I’ve been reading some of the futurists materials. They improved since the old days: now they admit that most of details and technologies are pretty unknowable. And then they predict them anyway!
George Friedman — “chief intelligence officer” and founder of Strategic Forecasting, Inc., a private intelligence agency who is sometimes called the “shadow CIA” — weighs in with his opinions in The Next 100 Years. It’s reasonably interesting, although it seems like he is much more interested in the U.S.–Turkey/Japan war of 2180.
The interesting thing is that he, along with Strauss and Howe, believes that there is a coming crisis that is not the current financial collapse, as bad as it really is. (Like the Great Depression, it’s really not that bad as long as you have a job.) He is honest that it’s going to be something that can’t necessarily be predicted beforehand.
In fact, his book starts out with how unthinkable the current state is twenty years prior, whether looking to 2030 from 2010 or to 1930 from 1910. The future works out like that. Things that were unthinkable or even “impossible” become the current state.
Not a bad lesson, and worth the price of the book. There’s more of course.
He thinks that North America will continue to enjoy hegemony over the rest of the world, although he suspects that Mexico will overcome the U.S. by late this century. Unthinkable, isn’t it? But I’m sure that no one that that the Aztecs would take over Mesoamerica, either. Were they even a group 200 years before Spanish conquest?
Friedman approaches the future from a geopolitical point of view, arguing that geography matters more than ideology. China isn’t a player after say 2025, in his thinking. He argues that China has always gone back to being a closed society, and someone will come long and spoil all the progress, or they will implode from their own geopolitical and economic situation. Just as they did after the massive armada of 1432 that explored the entire world: the new emperor didn’t just destroy the shipbuilding industry, he destroyed all knowledge of shipbuilding throughout the entire nation. Look forward to that soon.
India, oddly, doesn’t factor into much, either. He argues that it’s geography: they are locked by mountains and other “impassable” terrain.
It’s pretty interesting. He has a chance of even getting some things right: the Soviet/U.S. (cold) war was foretold in the ‘teens who also foretold the rise of China as a global power following that war’s conclusion. He also predicted the Japanese wars of the 1930s and 1940s. So you can do it, and Friedman is using much the same technique as that American in China (whose name I now can’t recall).
We will see.
My husband has been reading a book that might interest you (if you haven’t already read it) – The Great Wave by David Hackett Fischer. As far as I understand, it looks at pricing patterns over long periods of time as an indicator of the nature of change (lengthy periods of increasing wavelike expansion followed by sudden crisis driven contraction). This ties in with the future crisis predictions you note in this review. My husband found this book at our local library, so no need to buy it.
Warren recommended this to me awhile back. It’s interesting that I knew that the crash was going to happen a month before market peak, and since I’m usually the last to know I’ve always found it weird that everyone was so surprised. Some of these historical cycle theories at least give it some reason: certain generations, at certain times, cannot confront the oncoming truck. I’ll have to take a look at it again.
Friedman’s analysis is amazingly insightful, except for his SciFi details of his story of the war with Turkey and Japan. Sure, we’ll end up in a war with Turkey and Japan, but it will look different. But my favorite is about the Jihadist war: they lost and it’s now just noise.