Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Third Wave

Alvin Toffler published his book The Third Wave in 1980. He classifies societies by the way they produce wealth:
  • societies based on agriculture  
    • main asset is land  
    • most goods produced locally  

  • industrial societies  
    • main assets: raw materials, energy sources (coal and oil), markets  
    • mass production, standardization, synchronization, centralization (pyramidal integration)  

  • third wave societies  
    • main asset: information  
    • modularization, flexibility, small scale production becomes feasible, the speed of the economy increases  

Toffler analyzes societies by dividing them into a number of spheres: political, military, religious, educational, cultural. He states that it is important to have such spheres harmonized within one type of society. While our economy enters the Third Wave, our political sphere is lagging behind and it fails to fulfill its function. As an example of the inadequacy of our political sphere he cites the “Pueblo incident,” which is a result of overwhelming information pressing on our political system. It seems that one high rank civil servant found a 1000 pages report on his desk one morning and he was forced to use it to assess the risk of the mission by noon. Our current political system is modeled following an industrial era mechanism: regular check through standardized mass voting, upward filtering of representatives into parliament, committees and government, concentration of power. The solution is to share the public decision process among people. Toffler proposes the use of Third Wave technologies to set up temporary flexible teams, real time discussions, voting and polling.