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The Future: Hot, Flat, Crowded

On Monday I posted some predictions from the World Future Society, what I consider to be an interesting list of believable possibilities for the next 25 years.

Today I want to add another view. I’ve heard several interviews with Thomas Friedman lately, and over the last week bought and read his latest book Hot, Flat, and Crowded.  This looks and feels to me like another very valuable view of the future, also very reasonable, well documented, and well written. In the end, although it delivers bad news, it’s important bad news, and credible.

Hot, because climate change is real and it threatens humanity. Flat, because we’re in a world economy now, with very few borders, and a very level playing field. And crowded because, well, do the math. Our numbers double every generation.

What this book and the thinking behind it should mean, if there is any common sense left in the world, is a big investment boom for clean technology and alternate energy technology.

In regards to new business, and especially emerging business, and growing small business, Friedman is calling for an all-encompassing new wave of political, social, and economic resolve, which he hopes will be led by the political, to change the way the human race consumes energy.

Drilling for oil, in Friedman’s picture, may or may not be useful as a drop-in-the-bucket stopgap measure, but in the broader view it gets in the way. It obscures the real picture.

What we need, badly — and that’s not just we the United States, although we’re the worst of it — is to focus our efforts on new sources of energy, using new technologies, to end the economic dependence on something we don’t have much of and we need a whole lot of: oil.

If Friedman had his way, the U.S. would jump on new alternate sources of energy in a way that would greatly surpass our efforts to get a man on the moon after the 1961 John F. Kennedy call to action, and also the technology revolution of the personal computer a generation ago and the Internet in our current world.


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