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Preparing for the Twenty-First Century

by Paul Kennedy

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One of the great gifts of Paul Kennedy is perspective. He takes you up and lets you look at things from a distance, putting them in perspective. So it was with great anticipation that I read this book in 2010, predicting 2025 from the vantage point of 1990.

He gets a lot right, and is only way off on a few things. There is an (in retrospect) annoying focus on robotics, which was very big in the eighties. Kennedy takes that and projects it to 2025 as if robots would be the measure of any industrial society. I don't think he goes five pages without using the word. Well, it hasn't turned out that way. For one thing, assembly lines and packaging machines have simply become far more sophisticated, so instead of programmable robot arms, we get entire systems in a room.

On the other hand, the anticipation of methane being released from Siberian permafrost, the rising of the oceans, the killing off of various species and inconvenient climate change is well underway as predicted. No one has the right to be taken by surprise.

I learned a great deal from this book, as I do from everything Kennedy writes. Worth the trip. ( )
  DavidWineberg | Mar 15, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0394584430, Hardcover)

Analyzes the transnational forces that will transform nation-states in the future--population growth, environmental degradation, technological advance--their impact, and how to cope with the challenges of the future. 100,000 first printing. $100,000 ad/promo. Tour.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:04:46 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Human history has always been shaped by the growth and migration of populations, by the opportunities and constraints provided by the environment, and by the rise of new technologies. Today, these forces are enmeshed in a state of unprecedented turbulence. World population has more than doubled in the past forty years to reach its current level of 5.5 billion, and it will exceed 8 billion and perhaps even 10 billion early in the next century. How will these vast numbers reshape the world's borders, strain an already fragile ecosystem, and remake politics? New technologies are even now replacing traditional work with radically new systems of production and communication, promising enormous changes in both industrial and traditional agricultural societies. Will potential developments in biotechnology render traditional food producers obsolete? What is the role of robotics in a world where millions of new jobs are needed each year to absorb the fast-growing population? And what will the roles of women be? How will the spread of AIDS affect the rapid growth of population in countries like India or those of central Africa? And how will all these complex, mutually dependent changes affect individual nations as they struggle with their own ethnic and economic pressures, including the inevitability of ever larger migrations from poorer to richer parts of the world as populations explode in less developed regions and decline in such areas as Japan, parts of North America, and the European continent? Given their historic behavior, how will Japan, the United States, and Europe - as well as the countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America - be likely to respond to these unprecedented circumstances? What is the role of education in a two- or three-tier world? Professor Kennedy's classic The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers considered the forces within nations that led to their rise and fall. In Preparing for the Twenty-first Century Kennedy addresses a larger and uniquely modern question: how will transnational forces in a world of scarce resources, instant communications, and exploding population affect the nations of the world and the people who inhabit them as the new century dawns?… (more)

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