I am reading a fantastic book called a brief history of the future by Jacques Attali. It
a) traces the development of mankind from the earliest primates to 2006,
b) promises (I'm only on page 37) to infer from this the principles that govern humanity's progress
c) will then use these principles to predict the next 100 years.
I'm really enjoying it, and especially looking forward to the predictions. Henry Kissinger called it "brilliant and provocative."
I thought you would enjoy reading a randomly selected early 2 paragraphs about early man:
Around 700,000 years before our era, in China and Africa, Homo sapiens masters the lightning and learns how to make fire. He is now capable of cooking vegetables, thus providing more nourishment for his brain. He also realizes that he can summon certain natural forces to his service. This is a considerable leap. He devises the first footwear, sews man's first garments, and penetrates Europe, that cold, forest-shrouded continent.
The lineage of homo sapiens splits into several branches. One of them evolves into homo neandertalis. Around 300,000 years ago*, he roams across Africa, Europe, and Asia. For the first time, he builds sophisticated huts wherever he goes, and he buries his dead. In Europe, still cut off by Alpine and Baltic glaciers, Neanderthals coexist with the other primates, neither mingling with nor replacing them.
Good stuff, right? I thought you might also find interesting the 21 questions Attali asks in the introduction and hopefully comes back to:
Will peace in the Middle East someday be possible?
Will global birth rates in some countries recover as mysteriously as they declined?
Will oil supplies run out in 20 or 50 years?
Will we find substitue energy sources?
Will poverty and inequalities in wealthy countries become the well-spring for new violence?
Will Arab countries one day experience a democratic movement like that of Eastern Europe?
Will the Straits of Hormuz and Malacca, through which the bulk of the world's oil flows, be blocked by ships sunk by pirates?
Will North Korea end up using nuclear weapons?
Will the West use force to prevent Iran from acquiring them?
Will a terrorist attack in the West topple a government?
Will it lead to the installation of authoritarian police regimes?
Will new technologies make new forms of dictatorships possible?
Will religions become tolerant?
Will we discover new ways of doing away with cancer, AIDS, obesity?
Will a dominant new religion or ideology emerge?
Will the exploited workers in Chinese or Bangladeshi mines rise up in revolt?
Will the American credit crisis plummet the world into another great depression?
Will genertically modified food or nanotechnologies prove a threat or an opportunity?
Will the climate one day be so degraded that life on earth becomes impossible?
Will a religious war once again pit Christianity against Islam?
Will new forms of sexual relations undermine morality?
There will be a prize for the comment with the most correct answers.
Here's an idea I had: You know how life has changed incredibly fast in the last 20 years, mostly because of computers and technologies? The speed of change is really just tremendous, and maybe the speed is on a permanently increasing course, so that the economic crisis will progressively degenerate and lead to massive unemployment, rioting, martial law, a breakdown in government, and in 2 or 3 years warlords will rule armed camps of people? But the idea wasn't really about this depressing scenario, it was about the possibility that the rate of change of life was permanently increasing.
Another idea I had: It annoys me when books capitalize the chess pieces. In what sense are they proper nouns? In any other sport, you would be made a laughingstock of if you started capitalizing the equipment: "Deftly twisting my Hockey Stick, I shot the Puck into the Goal"?? It's ludicrous, it's an embarrassment to the chess community.
*notice the brisk pace of the narrative!