Al Gore The Future

ISBN 13: 9780753540497

The Future

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9780753540497: The Future
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From the former vice president and #1 New York Times bestselling author comes An Inconvenient Truth for everything—a frank and clear-eyed assessment of six critical drivers of global change in the decades to come.
Ours is a time of revolutionary change that has no precedent in history. With the same passion he brought to the challenge of climate change, and with his decades of experience on the front lines of global policy, Al Gore surveys our planet’s beclouded horizon and offers a sober, learned, and ultimately hopeful forecast in the visionary tradition of Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock and John Naisbitt’s Megatrends. In The Future, Gore identifies the emerging forces that are reshaping our world:
· Ever-increasing economic globalization has led to the emergence of what he labels “Earth Inc.”—an integrated holistic entity with a new and different relationship to capital, labor, consumer markets, and national governments than in the past.
· The worldwide digital communications, Internet, and computer revolutions have led to the emergence of “the Global Mind,” which links the thoughts and feelings of billions of people and connects intelligent machines, robots, ubiquitous sensors, and databases.
· The balance of global political, economic, and military power is shifting more profoundly than at any time in the last five hundred years—from a U.S.-centered system to one with multiple emerging centers of power, from nation-states to private actors, and from political systems to markets.
· A deeply flawed economic compass is leading us to unsustainable growth in consumption, pollution flows, and depletion of the planet’s strategic resources of topsoil, freshwater, and living species.
· Genomic, biotechnology, neuroscience, and life sciences revolutions are radically transforming the fields of medicine, agriculture, and molecular science—and are putting control of evolution in human hands.
· There has been a radical disruption of the relationship between human beings and the earth’s ecosystems, along with the beginning of a revolutionary transformation of energy systems, agriculture, transportation, and construction worldwide.
From his earliest days in public life, Al Gore has been warning us of the promise and peril of emergent truths—no matter how “inconvenient” they may seem to be. As absorbing as it is visionary, The Future is a map of the world to come, from a man who has looked ahead before and been proven all too right.

Praise for The Future
“Magisterial . . . The passion is unmistakable. So is the knowledge. Practically every page offers an illumination.”—Bloomberg
“In The Future . . . Gore takes on a subject whose scale matches that of his achievements and ambition.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Historically grounded . . . Gore’s strengths lie in his passion for the subject and in his ability to take the long view by putting current events and trends in historical context.”—Publishers Weekly
“Provocative, smart, densely argued . . . a tour de force of Big Picture thinking.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“A luminously intelligent analysis that is packed with arresting ideas and facts.”—The Guardian

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About the Author:

Former vice president Al Gore is co-founder and chairman of Generation Investment Management. He is also a senior partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and a member of Apple Inc.’s board of directors. Gore spends the majority of his time as chairman of The Climate Reality Project, a nonprofit devoted to solving the climate crisis. Gore was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives four times and the U.S. Senate twice. He served eight years as vice president. He authored the bestsellers Earth in the Balance, An Inconvenient Truth, The Assault on Reason, and Our Choice. He is a co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:


Like many fulfilling journeys, this book began not with answers but with a question. Eight years ago, when I was on the road, someone asked me: “What are the drivers of global change?” I listed several of the usual suspects and left it at that. Yet the next morning, on the long plane flight home, the question kept pulling me back, demanding that I answer it more precisely and accurately—-not by relying on preconceived dogma but by letting the emerging evidence about an emerging world take me where it would. The question, it turned out, had a future of its own. I started an outline on my computer and spent several hours listing headings and subheadings, then changing their rank order and relative magnitude, moving them from one category to another and filling in more and more details after each rereading.

As I spent the ensuing years raising awareness about climate change and pursuing a business career, I continued to revisit, revise, and sharpen the outline until finally, two years ago, I concluded that it would not leave me alone until I dug in and tried to thoroughly answer the question that had turned into something of an obsession.
What emerged was this book, a book about the six most important drivers of global change, how they are converging and interacting with one another, where they are taking us, and how we as human beings—-and as a global civilization—-can best affect the way these changes unfold. In order to reclaim control of our destiny and shape the future, we must think freshly and clearly about the crucial choices that confront us as a result of:

·    The emergence of a deeply interconnected global economy that increasingly operates as a fully integrated holistic entity with a completely new and different relationship to capital flows, labor, consumer markets, and national governments than in the past;

·    The emergence of a planet--wide electronic communications grid connecting the thoughts and feelings of billions of people and linking them to rapidly expanding volumes of data, to a fast growing web of sensors being embedded ubiquitously throughout the world, and to increasingly intelligent devices, robots, and thinking machines, the smartest of which already exceed the capabilities of humans in performing a growing list of discrete mental tasks and may soon surpass us in manifestations of intelligence we have always assumed would remain the unique province of our species;

·    The emergence of a completely new balance of political, economic, and military power in the world that is radically different from the equilibrium that characterized the second half of the twentieth century, during which the United States of America provided global leadership and stability—-shifting influence and initiative from West to East, from wealthy countries to rapidly emerging centers of power throughout the world, from nation--states to private actors, and from political systems to markets;

·    The emergence of rapid unsustainable growth—-in population; cities; resource consumption; depletion of topsoil, freshwater supplies, and living species; pollution flows; and economic output that is measured and guided by an absurd and distorted set of universally accepted metrics that blinds us to the destructive consequences of the self--deceiving choices we are routinely making;

·    The emergence of a revolutionary new set of powerful biological, biochemical, genetic, and materials science technologies that are enabling us to reconstitute the molecular design of all solid matter, reweave the fabric of life itself, alter the physical form, traits, characteristics, and properties of plants, animals, and people, seize active control over evolution, cross the ancient lines dividing species, and invent entirely new ones never imagined in nature; and

·    The emergence of a radically new relationship between the aggregate power of human civilization and the Earth’s ecological systems, including especially the most vulnerable—-the atmosphere and climate balance upon which the continued flourishing of humankind depends—-and the beginning of a massive global transformation of our energy, industrial, agricultural, and construction technologies in order to reestablish a healthy and balanced relationship between human civilization and the future.
This book is data--driven and is based on deep research and reporting—-not speculation, alarmism, naïve optimism, or blue--sky conjecture. It represents the culmination of a multiyear effort to investigate, decipher, and present the best available evidence and what the world’s leading experts tell us about the future we are now in the process of creating.

There is a clear consensus that the future now emerging will be extremely different from anything we have ever known in the past. It is a difference not of degree but of kind. There is no prior period of change that remotely resembles what humanity is about to experience. We have gone through revolutionary periods of change before, but none as powerful or as pregnant with the fraternal twins—-peril and opportunity—-as the ones that are beginning to unfold. Nor have we ever experienced so many revolutionary changes unfolding simultaneously and converging with one another.

This is not a book primarily about the climate crisis, though the climate crisis is one of the six emergent changes that are quickly reshaping our world, and its interaction with the other five drivers of change has revealed to me new ways to understand it. Nor is it primarily about the degradation of democracy in the United States and the dysfunctionality of governance in the world community—-though I continue to believe that these leadership crises must be resolved in order for humankind to reclaim control of our destiny. Indeed all six of these emergent revolutionary changes are threatening to overtake us at a moment in history when there is a dangerous vacuum of global leadership.

Neither is this a manifesto intended to lay the groundwork for some future political campaign. I have run for political office often enough in the past. The joke I often use to deflect questions about whether I have finally surrendered any intention to do so again is actually as close to the truth as any words I can summon in describing my attitude toward politics: I am a recovering politician and the chances of a relapse have been diminishing for long enough to increase my confidence that I will not succumb to that temptation again. In the Conclusion, however,  you will find a recommended agenda for action that is based on the analysis in this book.


As a young freshman member of the U.S. House of Representatives elected in 1976, I joined a new bipartisan group of congressmen and senators known as the Congressional Clearinghouse on the Future, founded by the late Charlie Rose of North Carolina.  In my second term, Rose asked me to succeed him as chair of the group. We organized workshops on the implications of new technologies and scientific discoveries and met with leaders in business and science. Among our other initiatives, we
persuaded all 200 subcommittees in the Congress to publish a list of the most important issues they expected to emerge over the following twenty years and published it as “The Future Agenda.” Most of all, we studied emerging trends and met regularly with the leading thinkers about the future: Daniel Bell, Margaret Mead, Buckminster Fuller, Carl Sagan, Alvin Toffler, John Naisbitt, Arno Penzias, and hundreds of others.

The visiting scholar who made perhaps the biggest impression on me was a short and balding scientist born in Russia a few months before the 1917 Revolution but educated in Belgium: Ilya Prigogine, who had just won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his discovery of a major corollary to the Second Law of Thermodynamics.
Entropy, according to the Second Law, causes all isolated physical systems to break down over time and is responsible for irreversibility in nature. For a simple example of entropy, consider a smoke ring: it begins as a coherent donut with clearly defined boundaries. But as the molecules separate from one another and dissipate energy into the air, the ring falls apart and disappears. All so--called closed systems are subject to the same basic process of dissolution; in some, entropy operates quickly, while in others the process takes more time.

Prigogine’s discovery was that an open system—-that is, a system that imports flows of energy from outside the system into it, through it, and out again—-not only breaks down, but as the flow of energy continues, the system then reorganizes itself at a higher level of complexity. In a sense, the phenomenon described by Prigogine is the opposite of entropy. Self--organization, as a law of nature and as a process of change, is truly astonishing. What it means is that complex new forms can emerge spontaneously through self--organization.

Consider the increased flows of information throughout the world following the introduction of the Internet and the World Wide Web. Elements of the old information pattern began to break down. Many newspapers went bankrupt, readership sharply declined in most others, bookstores consolidated and closed. Many business models became obsolete. But the new emergent pattern led to the self--organization of thousands of new business models, and volumes of online communication dwarfing those that characterized the world of the printing press.

The Earth itself, when viewed as a whole, is also an open system. It imports energy from the sun that flows into and through the elaborate patterns of energy transfer that make up the Earth system, including the oceans, the atmosphere, the various geochemical processes—-and life itself. The energy then flows from the Earth back into the univ...

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