The world we live in today is more volatile than ever. The security of free nations is threatened by rogue states, the global economy is in flux, and the rapid advance of technology forces constant reevaluation of our society. With so many powerful forces at work and seemingly unpredictable events occurring, to many the future seems dark, and its possibilities frightening.
Peter Schwartz disagrees. A world-renowned visionary in the field of scenario planning, Schwartz’s startling—and accurate— predictions have been employed by government agencies and major corporations for more than twenty-five years. He argues that the future is foreseeable, and that by examining the dynamics at work today we can predict the “inevitable surprises” of tomorrow.
Timely and thought-provoking, Inevitable Surprises is a book that no one with an interest in business—or the future of our society—can afford to miss.
Schwartz uses the techniques of scenario planning he presented in The Art of the Long View (1991) to create a new version of what tomorrow's world might look like. Unsurprisingly, it's a mixed picture, where the "potential for progress is enormous, but the potential for disruption is equally great." The futurist and chairman of Global Business Network thinks the long-awaited population bomb will actually be an explosion of the elderly. He sees a "continuing, ongoing flood" of people migrating to better lives in the richer nations, the return of a decades-long economic boom he predicted in a previous book written before the bubble burst, the U.S.'s continued flirtation with unilateral action as the world's only superpower, and major scientific and technological breakthroughs. More ominously, Schwartz claims there will be "no plausible future in which terrorism has been permanently neutralized," no end to the chaos and religious wars among the have-not nations and dire results from the AIDS epidemic. On the plus side, "the biosphere is becoming healthier every year" and the energy we use will be cleaner and more efficient. On the minus, environmental crises and as-yet-unknown diseases are coming. To top it off, there's the eventual collision with a killer asteroid. How accurate are these predictions? "All of them are inevitable," declares Schwartz. He admits, however, that the effects of these major events, especially as they interact and influence each other, are largely unknowable. So ready or not, the future will bring a "world of maximum surprise." Schwartz's predictions are interesting in a speculative way, but, naturally, have limited practical utility.