The Third Wave

By Alvin Toffler

Words from the achiever

“One in particular that actually was a meaningful impact in terms of what I ended up doing — focusing on interactive service and the Internet — was a book I read in college in the late 1970s by Alvin Toffler called The Third Wave. He was viewed and still is viewed as sort of a futurist, but I read the book and it talked about a world where there would be an electronic frontier and that people would be interacting with their TVs. When I read The Third Wave I didn’t think of it as futuristic. I thought of it as being sort of the next big thing. It just struck me as obvious that some day consumers would want to decide what they wanted to see and how they wanted to get it, and not just be passive recipients sitting on a couch with a remote control, watching television or picking up a newspaper. They wanted to somehow interact and do research on things, or talk to other people or what have you. At the time in the late ’70s personal computers didn’t really exist. Certainly home PCs didn’t really exist, but everybody had a television, so the initial focus for the first years — in the late ’70s and early ’80s — was, “How do you create essentially interactive television, two-way television?” And then later in the ’80s, really when PCs started becoming more common in homes, that’s when the shift was more profound towards PCs. But the Alvin Toffler vision of how an electronic community might form, as I said, I buy into that. I remember even when I was in college and writing, sending resumes out to different companies, my cover letter really talked about, “We’re about to usher in a new visual age, and with two-way televisions and more of an electronic frontier.” This was 1979, and most people 25 years ago thought I was a little bit loony, but I just believed. And so I just kept pursuing that.”

About the book

The classic and prescient study of the transition of the modern world from an economy based on industrial manufacture to a new, information-based society.

A new civilization is emerging in our lives, and blind men everywhere are trying to suppress it. This new civilization brings with it new family styles; changed ways of working, loving and living; a new economy; new political conflicts; and beyond all this an altered consciousness as well. Pieces of this new civilization exist today. Millions are already attuning their lives to the rhythms of tomorrow. Others, terrified of the future, are engaged in a desperate, futile flight into the past and are trying to restore the dying world that gave them birth.