American political scientist George Friedman made a forecast in this book that is contrary to what most of us would make judging by what is happening nowadays only. The 21st century, according to him, will be abundant in technological improvements of any kind, demographic crises, and also wars similar to what we have seen in The Fifth Element, Star Wars, and other books and movies picturing the future.
He based his forecast on demographic trends in both the U.S. and the world, economic history of the U.S. (a very interesting fifteen-year-long cycling of the U.S. economy that he noted), technological advances, and geopolitical behavior including mostly spheres of influence and national ambitions.
An interesting theory that Mr. Friedman made a note of – based on his observations of changes in the ways wars are waged – is his expectation that they will be transferred into the open space, and that the United States will be the first country to conquer space with its future launch of three satellites that he calls in his book “Battle Stars.” The United States will be ruling the open space, the air space, and the oceans which will instill fear, jealousy and anti-American sentiments among the other countries, especially the ones that will be capable of, and therefore working toward, forming their spheres of influence which spheres will be in their regions. Among these countries, according to him, will be Japan (with sphere of influence in China and Indonesia), Poland (Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Belarus, Slovakia, and Romania) and Turkey (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the entire Arab World, Armenia, Azerbaidjan, and Muslim parts of Russia).
Meanwhile Germany, France, Russia and China will be having their own problems within their own territories, according to him. These problems, as pointed out in The Next 100 Years, will either force them to lose territories and influence (particularly the cases of Russia and possibly China), and make them unwilling and unable to get involved in the international scene. George Friedman rarely mentioned any of these countries throughout his book, let alone international organizations such as NATO, the EU, the UN and others. There is technically no discussion of international organizations in The Next 100 Years which makes the picture resemble that of the two world wars without the 20-year period between them when there was a League of Nations.
It is understandable why he ignored any discussion about international organizations. In his book George Friedman projects their powerlessness to a point where they will either cease to exist or will have no impact on pivotal decisions made by independent countries such as declaring a war.
George Friedman also opined that the end of the 21st century will witness a complete shift of influence in the world from Europe to North America, a process that he pointed out is happening nowadays. And due to demographical changes that he expected will happen then in the United States and Mexico – in about the 2080s – especially in the southern states of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and the southern part of California – there will be conflicts between the United States and Mexico, which he expects will end at the beginning of the 22nd century. The winner of these conflicts will be the new greatest power of the world, according to him – the United States or Mexico.
I beg to differ on some of his expectactions
I find Friedman’s book a very interesting source of understanding geopolitical behaviors, among other things. He also mentioned several times at the beginning and at the epilogue that he might be wrong about some of his predictions but that he is entirely confident about other predictions that he made based on his observations of scientific trends and the world’s dynamic developments within every two decades, and I agree with these premises.
However, I find his book too unrealistic. For example, making predictions based on demographical trends and population growth is compelling, but it is not necessarily the best way to do it. George Friedman disregarded in his forecast the cultural differences that an American, a Japanese, a Polish or a Turk might have even then. He also disregarded the interests that the new-born Americans, Japanese, Polish and Turks might have, meaning how interested they will be in science in general, whether they could afford it, whether these scientists would end up living somewhere else, and other factors that will determine these countries’ futures.
Furthermore, Mr. Friedman disregarded the projected revenues that these governments will be collecting from taxes which will later be spent on the military if we assume that their goals will coincide with his expectations.
Moreover, somewhere in his book I noticed that he contradicted himself regarding energy prices by not being clear on whether they will be higher or lower.
I find his expectation on how shortage of labor will be addressed – by having robots working next to people – too much of a stretch too. If robots will be addressing the labor shortage, they are very likely to replace even the rest of the workforce – their human colleagues – especially if robot labor will be cheaper than – or as expensive as – human labor will be because robots will not be complaining about their rights at the workplace including salaries and benefits, a part of the business that businessmen and managers understandably never like to deal with.
I also don’t see one of his last judgments about the 2080s – that there will be an amendment in the Mexican Constitution creating districts abroad representing the Mexican citizens – some of whom will be Mexican Americans but will be allowed to vote in Mexican elections – in the Mexican Congress. George Friedman added that it will be very likely for one and the same person to be member in both the Mexican Congress and the U.S. Congress. I can’t see this happening at all. The U.S. will very likely have passed, if deemed necessary, a legislation that disallows dual citizenship thus blocking the possibility of any such precedent from happening.
These are some of Friedman’s projections that I find inconsistent with reality in the future. He pointed out both at the beginning and at the end of his book that if one had correctly projected the future of the world affairs in 1911, everyone would have laughed at them, and he used the same notion in order to prepare and remind us the validity of his forecast is higher than we might think at first glance. I agree that dynamic developments in the world are likely to trigger unexpected and even unrealistic results. However, in my opinion, the today’s world is a lot more globalized in every aspect and therefore a lot more stable to let most of his expectations come true.
By criticizing his book I don’t mean to say that it is useless but that it needs improvements in order to be more convincing. In my opinion, The Next 100 Years is a must read for those of us who are interested in knowing more about government behaviors (geopolitics to a greater extent), technological improvements and some nations’ relationships in the past, present and possibly in the future.