Dr. Fred Bortz

Probable Tomorrows How Science and Technology Will Transform our Lives in the Next Twenty Years

by Marvin Cetron and Owen Davies

(St. Martins, 1997, $24.95, 352 pages)


Reviewed by Dr. Fred Bortz

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In an aptly titled examination of the scientific and technological developments that will shape the next two decades, futurists Cetron and Davies (Crystal Globe, Educational Renaissance, American Renaissance) present a well-reasoned and optimistic forecast. Although individual experts are likely to disagree with details of the authorsÕ predictions, few would argue about its breadth of coverage and comfortable tone.

High technology and complex science are presented in clear, lively prose and connected to the facts and issues of everyday life. The bookÕs nine chapters on key fields (information, communication, materials science, nanotechnology, transportation, aerospace, energy, environment, and medicine) include speculation as well as forecasts; but the authors clearly distinguish among what they view as probable, possible, or unlikely developments.

The capstone of the book is its appendix, which includes a consensus view of the future from a 1996 George Washington University Delphi survey, a list of contributors to that survey, a detailed response to that survey by Forecasting International (CetronÕs company), and a timeline of technological evolution. Forecasting InternationalÕs response includes summary forecasts and confidence levels by area. Within each area, it predicts specific events (e.g., the use of alternative sources for more than ten percent of the worldÕs energy consumption) with likely dates, probabilities, and leading nations.

Ph.D. physicist Fred Bortz is an author of science books for young readers, including, as noted, Mind Tools: The Science of Artificial Intelligence.