#29. A Summary of ‘The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change’ by Al Gore

'The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change' by Al Gore

‘The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change’ by Al Gore (Random House; January 29, 2013)

Table of Contents:

i. Introduction/Synopsis

1. Work: The World of Work in the New Global Economy

  • a. An Introduction to the Global Economy
  • b. Outsourcing
  • c. Robosourcing
  • d. Automation in the Financial Industry
  • e. The Redistribution of Wealth

2. Power: The Shifting of Power from Nation-States to Multinational Corporations

  • a. The Rising Power of Multinational Corporations
  • b. The Declining Power of the United States

3. The Internet: The Global Mind

  • a. The Rise of the Internet
  • b. The Internet of Things, and ‘Big Data’
  • c. Global Democracy

i. Overthrowing Dictatorial Regimes
ii. Reforming Established Democracies

  • d. The Dangers of the Internet

4. Biotechnology

  • a. Biotechnology in Food Production: GMOs
  • b. Biotechnology in Medicine

5. Demographics and Natural Resource Depletion

  • a. Population Increase
  • b. Displacement of Peoples: Xenophobia and Urban Stress
  • c. Environmental Stress
  • d. Techno-Optimism
  • e. Techno-Pessimism
  • f. The Solution: Reforming GDP

6. Climate Change

  • a. The Problem
  • b. The Effects: The Threat to Food and Freshwater Sources, and the Displacement of Peoples
  • c. The Solution

7. Conclusion

i. Introduction/Synopsis

Our world is becoming increasingly integrated and complex, and changing faster and faster. Out of the morass of elements involved here, Al Gore identifies 6 themes or factors that are emerging as the major drivers of change. The factors are 1) Work: the movement of labor from West to East (outsourcing); and, at the same time, a shift towards much more automation (robosourcing); 2) Power: the shifting of power from West to East; and, at the same time, the shifting of power from national governments to smaller players, such as businesses and corporations, but also rogue players, such as guerrilla and terror organizations; 3) Communications: the rise of the internet that has led to a wild proliferation of information, and the ability of the world’s population to instantly connect with one another for a host of purposes–and the increasing reach of the internet from the developed to the developing world;  4) Biotechnology: the manipulation of DNA to produce not only new organisms with novel features, but new materials and fuels as well; 5) Demographics: the enormous increase in the world’s population, and the movement of peoples both within and across national borders (as the result of numerous factors); and 6) Climate Change: the increase in world temperatures caused by the continuing build-up of CO2, as well as the numerous other climate effects that this entails.

While several of these drivers of change have the potential to bring great benefits to the world’s people, all are fraught with potential dangers, and it is this that is Gore’s focus in his new book The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change. In addition to the dangers, Gore also reveals his own advice regarding how best to deal with the potential dangers.

When it comes to work, Gore argues the principal danger is that the increasing robosourcing of labor (and even services) threatens to eventually deprive a large portion of the world’s population of gainful employment. The principal solution, he believes, is to increasingly redistribute wealth from the few who earn the bulk of it to public services provided by government.

In terms of power, the principal danger is that the private interests of groups that are gaining power (especially multi-national corporations) will increasingly run up against the interests and values of private citizens. The principal solution is to reform our democracies to ensure that the interests of corporations do not continue to outbalance the interests of citizens.

When it comes to communications, the principal threat is the vulnerability of people’s personal information (and organizations’ operational information) of being collected (or stolen) by numerous players (including corporations, governments and criminal organizations) and used for nefarious purposes. The principal solution is to introduce new measures to ensure that information is protected, and people’s privacy preserved.

Regarding biotechnology, the principal danger is that the discoveries and innovations that are being made here are being introduced faster than we are able to consider their ethical implications and potential negative consequences. The principal solution is to ensure that we subject these innovations to full inquiry and public debate, in order that we may decide deliberately just what we want to allow, and what we do not.

When it comes to demographics, the principal danger is that the continuing rise in the world’s population will place an overbearing amount of stress on the world’s natural resources, and that this will ultimately lead to the depletion of said resources. The principal solution is to continue efforts to curb global population, and introduce measures to reduce consumption to sustainable levels.

With respect to climate change, the principal danger is that the world will experience irreversible climate effects, and that these effects will compromise the world’s arable land and water sources to the point where we will not be able to meet our needs. The principal solution is for the governments of the world to take action now to reduce CO2 emissions, by way of such measures as taxing CO2, and introducing a cap and trade system, as well as introducing subsidies for renewable energy sources (and cancelling those currently given to fossil fuel corporations).

Here is Al Gore introducing his new book on PBS’s News Hour:

What follows is a full executive summary of The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change by Al Gore.

1. Work: The World of Work in the New Global Economy

Gore begins his book with a look at the global economy, and specifically how the new global economy is impacting the world of work.

a. An Introduction to the Global Economy

The world’s economies have become increasingly integrated over the past 500 years; however, the last 30 years has witnessed an unprecedented quickening in this process. As an indication of this, consider that “International trade flows have increased tenfold over the last thirty years—from $3 trillion annually to $30 trillion annually—and are continuing to grow at a rate half again faster than global production” (loc. 695). Without a doubt, Gore concludes, “the world as a whole has now emerged as a single economic entity that is moving quickly toward full integration” (loc. 435).

Gore identifies 4 factors behind the quickening integration of the global economy. These factors include the collapse of the USSR, which has opened up many formerly communist countries to commercialization and trade (loc. 689); the rise and opening up of China (loc. 689); staggering advances in the areas of transportation, communications and information technology (loc. 690); and a significant increase in free trade, beginning with the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) that was instituted following WWII (loc. 693).

The rise of the global economy has resulted in major changes in the world of work. Two factors in particular have been especially impactful. These include the shifting of labor from the developed world to the developing world (outsourcing); as well as a trend towards the automation of work (robocourcing) (loc. 423-27).

b. Outsourcing

When it comes to outsourcing, the opening up of the world’s labor sources, and the lower cost of labor in highly populated, developing countries (as well as improvements in shipping) has led multi-national corporations to move their operations from the developed to the developing world (loc. 423). The change has certainly benefited the economies of the developing world. Indeed, as Gore points out, “the technology-enhanced integration of the global economy is lifting the relative economic strength of developing and emerging countries. This year (2013) the GDP of this group of countries (as measured by their purchasing power) will surpass the combined GDP of advanced economies for the first time in the modern era” (loc. 563).

*For prospective buyers: To get a good indication of how this (and other) articles look before purchasing, I’ve made several of my past articles available for free. Each of my articles follows the same form and is similar in length (15-20 pages). The free articles are available here: Free Articles

14 thoughts on “#29. A Summary of ‘The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change’ by Al Gore

    • I must admit David that I disagree with Gore on many points. However, I still think there is much to be gained from learning about his views. I generally prefer to stay away from partisanship (or, at the very least, to cover a single topic from both sides), but when an ‘ideas’ book is as big as this one comes along (New-York-Times-Best-Seller-Big), I feel more or less obligated to cover it.

      Cheers,
      Aaron

      • Hi Michael. Thanks for your comment. My main problem with Gore is his black and white thinking: he blames corporations for virtually all of our problems and believes top-down, government-imposed solutions are our only way out. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that the free market can solve all of our problems, but I do think that economic principles deserve our deep respect, and are responsible for far more Good than Gore is willing to grant. It’s true that the profit motive can lead to excesses and corrupt decisions, but it’s also true that it has solved many of our problems. I’m not convinced that the problems we now face cannot be addressed by technological and business-based solutions. What’s more, it’s not at all clear to me that government-led solutions are as simple and effective as Gore would like to think. You disagree?

      • Thanks Michael, I’m glad you like the site. Many happy returns!!

        Cheers,
        Aaron

  1. I just finished reading The Future, and am now looking at other people’s reactions to it (sort of a diy electronic book discussion group). I do your value your efforts. This is a perfect example of what Al Gore talks about in the need for an entirely new economic system. I don’t want to spend money on something that is available free even though I value human ideas as much as I value air and water. I am willing to share with you my similar ideas/efforts and my friendship. That won’t help you buy anything. To resolve this dilemma, perhaps I will read Niall Ferguson’s book, The Ascent of Money, shown in your lovely header.

    • Hi Mike. I’m glad you liked the article. As for my business model, it’s true that I haven’t made any money at this gig yet, but I do intend for that to change. Any day now I should be running ads on the site, and hopefully this will draw some revenue. I have recently noticed people doing something similar to what I’m doing and selling their summaries on Amazon, so this is another option that I’m considering. My sincere hope is that my efforts will both earn me some money, and create buzz for the books that I cover, and so increase their sales.

      Cheers,
      Aaron

  2. Another great summary, Thank you! As you point out about halfway through, this book is a good counterpoint, in some areas, to Abundance, the first summary I read on this site. I also thought it interesting that neither author addressed the issue that Cristina brought up on your Abundance podcast – essentially, that, human nature being what it is, struggles for dominance will persist even with solutions to our material needs readily at hand. Maybe I should read Jerad Diamond’s book next, and see how little we’ve changed – will probably read the book and not the summary on that one, I enjoy his writing artistry.

    Also interesting that Al Gore evokes such strong negative emotions in some people, and they attack the messenger, don’t even address the message. I also saw this with a co-worker when I brought up Al Gore’s ideas – immediate shutdown.

    Anyway, keep up the good work!

  3. Aaron — I really like your summaries and can see how these can be so beneficial. I happened upon your site via Google while looking for reviews on Gore’s new The Future book. Im reading the book, but your synthesis adds another dimension. My only question is — why have you renamed the chapter headings as well as to some extent reorganized the content for each? It just makes it hard to follow along directlywith the original book. Im sure you have your reasons. Otherwise, thanks for your hard work!

    • Thanks for your comment Natalie. First, I’m glad you’re liking the articles! Second, as to your question regarding why I reorganize the content of the books I cover: I find that many of the books I cover are organized in a way that favors attention grabbing over logical flow–plus many of these books contain a fair bit of repetition throughout. I happen to prefer logical flow over attention grabbing (both aesthetically and ideologically), and refuse to engage in repetition (except to reiterate what I say with direct quotes from the author), and so these are the reasons I often find it necessary to reorganize. Since I’m reorganizing, I can’t very well keep the same chapter headings as those found in the book, so I change these too. I’m sorry it’s caused a problem for you, but I hope you can I appreciate why I do what I do.

      Cheers,
      Aaron

  4. Aaron, i am teaching in a hungarian university–this is very useful to me and the site will be recommended to my students. It is really stimulating , great work, the summaries, the references, the videos –i just wanted to say, i am grateful for your dedication and work. Just one remark- sometimes it is not easy to identify your review with the corresponding parts of the book. (e.g. kahneman”s book) it comes from the fact that you are doing an independent intellectual summary as oppose to a mechanical one. But if somebody is interested only some parts chapters of a book it is not obvious which part s/he should read. Nevertheless, great job.

    • Thanks for your comment Tibor. I’m glad you’re enjoying the site, and am happy to hear you’re passing it on to others. It’s true that I don’t summarize books chapter-by-chapter (and about the reason for this). I do recognize this as a problem for people who are interested in using the articles as a study guide (or are only interested in certain chapters/parts of the book), but I just don’t see how I can get around it. Let me know if you have any ideas!!

      Cheers,
      Aaron

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