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Friday, June 23, 2017

Toffler on Orwell's 1984 and Huxley's Brave New World

In The Third Wave, Alvin Toffler offers the history of human civilization through the lens of technological and economic progress. He paints a comprehensive picture of a Third Wave civilization where there is boom in personal computing and information technology.
“For Third Wave civilization, the most basic raw material of all — and one that can never be exhausted — is information, including imagination.
Toffler distinguishes Third Wave civilization from an industrial age civilization (which he calls Second Wave), and an agricultural civilization (which he calls First Wave). He regards the French Revolution and the Russian Revolution as the triumph of Second Wave, industrial civilization over First Wave, agricultural civilization.

While the First Wave civilization was tribal, the Second Wave was distinguished by mass movements, mass production, mass media, mass transportation, etc. George Orwell in 1984 and Aldous Huxley in Brave New World predicted a future in which things are excessively mass-oriented. But the Third Wave is not turning out to be a collectivist utopia; it is individualized.

Speaking of 1984 and Brave New World, Toffler says:
But Third Wave civilization is also no “anti-utopia.” It is not 1984 writ large or Brave New World brought to life. Both these brilliant books — and hundreds of derivative science fiction stories — paint a future based on highly centralized, bureaucratized, and standardized societies, in which individual differences are eradicated. We are now heading in exactly the opposite direction.

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