Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Megatrends That Weren't - By Joshua E. Keating | Foreign Policy

Predicting the future is hard. Foreign Policy looks at some trends and predictions that were supposed to change the world but failed to live up to the hype. The five they list are:
1) The Japanese Superpower
2) The Permanent Economic Boom
3) Peak Oil
4) The Resource Crunch
5) The Internet Fad (Though this wasn't really a trend as much as just general skepticism from certain people)

Now we worry about China (Will anyone make the US-China equivalent of Gung Ho?), and lots of people still worry about peak oil and population bombs. I suppose these folks are right to worry in the sense that oil is finite so we may use it all and at some point there will be a point of peak population, but no one knows when these will happen. More importantly, it's not obvious that these are unambiguously bad situations (Note that "peak oil," which is not a problem, is not the same as environmental damage from burning fossil fuels, which is a problem). All of the "mega-trends" listed here were misunderstood in large part because those who believed in them assumed that everything outside of the trend itself would stay the same. Consider peak oil, where there is a finite supply on the planet. If we assume that prices, extraction technologies and available substitutes remain the same we're screwed. But there is no reason to assume any of those factors will remain unchanged. Eventually prices will rise, technology will allow us to adapt and substitutes will become available, but at this point we don't know what these changes will actually be.
Megatrends That Weren't - By Joshua E. Keating | Foreign Policy
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