To­mor­row’s Econ­omy

India Today - - INSIDE - by Alvin Tof­fler

In to­day’s con­tro­ver­sies over war and peace, we hear a lot about weapons of mass de­struc­tion. We hear a lot less about an even more pow­er­ful re­source and weapon called knowl­edge—and of its new role in eco­nom­ics and in his­tory. It is the econ­omy of the fu­ture that we will dis­cuss here.We make a distinc­tion be­tween “the fu­ture of the econ­omy” and “the econ­omy of the fu­ture”. When people speak of the “fu­ture of the econ­omy”, they pre­sup­pose the ex­is­tence of the ex­ist­ing econ­omy. When we say “the econ­omy of the fu­ture”, it em­pha­sises the change rather than the con­tin­u­a­tion of this process.

This new form of econ­omy with its con­comi­tant so­cial, mil­i­tary and other changes has al­ready had a big im­pact on the world. The col­lapse of the Soviet Union had much to do with the rise of the knowl­edge econ­omy, or rather with the fail­ure of the Sovi­ets to take ad­van­tage of it. The knowl­edge econ­omy has a lot to do with Europe’s high un­em­ploy­ment rate and its mount­ing hos­til­ity to­wards the United States. It has a lot to do with Ja­pan’s amaz­ing rise and sub­se­quent stag­na­tion. Cer­tainly, it has a lot to do with the rise of China. It is also bring­ing about strik­ing changes in In­dia.

To un­der­stand the econ­omy of the fu­ture it may be help­ful to use some short­hand. My wife Heidi and I do use it some­times; many of you are fa­mil­iar with it. We speak about the spread of agri­cul­ture, start­ing 10,000 years ago, as the first great so­cial trans­for­ma­tion or the First Wave of his­tory. We talk about the In­dus­trial Revo­lu­tion and all the cul­tural, eco­nomic, po­lit­i­cal, tech­no­log­i­cal and mil­i­tary changes that came with it as the Sec­ond Wave of so­cial trans­for­ma­tion in his­tory. What we are liv­ing through now is the third gi­gan­tic his­tor­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion. It is at least as great and all-trans­form­ing as the In­dus­trial Revo­lu­tion was. The dif­fer­ence is it is now global and far more rapid.

To­day’s Third Wave revo­lu­tion in wealth cre­ation is more deeply rooted than most people imag­ine. There are over 300 bil­lion com­puter chips on the planet, with 70 bil­lion more added ev­ery year. The Ja­panese have built a com­puter with a method of pro­cess­ing power faster than that of its seven fastest ri­vals com­bined. It can per­form 40,000 bil­lion math­e­mat­i­cal op­er­a­tions per sec­ond.

IN­DI­A­TO­DAY, MARCH 17, 2002

ALVIN TOF­FLER

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