Three Waves of Alvin Toffler. The Basic Points

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I. Introduction. Impressions about the book.

Reading the book The Third Wave by Alvin Toffler left a very deep mark in my memory. There are only a few people in the entire world that have the kind of mind that allows them to look at regular life differently, analyze it and make assumptions that regular people wouldnt even notice. I think that Alvin Toffler is one of these people.

Even though I dont agree with the author on some matters, I want to admit that The Third Wave is the book that was written by a man who really cares about the issues he is exploring and who is also a great expert in his field of study. Even if I did not know Alvins biography, after reading the book I could assume that exploring human evolution, social issues and history has always been a goal of his life.

Basically, the book tells us about the authors seeing the evolution of the human society. I can imagine how fresh and outstanding seemed his idea of dividing the flow of human history and development into several phases that he called waves twenty years ago when his book was first published in 1980. Since that time The Third Wave has been translated into all major languages and became very popular all over the world.

While reading The Third Wave I kept asking myself the question: What would Alvin change if he wrote this book nowadays. I dont want to judge him for some of his forecasts that never came true especially because he urged the readers not to filter out single items, but look at the system in its entirety.

Lots of changes have happened since the book first saw the world. World Wide Web brought a piece of informational freedom into almost every house, the big empire U.S.S.R collapsed (even Alvin did not believe in this p. 314), finally, we met the new millenium. We are now much deeper in the third wave and this Alvins work is still popular and very actual. Moreover, it became a reference frame for the future research and is being studied in colleges like DeVRY.

Another issue I want to point out here is the importance of the Alvin Tofflers work. Even if there were still some people who do not want to look back and to explore our history, they would probably want to know what is going to happen to them tomorrow or after a certain period of time in future. At the very beginning of the book, in the introductory part, Alvin warns the readers about expecting any kind of prognosis or predictions throughout the entire book so it would not look like a Nostrodamus prophecy or an encyclopedia of the future. He is aware that he does not have enough information and/or knowledge to make some judgements and purposely leaves this type of questions wide open for dispute. The author gives the reader or the future explorer directions, the basic outlines that should be filled up by them. Sometimes it is better to ask the right question rather than to give the right answer to the wrong one(6).

II. The Principe of the evolution according to Alvin Toffler

The book consists of two major parts where the author describes the first two waves that the human society came through and also the third wave. It is the wave that we are living in right now. But first, lets take a look at the whole theory that Alvin tries to explain in his work.

According to the author, the human evolution is not stepless but it consists of several stages. So far, the society has experienced three of them. When there is a coincidence of several factors, we can witness the shift between the waves. The shifts are the most painful moments in the human history. Most of the Civil wars happened at those times. The Civil war was not fought exclusively, as it seemed to many, over the moral issue of slavery or such narrow economic issues as tariffs. It was fought over a much larger question: would the rich new continent be ruled by farmers or by industialazers, by the forces of the First Wave or the Second? (23)

Alvin Toffler considers energy dependency to be a fundamental principle of any civilization. The need for a new kind of energy is one of the causes of shifting to a new wave. For example, during feudalism people used horse power or even human power in agriculture or in construction, which was also considered to be a source of energy. The precondition of any civilization, old or new, is energy. First wave societies drew their energy from living batteries human and animal muscle-power or from sun, wind and water(25). As late as the French Revolution, it has been estimated, Europe drew energy from an estimated 14 million horses and 24 million oxen(25).

The increase in human population evoked the need for bigger fields and more buildings, which could no longer be achieved by using the existing tools. In order to move forward, people needed new tools, such as tractors, trains, cars etc.

However, the need for a new kind of energy was not a sufficient condition to make a shift. Many agricultural civilizations like China, Rome or Greece died and never moved to the next stage. The need should be backed by developments in science and technology which manifests the coincidence needed for the civilization shift. A good example of that was the invention of the steam engine in the 18th century when the agricultural civilization received a great push that moved it into the industrial age later.

: 21/11/2007