Future Issues

At the heart of any thinking about the future is trying to figure out what trends visible today are likely to persist (and for how long) into the future. There are some trends that are easy to predict – even well into the future, but they tend to be less interesting because of their relative permanence (geographical features, the amount of sunlight hitting the earth, etc.). There are shorter-term trends (such as clothing fashions and stock market levels) that are hardly worth thinking about in the longer-range future because of their relative impermanence.

Between these extremes there are some trends visible today that seem predictable to the point that they are generally worth “betting on” even well into the future and even if we cannot say for certain exactly where they will lead. For example, stem cell research is a topic under vigorous debate around the world today. No one can say for sure what will happen in the near future with stem cell research. But because of the promise of, and the interest in, stem cell research, it seems clear that research will continue well into the future somewhere and at some level of intensity. In other words, it seems safe to say that stem cell research is still likely to be an important issue 25 and 50 years into the future and therefore it is important or useful to understand some of the issues surrounding stem cell research when thinking about the longer-range future.

There is a wide variety of issues of this type to choose from and for this go-round of the list, those that have been chosen are:

The inclusion of each of these areas will be defended briefly before the book(s) relating to them are identified and summarized.

We welcome your input. Send suggestions for links and other ideas to lempert@rand.org.