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September 4, 2017

The Third Wave

The Third Wave

I'd like to discus a book that I read last year called The Third Wave. The book discusses three "Waves" of the development human civilisation. We are living at the start of the Third Wave.

First Wave: The Agricultural Revolution

Agriculture began in the Fertile Crescent (Iraq) about 10,000 years ago people stopped being hunter/gatherers. They started farming. They grew crops. They herded animals. They prospered.

To imagine the "First Wave", please think of Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham. The Sheriff is a rich man and lived in a castle with 100 servants and one lavatory. The Sheriff was richer than Robin. Both lived in squalor by today's standards.

Transportation was walking. The Sheriff had a horse. Sport didn't exist. Many places, such as today's Germany, were principalities with Feudal Lords and Barons. The weapon of choice was the bow and arrow.

Second Wave: The Industrial Revolution

This began in the United Kingdom about 1700. At first, rivers turned wheels for cotton mills. Coal fired steam engines enabled wheels to turn anywhere. Towns and cities appeared. People moved from the land to live in tenements and work in factories. Most people lived in poverty and did boring, monotonous work.

The speed of the industrial revolution was staggering. Grandparents on the farm could not imagine the life of their children who worked 12 hour shifts in factories.

An artefact of the industrial revolution is the "standard product". To make things cheaply meant little choice. As Henry Ford put it "You can have any colour you want, provided it's black.". However by the 20th Century, "standard products" succeeded in putting refrigerators, lavatories and baths into owner occupied houses. Everybody prospered.

Transportation was the bicycle or train. The rich had cars and could afford to fly. The Olympics and World Cup were born. Nations such as Germany emerged. The weapon of choice was the Nuclear Bomb!

Third Wave: The Digital Revolution

This began in England during World War 2. Colossal machines quickly gave way to desktop systems. Today: Smart phones. Tomorrow? Autonomous electric vehicles and domestic robots.

Everything has changed. People are moving out of offices to work at home. I collaborate daily on the internet with people I have never met. National boundaries are less important than time zones.

Transportation is for vacations. The 2024 Olympics will include video games. The weapon of choice is the invisible cyber attack.

What does this mean?

When Robin of Loxley's grandchildren went to work at a mill on the River Trent, he could not have imagined that his descendants would die in battle on the River Somme! We cannot imagine every consequence of the Digital Revolution. Robots, genetic engineering and other technologies are within our grasp. Will our descendants be born, live and die on Mars? Probably!

What drives the Second Wave? One word "Energy". Starting with rivers, then coal, oil, nuclear and renewables, humans have moved away from muscle power. We use stored energy to get things done. You push a button to move a mountain. Your strength is multiplied many times by our energy systems.

What drives the Third Wave? One word "Software". Software is stored knowledge. You push a button and ask Google a question. Your knowledge is multiplied many times by our digital systems.

Ladies and Gentlemen: just as the Industrial Revolution swept everything aside, so also will the Digital Revolution. When Trump says he will "Make America Great Again", he is a second wave dinosaur. A World Leader such as Prime Minister Lee in Singapore will "Make the World Great".

About the book

Let's return to the book. What's amazing about this book is the author's vision. The accuracy of the predictions is remarkable. The book was written in 1979.

I purchased this book on-line. It cost 1p + £1.99 delivery. Second hand. Arrived overnight from Germany.

Ladies and Gentlemen, if you want to "spend a penny", buy this book. Sit and think. You'll be relieved, refreshed and emerge:

  • Understanding the chaos of the transition.
  • With optimism for the future in ......

             The Third Wave

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