Summary of What the Future Holds

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  • Comprehensive
  • Innovative
  • Scientific


You might expect that a book edited by professors of economics at Harvard and the London School of Economics would come in on the dry side. Nothing could be further from the truth with regard to What the Future Holds, a compelling compilation of possible future scenarios written by experts in population, climate, energy, labor, government, monetary policy and information. The enlightening details about scenario planning are an added bonus that believes will be especially relevant to any business or government decision makers.

About the Authors

Richard N. Cooper  is a professor of International Economics at Harvard University and the author of Economic Stabilization and Debt in Developing Countries. Richard Layard is Director of the Center for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics. He is the co-author of East-West Migration and co-editor of The Fight Against Unemployment.



Navigating New Knowledge

The art of future forecasting is in its infancy. Serious errors are made continually, as in 1980, when IBM predicted an annual market of about 300,000 personal computers and brought in Bill Gates to handle the software and Intel to provide the chips.

A big problem in thinking about the future is that it is impossible to know specifically what new knowledge will be discovered, though we have a general idea of what might happen. Political events are also unpredictable. Because so much uncertainty surrounds specific developments, it is easier to forecast general social and technological trends than particular political or technological developments.

Instead of concentrating on the particulars, many planners, like Pierre Wack and his successor, Peter Schwartz at Shell, suggest developing various alternate scenarios of what might happen. A small firm can use this information to forecast what the market might be like, while a government or large firm can use this information to consider the probability of different outcomes for each policy it is considering implementing.

In thinking about the future, the simplest forecast is to assume...

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