Academic journal article The Journal of Business Forecasting Methods & Systems

The Challenge of the 21st Century: Managing Technology and Ourselves in a Shrinking World

Academic journal article The Journal of Business Forecasting Methods & Systems

The Challenge of the 21st Century: Managing Technology and Ourselves in a Shrinking World

Article excerpt

Harold A. Linstone and Ian Mitroff. The Challenge of The 21st Century: Managing Technology and Ourselves In A Shrinking World. Albany, New York: SUNY: State University of New York Press, 1994. Price $19.95.

The above title is misleading in one sense--it does not convey the sense of dread that one tends to feel after reading this highly literate, thought provoking book. A peek into the future is what the authors give us. But the kind of future they depict is not necessarily the one we will be eager to see. The authors imply that right now we are in a self-induced purgatory from which we may not emerge. However, they provide us with a prescription for our salvation. They explain how we must reorient ourselves if we are to successfully face the challenges of the 21st century. This is mostly a book about pessimism and optimism, about decline and renewal and mostly, about society facing itself.

The world is rapidly changing. In this new world, we are becoming more and more interlocked and interdependent. This new megalopolis has been created by two "non-natural," human induced sources: over-population and technology. While the book grants that the potential for good exists, its major premise is that these two issues are sowing the seeds for disaster. The doubling of the earth's population during the next century, coupled with continued technological advances, will inexorably and unmercifully stress our resources. Increasing pollution, inadequate sanitation, atmospheric instability, chemical hazards, advanced weaponry and ever widening gap between the "haves" and "have nots" (both on a personal and societal level) will create conditions for implosion. This book alerts us to these dangers and tells us what we, both as individuals and as members of a larger society, can do to change negatives into positives and threats into opportunities; yet, all this depends on how well we organize and manage ourselves and our technology.

Today, since everything interacts with everything else in our global society, we have to start looking at the world in a different light. Typically and understandably, we have looked at the world through technological glasses, glasses that allow us to see the world essentially in analytical terms. As such we have overemphasized hard data and models and, all too often, black and white solutions. It has been the Golden Age of Engineering. We must view the world from new directions and new perspectives.

The authors bring to our attention the concept of multiple perspectives, where "human and technical factors must both be fully appreciated and ethic means much more than logic and scientific rationality." Therefore, we must observe the world in terms of three viewpoints--technical, organizational and personal. We cannot ignore technology, but we must include the institution and the individual in our response to the challenges that lie ahead. …

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