Title: Powershift: Knowledge, Wealth and Violence at the Edge of the 21st Century
Author(s): Alvin Toffler
Would you like to learn to predict the future? How about reading about our contemporary times from a book written earlier that tried to peep into the future?
Alvin Toffler started explaining about the “PROCESS” of change in his first book “Future Shock” (1970). He followed-up by detailing the “DIRECTIONS” of change in his next book “The Third Wave” (1980). Finally, he completed the trilogy with this book “Powershift” (1990) talking about “CONTROL” – about control structures and who will control what and how.
OK, here is the first quiz: where is the world’s biggest power struggle and conflict happening? It is not in any specific geographical area, political group, military formation, or economic parameter.
Answer: the domain of knowledge – this is where bloodiest battles are being fought. And, we – the citizens are pawns – we all are ENRAGED when we see a fake news item that does not suit our thinking or ideology or political preferences…..but we are QUICK to forward when we see something fantastic but that seems sweetly ALIGNED with our thinking. Quoting from the book:
“Nonfacts and disputed facts are equally products of, and weapons in, power conflict in society. False facts and lies, as well as “true” facts, scientific “laws”, and accepted religious “truths”, are all AMMUNITION in on-going power play and are themselves a form of knowledge…”
An excerpt, related to businesses:
Because it reduces the need for raw materials, labor, time, space, and capital, knowledge becomes the central resource of the advanced economy. And, as that happens, its value soars.
One of his predictions:
“Today, even as the battle of the supermarket checkout counters intensifies, a larger conflict is shaping up, centered on control of what might be called the electronic highways of tomorrow.”
We all have known since eons that knowledge is power. But now, the REAL GAME is the knowledge ABOUT knowledge. What knowledge THAT YOU HAVE is ALREADY obsolete? What NEW KNOWLEDGE is already IN THE MARKET that you are TOTALLY UNAWARE OF?
The ultimate superpower is NOT in HOW MUCH knowledge YOUR brain, computer or organization can CONSUME & PROCESS. The ultimate superpower is in TAKING UNFAIR LEAD TO CREATE NEW KNOWLEDGE.
Because today’s business environment is convulsing with surprise, upsets, reversals,and generalized turbulence, it is impossible to know precisely and in advance who in an organization will need what information.
This means the business owner or ANY authority NEEDS TO dismantle old command-and-control structures. You do NOT even NEED an organization structure – it would be more effective to design a “information-flow” network among teams.
That’s why many large organizations have CIOs (Chief Information Officers) – but often they are limited to managing computerized networks. Some organizations have even attempted “Chief Knowledge Officers”.
Coming to politics, we talk about paid media these days. The 27th chapter is titled “Subversive Media”. We talk of “Screen Time”. The 28th chapter is titled ‘The “Screenie” Generation.’
Now, let’s look at how humanity seems to crashed (we do not even know the REAL IMPACT yet) to COVID-19 pandemic. Then look at the final excerpt:
“New knowledge has overturned the world we knew and shaken the pillars of power that held in its place. SURVEYING THE WRECKAGE, ready once more to create a new civilization, we stand, all together now, at GROUND ZERO”.
Eerily, Ground Zero seems like a good place to MAKE A FRESH START, isn’t it?