The Next 100 Years

The Next 100 Years is the attempt by a leading strategist to imagine the events of the next 100 years. To do so, he employs a method that most people seem intent to ignore, yet is the most realistic - that the things that seem most obvious, never happen. And when you look at history, this is very true.

So what does the future old? Greying baby boomers mean fewer jobs than available people, inflation, lower house prices once the boomers begin to die out and a change in immigration policy. On the global front, Russia will lose more influence, China will fragment, and Poland, Japan and Turkey will be regional, if not global, players.

This is a very well-reasoned and argued book, and it is refreshing to read something other than "China and India, China and India". Let's face it, in all honesty, India does not have the resources to be a global player and is over-populated. The argument against China too seems very well-thought, that the coast is getting rich whilst the country is poor, and that problems will most likely escalate. I also found that this book got less certain as time went on - what was being foretold for 2020 and 2040 seemed feasible, but the longer time goes on, the more variables can change, and I think this is reflected in this work.

It is not just refreshing opinions that this book offers, but also several passages that are worth quoting in polite company:

  • The United States responded by invading the Islamic world. But its goal wasn't victory. It wasn't even clear what victory would mean. Its goal was simply to disrupt the Islamic world and set it against itself, so that an Islamic empire could not emerge.
  • The United States doesn't need to win wars. It needs to simply disrupt things so the other side can't build up sufficient strength to challenge it.
  • It is the delight of all societies to belittle their political leaders, and leaders surely do make mistakes. But the mistakes they make, when carefully examined, are rarely stupid. Most likely, mistakes are forced upon them by circumstance.
  • Cultures live in one of three states. The first state is barbarism. Barbarians believe that the customs of their village are the laws of nature and that anyone who doesn't live the way they live is beneath contempt and requiring redemption or destruction. The third state is decadence. Decadents cynically believe that nothing is better than anything else. If they hold anyone in contempt, it is those who believe in anything. Nothing is worth fighting for.
  • Civilization is the second and most rare state. Civilized people are able to balance two contradictory thoughts in their minds. They believe that there are truths and that their cultures approximate those truths. At the same time, they hold open in their mind the possibility that they are in error. The combination of belief and skepticism is inherently unstable. Cultures pass through barbarism to civilization and then to decadence, as skepticism undermines self-certainty.


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