OT? The Future in Plain Sight

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<< The Future in Plain Sight : Nine Clues to the Coming Instability by Eugene Linden ---------- Reviews Amazon.com Forget the year 2000 bug, says Eugene Linden, the world's in for something much bigger than power outages and fouled-up databases. The clues are everywhere, but what do they all mean? The Future in Plain Sight argues that the history of the world is full of ebbs and flows, periods of stability followed by instability. Every now and again, everything changes: the climate, the social order, the shape of the terrain. Linden outlines the nine major indications that the world is ready for another round of instability, claiming that the political, social, economic, environmental, and biological problems we all face today are not as unrelated or as random as they may seem. Yet Linden actively discredits most doomsday scenarios, which usually seem to blame some outside force for bringing on disaster. In his view, the existing problems will continue to feed upon and exacerbate each other. Crowded cities, for example, put further stress on a sick, polluted environment, allowing diseases to spread faster, while social and political unrest causes native populations to uproot and immigrate to other countries, creating new cycles of poverty, disease, and overpopulation.

Linden doesn't pretend to know how the human race will deal with these issues, nor does he claim to know all the answers. But The Future in Plain Sight tells a compelling and frightening story that deserves to be heard out. --Elisabeth Higgins

The Los Angeles Times Sunday Book Review, Mark Hertsgaard Gloom and doom is a tricky message for an author, but to his credit, Linden does not pull punches for fear of frightening away readers. Nor does he employ the melodramatic tone favored by some environmental Paul Reveres. His voice is urgent but businesslike. He cares about his subject and trusts readers to care too.

From Booklist , July 19, 1998 Linden predicts humanity's contours 50 years hence. His views are well grounded in phenomena in "plain sight," such as a measurably rising sea level and financial speculations but are difficult to discern amid the informational cacophony surrounding these subjects, and seven others, that Linden discusses. A fine synthesizer of many strands of evidence, he prepares his warning of deteriorations to come by expounding on the instabilities in a dynamic system like the environment and then reviews recent harbingers of instability, such as the outbreak of the Ebola virus or the Mexican peso crisis. Linden prognosticates with his octet of interrelated scenarios of the state of the world in 2050. Looking back, the Linden of the future recalls how a nuke that leveled Las Vegas exacerbated a global financial stampede in 2006; a pandemic produced by a virus liberated by eradication of rain forests pared the human census by a couple of billion; Antarctic melting has swamped coastal lands; and the calamities have revived religious faiths worldwide. A well-written bit of fatalism that should galvanize environmentalist readers. Gilbert Taylor Copyright) 1998, American Library Association. All rights reserved

From Kirkus Reviews , June 15, 1998 Linden, a writer on science and technology for Time magazine, argues that we have been living in a period of stability that cannot last. To predict the direction of future instability, he outlines two sets of scenarios: nine contemporary ``clues'' that suggest problematic forces likely to shape the future, and eight imagined ``scenes'' from the year 2050 that suggest the character of a future stability. Linden's clues are indeed in plain sight, for they point to concernse.g., climatic change, infectious disease, economic inequality, and market dynamicsfamiliar to anyone not living under a rock. The root causes of these potential problems are also familiar: the overconfident belief in rationality and science as means to control the universe and the dynamism of a consumer society. The projected future scenes are original but nevertheless predictable extensions of the clues. Linden's vision is of a world that has been devastated and is now rebuilding on a much more humble scale, with a much greater appreciation for natural and spiritual forces beyond human control. Does this effort present anything new? Actually, not a lot beyond an imaginative pulling together of several different but related concerns. This is a thoughtful treatise, not a Unabomber-type manifesto, however, for its rooted in common sense. In a world with several different potential sources of fundamental instability, is it more realistic to assume that no insurmountable problems will ever develop or that eventually, as has always happened in the past, fundamental changes in our physical and social environment will overwhelm existing institutions and send us into a period of instability undermining much of what we currently find familiar and pleasing? While ``the doomsayers have been wrong in the past . . . there is no reason to believe that they will be wrong in perpetuity.'' An above-average effort for a doomsayer. -- Copyright )1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. >>

-- Mara Wayne (MaraWAyne@aol.com), August 11, 1999


Future Shock?

Future Schlock?

Perhaps both.

-- Randolph (dinosaur@williams-net.com), August 11, 1999.

Hmmmm... Looks interesting, Mara.

Link to book:

The Future in Plain Sight: Nine Clues to the Coming Instability by Eugene Linden

-- Jim Morris (prism@bevcomm.net), August 11, 1999.

I have been fighting with his spiritual forbears for years. The development of the scientific method changed everything (a real TEOTWAWKI) and the changes are not even yet fully recognized.

Example: We now KNOW what causes disease and can design cities with proper sewage and water treatment plants to counteract the spread of disease and pollution.

Example: Development of reliable birth control methods have defused the 'population bomb'. Claiming that 'no country in history has controlled its population growth' begs the issue - no country before the 20th century had the chance.

Example: Slavery is no longer an economic necessity.

Example: Understanding of plant needs allows us to increase crop yield and even create crop land out of nothing (hydroponics).

It has all changed - while there are certainly lessons to be learned from history, it is also important to be careful as to whether or not those lessons apply to a completely changed world.

So I don't buy his scenarios - they would have sounded just as good in 1960, and variations on the theme were published in the 60's, by Paul Ehrlich. He was wrong, and so is Linden.

-- Paul Davis (davisp1953@yahoo.com), August 11, 1999.

I need to get out my crystals and incense and pray to mother earth....sheesh.

-- CygnusXI (noburnt@toast.net), August 12, 1999.


We can indeed do all of those things. However, what does this have to do with Third World countries where the population of cities is mushrooming exponentially, where the people are crowding by the hundreds of thousands to millions into shanties built of sheet metal, cardboard, and scrap?

Where the cost of birth control per person is higher than the average per capita income in that country?

The most reliable method of reducing population growth is to increase living standards. We have not yet found a way to do that for the majority of the world's population.

Yes, we know what causes disease. However, due to heavy antibotics use, we have many, many resistant strains of bacteria already, with more appearing every year. Remember, also, that viruses/bacteria can and do exchange genetic material. Resistance currently has a high survival value.

If a strain of a disease should appear that was fairly contagious through airborne transmission, immune to the presently known antibotics, had a fairly long latency period (say two to three weeks), and a death rate like that of pneumonic plague, we could easily see a pandemic that killed millions if not billions of people.

Yes, I read the book. Frankly, I had been ready to swear off of my lifelong pessimism at that point. You know, it hasn't happened yet, so it'll all be OK?

This book changed my mind.

Certainly, climatologists have been saying that we are moving out of a "bubble" of unusually stable weather/climate. This has lasted for about the last 90-100 years, which makes it the norm as far as we can see. Unfortunately, ice core samples from the Greenland glaciers have shown that much wider swings in temperature, rainfall, etc., are more likely than the predictable weather we have been accustomed to.

I can certainly see the instability of the systems as described. What its impact will be waits to be seen.

-- Jon Williamson (jwilliamson003@sprintmail.com), August 12, 1999.

Mara, I hope some who lurk/post here will actually take a look at this book for themselves. I HAVE actually read it, and thought there was a lot of food for thought, presented in a calm, commonsense voice. It was not doomer OR polly, inspite of what some others are suggesting on this thread. He discusses threads of the present that will be with us far into the future. This is not off topic for Y2K, either, if we are farsighted enough to realize that these threads will compound in significance if there are Y2K disruptions, and continue to be seriously problematic even if there are not. This author does not claim to have all the answers, but he certainly contributes to the discussion. I recommended Ed take a look at it for his new HD Y2K2000 book, and would do the same for most of the people who come here for intelligent discussion.

-- Kristi (KsaintA@aol.com), August 12, 1999.

The bottom line is that Mother Nature HATES AND WILL NOT TOLERATE a CROWD. Be it in the goat barn, in the pasture, or the planet as a whole. She WILL take care of the problem, using natural disaster, disease, etc., until the numbers are once more sustainable.

Taz...who believes the #1 problem is too many people on this planet.

-- Taz (Tassie@aol.com), August 12, 1999.

When I was a kid, the population of much of the world was literally on a starvation diet. While there are still starving people, the numbers have been drastically reduced. India, for instance, is now a net EXPORTER of food. In fact, according to the UN figures on such matters, virtually every country now raises enough calories to feed itself - if you don't count spoilage and waste. Come up with a better way to kill rats, and you will save more lives than all the doctors prior to 1900 combined.

Look at Korea or Japan or Malaysia or Singapore in 1950, then look today. Even after their recent economic troubles, they are hardly to be referred to as primitive. Third World only by courtesy of the journalists who want you to think they are primitive. And the expansion of the worldwide standard of living continues.

You are probably getting ready to blast me with either the pollution arguement or the limited resources arguement. Don't bother. Neither one will hold up to close examination. There is no pollutant that cannot be destroyed with modern technology - taken apart into its constiutient atoms and dispersed if necessary. The very cleanest stream in the Sierra Madre's in terms of the bacteria count and general healthfulness of the water - is the outflow from the Topanga Canyon sewage treatment plant. Plenty of clean streams up in the higher elevations - but we all know what the wild bear does in the woods and it washes into the creeks.

The limited resources arguement is another 'ignore advancing technology' arguement. Check out the figures on the amounts of oil in oil shale or the amount of gas in deep pressurized areas in the Gulf. Not that I think they will ever be tapped - we are very close to making solar power an economic concern, and when that happens we will have a whole new set of problems for the scientist/engineer/technicians to solve.

-- Paul Davis (davisp1953@yahoo.com), August 12, 1999.

My gawd, can it be? I actually agree with the man. Will wonders never cease.

-- OR (orwelliator@biosys.net), August 12, 1999.

Hey Davis;

Why don't you go write your own book on the continuing stability? Certainly you will have no trouble finding a publisher.

-- everything is going to be okay (blinders@closed.tight), August 13, 1999.

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