Seeing without the Crystal Ball

Forecasting is a fancy word for trying to predict the future, and it is, to put it mildly, an inexact science. But George Friedman, a political analyst who launched the intelligence-gathering company Strategic Forecasting in 1996, has gotten pretty adept at it.

His one- and 10-year geopolitical and economic forecasts have become hot commodities at the Pentagon and on Wall Street. For his latest book, Friedman wanted to see how far into the future he could predict -so he decided to try the entire 21st century.

The idea: Ignore the doomsayers, Friedman says-the age of American power has only just begun. In the next century, the United States will fight (and win) a second Cold War with a re-emergent Russia, enjoy a midcentury age of opulence and become the world's largest energy producer through a space-based system of solar panels.

The evidence: With birthrates down across the industrialized world, a 300-year population boom is ending. Going forward, power will reside with the nations that are best able to attract immigrants-such as the United States. Computers are also key: because programming codes are primarily in English, English-based economies will have a clear advantage.

The conclusion: Expect the unexpected. In 1918, Friedman notes, it would've been absurd to suggest Europe would be at war again in 20 years. Similarly, predictions of America's demise suggest we're headed for the opposite.

Source: Newsweek