiliations, businesses, popular assemblies, IGO's, etc. all brought together in an overlapping mix) was left open.

    Another element notably absent from Toffler's Wave Theory was the evolution of society from an Earth-bound geography into a spacefaring or multi-world cosmography. The transition into outer space was not envisioned as a central feature of Third Wave society, other (perhaps) than the continuation and extension of near Earth orbit by national governments and their respective militaries.

    Toffler left open both the question of what the outcome of the transformation of the structure of democracy was to entail, as well as the question of what kind of world order would supersede the order of nation-states. This became particularly acute in the 1993 addendum War and Anti-War which raised the issue of the "Genie out of the Bottle" (nuclear proliferation) and the illusion of the "Zone of Peace" being broken (i.e., 9-11, Madrid, London, etc.), but remained silent on the questions of what changes in the structure of the world would be required to resolve these dilemmas, if the nation-state is to become obsolete and "United State of Earth" type global organizations just as much so.


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    intrepidpixie
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    Re: The Third Wave

    Post by intrepidpixie on Mon Mar 23, 2009 1:22 am

    The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read or write; they will be those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. -Alvin Toffler

    I believe he wrote this in Future Shock on the limits of our adaptability in the future. Always found it very Orwellian. Who`s going to decide what is worthy of unlearning and relearning. Certainly not the individual...lol
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    Re: The Third Wave

    Post by Lucid Memes on Mon Mar 23, 2009 6:30 pm

    Yeah Pixie. I've heard that arguement before, but mostly from transhumanists advocates who say the only people who will cope with the shock of the new technological changes, will be the people who biologically merge with technology. Either through GE or cyberborg-like implants. I'm not aware of Toffler advocating technological integration, but he equates "Future Shock" with sensory overload and that there should be societal mandates requiring professional care for the child of the future shocked.

    here's an excerpt from an Amazon review

    So what exactly is "Future Shock"? Toffler explains: "We may define future shock as the distress, both physical and psychological, that arises from an overload of the human organism's physical adaptive systems and it's decision-making processes. Put more simply, future shock is the human response to over-stimulation". Overload= breakdown! The socio-political, economic and environmental bills are coming due and they WILL be paid, shocking or not!

    Toffler sees that our time consuming, stressed-out, hyper-industrial, compulsive consuming society is leaving parents no time for proper child rearing- as if they were qualified for the task in the first place. Un-guided, un-taught, un-disciplined children set themselves and society up for another of the many aspects of future shock with their aberrant behavior expanding as they get older.

    "We don't let just anyone perform brain surgery or for that matter, sell stocks and bonds. Even the lowest ranking civil servant is required to pass tests proving competence. Yet we allow virtually anyone, almost without regard for mental or moral qualifications to try his or her hand at raising young human beings, so long as these humans are biological off-spring. Despite the increasing complexity of the task, parenthood remains the *greatest single preserve of the amateur*."

    Toffler suggests that society should "professionalize" child rearing and parents should be educated by mandate of society.

    It is Orwellian indeed


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