Shaping the Next One Hundred Years: New Methods for Quantitative, Long-Term Policy Analysis

By Robert J. Lempert; Steven W. Popper et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter Seven
CONCLUSION: MOVING PAST FAMILIAR SHORES

What should people do today to shape the next hundred years to their liking?

Based on experience, a sophisticated reader ought to view with great skepticism the prospect of successfully answering such a question. The checkered history of attempts to predict the long-term future— from the famous declarations that man would never fly, to the Limits to Growth study, the unanticipated end of the Cold War, to claims about the “New Economy”—should humble anyone who claims to extend their gaze past the well-charted inner seas on into the deep waters where the future is not tightly constrained by the past. Like navigators sailing before the days of the reliable compass, those who should engage in the vast enterprise of peering into the future often find greater comfort staying focused on the next fiscal quarter, the next year, the next election. They hug that familiar shore where they can feel greater confidence that their predictions need not deviate too far from the known and familiar and still remain credible.

Yet, the long-term future continues to fascinate and beckon—with good reason. The very characteristic that makes it so hard to predict, its relative independence from the constraints of the present, also make it fraught with the greatest dangers and endowed with opportunities. It is only over the course of decades that we can imagine extending freedom and opportunity across a world where vast numbers of people still live with oppression and deprivation. Only as the project of decades can we imagine changing values and technology sufficiently to enable great worldwide wealth to coexist with a rich natural environment.Over that same sweep of time, we can also

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