About Futurism and the "Third Wave" Terminology


As far as the terminology "Third Wave", it is Alvin Toffler's terminology which he used after his book the "Future Shock" and finally it became the title of his next major work "The Third Wave" which has been translated by Shahindokht Kharazmi to Persian. Daniel Bell had coined the term Post-Industrial Society in his excellent masterpiece "The Coming of the Post-Industrial Society", a long time before Toffler's book, and Toffler refers to him in his book as his predecessor. Others have used the term "Information Society" and a host of other terms. For example Buckminster Fuller, a major futurist, sees it all very different. I like his work "Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth" but unfortunately I am not the best person to describe his works, because I do not find his works that interesting. He was one of the main founders of United Nations.  I think among these works, John Naisbit's "Megatrends" and Alvin Toffler's "Previews and Premises" are the most concise and best description of futurism.  You can easily find Toffler's book "Previews and Premises" on the Internet.


Also in the old days, Iranian Esfandiary was a futurist who looked at things from a transhuman perspective and even was the founder of an organization by that name which still exists, his focus on human engineering was novel.  He passed away a few years ago:



Esfandiary's works were kind of weird in his time, but some of his works make more sense today after Kurzweil's writings on singularity:



What is common to all futurists is that we all believe in a break in the human civilization in the last half century. For example in my paper, I have noted the differentiation of the new civilization from the old to be based on the *production* of intelligent tools.  Daniel Bell found my analysis interesting but thought it should be inference rather than intelligence, that is intelligence in a narrow sense of the term, which I agree, although I see it more like Marvin Minisky, as I have quoted below, that there is no reason not to see the future intelligence in such tools to go beyond this narrow sense. So I had always been comfortable with the term Artificial Intelligence ever since Mc Carthy of Stanford coined it (Mc Carthy was Minsky's student).  It is noteworthy that some early pioneers of the field such as Simon and Newell frowned from the term AI which McCarthy and Minsky liked and used subsequently. Kurzweil found also my topic of intelligent tools of the past to be interesting. Anyways here is what I have written on the topic:




Authors siding with phenomenological view, like Jaron Lanier nowadays, and ones like Dreyfus in the past, questioned artificial intelligence to be real. I do not buy the phenomenological arguments against computer intelligence. The first major work in this line of thought was Dreyfus and his book "Why Computers Can't Think". His main argument was playing chess and since then, the computers have surpassed all the things Dreyfus had said as the reasons why computers can't think:-) Another school that I disagree with are reductionists, which Lanier also opposes. I consider Dawkins and Dennett and others in the reductionist camp to be very simplistic. In my view, if one shows the particles of something, it does not mean one has explained *it*. This is my disagreement with Secular Humanists too. For me, works like Rupert Sheldrake on morphology show that reductionsim is as wrong today as it was 100 years ago. I also do not care for halfway theories like Searle, that Lanier sides with, either. I think Searle is like the phenomenologists in some respect and like the reductionists in others. Maybe his words among computer scientists seem like a strong philosophy but among philosophers, most of his stuff has been argued for long before Searle.

I consider people like Marvin Minsky and Ray Kurzweil as the most promising. Although they may seem like reductionaists, but they are *not*. They do not use the so-called particle analysis to explain away the reality, the reality which is more than a reductionsist view of it.  Especially I like Minsky's words in his book "Society of Mind" where he says "What if some visitor from Mars had come a billion years ago to judge the fate of earthly life watching clumps of cells that hadn't even learned to crawl? In the same way, we cannot grasp the range of what machines may do in the future from seeing what's on view right now" [Page 30, The Society of Mind, Marvin Minsky]:



Among new projects,  I have found the following project of evolving robots to be very interesting:



Let me also note that in contrast to futurists, others, for example socialists see the new developments as just a technological revolution within the industrial society, and thus do not see a major break in human civilization.  Toffler sees the new civilization as a new era of information_centric society which is following two other major human societies of agricultural and industrial epochs. Thus in his definition, nanotechnology is included in Third Wave. Even before Eric Drexler's works, when being a Stanford visiting professor, Toffler had referred to such models of miniaturization in his works.  I also see nanotechnology a very significant development but I see it within the new civilization which I believe is defined by production of intelligent tools, nanobots included, and thus I see all these as centered around *production* of intelligent tools.

As far as space colonies, one may want to read the works of Gerard O'Neill especially his 2081 as well as other works of his on space colonies. I hope his books get translated to Persian.  They are excellent works on space colonies. Also one may want to look at the L5 publications. They have chapters everywhere that one can join and I think they merged with NSS a few years ago:


Again space colonization is noted in Kurzweil's works and in Toffler's works. And although they see production in space, even for now on the metroids, as practical, and even some production requiring zero-gravity conditions on space shuttle is being done right now by some corporations, but nobody sees it as any major change in the nature of production process itself.  The same way using the alternative sources of energy are not viewed as changing the nature of production.  In other words, the major change of the whole new civilization is the information_centric production in contrast to energy_centric production of the industrial civilization. In this regard, one may want to read a newer article of Daniel Bell, which I think is an excellent work:


The article was published on Framtider which is a Swedish magazine and fortunately Daniel Bell mentioned it to me and I looked for it and this is how I found it, because I have not seen it republished anywhereelse, and have not seen it anywhere on the web either. This is the only writing of Bell in the last two decades on a topic related to futurism, as his focus had mostly been sociology and economics topics in the last 20 years.

Of the major writings about Futurism, I recommend the following two articles that have been written almost 50 years ago and have been real significant. I hope they get translated to Persian one of these days:



And here is a note about the authors:


Sam Ghandchi, Publisher



April 16, 2002





P.S.1.  My thanks to HamMihan on Jebhe BB for noting Kurzweil's article on singularity and for his interest in the topic.


P.S.2.  I need to make a note about Greens.  Demonizing new technologies *is* my main criticism of the Greens. I think their stand for countries like Germany or even the U.S. does not hurt much. In these countries, one may see individuals like Unabomer or some small cults hating technique but for the main part the technology goes forward (actually old industry support is more problem in the West than such Luddites).  But anti-technology stand for countries like Iran can hurt us, where we really need to push advancement of technologies in a short span of time and blocking it under any excuse is very dangerous for Iran at this stage of development. Iran is *not* Germany.


P.S.3.  I do not care for post-modernism and I do not care for their fascination with Nietzsche (for example I do not care for Michel Faucault). I think the philosophy of Nietzche was as much responsible for Nazism as philosophy of Marx was responsible for real Communism, both inheriting statism from Hegel (and even before that from Heraclitus). The atheistic systems like them were as fascistic as many religious systems of the last 2000 years.  But this is a long discussion and one can see my papers below about "Dynamic Monism" and "Pluralism":




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