Friday, June 06, 2008

Future Planning

Paul Krugman is a columnist for the New York Times, and he looked back today. Back in 1996, for the centenary of the NYT magazine, he was asked to write an article imagining that he was in 2096 looking back on the world of one hundred years ago.

He had just five main points. Quoting directly:

1. Soaring Resource Prices
The first half of the 1990's was an era of extraordinarily low prices for raw materials. In retrospect, it is hard to see why anyone thought that situation would last.

2. The Environment as Property
in a world where billions of people can afford cars, vacations and food in plastic packages, the limited carrying capacity of the environment had become perhaps the single most important constraint on the standard of living.

3. The Rebirth of the Big City
...urban density favored personal interaction, which turned out to be essential.

4. The Devaluation of Higher Education
These days, jobs that require only 6 or 12 months of vocational training -- paranursing, carpentry, household maintenance and so on -- pay nearly as much as if not more than a job that requires a master's degree, and pay more than one requiring a Ph.D.

5. The Celebrity Economy
The fans attend these concerts not to appreciate the music (they can do that far better at home), but for the experience of seeing their idols in person. In short, instead of becoming a knowledge economy we became a celebrity economy.

Excellent. The big issue is that there are limited natural resources. The last point is a consequence of information becoming free. Remember he wrote all that back in 1996 imagining the vastly different world of 2096. The future is coming a lot faster than we think.

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