Sunday, November 14, 2004

A changing world - in unexpected ways!

The past is a poor predictor of the future. In 1972, the Club of Rome published a book, "The Limits to Growth." The book predicted that if the world continued as it was, resources would run out within a century. The book sold 12 million copies in 37 languages. During the 1950 and '60s, the world could not feed itself. However, now we worry about global warming, and since the Green Revolution (started by the Rockefeller foundation in 1944), the world can produce more food than it needs. Countires in which many people starved to death became food exporters. The West now worries about an epidemic of obesity and diabetes, while in less developed countiries wars are the only barrier to distribution of food. It is fair to say that most long-term predictions by experts are wrong. No-one fifty years ago foresaw genetic engineering, or laseer surgery, nor did anyone seventy-five years ago predict antibiotics.

Yet companies fail because they rely on predictions by experts. Railroads did, airlines are doing so now. Electronics companies and car companies persist in extrapolating the past. It will be interesting to see if we ever get away from this.

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