Decimating new economy critics with third wave

Updated: Jan 25 2002, 05:30am hrs
He was at his prophetic best, given the alacrity with which he put to rest the skepticism of the obdurate economic fundamentalists who keep on questioning the fate of the new economy and the much-touted third wave of knowledge that is sweeping the globe. Meet Dr Alvin Toffler, the thinker, the writer, the economist, the futurologist, and the conversationalist, all in one.

People who say theres no revolution are simply looking at the wall around. Half-a-billion PCs are not going to get phased out. In fact, these can only be replaced by more powerful substitutes, says the guru, who, ironically, was born in 1957, which ushered in the Space era.

There is a raging fight as to whether or not there is a revolution. We believe we cannot have a change without conflict and turbulence, he warns, while addressing a large gathering at DocuWorld India-2002, part of Xeroxs global initiative, attended by corporate leaders like Anil Ambani, Adi Godrej, among others.

Taking the fundamentalists head-on, Dr Toffler, flanked by his wife and co-author Heidi Toffler, in an eloquent demeanour asks, if there is nothing called the new economy revolution what accounts for the fact that among the most advanced regions like the US and Japan there is only 5 per cent unemployment, and in Europe, which has a deep cultural techno-phobia, it is as high as 10 per cent

No eyebrows were raised. As the audience gazed on without blinking, Dr Toffler came out with another prediction: In the first phase, IT changed biology. In the second phase, predicts the futurologist, biology will change IT. So far, economists havent heard about this, as though they are deaf, and their thinking is based on the second wave assumptions, blasts the foreteller, mincing no words.

The sum total of his thoughts, contained in the one-hour-long speech delivered at the Regeant in Mumbai, converged on the fact that the future is not, after all, a linear extrapolation of the present. And this remains the only constant fact in the economic evolution. The path is not straight, it is full of ups and downs. Today, the third level of a fundamental technological change is emerging, and within the countries, the internal trisection is taking place, he asserts.

Even as the audience has been all ears to gather the pearls of wisdom, they also have got to know the jocular side of Dr Toffler, when he utters we are not tourists who come to India and predict whats in store, or we have sentimental regards for our college text books. If it doesnt include the word knowledge, it is obsolete, and on the word predict, with which Dr Toffler is so synonymously connected, he tells the audience that every individual can make micro forecasts, like one jolly well knows when he/she will be heading for lunch at a particular time of the day!

His simplistic, but all encompassing one-liners like the new economy did not start with the word Internet, have left the crowd dumb-founded, astounded.

I have come to India at a time when there are profound changes in this country. We can, perhaps, expect the greatest change since the industrial revolution. Social, psychological and cultural changes will greatly drive the third wave of change. India is moving in that direction, says the writer of Future Shock and The Third Wave.

And, a little note of advise for the corporaties: You need to think beyond doing business with other companies to constellation with non-business entities. Mass production is out, and demassification for customised products is the in-thing, hinting at a change in social and economic structure of families which have reduced to nuclear families, which again is undergoing further changes such as childless couples, single mothers/ fathers, in sync with the changes in the economic environment.

The collapse of the dotcoms has led many to debate that theres nothing like the new economy, that it was all a hype and myth, and its back to the old scheme of things, Dr Toffler smirks, well aware of whats in store.

Going by historic evidence, it is clear that anyone who attacks a dominant paradigm too early can be expected to be regarded with suspicion by the reigning intelligentsia. While the debate now on the third wave rages on and on, the only testimony will be time, by when these panoramic perspectives will exist like insignificant dots in the rear view mirror.

So what comes next, Dr Toffler, one may wonder And he crystal gazes to give an insight into the revelations like the science of nano-technology, bio-hybrid technology, memory research, or tiny machines which can help in the process of food processing within packed foods, which in turn can revolutionise the process of packaging; micro-fluids linked by the Internet which can help in visualising the inside of a brain, phew!.....welcome to the 21st century, the economic pundit pronounces, jostling aside critics of the third wave.