Toffler and the Revolution

Alvin%20Toffler.jpg Lawrence Fisher’s interview of Alvin Toffler, published in Strategy+Business, is an excellent review of the thinking and writings of the futurist and author. His books, Future Shock and its successors, The Third Wave (Morrow, 1980) and Powershift: Knowledge, Wealth, and Violence at the Edge of the 21st Century (Bantam, 1990) were at their best when not making predictions, but when synthesizing an array of disciplines, including science, technology, sociology, and religion, thus providing plausible explanations for happenings on the world’s stage.

In his new book, Revolutionary Wealth (Knopf, 2006), Mr. Toffler and his wife, Heidi, argue that more and more economic activity takes place through processes that do not involve the exchange of currency. The rapid rise of this nonmonetary wealth system has major implications for both the global economy and for humanity in general — implications that have been unmeasured and underestimated.

The interview also recounts some fundamental trends, like education, which this blog has addressed previously

Here is an excerpt from the Fisher interview: In the book, you write of education’s failure to move from the industrial age to the knowledge economy. Is homeschooling a “prosumer” response to this crisis?

TOFFLER: Yes, now that you mention it. It is an important and growing form of prosuming. The parents do it themselves, because the market does not supply what they want or need, or for that matter what the market needs.

Think about how we learned to use personal computers. PC use went from zero to hundreds of millions of people who know and use PCs routinely, and nobody went to school to learn how. Instead, chances are you found a “guru,” and a guru was anyone who bought his PC a week before you bought yours. And there were user groups — volunteers passing valuable knowledge back and forth. If you agree that the PC has had an impact on productivity in the money economy, then the fact that people taught each other how to use this thing without money changing hands is another example of what a big impact prosumers can have on the money economy. Add these things together — homeschooling, teaching how to use PCs, Linux, etc. — and you begin to understand this big invisible economic force. People have written about each of these pieces, but haven’t seen them as part of a huge nonmoney economy interacting with the money economy.