Schwartz Says Prepare for "Inevitable Surprises"

October 15, 2004 · by Jacqueline Rast

Schwartz defines inevitable surprises as future trends we can see coming, but still surprise us when they happen. Schwartz described 14 trends that will shape our future:

At the recent DFC Leadership Summit on Sustainable Design, keynote speaker Peter Schwartz presented a compelling vision of the “Inevitable Surprises” of the future, based on his book of the same name. Schwartz defines inevitable surprises as future trends we can see coming, but still surprise us when they happen. Schwartz described 14 trends that will shape our future:

1. The Japanese Economy—the uncertainty of its long term stability and the effect on the rest of the world

2. The New Europe—A stronger European Union with a possible end of NATO. A much more secular and greener society than the U.S. and a philosophy of a comfortable lifestyle vs. monetary growth (which may not be sustainable for future generations)

3. Emergence of the Rogue Superpower—the U.S. emerges, playing by our own rules; Europe becomes more orderly; more chaos ensues in Africa/ Middle East

4. The State Re-emerges—A re-energizing of more regulation at the local level

5. Faith-Based Conflict—The emergence of a small, radical Islamic faction that want to spread hatred; America will continue to be a faith-based nation with faith-based policies; Europe will continue to be more secular

6. New Hot Spots for Conflict—Expected in Africa, Saudi Arabia, N. Korea and Iran

7. Energy Price Crisis—High oil prices put us back to our position in 1973; we will run out of oil and natural gas in the U.S. in the next few decades; nuclear power will re-emerge with better safeguards

8. Future Financial Crisis—Uncertainty in financial management could create future crises in China, India, Russia, Brazil and the U.S.

9. Late Retirement—People are living longer and retirement ages are increasing; typical U.S. retirement age will likely move to 75-80

10. Mass Migration—Significant infusion of young Chinese men into the U.S.; Significant infusion of people from Africa and Central/South Asia into Europe— could create religious and cultural discrepancies

11. Global Disease Outbreak—AIDS already underway; SARS was an early indicator. Likely to have a worldwide plague due to the age of aviation; the next disease outbreak will likely last at least six months.

12. Rapid Climate Change—Rapid Global Warming is the issue of key concern; the normal climate of earth throughout most of time has been much colder; Earth has a carrying capacity of only about 2 billion people; Earth’s climate in the future will likely be drier, windier and colder

13. Regenerative Medicine—In about a decade we will be able to treat aging itself; our children and grandchildren could conceivably live 200 years; we will see more people living a youthful old age; major strides will be made in growing new tissue, organs, etc.

14. New Scientific Revolution—New research into the expansion of the universe; also new research into precision chemistry, nanoscience, and construction at the molecular level

—Jacque Rast

Schwartz is co-founder and chairman of Global Business Network, and the author of The Art of the Long View and co-author of The Long Boom and When Good Companies Do Bad Things. His newest book is Inevitable Surprises. He was recently commissioned by the Pentagon to study global warming and national security implications. He is a senior fellow of the Design Futures Council.

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