THE THIRD WAVE by Alvin Toffler
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With the shock apparently wearing off, Toffler has been busy accommodating himself to the future like a kitsch H. G. Wells. The only big difference is that for Toffler, the future begins now. His talent, if such it is, is for taking current ideas and turning them into slogans; he's the Mad Ave. man of futurology. The ""Third Wave"" is one of these. According to Toffler, the world has seen two great ""waves"" of social transformation: the first was the Agricultural Revolution which lasted from 8000 B.C. to around 1700 A.D., the second the Industrial Revolution which took off from there. Now we are on the threshold of the ""Third Wave""--the Technological Revolution. Daniel Bell and many others long ago called this the ""post-industrial"" era, but you can't sell new books with old descriptive titles. Toffler sees the current period as one of struggle between Second Wave and Third Wave elites (a theme dealt with in a serious manner by Mary Kaldor in The Disintegrating West); and Toffler, naturally, is with the future. Whereas the Second Wave has depended on non-renewable energy sources, specialization, adherence to machine rhythms, the nation-state and representative government, the Third Wave will see floating cities utilizing oil ""grown"" in the sea, ""flextime"" working arrangements, international (actually inter-regional) association, and ""participatory"" government. Like a kid in a toy store, Toffler is agog at the possibilities. In one passage, he describes the wonders of his new ""word-processor"" and looks forward to the end of secretaries; elsewhere he describes an ""electronic cottage"" where people stay home to work on computer consoles and spiffy new information systems. Toffler attacks ""techno-rebels"" for various forms of primitivism, but his is the vision of the glassy-eyed technocrat. While some of the phenomena he lists are either realizable or actually in evidence--like flextime working hours--other visions, one hopes, will remain just that; participatory democracy by computer console is too scary for all but the most sanguine technology-freaks. A flashy performance, though, that will have its following.

Pub Date: March 24th, 1980
Publisher: Morrow