In The Next 100 Years, Friedman turns his eye on the future. Drawing on a profound understanding of history and geopolitical patterns dating back to the Roman Empire, he shows that we are now, for the first time in half a millennium, experiencing the dawn of a new historical cycle.
©2009 George Friedman; (P)2009 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
"A unique combination of cold-eyed realism and boldly confident fortune-telling....Whether all of the visions in Friedman's crystal ball actually materialize, they certainly make for engrossing entertainment." (Publishers Weekly)
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
Though this book has taken much flak from readers (and will no doubt get a lot wrong as the decades roll forward), I thought the first half was smartly argued. Friedman attempts to forecast the next century through his "history as a chess game" theory, which postulates that in global politics, as in chess, there may seem to be a limitless number of potential moves, but, in actuality, only a few are feasible at a given time. Thus, leaders are heavily constrained in their options by geopolitical trends, economic cycles, demographic changes, and the moves made by other countries. Major shifts are driven less by the issues making the headlines at a given moment, and more by slow, long-term trends that build for years.
It's a simple (and perhaps simplistic) thesis, but Friedman uses it to generate some predictions that I found difficult to argue with. Consider:
* The US will remain the world's dominant military, economic, and cultural superpower for decades to come, if only because no one else will be capable of filling those shoes. And because no one else has such a powerful navy.
* China's spectacular present-day growth story will wane as the country suffers from underlying economic and demographic problems. Friedman draws parallels to Japan's apparent preeminence in the 1980s, and subsequent economic meltdown.
* Russia will struggle to assert itself, but will come apart
* Turkey will become the dominant Middle Eastern power
* As birthrates slow worldwide, industrialized countries will recruit immigrants, rather than seek to keep them out
* The boundaries between the US and Mexico will blur, as Mexico gains economic power and parts of the US southwest become increasingly Mexican in culture
However, I think the chess game analogy holds up only so far into the future, and the crystal ball becomes a lot shakier in part two. I'll give Friedman credit for doing his homework on future military technology (I happen to work at one the DARPA companies that gets a quick mention), but the elaborate narrative he sets up about a 2050 space and ground war between a Turkey-Japan alliance and the United States can only be read as entertaining sci-fi speculation, not a credible forecast of reality. And some of Friedman's general assumptions make less sense than others. For example, he speaks a lot of "historic enemies" when describing potential conflicts -- while I'm sure that serious wars won't go away, I have a difficult time believing that modern states will be anywhere near as likely to mobilize their citizens for large-scale conflicts with other states as they were in the 19th and 20th centuries, especially when those citizens will have many ways of communicating with each other directly. (Then again, I'm not Polish -- maybe they do worry about being overrun once again by Germany or Russia?)
Finally, there are a lot of subjects that Friedman just doesn't touch very much. How will technology change the picture? Could something like Kurzweil's "Singularity" unfold, with implications so sweeping and profound that they make all existing schools of thought, including geopolitics, obsolete? Consider the advances in computers and computer systems between 1970 and now, then think ahead to 2050. What happens to economies when robots take over a lot of jobs? And what about climate change, medicine, DNA engineering, religion, food and water shortages, and so forth? Or the unpredictable but game-changing factors that always occur in an increasingly complex world?
All in all, definitely worth a read for futurists, but not the only work you should have on your shelf.
Good start and good topic over all. The main problem was that it dragged on towards the last third..... and the length made it hard for me to keep all the interconnected pieces together in my head. Probably could have been cut down a bit IMHO.
mostly nonfiction listener
This month Bryan Alexander has a terrific article out " Apprehending the Future: Emerging Technologies, from Science Fiction to Campus Reality" in Educause Review Alexander writes about the various methods that we try to understand the future, where Friedman is about scenarios rather then methods. 100 years may seem too far to look ahead, the but the exercise of looking towards the future is one of the best ways we have to understand where we are today. I'd like to see the 100 year lens applied to education and technology. Friedman is all about looking at the next 100 years of geopolitics, of war, and somewhat of the economy.
I have some agreement with Friedman in terms of a coming labor shortage and the massive consequences of a rapidly aging society. I'm not sure if Poland will become the major power that Friedman predicts (but I do agree about Turkey). A fun book to get lost in, a good read for any of us who enjoy predicting the future in our own little worlds.
Starts out fairly interesting, but after a while, the assumptions are built into a house of cards that just can't sustain the author's conclusions. While the author seems to have a good grasp of military history, he's significantly less clear on economic issues.
Unlike many "futurist" tomes, Friedman's objective analysis of wide ranging events processed within the framework of geopolitical thinking, shines through once again in this positively engrossing book. I would encourage the reader/listener to set aside any preconceived notions they might have, and listen carefully to Friedman's thought process.
As the author emphasizes many times, the leaders of any nation are faced with an extremely narrow range of options with which to secure their nation's vital interests. This drives their decision making in ways that are seldom captured effectively by the media or political spin doctors. Check your biases at the door and you will not only learn why international events transpire in the ways that they do, but how to assess and analyze how national transformations and conflicts will likely unfold in the future.
Friedman's writing style is excellent, and I found this particular audiobook to be particularly well narrated by Mr. Hughes. Highly recommended to anyone interested in current/future events.
I listened to the first two hours and then started to skip forward but it did not seem to get any better. I have bought many books from Blackstone Audiobooks and they have all been good or very good. These predictions of the future did nothing to spark my imagination and were generally uninteresting. I have about 30 books in my wish list and I had to spend a credit on this.
I am an avid listener. I listen between 75-100 hours per month on my iPhone: 60% fiction to 40% non-fiction.
Friedman offers us a prognostication of the future 100 years. His fortunetelling is based upon geopolitical factors rather than hocus-pokus or astrogeology. He offers very sound reasons for his thinking the future history lines. Given that this book was published in 2010 and only four years into it, we already see some seeds of truth. Four years is only 1/25 of the span but at least he is off to a great start. Given this a listen, it will make you think -- especially about the middle east and the far east. I give it a thumbs up.
Again, Friedman gives us his best shot (a good one) regarding the tendencies of a populated planet. Sweeping and at the same time humble in his assessments, the reader senses responsible opinions and, as such, they are acceptable and absorbable into his own frame of reference. In other words, the book is quite excellent.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book however, I was intrigued at the blind spots that emerge when viewing the future from such a US perspective. Living in Australia, I guess I see Asia, America and Europe in a very different way. Some assumptions about the people are not consistent with my reality and my knowledge and experience of these regions. Having said this, I was very impressed with the sheer depth of knowledge of George Friedman
Yes, because he gives logic and facts to back up his predictions. Whether I agree with his conclusions or not, I have to agree that they are plausible.
This one is my first
He read the book in a voice that sounded as though the author was speaking. Not overly emotional or bored sounding, but as though he believed what he was saying
No, I didn't see the book as trying to inspire action.
The book was not mainly about the technical advances of the next 100 years (although there was a little of that there), but was rather about the cyclical nature of political relationships and conflicts, and how they might play out over the next 100 years. In my opinion, the author gives too little importance to the technical advances, but sees these advances as simply adding a new dimension to the same political relationships that have been going on for hundreds of years.
The author believes that power struggles and wars will be our fate in the future just as in the past. I hope that he is wrong.
"American-centric but interesting"
In this book Friedman lays out an interpretation of world history (mainly modern history), adds in some currently known facts and statistics and then extrapolates this model forward to describe the drivers for world events in the near future.
As Friedman admits, this is shamelessly, uncompromisingly and sometimes almost offensively pro-US -but (if you can) set this aside this there are a number of interesting conclusions drawn about the driving causes for key events in world history. These conclusions are then joined and scenarios for the future are constructed and presented in a concise and flowing manner.
I liked this book. While I might like to question his interpretation of some historical events and even though many individual facts, forecasts and conclusions were not new to me, Friedman finds patterns and extends them into the future in a logical and consistent manner which I have not seen elsewhere and I found thought provoking. I shall be looking for other similar books to add to my library.
Definately worth listening to.
"The next 100 years as it applies to the USA"
This book reminded me of those American war films where no other allies were involved in WW2 or mattered much. The writer presents statistics to forecast how the world during next 100 years will be dominating by the US even more than in the second half of the 20th century. Only two years after publication (2009) we see that as an unlikely scenario, due in part to the colossal US debts that threaten to engulf it. I was amazed the writer also seems to dismiss China as some kind of 'passing phase'........ Mmmmm I don't think so. In summary: written by an American purely for Americans presumably to cheer them up.
"Insightful and interesting"
Of course the author rightly points out that the details are not necessarily correct but the view of what might happen on a wider scale is very interesting. You really have to not see the book as an exact timeline but more as a guild to possible problems and solutions for us in the next 100 years.
"Fun and thought provoking"
George Friedman provide the listener with his predictions on the course of international relations over the next hundred years. He begins by setting out the forces that he thinks shape world politics and then outlines how he expects events to progress. There is humor in this as well as serious ideas. Well worth reading, even if to define in your own mind, why you think he might be wrong.
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