February 2008

Welcome to the future

By Jane Buckingham
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What's Next: The Experts' Guide is the perfect title for Jane Buckingham's book forecasting the future because the reader never quite knows what topic will be tackled next. The "experts" interviewed here explore subjects as weighty as the environment, medicine and politics; and as fluffy as dating, reality television and plastic surgery.

This may be disappointing for readers looking for scholarly insight into the future, but for those who keep an open mind and don't take the topic too seriously, What's Next will be a fun read. After all, where else can you get analysis of the future of law from Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz in the same book where the future of fashion is explored by designers Chip & Pepper? And since What's Next is a page-flipper—with essays on 50 different topics—readers can browse to find topics of interest. Some sample predictions: NFL star Shaun Alexander thinks professional sports will become more international and offer increasing opportunities for women. MIT robotics professor Rodney A. Brooks says robots will be increasingly used in our homes, at work and by our military. Drug researcher Mitch Earleywine believes illegal drug use will be halted by a combination of legalization, regulation and taxation. Space researcher (and PayPal co-founder) Elon Musk thinks tourists could be traveling to the moon in the next decade. Columnist Liz Smith says that with the growth of the Internet, there seems to be no limit to Americans' appetite for gossip.

Buckingham, president of a trend forecasting firm, admits that the list of topics is not comprehensive: She just wants it to be thought provoking. Even if the predictions prove wrong, Buckingham writes, "We're all responsible for becoming better educated about the way things are, so that we can join our experts in clearing a path for the way things could be." What's Next is a sometimes educational, sometimes entertaining book worthy of anyone curious about what the future might hold for things both great and small.

John T. Slania is a journalism professor at Loyola University in Chicago.

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What’s Next

What’s Next

By Jane Buckingham
ISBN 9780060885359

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