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Which World? Scenarios for the 21st century

Analyzes persistent, long-term demographic, economic, social, environmental, and security trends that are likely to shape and constrain the future.

Executive Summary

Looking 50 years into the future, Which World? analyzes persistent, long-term trends -- demographic, economic, social, environmental, and security trends -- that are likely to shape and constrain the future. It develops three scenarios -- scenarios that reflect very different mindsets or world views -- to explore alternative possibilities for how the future may unfold. And it analyzes both trends and scenarios for each of 7 major world regions, combining information on each region’s political and cultural patterns, natural resource endowments, and social problems.

The scenarios are:

  • Market World -- a future based on the belief that market forces and new technology, once unleashed, are sufficient to bring rising prosperity and a brighter future to humankind;
  • Fortress World--a grimmer future in which uneven economic growth creates islands of prosperity surrounded by oceans of poverty and despair, a future of growing environmental degradation, conflict, violence, and social chaos; and
  • Transformed World -- a future in which fundamental social and political changes offer hope of fulfilling human aspirations.

The book argues that all three scenarios are plausible and that the choices we make as human societies will determine which world -- which trajectory into the future -- ultimately comes to pass.

We hope that the book will help awaken, among readers in industrial countries, a stronger sense that what happens in developing regions affects our destiny too. While the book does not make predictions, it nonetheless suggests some surprising insights about different regions: that China’s future is not as secure as the conventional wisdom would have it; that Latin America, but for one deeply-embedded problem, might well become the richest of any developing region; that the now-dominant industrial countries, if their nerve and leadership fails, could turn inward and stagnate; that Southeast Asia, despite its current problems, may still have the brightest future of any developing region; and that the most uncertain and difficult future may belong not to sub-Saharan Africa but (narrowly) to North Africa/Middle East.

In short, the book offers some potentially provocative views of the future, in an effort to shed new light on the present. It offers vivid descriptions of the choices that human society faces, to underscore the urgency and the opportunity for shaping a more hopeful future. Which World? has already attracted favorable comments from a number of distinguished leaders and scholars. We hope that you will find it worthwhile and, if you do, that you will mention it to colleagues and help it reach its intended audience -- political, intellectual, and business leaders; educators and students; and the media gate keepers that can alert a concerned general audience.

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