Predicting the future is a fool's pastime, but it's a lot of fun so everybody does it. Turney's book is not a mere reading of the tea leaves or a consultation with the crystal ball, however. You will not find out where the next Elvis sighting is going to be from this book. What you will discover are the current big problems facing us and where we're headed if we don't solve them. The Rough Guide to the Future is well researched with citations and suggestions for further reading on every subject the author tackles.
Turney begins by describing how futurology works. He explains how prediction starts with a solid understanding of the past and present before proceeding to the future. Once he begins forecasting proper, he breaks down the future into several areas: population, climate change, water and food supply, etc. Turney is concerned with the big picture: the entire world. This is sensible because we're all connected. We've been saying that for about half a century, but since the 90s we really have been connected. And we are becoming more so as time passes. You get a sense of just how connected when you read this book.
Throughout, Turney includes sidebars with opinions from 50 individuals he considers experts. These people are, for the most part, from the tech, academia, or global political scenes. Many are folks in the trenches of global strife. Most are important in their fields but not necessarily known out in the wider scheme. Some are celebrities of the tech world. One thing is for sure, you won't find any of these people behind a purple curtain in a little East Village storefront.
The book's final sections deal with Transhumanism and the Technological Singularity, things you don't read about every day. They're wilder than science fiction and we could easily write them off as witchery or leftover religiosity. But Transhumanism and the Singularity is taken seriously by a number of the big brains running around influencing policy. It behooves us all to become acquainted with the ideas behind this radical thought.
I was familiar with a lot of the information in this book. Who has not heard the horror stories of peak oil and melting glaciers and the resultant end of humanity? Due to the wealth of information and opinion the Internet brings us, though, I find much of it overwhelming. Turney has done an excellent job of sorting through all the jabber that flies across the desktop every day. He gives us a good picture of what is going on right now, more important even than a solid prediction of what is going to happen. It's more important because the future is not here and there's nothing we can do with that yet. What we need to do is something with what we have now. His rough guide is a good starting place for research on all the strings to keep track of if we're going to stay on track.