By Alvin and Heidi Toffler
Published by Afred A. Knopf a division of Random House.
Revolutionary Wealth encompasses economics, sociology, and technological predictions relating to the future of the United States and other cultures and Nation States.
An appealing aspect of this book is the positive outlook that the authors give for the possibilities of life in the future. Though there are plenty of reasons to have a fearful outlook toward future events there are also many reasons to believe that as a nation the United States can still hold a strong position both economically and militarily while our impact of cultural hegemony throughout the world may recede, we have changed the world in many ways and depending on your perspective, we have either done our damage or given the world many gifts. The authors point to the middle ground for our many positive contributions and they do recognize the negative or clearly doubtful cultural exports such as the gangsta lifestyle accomplished through Hollywood and the music industry.
DIY on Steroids
Becoming a Prosumer as they have coined the term, means to take a step backward in terms of production and consumption by simply taking the DIY (Do it Yourself) approach to most needs to flatten the channels of production and consumption close to what might have been the case back in the farm life days where if you needed something you made it and you lived on what you produced. Rather than going further forward with specialization and getting further dependent on this economic system, the concept of prosumerism means to build your own, design your own, and grow your own. Going further than this the authors contend that with the future means of technology and knowledge many of the services we go to others for will be managed by individuals.
The Internet is the Lever
With the internet as a central tool for accessing knowledge and the other advantages of computing, outsourcing may become less of a threat and rather many of the functions that we have to go to specialists for may be done with assistance but with individual active involvement. Home schooling is set as an example where the mass-produced education that is clearly failing in America may be replaced by access to the Internet. Access to the best teachers throughout the world is possible along with the personal and safer concept of home schooling. This individual empowerment also reduces the relative strength and control of governmental institutions. This can also limit the strength of supranational institutions such as multinational corporations.
Decadence and the Endgame of Capitalism
Moving from the decline into decadence and discussing the endgame of Capitalism, the authors show the direct links between the future of America and the future of the world as it relates to technology and the lead the US has in the information age. If we can maintain that lead it will bode well for the future of the USA. On the other side, if we decline into decadence, as we appear to be and allow our society to fall into a lazy culture of illiterate but easily entertained mass of consumers, we may fail. To become prosumers, somewhat self sufficient, as the authors describe we will find ways around our declining energy resources, food production, and economic dislocation related to lost manufacturing capability and the resultant unemployment, financial strength, and influence.
Groups Compete for Dominance
Non-government organizations, religious groups, and nation states all comprise the competing forces in the struggle for dominance in the power games that determine the outcome of world events. The details of how this may unfold to shape our future are meticulously documented along with a description of possible outcomes for the United States and the rest of the world with particular attention paid to Europe, Japan and China.
The Individual and Self Reliance Still an American Ideal
What you can you glean from this book to improve your own life or position yourself better for the future is the idea that you can individually adapt to the prosumer pattern of self sufficiency and self advocacy. This lifestyle is reminiscent of the early settlers of this country that produced individually what they consumed. By doing this you will reduce your vulnerability to future dislocations that might limit availability of services and products. On a macro scale, following this approach may limit the predicted decline in the American standard of living that is expected to occur as our national debt problems become insoluble once our ability to produce our way out of financial distress disappears and no countries are willing to lend money to the US Government.
Back to the Future
A central idea that can be gained from this book is the insight that wealth as we currently measure it may not be the future means of judging it. An individual, culture, and nation can get past the concept that industrial output is the only measure of wealth and see that knowledge and information can produce efficiencies that leave these entities with a net improvement despite lower rates of production and consumption. Such an outcome can produce vast improvements in the quality of life while limiting the attendant complexities that generally accompany highly technical societies. Does this foreshadow a world where simplicity can somehow coexist with technology and information? This is the most hopeful of the ideas that the authors have presented as the final outcome of the lead that the United States has taken into becoming an information society. The question of whether America can let loose of it’s addiction to consumption and find a middle ground that might prove that less is more. This book argues for that approach.
If you want a perspective on the looming changes coming to the economic system, the American way of life, and possible future outcomes, this book is a valuable resource. I recommend it to anyone planning ahead since the Tofflers have proven their ability to place glimpses of the future into books.
Review by Brent Herrick