Revolutionary Wealth is still revolutionizing our thinking

The date is June 8, 2001. Alvin Toffler is standing in front of 500 of South Korea’s best and most farsighted business, government, and academia leaders to present his view of the country’s global leadership challenges and opportunities. Alvin is here as part of a tour of the country, one he is taking with his co-author and wife, Heidi Toffler. 

This is a day nearly two decades in the making. 

The man who invited Alvin to speak was South Korean President Kim Dae Jung. Kim had discovered the Tofflers’ best-selling book, The Third Wave, while he was detained as a political prisoner by North Korea. During his imprisonment, Kim was inspired by the writings to envision how South Korea could lead in the coming Information Age. And when Kim was released from prison in 1982, he asked to see Alvin Toffler before anyone else.

Now, nearly two decades later, Alvin was standing before South Korea’s most accomplished leaders—the same visionaries who, in a single generation, had propelled the country past the Industrial Age to the forefront of the new Information Age. He was daring them to look well beyond the present and deep into the 21st century. It was a call to action for the progressive country to take another giant leap forward, invest in technology for the future, and prepare its people for the resulting advancements to come. 

This was just one moment in the lifelong relationship that Alvin and Heidi Toffler shared, as trusted thought leaders, futurists, and advisors, with the leaders and people of South Korea.

Always looking to the future

Even as the Tofflers were making their 2001 visit to South Korea, they were hard at work writing the manuscript for their book Revolutionary Wealth. Through their prior books Future Shock and The Third Wave, the Tofflers had helped people around the world understand the forces shaping everything from our most personal lives to society, culture, politics, enterprise, innovation, security, infrastructure, and even the frontiers of space. Revolutionary Wealth would continue to foretell the dramatic evolution of the knowledge-based economy that would replace the Industrial Age.  Today, this message is just as relevant and resonant. That is why, even though Revolutionary Wealth was first released in 2006, it is now being republished with a new forward by South Korean publisher Chungrim.

Though the first edition of Revolutionary Wealth was published in 2006, the messages in the book remain relevant. They describe how, in the knowledge era, we stand at the edge of even greater and faster shifts than the world has ever seen. The revolution isn’t limited to rapid changes in technology or the economy. It impacts and evolves our social systems, cultural values, the relative power of legacy institutions such as governments, businesses, and the global economy, and even how people define what it means to be human. When change strikes on so many levels and from so many different directions—simultaneously and with such high speed—change itself is subject to disruption.

Additionally, Revolutionary Wealth portents that the world is just beginning to see the arrival of a revolutionary new form of knowledge-based wealth creation. The Tofflers predicted that this shift would render Industrial Age economic models obsolete. As we are well aware, they were right. 

Read in a current context, Revolutionary Wealth brings forth the ideas of today’s hidden economy that exist between the industrial era past and the progressing Knowledge Age. We are caught in the middle of this transition. There’s one economy where investors, business leaders, economists, financial advisors, and regulators make decisions on the monetary economy of the past. And there is another in which people make decisions on a new definition of wealth that comprises an expanding parallel non-monetary economy in which almost everyone participates. These two economies are intertwining to form a global wealth system that is undergoing the most revolutionary change since the transition from the agricultural era to the industrial era.

Rapidly shifting societal behavior, fueled by advanced technology, is quickly expanding the knowledge era economy. New challenges, if solved, will increase the wealth and health of individuals around the world. For example, accelerating the pursuit, development, and commercialization of clean energy sources could revolutionize the global economy in ways that begin reversing the impacts of climate change. Or supporting early-stage, cutting-edge research can create new possibilities for treating rare neurodegenerative diseases and disorders such as Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. Ambitious, future-focused efforts like these enable us to work toward the type of monumental breakthroughs that have defined humanity’s greatest achievements—and those yet to come.

Carrying forward the Toffler’s legacy

As scholars, speakers, and individuals, Alvin and Heidi Toffler created lasting influence across virtually every sector and corner of the world. With their pursuits, writings, and visits with leaders like Kim, they actively pursued hopes and plans for better futures for all of humanity. Establishing The Karen Toffler Charitable Trust (KTCT) was one such act, and perhaps one of their most special. Named for their daughter, Karen, KTCT honors their love of family and carries forward their legacy. 

The efforts of KTCT are grounded in the same spirit that motivated the Toffler’s writings about learning, technology, thinking, and change. It is with that dedication that KTCT empowers early-career individuals working at the front edge of medical research. By supporting the work of people who challenge conventional thinking, we enable them to strive to create a healthier future free of debilitating diseases.

The Toffler’s way of sensing, thinking, challenging, and questioning is timeless. They used their writings to document the process of future-focused thinking. They used their collective voices to inspire people across the globe to step into the future so we could consider the present world in its larger context. They challenged conventional thinking and called us all to look deeper at the connections being made across vast topics and issues, encouraging us to do what is necessary to truly understand change and its impact. 

The Toffler’s legacy continues to empower us to create our own future proactively, rather than to be pulled passively into it. At its center, Revolutionary Wealth is deeply hopeful and optimistic. It’s an enduring message of hope for the future. It is for this reason that South Korea is reintroducing Revolutionary Wealth to a new generation of leaders. May its insights continue to lead and guide us toward a brighter future for everyone.