By Robert J. Shapiro
St. Martin’s Press, $44.95
Former U.S Undersecretary of Commerce, Robert J. Shapiro, outlines the three forces he believes will most significantly shape our future as being globalisation, aging populations and America’s position as an unrivalled superpower. Taking these forces, Shapiro looks forward to 2020, and sets out areas of risk and growth in the near future. The strength of the book lies in Shapiro’s analysis of the economic implications of an aging global population. Shapiro argues that the contraction of labour forces will stifle economic growth, and substantial numbers of retirees will place immense pressure on government pensions and healthcare programs, issues we discuss further in our Think Pieces 4 and 5. Interestingly, Shapiro omits Climate Change as a force shaping our future and his discussion of this issue is limited to less than a chapter. He argues against the cap-and-trade method behind Kyoto, and claims future efforts to encourage a global approach to greenhouse gas emissions will be lead by the U.S and China. He also optimistically predicts leaps in nanotechnology leading to the widespread adoption of clean energies–a likelihood which we might expect or at least hope for, but one which perhaps does not encourage the urgent action we require today. Nonetheless, FutureCast is a compelling read, and Shapiro paints a vivid picture of developments we might expect to see in the next 20 years.
Reviewed by Willow Henderson, September 2008