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The Last Book You'll Ever Read
and other lessons from the future
"A 20th Century Visionary" - Financial Post
"The only constant is change. Learn to love it. As the rate of change accelerates, the result will appear chaotic to the uninitiated. But there is elegant order in chaos. Few so far have learned to recognize and profit from it. This is where the future lies."
From his houseboat moored in Vancouver harbor — a floating electronic cottage — Frank Ogden monitors the world by computer phone link and satellite dish. His boundless curiosity, his gift for extrapolation, and his ability to synthesize information have made him one of the world's foremost futurists.
A consultant to corporations, professional organizations, and government agencies, he is in constant demand as a catalyst of change, stimulating his clients to think creatively about the future and their place in it.
Ogden has led a life of profitable nonconformity. Born in Toronto, he was educated in Canada and the United States before serving as a flight engineer in the Second World War. He has since done everything from selling airplanes to joining a team of therapists researching LSD at Hollywood Hospital. He helped establish Canada's first think-tank, was a founding member of the World Future Society in Canada, and in 1989 was elected a Fellow of the Explorers Club in New York.
Today Frank Ogden travels the world tirelessly, fascinated as ever by the process of change, seeking out the latest trends, and thinking about where they're leading us. How will the technological revolution affect the way we live? What will the Information Age ultimately mean for the "knows" and the "know-nots"? Is the next millennium to be feared or embraced?
Draw from his popular seminars and syndicated "Dr. Tomorrow" newspaper column, The Last Book You'll Ever Read is a sampling of the provocative insights and useful predictions that have made Frank Ogden, in the words of the Los Angeles Times, "possibly the world's most up-to-date futurist."
On long-term planning
"The best five-year planning belonged to the USSR and General MOtors. Look where it got them. Today the only effective planning is planning for change."
"During the early years of the 21st century, people will be inputting on computers and editing video with thought waves; they'll be creating artistic masterpieces without physically touching canvas, clay or a musical instrument. This new creativity will change the world more than Gutenberg's print."
"It sometimes takes eight years to get a textbook into the educational pipeline in North America. The book is obsolete the day it is written, never mind the day it appears in the classroom, yet we're supposedly training kids for the future with this material."
"Hire on attitude alone. Credentials are from the past, and past skills are obsolete."
"Knowledge is doubling every eighteen months (most of it now coming from outside North America). It is impossible to know everything about anything. Your best hope is to learn how to access information. Your biggest mistake may be your unwillingness to pay for information."
On the next millennium
"Don't get locked into Industrial Age virtues like nationalism. In the Communications Age the action goes to the mobile. Environments conducive to economic flowering will change rapidly as cities, states, and countries vie for new ideas and information."
I might properly have called this section "The Ten Most Responsible and Visionary Developments of the Next Century." Or maybe the term visionary should precede responsible. Why? Because the vision must come before the thought of responsibility. An idea, a concept, or a dream may turn out to be a blessing or a curse. Hence, whether something is "responsible" is more in the eyes of the subsequent beholder than in the mind of the creator. Here are some of the most likely visionary and responsible developments for the twenty-first century.
Safe and Sufficient Water
In the field of global health, the biggest bang for the buck comes from providing clean water to humankind. As environmental consciousness continues to increase, people will establish new priorities, and water purity will become even more important, especially when the world realizes that cleaning existing water is cheaper and easier than finding new supplies. Immense filtration plants using innovative techniques and process will sprout up. According to 1987 figures, developed countries average a gross national product of around $11,300. Developing countries average only $640. With about 75 percent of the world's population living in countries with a low income, pure water there equates with survival. One-quarter of the world's population — 1.2 billion residents of those countries — do not have access to safe drinking water. It is estimated that 250 million people in Africa, about 40 percent of that continent's population, will suffer or die as a result of water-related troubles in the next decade. In developing countries about 25 million are dying now from unsafe water; 60 percent are children. One thousand children die every hour from diarrhea. Clean water will dramatically reduce this disgrace.
Global Power Grid
Almost fifty years ago, the American genius Buckminster Fuller proposed that the electrical power grid of the United States be linked to its U.S.S.R. counterpart. Unfortunately, post-World War II political considerations on both sides put that possibility aside. The concept is surprisingly simple. Hook up the American electrical power network, through the Canadian power network, over the north polar region to the Russian network anywhere between Vladivostok and Murmansk.
Why? When it is daylight and the United States is power-hungry, power could flow to North America. When it is night here, power could flow into the Russian network. A win-win situation. Water now wastefully flowing over dams during the night in either country would be harnessed to be beneficial elsewhere. It would save fortunes that are spent on standby coal and oil peak-period generating plants. As with many problems, the solution involves not so much technology as it does arranging the necessary sociological and conceptual channels.
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