Is there a Fourth Wave? If so what is it?
I leave aside the fact that if you Google “Fourth Wave”, you get largely feminist drivel that’s both sexist and divisive (and borders on abusive) on the first few page listings. These are women with their heads up the north end looking south, trying to “solve” rape, rather than real philosophers.
A much more incisive attempt to define a Fourth Wave comes from Jamie Smart in his book “Clarity”. He calls it the “experience wave”. I like what he’s saying, it’s valuable (not just whining about the others in society) and he’s certainly onto something.
Firstly then, let me remind you of the first three waves, defined for us by Alvin Toffler in his seminal book “The Third Wave”.
First Wave. The Agricultural Revolution or domestication. It started around 8,000 BC and led to stabilized food supplies and effectively the end of nomadic wanderings. The major consequence was cities and civilization. Big one!
The Second Wave. Industrialization or mechanization. Another biggie. It started around 1760 in England and was the mechanization of labor. So this swung away from the agricultural scenario and towards urban life. It led to industrial might and the kind of personal wealth we see today.
The Third Wave. The Information Age or digitization. This started around 1940 with early computerization. As we all know, this revolution is well under way. It’s led to the spread and democritization of personal affluence. But is it peaking? There are signs it is. As more and more people are moving into the knowledge economy, it’s starting to lose its appeal, though it’s difficult to escape its tentacles.
The point is that the knowledge economy has trumped mechanization; and mechanization economy in turn roundly trumped the agricultural economy. So where is there to go from here? What could possibly trump the digital age? More