Jan 10 2009
Congratulations to George Friedman, founder and CEO of Stratfor, a geopolitical consulting and forecasting firm, for his new book The Next Hundred Years. Although the book won’t be released until January 27, Dr. Friedman and his reviewers drop revealing hints on his website about its thrust and directions.
Any scientific forecast is only as reliable as its methodology, and Friedman uses historical analogies, economic analyses, demographic data, and geopolitical patterns “dating back hundreds of years…”
21stCenturyWaves.com also uses specific patterns in the economy and history. However, this weblog’s focus is on human expansion, technology, and wars because they appear to be facilitated by long waves in the economy at least over the last 200 years.
Our emphasis on technology and science is significant because progress in modern science has had a profound impact on human history…an effect that is accelerating today. Indeed, Francis Fukuyama concluded that progress in natural science is the mechanism of directionality in history, “The progressive unfolding of modern natural science (explains)…many of the specific details of historical evolution.” This is especially due to its direct effects on economic development, social organization, and military competition. It is possible to imagine technological wildcards (e.g., space transportation, the “singularity“) that might surprisingly alter any geopolitical forecast for the 2nd half of this century, but despite that, Friedman’s book is definitely a mind-expanding exercise.
A sample of Friedman’s forecasts and my preliminary comments include:
— “Technology will focus on space — both for major military uses and for a dramatic new energy resource that will have radical environmental implications.”
The rise of space is a major theme of 21stCenturyWaves.com. It’s a maturing arena with almost unlimited potential in energy, colonization, science, and tourism. Friedman has recognized
space-based solar power as a credible solution to Earth’s expanding 21st Century energy needs.
Whether the solar collectors are in Earth orbit or on the Moon, a global solution will require lunar materials to lower costs and environmental impacts. Thus Earth’s 21st Century energy crisis may drive development of the Moon.
Friedman’s SF-like global space war starting in 2050 — featuring “battle stars” and Turkish and Japanese opponents for the U.S. — if we are to take it seriously, would be a “trough war” analogous to W.W. II that would suggest lingering hostilities from the major war forecasted for the 2020s by this weblog. (In the last 200 years peaks in the long economic wave are always accompanied by a major war; the only exception was W.W. II which occurred at an economic low point)
— “The U.S.-Jihadist war will conclude — replaced by a second full-blown Cold War with Russia.”
Many signs suggest the second Cold War is already well on its way. As we approach the 2015 Maslow Window, events seem to be replaying the Cold War trajectory of 56 years ago (just prior to the Apollo Maslow Window). The question is whether the second Cold War will divert us from a “Grand Alliance for Space” and force us into a new Sputnik-style race for space around 2015.
— “China will undergo a major extended internal crisis, and Mexico will emerge as an important world power.”
China’s future problems will involve an aging population, non-democratic government, slowing economy, and other factors. Depending on its timeframe, this will have major implications for space. Friedman’s forecast of a weakened China might favor a “Grand Alliance” mode for 21st Century space colonization, as opposed to a Sputnik-style race for space.
Friedman’s Mexico forecast is an eyebrow-raiser.
— “The United States will experience a Golden Age in the second half of the century.”
According to Friedman, “the United States’ power is so extraordinarily overwhelming” that it will dominate the 21st century.
Although this weblog has not focused on potential events after 2030, if there is a Golden Age for the U.S. — due to free markets, democracy, technological innovation, world-class universities, friendly immigration policies — in the second half of the 21st century, the Golden Age will be modulated by the long economic wave peaking near 2081…
There will be more comments on Dr. Friedman’s very interesting book later this month.