Finished the Alvin and Heidi Toffler book Revolutionary Wealth last week – been meaning to read it for more than a year. Building on much of the ground prepared in their previous works Future Shock and Third Wave [First Wave was agricultural revolution, Second Wave industrial revolution and Third Wave is the knowledge revolution] these world reknowned futurists serve up another good old page turner.
The basis premise of the book is that convential measures of the wealth system such as GDP (‘grossly distorted product’) or average wages only cover half (or less?) of the real economy. The other half is made up of unpaid work, what the Tofflers call ‘prosuming’. This prosuming economy covers everything from parenting, hobbies, diy and being a good citizen through to open source software development and using an ATM [or banking online] rather than visiting a bank. The argument is familiar to anyone who has considered how much it would cost the NHS if families and friends did not care for their elderly or ill loved ones. What is new argue the Tofflers is the impact that this is beginning to have on the traditional econonomy. Again familiar territory to anyone who has looked at the effect of web2 on publishing or file sharing on the entertainment industries. They identify massive (tectonic) shifts in the relationships between time, distance and knowledge that are disrupting the exisitng order of the world as we transition to brain-driven knowledge economies.
The book covers a lot of ground from the future of capitalism through future scenarios for China, Japan and the USA. Their style is very much about exploring options and identifying trends rather than predicting the future. All in all a very enjoyable and informative read.