I’ve always been interested in future studies or futurology but couldn’t figure out how to land a job in that lucrative field and become your friendly Oracle. One the studies that ignited my interest in forecasting the future was The Coming War with Japan, authored by George Friedman, and published in 1991. After a long preface (“Imagine being alive in the summer of 1900…”) which demonstrated the hurdles we face trying to predict the future (as Yogi Berra put it, “the future ain’t what it used to be”), and more than 400 pages which describe (among other things) the rise of the “Japanese Empire, Friedman concludes that “as with great wars, the coming second U.S.-Japanese war will occur in spite of the best intentions of all concerned” and that “one suspects, considering the greatness of these two nations and the vastness of the stakes between them, that not matter who wins the next war it will not be the last.”
And I waited and waited and the war with Japan never came. But futurology means never having to say you’re sorry. In fact, Friedman went on to establish a forecasting and “intelligence” company, Startfor, and has just has written a new book, The Next 100 Years. Once again, Friedman introduces us to the topic with exactly the same preface (about how cannot predict the future) from The Coming War with Japan (“Imagine being alive in the summer of 1900…” Hey, Man, I’ve done that in 1991!) and after less than 400 pages (thank God for small favors) the future is revealed: The Coming Wars with Poland, Turkey, and Mexico.
Startfor seems to be doing well and Friedman’s new book is on the New York Times bestseller list. But then not long ago, the real estate market was booming, hedge fund investors were the masters of the universe, and… (fill in your favorite God that Failed). This goes to show — as the funny novel by James Othmer, The Futurist does — why futurists do so well.
So I urge you not to take so seriously much of the expert opinion you read in press these day about The End of this or that – Capitalism is dead; the United States is Dead; We’re all Dead now. It’s The End of the World. The future (fortunately) will be more boring. Or maybe not as these “futurologists” propose: The End of the World