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The Information Age
(2) The Third Wave

by John A. Zachman

This is the second in my series on the Information Age in the context of some well-known works by Alvin Toffler.  The second book Toffler wrote about change is "The Third Wave."  In this book he was contrasting the characteristics of the major 'Waves' of humanity:

In the Agricultural Wave, the basic discipline of humanity was Farming.

98% of humanity were farmers.
In the Industrial Wave, 2% of humanity are farmers.

In the Agricultural Wave, there were Rural Communities.

In the Industrial Wave, there are Urban Communities.

In the Agricultural Wave, there were natural sources of energy, Wind, Waves, Slaves, etc.

In the Industrial Wave, there are electric Motors, etc., etc.

It is not an extrapolation that occurs between the Ages, that is, it is not a volume issue, "more of the same."  It is a structural issue, a "step-function" change between the Ages … that is, they are different.  The word that is assigned to the intersection between the Ages is 'revolution'.  That is a pretty strong word!  The implications of the word are, tear all of this stuff down … we are going to start over again and this time we are going to do it differently!  You can read the history books about the Industrial Revolution and be really antiseptic about it … it was really tragic, all those French peasants getting shot up in the streets!

Do you understand the implications of this?  We are in the middle of the Information Revolution … who do you think the French peasants are in this Revolution?  Hey! … WE are the French peasants!!  I used to say, "Nobody is getting shot in the streets … yet!"  But, I don't say that anymore!  Read the newspapers … a LOT of people are getting shot up in the streets.  Some people want the Revolution to happen and some people don't want the Revolution to happen.  We are in the middle of a major, massive Revolution taking place, a global change, the magnitude of which the World has not seen since the Industrial Revolution two or three hundred years ago!

If you don't understand this and you make the assumption that it is just "more of the same" … that is a high risk assumption.  Because, if it is NOT actually more of the same, you are going to wake up one day and discover you are playing in the old game … and that is the day that the Revolution happens for you!  At that point it is too late.  You are out of the game.  Okay, Colonel … game over!!

Since 2008, the beginning of the present recession, a lot of little guys fell out of the game … in fact, a lot of the big guys fell out of the game.  In fact, not only Private Sector big guys but Public Sector big guys.  Small — Big, Private — Public … nobody was exempt.  Some of the big guys were too big to fail and got a massive infusion of capital from an external agency … but the question is, did that just postpone the revolution for them … or are those big guys actually changing their concepts and structures to play in the new Information Age game?  And, a number of Public Sector big guys fell out of the game!

We (most of us reading this today … even the young ones) are the last of the Industrial Age generation.  We have spent our entire lives in the Industrial Age.  We are walking around with Industrial Age glasses on, interpreting everything we see in the context of the Industrial Age.  We have the Information Age paradigm problem.

A very big problem is, these massive, global changes are hard to see on a day-to-day basis.  The sun keeps coming up in the East and going down in the West, comes up in the East and goes down in the West, comes up in the East and goes down in the West.  We get up, put on the same suit, the same tie, go to the same desk, write the same code … it doesn't look like anything has changed on a day-to-day basis.  It's a forest-and-trees problem.  You have to get far enough away to see the forest.  In the middle of the trees, everything looks like trees.

Another problem is, we are having difficulty seeing the characteristics of the Information Age even though they are present to be seen.  I call this the Captain Cook Syndrome … you can read about this in his logs in the British Museum.  When Captain Cook sailed into one of the harbors in New Zealand and dropped the anchor of the ship, the local people could not see the ship … because they had never seen a ship before!

We have the Captain Cook syndrome working on us … even though the characteristics of the Information Age are here, we are having trouble seeing them … because we never saw the Information Age before.  And, the Information people are the worst in this regard!  In fact, Information people tend to argue against doing what has to be done to be viable in the Information Age … because they know too much!  They know that you absolutely cannot do the things required to be viable in the Information Age … it would be impossible!  The argument boils down to, "It would take too long and cost too much!"  It is a real paradox when the Information people argue against what has to be done to be viable in the Information Age!  The argument is completely unfounded because it is deriving from 60 or 70 years of life experience in the Industrial Age, the "Manufacturing Paradigm."

There is an academic argument that it would take about 40 years to make the transition from one major global environment to another major global environment.  Where would they get 40 years? … Forty years is the scientific measurement for one life cycle … one lifetime.  You understand the implications … all the people who are alive during one Age would have to die before the world could transition to the next Age.  Actually, it would have to be longer than forty years because it is a classic four-stage learning curve … only humanity has to go through the learning curve.  There will likely be "Early Adopters," "Early Majority," "Late Majority," and "Laggards" (these are the ones that likely have to die) … etc.

This would suggest that even though we are in a period of intense instability, in another 20 (or 30 or 40 or some number of) years we will likely move into another relatively stable period for some hundred (or hundreds of) years or so.

I will cover the third part — "Powershift" — next time.  I think understanding these concepts are really important for Enterprise Architects.

This article can also be viewed on John's blog — presented here, with permission.

standard citation for this article:
John A. Zachman, "The Information Age:  (2) The Third Wave," Business Rules Journal, Vol. 17, No. 2 (Feb. 2016), URL:  

January 2017
By John A. Zachman

October 2016
Strategy Spectrum for Enterprise Engineering and Manufacturing
By John A. Zachman

July 2016
The New EA Paradigm
(4) The Assemble-to-Order Pattern

By John A. Zachman

June 2016
The New EA Paradigm
(3) The Provide-from-Stock Pattern

By John A. Zachman

May 2016
The New EA Paradigm
(2) The Make-to-Order Pattern

By John A. Zachman

April 2016
The New EA Paradigm
(1) Expenses and Assets

By John A. Zachman

March 2016
The Information Age: (3) Powershift
By John A. Zachman

February 2016
The Information Age: (2) The Third Wave
By John A. Zachman

January 2016
The Information Age: (1) Future Shock
By John A. Zachman

December 2015
Defining Enterprise Architecture: Economics and the Role of I.T.
By John A. Zachman

November 2015
Enterprise Physics 101
By John A. Zachman

September 2015
A Historical Look at Enterprise Architecture with John Zachman
By John A. Zachman

August 2015
Cloud Computing and Enterprise Architecture
By John A. Zachman

June 2015
The Zachman Framework Evolution (Part 2)
Special Guest: John P. Zachman

May 2015
The Zachman Framework Evolution (Part 1)
Special Guest: John P. Zachman

April 2015
Architecture is Architecture is Architecture
By John A. Zachman

April 2013
John Zachman's Concise Definition of The Zachman Framework
By John A. Zachman

November 2004
The Zachman Framework and Observations on Methodologies


November 2003

Framework Fundamentals: Frameworks, Reference Models, and Matrices


August 2003

Framework Fundamentals: A Dialog With John Zachman


June 2003

Framework Fundamentals: Miscellaneous Enterprise Engineering Concepts


April 2003

Framework Fundamentals: Framework Fundamentals: Level of Detail is a Function of a CELL


February 2003

Framework Fundamentals: Responding to Questions from the OMG


May 2002

Enterprise Quantum Mechanics (Part 2)


March 2002

Enterprise Quantum Mechanics (Part 1)


January 2002

"What" Versus "What"


November 2001

Security And The "Zachman Framework"


September 2001

Fatal Distractions (Part 2)


July 2001

Fatal Distractions (Part 1)


May 2001

You Can't "Cost-Justify" Architecture


March 2001

Conceptual, Logical, Physical: It Is Simple (Part 2 of 2)


January 2001

Conceptual, Logical, Physical: It Is Simple (Part 1 of 2)


September 2000

Building The Enterprise - An Infusion Of Honesty


July 2000

All the Reasons Why You Can't Do Architecture or ("We Has Met the Enemy and He Is Us")


May 2000

Enterprise Architecture Artifacts vs Application Development Artifacts (Part 2)


March 2000

Enterprise Architecture Artifacts vs Application Development Artifacts (Part 1)


November/December 1999 & January/February 2000

Enterprise Architecture: Issues, Ingibitors, and Incentives

July/August & September/October 1999

Packages Don't Let You Off The Hook

By John A. Zachman

January/February & March/April 1999

Life Is a Series of Trade-Offs and Change Is Accelerating!

November/December 1998

"Yes Virginia, There IS an Enterprise Architecture"

July/August 1998

Enterprise Architecture: Looking Back and Looking Ahead

January/February 1998

The Framework for Enterprise Architecture (The 'Zachman Framework') and the Search for the Owner's View of Business Rules



 about . . .



John A. Zachman is the originator of the “Framework for Enterprise Architecture” (The Zachman Framework™) which has received broad acceptance around the world as an integrative framework, an ontology for descriptive representations for Enterprises. Mr. Zachman is not only known for this work on Enterprise Architecture, but is also known for his early contributions to IBM’s Information Strategy methodology (Business Systems Planning) as well as to their Executive team planning techniques (Intensive Planning).

Mr. Zachman retired from IBM in 1990, having served them for 26 years. He is Chief Executive Officer of his own education and consulting business, Zachman International®.

Mr. Zachman serves on the Executive Council for Information Management and Technology (ECIMT) of the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) and on the Advisory Board of the Data Administration Management Association International (DAMA-I) from whom he was awarded the 2002 Lifetime Achievement Award. He was awarded the 2009 Enterprise Architecture Professional Lifetime Achievement Award from the Center for Advancement of the Enterprise Architecture Profession as well as the 2004 Oakland University, Applied Technology in Business (ATIB), Award for IS Excellence and Innovation.  In August 2011,  he was awarded the Gen. Colin Powell Public Sector Image Award by the Armed Services Alliance Program.

Mr. Zachman has been focusing on Enterprise Architecture since 1970 and has written extensively on the subject. He has facilitated innumerable executive team planning sessions. He travels nationally and internationally, teaching and consulting, and is a popular conference speaker, known for his motivating messages on Enterprise Architecture issues. He has spoken to many thousands of enterprise managers and information professionals on every continent.

In addition to his professional activities, Mr. Zachman serves on the Elder Council of the Church on the Way (First Foursquare Church of Van Nuys, California), the Board of Directors of Living Way Ministries, a radio and television ministry of the Church on the Way, the President’s Cabinet of the King’s College University, the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles Citywide Children’s Christian Choir, the Board of Directors of Heavenworks, an international ministry to the French-speaking world and on the Board of Directors of Native Hope International, a Los Angeles-based ministry to the Native American people.

Prior to joining IBM, Mr. Zachman served as a line officer in the United States Navy and is a retired Commander in the U. S. Naval Reserve. He chaired a panel on "Planning, Development and Maintenance Tools and Methods Integration"  for the U. S. National Institute of Standards and Technology. He holds a degree in Chemistry from Northwestern University, has taught at Tufts University, has served on the Board of Councilors for the School of Library and Information Management at the University of Southern California, as a Special Advisor to the School of Library and Information Managementat Emporia State University, on the Advisory Council to the School of Library and Information Managementat Dominican University and on the Advisory Board for the Data Resource Management Programat the University of Washington. He has been a Fellow for the College of Business Administration of the University of North Texas and currently is listed in Cambridge Who’s Who.




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