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Revolutionary Wealthby Alvin Toffler
"Reading this book is a lot like watching the preview of a new action movie: one rapid-fire, fragmentary scene after another, loud, flashy, logically unconnected to the one that came before or the one that comes after. It is very exciting, but when it is over you have no clear idea what the movie is actually about." Robert M. Solow, The New Republic (read the entire New Republic review)
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"This latest futurist forecast by the Tofflers, the husband-and-wife authors of Future Shock, anxiously surveys hundreds of technological, economic and social developments, including globalization, the rise of China, the decay of Europe, the decline of nuclear families, kids today, satellites, genetic engineering, alternative energy sources, frequent-flyer miles, the Internet and the rise of a new economic group, 'prosumers' (those who create goods and services 'for [their] own use or satisfaction, rather than for sale or exchange'). Above all, the authors note the ever-accelerating speed and transience of all things such that nanoseconds are now too slow and will be replaced by even zippier 'zeptoseconds.' The Tofflers try, none too incisively, to order the chaos by invoking the 'deep fundamentals' of time, space and the cutting-edge 'knowledge economy' that is fast outdistancing obsolete industrial-era government institutions. The Tofflers' mantra of 'revolutionary wealth' implies that there's money to be made from the maelstrom, but their specific prognostications — the 'explosion' of a nonmonetary 'prosumer' economy of family care, hobbies and volunteerism; embedded 'pinky chips' combining ID and credit cards; the comeback of barter — seem underwhelming or unlikely. 200,000 first printing" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"If we were living through a great economic revolution, would we know it? It's easy to get carried away, after all. Herman Kahn and Anthony Wiener of the Hudson Institute predicted in 1967 — in a carefully researched publication — that by 2000 we would have undersea colonies, personal flying platforms and cities lit by artificial moons. Futurology has its perils, but it holds no terrors... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) for Alvin and Heidi Toffler, perhaps the world's most famous prognosticators. Their latest book, 'Revolutionary Wealth,' foretells the next great economic revolution. In fact, since the preferred Toffler style — in such blockbusters as 'Alvin's Future Shock' and 'The Third Wave' — is to highlight recent events as a taste of things to come, we are led to believe that the revolution is here already. But what is this economic revolution that they herald? That is not quite clear. It will be big and fast, certainly, and government institutions are likely to be left behind. Moreover, the Tofflers think we are going to get dramatically richer. There has to be some truth in this, at least from an economic perspective. As the Berkeley economist J. Bradford DeLong has noted, global income per person grew nearly tenfold during the 20th century. In the 19th century, it merely trebled — which was more than enough to astonish Karl Marx. No other century comes close. So economic growth itself is a relatively recent story. Those statistics seem a fair reflection of the speed with which the world has been changing for the last 200 years, even if they tell only part of the story of economic and social change. We live in revolutionary times, but so did our parents, and their parents — indeed, the last 10 generations. It isn't quite clear, then, whether the revolution the Tofflers have in mind is business as usual or an even more astounding process of economic change. One presumes the latter, although, beyond the occasional nugget, 'Revolutionary Wealth' eschews a historical perspective. The Tofflers do well when throwing ideas at the wall and seeing what sticks: a dieters' credit card that won't work at Taco Bell, urine analysis every time you use your own bathroom or a hepatitis vaccine administered through genetically engineered bananas. Some of the forecasts are provocative — notably the rise of a Chinese leader, a Mao II, who sweeps away the communists with a strange, savage Christian fundamentalism. Many will scoff, but this unlikely event is the sort of imaginative thinking that a decent futurologist needs to produce. Still, the Tofflers do not spend enough time making the case for Mao II. Nor do we get much elaboration of the observation that the end of the age of oil will disrupt political and religious structures in the Middle East. A good point, but can we hear more? Moreover, too much of the book is wasted on the familiar. We are told that people today watch a lot of hospital dramas and have access to medical information on the Internet, and so they arrive at their doctors' offices armed with preconceptions about their treatment. Instead of extrapolation or further investigation of what this means, the Tofflers offer bluster: 'Here, changes in relationships to the deep fundamentals of time and knowledge have radically altered medical reality.' It is a shame that the Tofflers did not dip further into the growing literature on earlier economic revolutions. Robert J. Gordon of Northwestern University has skeptically contrasted the Internet to five truly revolutionary technologies: electricity, the internal-combustion engine, bulk chemical processing, information technologies such as the telephone and the telegraph, and (funny but true) indoor plumbing. These astonishing clusters of innovation set a high benchmark for anyone claiming that change is about to accelerate today. History also tells us that new technologies often outpace social and organizational change but have little effect until society catches up. Paul A. David, an economic historian at Stanford, has shown how much had to bend or break before electrification became economically significant: a huge shock to the labor market as borders were closed in 1914, and in the 30 years following Edison's illumination of the streets of New York, a reorganization of American factories encompassing everything from the architecture to the employment contracts. It would have been fascinating to see the Tofflers discuss these remarkable stories and draw lessons for today's communications technologies. Unfortunately, the Tofflers have little time for history and less still for economists, whom they dismiss as 'inerrantist' and overfond of jargon. But 'Revolutionary Wealth' contains more jargon than a dozen economics papers, including such gems as 'obsoledge,' 'complexorama' and 'producivity.' This is not mere quibbling. Good futurology is the art of telling a good story. The story must be new, and it must be persuasive; the scenarios need to be plausible as well as provocative. 'Revolutionary Wealth' is breathlessly enthusiastic, but that is not the same thing. This will be a useful scrapbook for the apparently limitless army of professional soothsayers, but most readers will prefer a simpler, stronger tale. Or so I predict. Tim Harford, a Financial Times columnist, is the author of 'The Undercover Economist.'" Reviewed by Tim Harford, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
(hide most of this review)
"Brilliant, incisive, and seminal, this book will be talked about for years to come. Highly recommended." Library Journal
"Toffler's pessimism has certainly tempered in the years since Future Shock; this time the authors take a historical perspective and wax philosophical on this little slice in time we call the twenty-first century." Booklist
"[The Tofflers] argue convincingly that we are on the verge of a post-scarcity world that will slash poverty and 'unlock countless opportunities and new life trajectories,' at least if we avoid the rapidly escalating risks to such progress." Nick Gillespie, The New York Times Book Review
Bursting with practical ideas about when, where, and how America and the world are changing, "Revolutionary Wealth" provides a clear, coherent framework that gives readers powerful tools for thinking about--and preparing for--what the Tofflers call the most massive, most creative, fastest expansion of the money economy in human history.
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.
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