The Digital Age

Alvin Toffler, an American futurologist, wrote the Third Wave in the early 1980s. This was before governments were becoming insolvent, the huge rise of debt  and the advance of technology. It was a remarkably perceptive advance to the foothills of the Digital Age where we are at present. He defined the first and second waves as follows:

The first wave spanned the thousands of years when mankind learned to settle from being hunter gatherers into definable settlements that in due course became cities and nation states. This probably reached its peak in the Seventeenth Century. However many of the technologies that were to drive the Industrial Revolution were known by 1500.

The second wave was defined as the Industrial Revolution when ingenious individuals learned to mechanise functions such as spinning and weaving that were first driven by water then steam power. These new processes gave their owners increasing wealth that gradually morphed into national and political power.

As states became richer they sought to dominate others such as Napoleon and then later Bismarck and the Second Reich. While many benefitted during the Victorian Era, early in the Twentieth Century politicians sought to help the less fortunate with government programs that became the welfare state which absorbed a higher and higher slice of national output in transfer payments and state services.

To the cognoscenti  the perception that the end of the Second Wave was ending was the panic of 2007/8 when billions had to be written-off and banks nationalised. Unfortunately most politicians did not share in this insight and continued to spend and generate deficits to leave their successors an even greater discontinuity to unravel before the Third Wave –or Digital Age (DA) – could become a reality: see the implications.We can now discern some of the features of the Digital Age.:


  • The duties of the state will revert to those of the early Twentieth Century after the welfare state has been privatised and much of their work devolved to major charities such as the Salvation Army. Most of the routine aspects of the remaining ministries will be subcontracted.
  • The creation of policies to serve the needs of the self-employed, who will form a growing and important new constituency, will be greatly helped by the need to consult before gaining acceptance – not unlike the Swiss referendums. It will be the end of party politics as is present to today, much to the relief of most individuals.
  • Most politicians will become part-time with only a few elected to manage the major elements of state – not unlike the Swiss government.
  • Much of the remaining authority of central governments will revert to regions or states which will seek to make their territory as attractive as possible to entice the new entrepreneurial spirits.
  • It is unlikely that any centrally directed organisation could survive. Increased nationalism scrapped the League of Nations, the UN could follow!
  • The program set out under Individual will be essential to retrain the large numbers of individuals at all levels odd society.
  • Although there will still be the large process industries, most of the present conglomerates will be obliged to unwind in the harsh economic environment with subsidiaries sold to their managers.
  • Governments, institutions and businesses will be obliged to sub-contract routine functions to specialist units that will grow in small towns and villages – an event that will revive many rural areas. It will much reduce the demands on public transport.
  • The new manufacturing plants will become dispersed and highly specialised using the latest material and robotic technology. For example the assembly of cars could be adapted to producing one-offs to order.
  • Banking will revert to its Eighteenth Century roots with Money Center banks becoming less important.
  • There will be a massive rise of innovation once a large minority of the population becomes self-employed – particularly with the opportunities presented by the unwinding of the welfare state.
  • It will be a more tranquil age with much of the present aggravation and nationalisation dispersed by the needs of the individuals cross-fertilising across present national boundaries. For the individual, the need to commute will be much reduced and they will find a growing sense of identity and culture with the increased importance of regions or states.
  • Traditions such as the Anglosphere will assume a greater importance in foreign affairs; the same could apply to France, Spain or Turkey.

The new industrial units are likely to be small and specialised employing only qualified individuals. Both in public and private organisations the need for middle managers will be severely reduced that will only add to the essential measures described in The Politics of Restoring Individual Dignity.


To learn more about this subject, and for William Houston’s other works, please view his Publications