Thursday, March 4, 2010

Might as well...

Before I get caught up with this weekend's activities (Gran Fondo Century- yay!!), I'll go ahead and give some insight into The Next 100 Years by George Friedman...

No one can really predict how the 21st century will unfold, right? Well, that's true, but only to a certain extent. Friedman makes it clear that he's not out to tell a story that'll make us feel like we're diving into a science fiction book or visiting the Jetsons. He does, however, confidently state that while the nitty gritty details of his forecast may play out differently, the grand picture (countries involved, technological advances, statistical figures of population density, etc) will look a heck of a lot like he says it will.

How does he know this? Does he have some sort of crysal ball? No. But what he does have is precedent, history. In retrospect, he's able to analyze economical & political patterns & cycles within countries, and between them, that are evident from hundreds of years back in time.

Friedman's analogy is that of a chess game. To the utter beginner there are an infinite number of moves. Yet, to a Grand Master player the moves are quite limited and strategic. A game between two great players is almost predictable- when A moves one way, B can be guaranteed to react in a certain manner.

That, argues Friedman, is world politics- a chess game. Despite what party a presidential candidate is elected from, what his background, values, beliefs are, what he promises to change...he/she cannot break out of the cycle in time we're in. Friedman says these cycles are broken into periods of roughly 20 years with too may factors (economy, social dogmas, popoluation/immigration make ups, etc etc etc) for one individual or a "party" to completely shift us into a new paradigm. Changes are slow and not sudden from one man's decision to the next. We evolve as a collective- a sum of the parts, not by the particular parts themselves.

Anyway, that's the short version of why Friedman should be given the benefit of the doubt. I cannot lay out every event described in this book (& that would defeat the purpose of you reading it for yourself). So instead, I'll bullet point the key changes (which fyi, I actually agree completley with & had contemplated along those lines before reading this)that are worth taking into account:

** only the first bullet point will be discussed somewhat in detail **

1. End of Population Boom (2020's through the major impact in 2050s)- Initially this shocked me, but then a few sentences into his reasoning my thought was "Duh, that makes absolute sense". The world population went from 1 bilion to 3 billion between 1750 & 1950, & had doubled that by 2000. Compared to the 728 million people in Europe today, the UN forecasts that number to drop to a range of 557-663 by 2050. Further, as a whole, the UN predicts only a 50% growth between 2000 and 2050. At that rate by 2100 our population will have decreased substantially.

The factors contributing to this change are financial & societal. Financially people are realizing that kids are expensive! Yes, that's an obvious statement nowadays but only a couple of decades ago, and especially a century ago, children that survived childbirth, let alone made it to adulthood, meant increased family weatlh. More children meant more hands to tend to a family farm, or more money adding into the household from kid's jobs. Now with the simple cost of higher education (as competition in the workforce increases dramatically) having multiple children is no longer justified by it being "traditional". Additionally, Women are having less and less children because of the dramatic societal changes. More women constitute today's workforce, & many of them in high ranked, overtime positions. The mentality of women has obviously changed as a result of their career & social (outside the home) opportunities so many aren't even contemplating starting a family until their mid or even late 30s.

On that note, Friedman never discusses the issue of global warming, for given the end of the population explosion, & space based energy (next bullet point), the major threats to nature & Earth's resrouces will be heavily diluted.

2. Space based Energy- I'm sooooo not an engineerish/sciency person so this will be brief: basically we'll have many "panels" in space that will be generating energy to Earth from the sun. This spaced based energy will play a big role in the war (bullet points further down).

3. The collapse of Russia (waaay too much going on to compress)

4. China will NOT be a threat- the foundation for Friedman's theory on this lies in China's geo & demographic layout. There's a wealthy, more industrial concentration along China's eastern border, where it meets the Pacific that simply cannot expand (at least in this century) to meet the rural and sparingly populated inner to western region- it's simply too challenging to break down/traverse. As well, Friedman argues that China is "held together by money, not ideology" and with the outstanding growth it has seen recently, which will innevitably come to a halt, China will not be in a position to bolster what's needed to challenge the United States as a global super power in the 21st century: a strong navy.
*Control of the sea has been a key asset for maintaining US as the global super power since WWII

5. Poland will rise, and Germany will play Switzerland in the upcoming war.

6. Turkey & Japan will be the two countries of dominance and concern in this century. By mid century, they will form a coalition in hopes of being the Eurasian super power (Pacific to Mediterranean). Japan has the ability to develop a strong navy and space technology/presence. Turkey is religiously/ideologically able to permeate the middle East and Eastern Europe.

7. The US & Japan will be dominant in space where they will have military bases(orbiting & more stable ones on the moon- manned & unmanned).

8. Japan will target the U.S. when & where it least expects it- hitting their Battle Stars (phrase Friedman has coined for the spacial military bases). It will do so on Thanksgiving 2050.

9. Not going to give the outcome of the war away- READ THE BOOK!

10. Last, but not least....with the decline in population, by 2030, the US will not have a high rate of unemployment. On the contrary, it will be desparate for workers, and will actually be creating incentives for immigrants to COME INTO the US. (Given my immigration issue I loooooooooved reading this :D ). Talk about IRONIC! By this point, Texas, Arizona, California...all the already heavily hispanic areas will be overflowing with Mexicans. By the END of the century, tension within these states will be boiling over and Mexico could be in a position to formally (as by mere population and political inlfuence it already will have) take back what it lost in the Mexican American War.

That's it form my end! Disclaimer: I don't do the book justice. In fact, the way I summarize it may lead to you thinking "haha, yea right" about one or more of the situations posted, or leave you feeling shorthanded. As long as it intrigues you, I'm pleased. Take that curiosity and read what Friedman has to say so you can make muuuch greater sense of all this and truly form your own opinion of the future.

Whatever you take out of my blog or his entire book is up to you. If I have challenged what you think is possible then I have achieved something great because, as Friedman repeatedly warns us, what popular opinion holds as likely rarely develops.

This book has increased my excitement when I pick up the morning paper and will certainly help me navigate my career & life path as I grow old in the 21st century.