The prospects for global change are dazzling. The world has within its grasp the potential to change — and progress — like never before.

The outcome is in our hands. We need to rewrite and re-vision the course of our collective destiny — to re-invent the world with a geo-strategic agenda that will take us to an affluent and peaceful future.

The major agents of change are not a few nation states, political leaders, business executives or scientists working on scattered, individual projects. They are what I call G-Forces: major global forces of change that are restructuring the world.

And fundamental to these driving forces of globalization is the overriding behavior of ordinary people: their needs, their aspirations, and their ideas.

Little improves in the world, unless people decide to change things, either consciously or subconsciously. The power of the "masses" — all 6+ billion of us — is the most powerful G-Force of change on the Planet.

Beyond the "Third Wave"

G-Forces provide a powerful structure for understanding change. They also help us make sense of the world's progression, far beyond what has become known as the "third wave" of societal development.

The futurist Alvin Toffler referred to the Agricultural Era and the Industrial Age as 1st-Wave Society and 2nd-Wave Society respectively. Third Wave Society is the Post-Industrial Revolution already well underway for a few decades now.

In under-developed countries, which are mostly 1st-Wave agrarian societies, people still work on a labor-intensive basis, just as people in Western countries did in the Agricultural Age.

But in the most-rapidly-developing countries, such as China or India, we are seeing a continual shift of employment from the labor-intensive agricultural sector into the industrial and service sectors. All economies modernize across this same "1st-2nd-3rd Wave" path of socio-economic development.

As machines take over agricultural tasks, the rural population moves to the cities, where they form industrial labor pools for the manufacturing and service sectors. Even the most backward of countries show some growth in the 3rd-Wave sector, and the most advanced developing countries are moving strongly towards 2nd- and 3rd-Wave characteristics.

Western nations, of course, have already moved beyond the 3rd-Wave, which is now so large, for example, that it employs about 85% of North America's work force. Indeed, Toffler's "Third Wave" must now itself be divided into four distinct waves:

• 3rd Wave: Services (financial, health, personal, etc.);
• 4th Wave: Information (including knowledge and high tech);
• 5th Wave: Leisure (and tourism); and
• 6th Wave: Outer Space.

These 6 waves exist simultaneously in individual countries, though at any one time one wave predominates. The old waves rarely disappear; rather, the new waves complement them. For example, machines built in the 2nd-Wave manufacturing sector helped modernize agriculture, and increased crop production.

Today, the 4th-Wave information sector is not just spawning the digital information economy; it is helping to modernize all other sectors of the economy. Indeed, computerized information is essential to all modern industry, be it a farm, a factory, an office, a hospital or a hotel.

The 6 waves manifest themselves in varying strengths and speeds in different countries and regions. Hawaii, for example, has been primarily a 5th-Wave leisure economy for many years. Its original agricultural base was virtually eliminated, and the other sectors are insignificant.

The 6 waves also have "cross-impact" effects among regions and countries — for example, the high-tech career couple in Toronto who has a nanny from the Philippines, whose income in turn helps to educate her children in Manila, so that they can qualify for new high-tech jobs there. Likewise, major American banks (3rd-Wave) in New York employ data entry operators in the 5th-Wave Caribbean, who "telecommute" to Manhattan via 6th-Wave satellite technology. The same applies to high-tech call center workers in India.

In North America, the white collar service sector became the largest employer back in 1950. This was the real 3rd-Wave revolution.

The next wave, the 4th-Wave information sector (of computers, robotics, information, knowledge, media, and the Internet), began to rise to supremacy in the 1980s and 1990s to become the predominant job creator in the United States, Canada and Japan.

During the 1990s, the fastest-growing employment area became the 5th-Wave leisure sector of travel, tourism, hospitality, recreation, entertainment, and the cultural industry. While there was a slowdown in this sector after 9/11, and there will be again during the economic slowdown of 2008-2010, this sector will be the largest employer in North America by about 2020.

As Western society has moved from an agriculture based 1st-Wave society through to a 4th-Wave information-based society, employment has shifted to an almost upside down reversal of the earlier situation. It used to be 80% agricultural; now it is 80% information and leisure. We are even seeing strong growth of the emerging 6th-Wave outer space sector.

As the new waves pile on top of the previous ones, they build the economy and enhance socio-economic development. But the fortunes of individual nations vary depending on their drive to change, and their degree of innovation.

China, for example, was an innovator that created paper, printing, gunpowder and rocketry and, before the Industrial Revolution in the West, was the world's largest manufacturer, thanks mostly to its domination of the world silk market. Then, suffering internal political misdirection and external attempts at colonization, China faltered and declined. And it failed to take part in the Industrial Revolution at all. Since 1978, of course, China changed direction and has since pursued a 6-wave modernization strategy.

Britain, which failed to innovate since World War II, is now a second-rate economic power. In 1988 it even postponed indefinitely its space program, thereby potentially forgoing any effective participation in the 6th-Wave outer space sector of the world economy.

In the future, the leading nations — including many developing countries — will be those that have strongly growing 4th- and 5th-Wave sectors. Indeed, countries such as China and India already have ambitious 6th-Wave space programs in place.

Author's Bio: 

Frank Feather is a world-leading business futurist, keynote speaker, and strategy consultant. For more information, please visit his main "hub" website at, or contact him directly at .

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