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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Brief Summary and Review, 1 Feb 2013
This review is from: The Future (Hardcover)
*A full executive summary of this book is available at newbooksinbrief dot com.

Our world is becoming increasingly integrated and complex, and changing faster and faster. Out of the morass of elements involved here, Al Gore identifies 6 themes or factors that are emerging as the major drivers of change. The factors are 1) Work: the movement of labor from West to East (outsourcing); and, at the same time, a shift towards much more automation (robosourcing); 2) Communications: the rise of the internet that has led to a wild proliferation of information, and the ability of the world's population to instantly connect with one another for a host of purposes--and the increasing reach of the internet from the developed to the developing world; 3) Power: the shifting of power from West to East; and, at the same time, the shifting of power from national governments to smaller players, such as businesses and corporations, but also rogue players, such as guerrilla and terror organizations; 4) Demographics: the enormous increase in the world's population, and the movement of peoples both within and across national borders (as the result of numerous factors); 5) Biotechnology: the increasing manipulation of DNA to produce not only new organisms with novel features, but new materials and fuels as well, and 6) Climate Change: the increase in world temperatures caused by the continuing build-up of CO2, as well as the numerous other climate effects that this entails.

While several of these drivers of change have the potential to bring great benefits to the world's people, all are fraught with potential dangers, and it is this that is Gore's focus in the book. This, as well as Gore's own advice as to how best to deal with the potential dangers.

When it comes to work, Gore argues that the major danger is that the increasing robosourcing of labour (and even services) threatens to eventually deprive a large portion of the world's population of gainful employment. The major solution is to increasingly redistribute wealth from the few who earn the bulk of wealth to public services provided by government.

When it comes to communications, the major threat is the vulnerability of people's personal information (and organizations' operational information) of being collected (or stolen) by numerous players (including corporations, governments and criminal organizations) and used for nefarious purposes. The major solution is to introduce new measures to ensure that information is protected, and people's privacy preserved.

When it comes to power, the major danger is that the private interests of groups that are gaining power (especially multi-national corporations) will increasingly run up against the interests and values of private citizens. The major solution is to reform our democracies to ensure that the interests of corporations do not continue to outbalance the interests of citizens.

When it comes to demographics, the major danger is that the continuing rise in the world's population will place an overbearing amount of stress on the world's natural resources, and that this will ultimately lead to the depletion of said resources. The major solution is to continue efforts to curb global population, and to introduce efforts to reduce consumption to sustainable levels.

When it comes to biotechnology, the major danger is that the discoveries and innovations that are being made here are being introduced faster than we are able to consider their ethical implications and potential negative consequences. The major solution is to ensure that we subject these innovations to full inquiry and public debate, in order that we may decide deliberately just what we want to allow, and what we do not.

When it comes to climate change, the major danger is that the world will experience irreversible climate effects, and that these effects will compromise the world's arable land and water sources to the point where we will not be able to meet our needs. The major solution is for the governments of the world to take action now to reduce CO2 emissions, by way of such measures as taxing CO2, and introducing a cap and trade system.

Regardless of our political views, Gore's book does contain a lot of very interesting information about the world today, and the forces that are guiding change. It is of value to anyone who is interested in gaining a big-picture view of what is going on now, and where the world is potentially heading. It should be noted, though, that Gore is very single-minded (unduly, I believe) in what he believes are the solutions to the world's problems. They virtually always involve government interference and regulation. In other words, they are fully top-down. Gore gives very short shrift to the potential of bottom-up solutions (and is rather black and white in his thinking), which, I believe, is a major shortcoming of the book. Again, though, a worthwhile read no matter our political views. A full executive summary of this book (and many others) is available at newbooksinbrief dot com; a podcast discussion of the book is also available.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 3 Feb 2013 12:34:36 GMT
Last edited by the author on 3 Feb 2013 15:54:56 GMT
Enthusiast says:
"the shifting of power from national governments to smaller players, such as businesses and corporations, but also rogue players, such as guerrilla and terror organizations"

I'm afraid there are many who see corporations not as smaller players but in a great number of instances as being far bigger than most governments. And we don't have to travel too far from Bhopal to see many of them as rogue players too.

Posted on 17 Feb 2013 01:31:24 GMT
"... Gore is very single-minded (unduly, I believe) in what he believes are the solutions to the world's problems. They virtually always involve government interference and regulation... "

What you clearly see as shades of grey are matters that are, in others' minds, very black and white: the existence of anthropogenic global warming/ climate change is, to anyone whose eyes aren't blinkered by excessive optimism, conclusive proof that there are problems which the free market causes that the free market cannot solve -- unless it must, as a result of outside regulation and 'interference' as you put it.

Posted on 2 Mar 2013 22:07:31 GMT
Prof TBun says:
A bunch of insubstantial assumptions that are hardly going to change any minds.

I once had to sit through a lecture (and write about it), where some ignoramus insisted that new technology would create full employment. Gore's presumption that it puts people out of work is equally nonsensical. You can have full employment all the time if you want it. All you have to do is vote for a totalitarian regime. The man harnessed plough animals, they freed people from working the land to do other beneficial things for their communities. Robots are freeing people from the mundane, dangerous and unpleasant factory work. That should celebrated not worried over.

Gore's attitude towards ordinary people is frankly insulting. Population's throughout history have understood and executed the principle's of conservation. Much of the problem has been that governments have taken away from the people the ability to make the best decisions. Governments serve powerful interest groups, not the people. It will not the governments that will effect change, it will be the people and the governments will always be playing catch up.

The notion of irreversible climate change effects is bad science. We already have the technology and the resources to remove excess CO2 from the atmosphere, if the political will was there to do it. Contrary to popular belief green fuel sources will be considerably cheaper than fossil fuels. The demand for low energy devices has be improving the efficiency of technology since pre-history, government intervention only ever slows the process down, by favouring the technologies that its backers want. We have seen recently how corrupt Government decision are on energy, when Gordon Brown and his Chums forced the U.K. into building nuclear power stations, just so that they could swell their own personal bank accounts.

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Apr 2013 16:13:58 BDT
People won't be in low paid, dangerous work: obviously great. People won't be able to find any work: bloomin' awful. There's a reality in the current system that the system is dependant on there being a subset of people on low wages in menial jobs. If you remove the jobs there must be sufficient thought as to how those people are then going to live. If they begin to swell the numbers of higher social groups, the earning power of those groups will fecrease because while the labour pool has increased, the need for workers hasn't. If the government doesn't mind giving out-of-work benefits that's fine, but I doubt that's an alternative. Or let them die, not for me, but still. Take a look at England's unemployed; even if every unemployed, healthy person filled every available opening (appropriate to that person or otherwise) there would still be over a million unemployed left with zero jobs. But the government doesn't want to pay benefits (despite their jobs being all about creating a buoyant job market) so the debate is not about the government's failure, nor the failure of the free market (banking collapse as a result of none of that pesky government regulation), not about the lack of jobs with hundreds queuing just for minimum-wage shop work, the debate is actually about making it harder to get benefits, and lowering benefits to the point where it is now accepted policy for councils and job centres to send the needy to soup kitchens (Food Bank is a cosseted euphemism). That's the effect of outsourcing, privatisation, and minimum government intervention. And it isn't pretty.

Populations have understood laws of consumption. Really? So everyone is running out to buy an electric car, to use less gas, less petrol, eat less food, have less children? Patent nonsense. And even the oldest tribes have had forms of governing that would dictate those laws, not seen too many anarchistic tribes reported.

Governments serving big interests is sadly true, but just because we are experiencing a semi-oligarchy at the moment doesn't mean that it has to be that way. People need to be made aware of, and to care about, the forces acting on governmental policy making. That doesn't just happen on its own.

And governments may play catch up but a lot of the times Governments are the very best instruments for worthwhile change that there are. In fact most of the things you take for granted (from paving, to street lights, to the NHS, to the fire service, to the minimum wage) have been implemented by, and fought past vested interests, by governments.

I'm not quite as anti-nuclear power as yourself, as with the safety procedures and technology available now it is far safer. At present it seems the quickest, cleanest, way of dealing with replacing our dying coal stations. What interests me is your comment about the then government lining their pockets at the expense of the deal. Could you provide evidence of this as I knew nothing of this and would be interested to see if it is true.

Frankly the current governments privatisation of the NHS, the schooling system, the part privatisation, and politicisation of the police force, the attempted, sly, privatisation of the fire service and paramedics, the attempted sell-off of our national parks and green belts, the removal of planning laws, the destruction of the welfare state, the increase in MP's wages, the increase in the Queens wages, might have given you more bang for your buck. But then you might agree with it because they're removing government interest. Problem is that then those powerful interest groups will be able to do as they please with not even a cursory sop to government. Much like the banks did, and look how that turned out.
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