Revolutionary Wealth

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9780375401749: Revolutionary Wealth

Starting with the publication of their seminal bestseller, Future Shock, Alvin and Heidi Toffler have given millions of readers new ways to think about personal life in today’s high-speed world with its constantly changing, seemingly random impacts on our businesses, governments, families and daily lives. Now, writing with the same rare grasp and clarity that made their earlier books classics, the Tofflers turn their attention to the revolution in wealth now sweeping the planet. And once again, they provide a penetrating, coherent way to make sense of the seemingly senseless.

Revolutionary Wealth is about how tomorrow’s wealth will be created, and who will get it and how. But twenty-first-century wealth, according to the Tofflers, is not just about money, and cannot be understood in terms of industrial-age economics. Thus they write here about everything from education and child rearing to Hollywood and China, from everyday truth and misconceptions to what they call our “third job”—the unnoticed work we do without pay for some of the biggest corporations in our country.

They show the hidden connections between extreme sports, chocolate chip cookies, Linux software and the “surplus complexity” in our lives as society wobbles back and forth between depressing decadence and a hopeful post-decadence.

In their earlier work, the Tofflers coined the word “prosumer” for people who consume what they themselves produce. In Revolutionary Wealth they expand the concept to reveal how many of our activities—whether parenting or volunteering, blogging, painting our house, improving our diet, organizing a neighborhood council or even “mashing” music—pump “free lunch” from the “hidden” non-money economy into the money economy that economists track. Prosuming, they forecast, is about to explode and compel radical changes in the way we measure, make and manipulate wealth.

Blazing with fresh ideas, Revolutionary Wealth provides readers with powerful new tools for thinking about—and preparing for—their future.

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About the Author:

Alvin and Heidi Toffler’s other books include The Third Wave, Powershift, The Culture Consumers, War and Anti-War and Creating a New Civilization. The authors are founders of Toffler Associates, advisers to companies and governments worldwide on advances in economics, technology and social change. In France, where the Tofflers’ work has won the prestigious Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger, Alvin Toffler has been named an Offcier de L’Ordre des Arts et Lettres. Heidi Toffler holds multiple honorary doctorates in law and letters and has been awarded the medal of the President of the Italian Republic for her contributions to social thought. Their monthly column appears in major newspapers around the world.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

CHAPTER 1

SPEARHEADING WEALTH

This book is about the future of wealth, visible and invisible--a revolutionary form of wealth that will redesign our lives, our companies and the world in the years now speeding toward us.

To explain what that means, the pages ahead will deal with everything from family life and jobs to time pressures and the mounting complexity of everyday life. They will grapple with truth, lies, markets and money. They will cast surprising light on the collision of change and anti-change in the world around us--and inside ourselves.

Today's wealth revolution will unlock countless opportunities and new life trajectories, not only for creative business entrepreneurs but for social, cultural and educational entrepreneurs as well. It will open fresh possibilities for slashing poverty both at home and around the globe. But it will accompany this invitation to a glowing future with a warning: Risks are not merely multiplying but escalating. The future is not for the fainthearted.

Today e-mails and blogs bombard us. EBay makes marketers of us all. Corporate megascandals burst into the headlines. Drugs are launched to help cure breast cancer, multiple sclerosis and dozens of different diseases. Other drugs are belatedly pronounced too dangerous and yanked off the market. Robots go to Mars and land with exquisite precision. But computers, software, cell phones and networks constantly fail. Warming warms. Fuel cells beckon. Genes and stem cells trigger bitter controversy. Nano is the new techno-grail.

Simultaneously, criminal street gangs from Los Angeles roam across Central America and build a quasi-army, and thirteen-year-old aspiring terrorists depart France for the Middle East. In London, Prince Harry dresses as a Nazi even as anti-Semitism re-rears its disgusting head. AIDS wipes out a generation in Africa, while strange new diseases in Asia threaten to sweep across the world.

To escape--or at least forget--what appears like chaos, millions turn to television, where "reality TV" fakes reality. Thousands form "flash mobs" and gather to beat one another with pillows. Elsewhere, players of online games pay thousands of dollars in real money for virtual swords that their virtual selves can use to win virtual castles or maidens. Irreality spreads.

More important, institutions that once lent coherence, order and stability to society--schools, hospitals, families, courts, regulatory agencies, trade unions--flail about in crisis.

And it is against this background that America's trade deficit soars to unprecedented levels. The national budget staggers drunkenly. The world's finance ministers wonder out loud if they should risk triggering a global depression by recalling the billions they have lent to Washington. Europe celebrates itself for expanding the European Union--but German unemployment hits a fifty-year high and the French and Dutch overwhelmingly reject the proposed E.U. constitution. Meanwhile, China, we're told--again and again--is certain to become the next superpower.

The combination of economic high-wire acts and institutional failures leaves individuals back home face-to-face with potentially devastating personal problems. They question if they will ever receive the pensions for which they have worked, or whether they can afford the rocketing costs of gasoline and health care. They agonize about appalling schools. They worry about whether crime, drugs and an anything-goes morality will destroy civil life. How, everyone wants to know, will this seeming chaos affect our wallets? Will we even have a wallet?

FAD OF THE MONTH

Not only do ordinary mortals find it hard to answer these questions, so do the experts. Corporate CEOs succeed one another like passengers pushing through a rush-hour turnstile: merging, divesting, kowtowing to the stock market; pursuing core competence one month, synergy the next, the latest management fad a month later. They study the most recent economic forecasts, but many economists themselves are befuddled as they wander around in a cemetery of dead ideas.

To decode this new world we need to cut through the chatter of rear-window economists and business pundits who prattle about "business fundamentals." We need to probe below the obsolete obvious. In these pages, therefore, we will focus on the unexplored "deep fundamentals" on which the so-called fundamentals themselves depend.

Once we do, things look different, less crazy, and previously unnoticed opportunities pop out of the shadows. Chaos, it turns out, is only part of the story. And chaos itself generates new ideas.

Tomorrow's economy, for example, will present significant business opportunities in fields like hyper-agriculture, neurostimulation, customized health care, nanoceuticals, bizarre new energy sources, streaming payment systems, smart transportation, flash markets, new forms of education, non-lethal weapons, desktop manufacturing, programmable money, risk management, privacy-invasion sensors that tell us when we're being observed--indeed, sensors of all kinds--plus a bewildering myriad of other goods, services and experiences.

We can't be sure when these will or will not turn profitable or how they will converge. But understanding the deep fundamentals will reveal the existence, even now, of new needs and previously unidentified industries and sectors--a huge "synchronization industry," for example, and a "loneliness industry."

To forecast the future of wealth, we also need to look not just at the work we do for money but at the unpaid work all of us also do as "prosumers." (We'll explain later, but it might shock most people to learn just how much unpaid output we all produce every day.) We'll look, as well, at the invisible "third job" that many of us hold without even knowing it.

Because prosuming is set to explode, the future of the money economy can no longer be understood, let alone forecast, apart from that of the prosumer economy. The two, in fact, are inseparable. Together they form a wealth system. And once we understand this--and the channels by which the two feed each other--we gain piercing insights into our private lives now and into the future.

LOOSENED CONSTRAINTS

New wealth systems don't come often, and they don't travel alone. Each carries with it a new way of life, a civilization. Not just new business structures but new family formats; new kinds of music and art; new foods, fashions and standards of physical beauty; new values; and new attitudes toward religion and personal freedom--all of which interact with and shape the emerging new wealth system.

America today is spearheading just such a new civilization built around a revolutionary way of creating wealth. For better and worse, billions of lives around the world are already being changed by this revolution. Nations and whole regions of the globe are rising or declining as they feel its impact.

Today millions of people around the world dislike or even hate America. Some fanatics wish to incinerate the United States and everyone in it. The reasons they give range from its Middle East policies and its refusal to sign various international treaties to what they regard as its imperial ambitions.

Yet even if peace reigned in the Middle East, even if all the world's terrorists turned pacifist and democracies flowered like dandelions, the rest of the world would still view the United States with trepidation at best.

This is because the new wealth system the United States is developing, by its very nature, threatens old, embedded financial and political interests around the world. Moreover, in the United States the rise of the new wealth system has been accompanied by controversial changes in the roles of women, racial and ethnic minorities, gays and other groups.

Because America's emergent culture promotes greater individuality, it is seen as a threat to community. Worse yet, because it has loosened some of the traditional sexual, moral, political, religious and lifestyle constraints placed on the individual during earlier economic eras, it is seen as dangerously seducing the young into nihilism, license and decadence.

In short, the combination of revolutionary wealth and the social and cultural changes so far associated with it may have more to do with global anti-Americanism than the usual litany of reasons cited by the media.

The revolutionary wealth system, however, as we'll see, is no longer an American monopoly. Other nations are racing to catch up. And it is not clear how long the United States will retain its lead.

GUITARS AND ANTI-HEROES

The roots of revolutionary wealth can be traced to 1956--the year when, for the first time, white-collar and service workers outnumbered blue-collar workers in the United States. This sea change in the composition of the labor force was arguably the kickoff point for the transition from an industrial economy based on manual labor to one based on knowledge or mind work.

The knowledge-based wealth system is still called the "new economy"--and for convenience we will at times continue to call it that here--but the first computers, still huge and expensive, actually were migrating from government offices into the business world by the mid-1950s. And Princeton economist Fritz Machlup, as early as 1962, showed that in the 1950s knowledge production in the United States was already growing faster than the gross national product.

The 1950s are often pictured as a deadly dull decade. But on October 4, 1957, Russia launched Sputnik, the first artificial satellite to orbit the earth, trig...

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