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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
The Future
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on 10 May 2013
This is one book that really spells out what the future will have in store for us unless we sit up, take notice and then act to do everything we can to awaken our friends and colleagues to the danger we are facing. Al Gore explains how and why we are doing things that are against our our own and the planets interests and how we really all have to get on board to persuade governments and influential people to change the systems that are keeping this destructive way of being. But he's not just saying the same old stuff, his information is rivetting and I couldn't put the book down. I, for one, want to be able to answer my grandchildren when they ask "what were you doing while the earth was burning" - if we are all lucky enough to live that long.
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on 15 April 2017
A very well researched book, everything is supported by irrefutable facts and figures. I always wonder what kind of world would we live in if he was elected as President of the US... certainly no wars in the Middle East and a lot more social services. Hard to believe that the US is moving in the direction where it moves now when powerful people like Al Gore are living there. Maybe some chapters are less interesting for non-Americans, everything in this book is essential for understanding today's world.
This book should be compulsory reading in every high school.
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on 25 February 2013
This is a powerful, educative and readable book about the most important issue of our time: what sort of world we are leaving to our chikdren and grandchildren.
Gore marshals an impressive amount of research and covers the ground with care and a masterful attention to the crucial details, backed up by footnotes that make you want to also read the men and women (mostly scientists) he quotes as sources. His style is fluid and thoughtful. The result can't be anything other than depressing, for the most part. Yet Gore is careful to emphasise the positive where possible, which I guess is a kind of duty, when you are waving a warning flag. He doesn't shy away from issues like population, which have been side-stepped in the past. Interestingly, Obama is barely mentioned - though the book pre-dates his most recent climate statements. All politicians and educators around the world should read this.
And anybody working in the fossil fuel industry. (As if.)
The book also made me very angry. That's a good thing.
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on 3 May 2013
Al Gore's `The Future' is an interesting and sometimes provocative book. However, it falls short of its potential due to a number of reasons, which is why I have only given it 3 stars.

Firstly, it is too broad in its scope: the book tries to encompass a very wide range of future trends and potential developments, ranging through political and economic changes; life sciences; geo-political changes; climate change and many others. Each is a worthy topic for a book in its own right. However, if Gore intended to be able to knit the various themes together, he fails significantly.

Secondly, although packed with up to date references and vignettes, at times parts of the book tended to read like a set of bullet points, (without the bullets) which lacked a sound or well-articulated line of reasoning. It was as if in his long experience in exploring and discussing the issues with various people in the fields covered by the book, Al Gore sat down with his `Mind-Mapping' software and let out a stream of consciousness, which was then converted into a Mind-Map to front each of his chapters. Then he appears to have started writing about all the topics on his Mind-Map, with little concern for explaining why or how they linked to his overall argument. As a result, the writing - although quite fluid - lacks an intellectual rigour.

Thirdly, as has been mentioned by another commentator on this site who allotted 1 star to the book, Al Gore cannot resist blowing his own trumpet, but more annoyingly, he seems incapable of seeing a world wherein other nations have and continue to make major contributions to his pet theme of `global leadership.' Of course, the United States is often held up as the champion of Western Liberal Democracy and I fully agree and sympathise with his lament that the USA political system (like many others) has become paralyzed over the past few decades by the unhealthy influence and indeed in some instances control of legislation in the Congress by vested interests (largely big business), who can afford powerful lobbyists and campaign funding. However, Al Gore's excessive flattery of the framers of the US Constitution shows a serious lack of appreciation of the historical record. This is all the more surprising given his past tenure of the post of Vice President. Anyone who has ever taken the time to read the Federalist Papers of Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay in accompaniment to the Anti-Federalist Papers and the Constitutional Convention Debates cannot fail to be impressed by the quality of thinking and writing by both sides to the debate. However, in reading these works one cannot help but be struck by the extent to which the arguments on both sides drew upon a sound and deep knowledge of the classical political thinking of the Greco-Romans, as well as the then more recent writings of British and European political thinkers such as Locke, Hume, Rousseau, Voltaire and others: none of which get a mention by Gore. In other words, the foundations of the American Constitution and its first ten ratified amendments which form their Bill of Rights are not quite the innovative and original thinking that Al Gore would like to suggest. This does not devalue them, but it would be nice if Gore could appreciate that the basis of the US constitution is firmly grounded in a long tradition of thinking that lies outside the United States. This is but one small, albeit important example of where Al Gore seems to be carried away with the idea that the United States is the bastion of all free liberal democratic thinking and that the rest of the world meekly follows.

In much the same way, Gore keeps coming back to the need for strong leadership by the United States to `sort-out' many of the challenges and problems facing the world today. Of course, I agree that it would be much better for the United States to be `on board' and fully committed to policies concerning protection of biodiversity and the environment; but at the same time, Gore is caught between a rock and a hard place, since by his own admission, the United States is paralyzed in much of its important policy making through the influence of big business, which he claims (probably quite rightly) has little regard or recognition of the `public interest.' Hence, one is left wondering whether he believes that the world can only progress with US leadership or whether as he does acknowledge Europe is perfectly capable of crafting progressive policies on environmental issues, when the US lags behind. As an example of Gore's shortcoming in this vain, one needs only to look on the last page of his concluding chapter, where he writes:
"Finally, the world community desperately needs leadership that is based on the deepest human values. Though this book is addressed to readers in the world at large, it is intended to carry a special and urgent message to the citizens of the United States of America, which remains the only nation capable of providing the kind of global leadership needed."

Whilst I can understand why somebody of his background might take the above view, in my opinion it tends to fail to recognise how the world is changing in geopolitical and economic terms (although in fairness, Gore acknowledges this point elsewhere in his book). Given many of Gore's concerns for the future involve technologies that will diffuse beyond national borders or biological threats, such as the West Nile virus which does not care about human borders or global issues such as climate change, it is surprising that he falls back on a model of decision making dependent upon one nation. These are global issues and however hard it may be to build consensus amongst so many different interest groups and nation states, any solution that is to have a chance of working has to be global in nature, which in turn must be based upon global agreement.
In reading the book, I felt irritated with this somewhat naïve bias and in some areas simple ignorance that Gore exhibited when it came to the ability of other countries to take the lead. This was perhaps most apparent, when Gore was talking about topics around robotics, artificial intelligence, bio-electronics and genetic engineering. Anyone who has spent time working with or visiting companies in Japan or South Korea and Singapore cannot come away without a profound sense of leadership in some of aspects of these fields that leave the US in catch-up mode.
The above are just a very short set of examples of where Gore might have benefitted from the services of an international editor more familiar with the literature and achievements outside the United States, in order to add a little more balance to his arguments. They might also have invested some time in cutting down the degree to which the book `rambles' through a wide range of important and interesting topics and tightened the arguments to create a more robust set of conclusions. Also, given the amount of data in the book, it would probably have benefitted from some tables and diagrams to illustrate some of the points more clearly.

Instead, if one is familiar with even half the topics in this book, Gore does not really offer up anything particularly new or insightful. His take away message then appears to centre upon the idea that `Democracy and capitalism have both been hacked' by big business interests, whose short-term focus, fails to address the very important long-term effects of bad policies. Hijacked would probably be a more appropriate verb, but with this general argument, he has my full support.

So having highlighted some of my negative observations about the book, is it worth reading? Most certainly. Indeed, I strongly recommend the book (warts and all) since I believe whatever one's political position, Gore does make some very valid points. Furthermore, Gore provides an overview of many of the technological developments which are rapidly occurring at this time and whose impact upon societies throughout the world will be profound. Of course there are plenty of other books out there which go into much more detail about the various issues discussed and anyone seriously interested or concerned will probably have read many of them. Gore's book is unlikely to throw new light on these issues for such people. However, for those interested in surveying the vast territory of changes and challenges facing humanity at this time, Gore's book provides a good overview and introduction, albeit with his own bias. Furthermore, unlike some more subtle publications, Gore does not pretend to lack an agenda or motive for pressing home his message. Whether you agree with it or not is up to you; but it is worth listening to.

Finally, the title of the book `The Future' is rather misleading and inappropriate in my opinion, although I can see it provides a strong and catchy title for marketing purposes, which appears to be Gore's forte these days. A more appropriate, although much less attractive title might have read: `Elements and Forces Shaping some Possible Futures for Humanity.' But then, if you want to sell the book . . .
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on 1 February 2013
*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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on 19 March 2013
Al Gore has done an impressive job of connecting the dots - tracking and explaining the decisions and situations that have brought us where we are - and extrapolating a peek into The Future as a result. It is not a particularly easy read, but it is well worth the trouble. It's packed with good info and arguments about our road ahead. Go get it!
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on 1 August 2013
A well thought and thoroughly researched and well organised book that gives an excellent political take on the challenges ahead. Easy to follow and well explained with a good pace it is definetly an important read, highly recommended!
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on 27 July 2016
A rare book that gets almost everything right about where we are heading as a Global Race and what changes are needed to escape the destructive path we are on today. Al Gore correctly sights Global warming as the most critical and urgent threat facing humanity today, and he makes clear that carbon pricing is the only measure that can drive the change we need to more sustainable living. Such honesty is to be welcomed as too many still dismiss this as "wishful thinking" when in fact it is the only policy that will work. My only criticism is that Gore still prefers the "phoney" market based cap-and-trade system which he previously helped to promote. This failed badly in Europe and is less effective than a straightforward carbon tax, which should be our clear priority.

Overall this book is heavy on analysis but, like so many others, has few practical suggestions about the steps needed to get these policies adopted at the Global level needed. Gore simply hopes for a renewal of "American Global leadership" without explaining how this will come about. To this extent "The Future" feels a bit like a brain dump - an impression reinforced by the use of mind-maps which accompany each chapter. That said I think Al Gore is on point on most of the key issues we face in the World today, and for that alone he deserves praise. Anyone who cares about the future of our "Global Race" needs to read this as a wake up call for the 21st century.
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on 16 May 2014
I found 'The Future' by Al Gore to be an interesting read in which the author just about managed to find the right balance between being unreasonably optimistic on the one hand as opposed to unduly pessimistic on the other. The book is well researched and clearly presented with useful diagrams. Just about every major issue appears to be covered in detail. Not surprisingly, Al Gore issues a stern warning about global warming and has few kind words for its detractors. He also has much to say about what he perceives to be a major challenge to the American democratic process from the multi national corporations. He ends the book well, indicating that humanity has reached a fork in the road. One path appears to lead to destruction, the other offers the hope of some kind of future, uncertain though it may be.

Chris Allen is a Technical Author and writer with the following books available through Amazon:
Reality Shaper: The Quantum Detective -- his latest novel
The Beam of Interest: Taken by Storm
Hypnotic Tales 2013: Some Light Some Dark
Call of the Void: The Strange Life and Times of a Confused Person: 1
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on 29 March 2013
Whilst this book is interesting and informative, it lost credibility for me when I realised that it was a platform for American trumpet blowing. I was left wondering how the rest of civilisation had managed to progress for thousands of years prior to the creation of the USA which, from the start of the 20th century, apparently straightened us all out and set our feet on the path to illumination and intelligent thinking. I'm used to watching Hollywood movies in which America glows like a beacon for the 'rest of the world' - I put that down to artistic licence and ignore it - but it's unfortunate that this unjustified arrogance has found its way into a book that really might have made a difference.
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