The Future is a big book with a compelling, although politically daunting, conclusion. Al Gore seeks to answer the question, ‘What are the drivers of global change?’ Through an at-times dizzying and often sobering ride through a complex array of issues, he tells us that the answer lies in the outcome of ‘a contest between the Global Mind and Earth Inc.’ How this battle plays out depends on us, and, particularly, on the revitalisation of democratic institutions in the United States.
The first two chapters describe the two powerful forces – one driven by markets and one driven by reason and democracy – that are propelling us toward our future. ‘Earth Inc’ builds on the idea that we are living in a global economy and seeks to underscore the interconnectedness of both the production process and markets across the planet. ‘The Global Mind’ is the ‘planet-wide extension of the human nervous system that transmits information, thoughts, and feeling to and from billions of people at the speed of light.’
Gore traces how these two powerful forces interact with the digital and biotech revolutions, the climate crisis, and demographic transformations. Gore revels in the complexity of his subject and I found myself sharing in the excitement of the ‘ah ha’ moments as he sought to unveil how the pieces fit together. He uses innovative graphics to illustrate the themes of each chapter. It is a nice touch and helps the reader see the interconnections of his themes.
In the hands of a less action-oriented author the material would just depress us. But Gore argues that we have a capacity to rein in Earth Inc. if we harness the power of the Global Mind: ‘In a million theaters of battle, the reform of rule incentives in markets, political systems, institutions, and societies will succeed or fail depending upon how quickly individuals and groups committed to a sustainable future gain sufficient strength, skill, and resolve by connecting with one another to express and achieve their hopes and dreams for a better world.’
How do we do that? Gore’s conclusion lies in the penultimate paragraph of the book, when he calls for ‘limiting the role of money in politics and reforming outdated and obfuscatory legislative rules that allow a small minority to halt legislation action the U.S. Senate.’ While the title ‘The Future’ conveys the scope of his inquiry, a title that conveyed his key conclusion would have been something like ‘what diminished democracy and unaccountable capitalism portend for the future – and what we must do about it.’
Heather Boushey is senior economist at the Center for American Progress and visiting fellow at IPPR
The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change by Al Gore is published by WH Allen | 592pp | £25
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