Another recent article explores the factors that drove civilization success. The article – along with a number of recent books – looks for historical signals that aid in our understanding of the future. In this case, the focus is geography, which the article positions as the reason both individuals and civilizations are the way they are today. If history informs our views of possible futures, then according to the article, geography has influenced history more than any other factor. The author uses Japan as an example.Continue reading
When I finished a recent book by Alec Ross titled The Raging 2020s, I spent time reflecting on the various signals captured in the book and what they might mean for the future. I wrote about both the book and the signals in early January. My team at TCS then produced this short video to capture the message. I have long believed that history can be very instructive – and these 19 signals could be just that. A special thank you to Kevin Mulcahy, April Harris, and Adam Boostrom for their efforts on the video.
“I believe that the times ahead will be radically different from the times we have experienced so far in our lifetimes, though similar to many other times in history.“Ray Dalio – The Changing World Order
The cycles of history tell an interesting story. That story was told brilliantly in a book titled The Fourth Turning. The authors equate the cycles of our history with the length of a long human life. What intrigued me as a Futurist is the claim by the books authors that our past can indeed predict our future – it’s a compelling argument when viewed through the lens of these historical cycles. That brings me to the quote above. Ray Dalio is the Co-Chief Investment Officer & Co-Chairman of Bridgewater Associates. In a LinkedIn Post from 2020, he describes the importance of understanding history and the cycles that repeat throughout it. Each cycle had swings between happy and prosperous times, and miserable periods that followed. He mentions the most recent analogous time was the period from 1930 to 1945, he follows that with: “This was very concerning to me.”Continue reading
When we look into the future and try to understand its path, we must consider the geopolitical sphere as a key area of influence. To that end, I just added another book to my Book Library. The World: A Brief Introduction was written by Richard Haass, an American Diplomat. Per the book abstract, The World is designed to provide readers of any age and experience with the essential background and building blocks they need to make sense of this complicated and interconnected world.
When presenting a story of possible futures, I always start with a short journey through the past. The past represents a possible window to the future. Major events throughout history have brought out the best and the worst of humanity. Leaders have emerged in the most difficult of times – and tyrants have as well. A recent book by Alan Greenspan and Adrian Wooldridge explores the history of Capitalism in America. Robert J. Gordon took a similar journey in his highly acclaimed book titled The Rise and Fall of American Growth. Whereas the authors of Capitalism in America explore the full American journey, Mr. Gordon focuses on what he considers a special century: 1870-1970. Both books highlight the astounding innovation that occurred in the late part of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th. These innovations improved our standard of living, while the major societal forces of that era (World War One, The Great Depression, and World War Two) presented many challenges. Continue reading
Knowledge is the engine that drives human development – and it has been throughout history. Knowledge expanded in the hunter-gatherer days with the invention of fire. In those days, a human obtained all its food by foraging. Although the source of food did not change, fire allowed humans to cook food and consume more calories. The human brain expanded with this caloric increase, and soon we invented language – the first in a series of innovations that drove the growth of knowledge.
I’ve been talking lately about the two main tipping points in human history: from hunter-gatherer to agriculture, and agriculture to our industrial society. That second tipping point beginning about 1760 ushered in three revolutions. The First Industrial Revolution saw the rise of iron and textile industries and the mechanization of production through the use of water and the steam engine. This second tipping point saw a reduction in physical labor and a shift in where new forms of labor were required. The Second Industrial Revolution started in 1870, riding advances such as electricity, telephone and the internal combustion engine to drive rapid industrialization and globalization. A massive disruption followed, as established sectors were eliminated and new ones emerged.