By Robert H. Samet
Long-Range Futures Research: An Application of Complexity Science is an ambitious book which provides a guide to civil, societal, technological and environmental changes. Divided into three parts, the book first explains a systems approach to understanding the world now and into the future. The second part of the book applies the systems approach to individual aspects of society including urban development, technological development and civil structures. The final part of the book moves onto an analysis of wider issues, including the interaction between world development and sustainability, and geopolitics.
The overarching theme throughout these sections is how the “science of evolution and complexity provides an approach for exploring the complex and unprecedented patterns of global change expected in the future”. From these sciences we can learn that a small number of rules and laws govern complexity. By studying these, the author suggests we can understand the future.
Another important idea put forward by Samet is that the traditional notion of economic equilibrium is not accurate. Instead, a concept of far-from-equilibrium is more apt and provides a greater understanding of the way that complex systems evolve and develop over time.
Long-Range Futures Research is a book that provides many interesting facts and insights. The book is complex and not one that is likely to attract the casual reader. While the extensive range of topics may be at the expense of detail in some areas, it could serve as a useful reference owing to this broad focus and the data contained in the appendices.
Reviewed by Chris Aitken, April 2010