In the future, according to the former vice president, national governments will hold less sway than multinational corporations, there will be no privacy and all the world’s information will be freely available, we will struggle with basic strategic resources like topsoil and fresh water all the while we will try to change the genetic make-up of humanity (with possibly costly genetic failures) and continue to ruin our planet’s ecology and climate by the reckless use of greenhouse gasses. Yeah, the future looks a lot like Blade Runner.
By Al Gore
The problem with Gore’s book? It’s right on. The changes that science fiction writers have seen and envisioned coming are coming and are even here. (Consider The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi for a recent, excellent novel with similar themes.)
Unlike Science Fiction, the Vice President breaks down the coming changes in deep, but easier to understand sections:
1) Earth, Inc. – the globalization of economic factors, the movement of labor from developed to developing countries and “robosourcing” (the movement of labor from humans to robots.
2) The Global Mind –the rise of the internet to connect all of mankind in network similar to the way a mind works with billions of bits of information travelling instantaneously around the globe and (frighteningly) the complete lack of privacy users can expect.
3) The change in power – from U.S. centric to global, from governments to corporations.
4) Strategic Resource Loss – the depletion of strategic resources like topsoil and fresh water due to the increase in the world’s population.
5) Future Science – the technology that is rapidly changing the way we practice medicine, how we have the power to manipulate DNA and the path of our genetic future along with new techs that will impact our world and lives.
6) Climate Change – (of course) the impact of manmade global warming and climate changes due to reckless use of greenhouse gases.
This book is so dense that the audio book is 18 hours long and filled with words that would make your average young adult reader grimace in lack of comprehension. There are some great call-outs, though, that everyone should be able to understand. (And some movies that warn of a similar issue, for those who do read at a young adult level 🙂
“When I became Vice President in 1993, there were on average four different offices representing the U.S. Department of Agriculture located within every one of the 3000 counties in the United States yet the percentage of total jobs represented by farm jobs had declined to 2%. In other words, a determined and expensive national policy to promote agriculture for a century and a half did little or nothing to prevent the massive loss of employment opportunities on farms. Although these policies arguably contributed to the massive increase in agricultural productivity. But the larger point is that many systemic technology driven changes are simply too powerful for any set of policies to hold back.”
The Vice President rightly points out that the changes are coming and will be more and more difficult to stop or slow if action isn’t taken now. Unlike the above situation, which Republicans would likely love to read out of context, we are still early on in the genetic modification of humans and need to get ahead of the curve by making changes to our DNA illegal now, before they become commonplace. (Ala, the Island or Gattaca.)
A theme that comes up over and again is the Vice President’s call to change accounting practices to count the costs of natural resources utilization and ecological impact: “The emergence of rapid unsustainable growth in population, cities, resources consumption, depletion of top soil, fresh water supplies and living species, pollution flows, and economic output that is measured and guided by an absurd and guided by a distorted set of universally accepted methods that blind us to the destructive consequences of self deceiving choices we are routinely making.”
Some may jump at that “self deceiving choices” phrase and go for the cheap shot about the Vice President selling his cable TV channel to Al Jazeera, the fact is that the future envisioned in the book is coming and no amount of character assault should distract us from quick choices and changes. (Also seen in Mad Max and every other post-apocalyptic movie about the fall of society based on a scarcity of natural resources).
The scariest section in my opinion was the section on the Global Mind and the lack of privacy we should expect. I immediately drew a connection between this book’s concerns and Arther C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter’s prophetic novel, the Light of Other Days, where characters wore privacy suits to hide their gender and keep private their DNA.
This book reads like a cautionary tale of what our society is coming to and the massively important decisions we need to make. To make them, though, we need to get past the arguments over global warming and climate change and the partisan politics (Gore hasn’t been in any elected office for 13 years!) I can’t see any logical reason to oppose the conclusion that man has negatively impacted global climate change and we need to make adjustments. Even if you don’t believe in climate change can’t we at least agree that less smog is good for us?
I highly recommend this book. And if you enjoy audio books, I recommend the audio book version of this even more than the print version. The Vice President reads it himself, and while he can come across as the long winded professor who’s lecture we all doodled through in High School, when he get’s passionate about the subject you can hear it and frankly that helps with some who may doubt the veracity of Mr. Gore. This should build empathy; a great starting point for discussion and positive change.
A note to my Christian friends: why are you against climate change? Is it only because you are Republican and this is a Democrat issue? Have we looked at the research or just the Facebook timeline pictures with the snarky bumper sticker phrases? Taking care of the environment IS a Christian virtue and responsibility.
Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.
This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.