“Fascinating and weird” further describes not only a new book by Al Gore – titled, “The Future” – but the nation’s 45th vice president himself.
Years ago, I read Gore’s “Earth in the Balance,” and thought then that it was a very weird offering from a Southern Baptist, with all its New Age terminology and pantheistic musings. If only we’d known then he meant every word.
Still, this new book, “The Future,” is engrossing and very much worth a read. Like many Gore projects, it ain’t light (literally, it’s 592 pages) or light reading. But it fascinates just the same. I was particularly struck at the beginning that Gore thoroughly embraces evolutionary theory, and because it informs his worldview, one can quibble with him about various presuppositions and outcomes.
That’s no reason though to pass on this book. In fact, I strongly urge you to get a copy. Reading other perspectives is a good thing.
And Al Gore has an arresting perspective on where it’s all going. You know, universe-wise.
Early on in “The Future,” Gore says: “Most have learned from their life experiences and the stories told by their elders that what we do in the present, when informed by knowledge of the past, can shape the future in objectively better ways.”
Can’t really disagree with that, even though conservatives will wince at some of Gore’s other observations, especially since he’s a thoroughgoing globalist. It’s clear that some liberals are genuinely sincere in their efforts to promote a better future, whatever that might be or look like.
Gore reveals that when he was a young congressman in 1976, he quickly became involved in futurist discussions, serving with a group that called itself the Congressional Clearinghouse on the Future. Gore explains that the group studied the views of such leading thinkers and change agents as Margaret Mead, Alvin Toffler and Carl Sagan. Boy, if we’d only known what young Al thought back then!
Gore believes we can “reclaim control of our destiny and shape the future,” and, incredibly, advocates: “The emergence of a planet-wide electronic communications grid connecting the thoughts and feelings of billions of people and linking them to rapidly expanding volumes of data, to a fast growing web of sensors being embedded ubiquitously throughout the world, and to increasingly intelligent devices, robots, and thinking machines, the smartest of which already exceed the capabilities of humans in performing a growing list of discrete mental tasks and may soon surpass us in manifestations of intelligence we have always assumed would remain the unique province of our species.”
Hmm. Frankly, even those who disagree with Gore’s conclusions need to read about his worldview and where he thinks we are going and, perhaps more importantly, how we can get there. In an odd sort of way, Gore seems to be a pretty transparent politician who telegraphs exactly what he believes. Of course, he is now a former politician, but I can appreciate his honesty.
Gore’s nimble mind is on evidence everywhere in “The Future,” and just one small example is in the way he describes the United States (still “the indispensable nation”), as seen in Chapter 3, “Power in the Balance,” in which he describes America’s chief contributions to global stability. At one point, Gore points out that the U.S. helps keep the sea lanes open. Honestly, we’ve had presidents who would not be able to cram such facts into their brains, much less use them to point out the country’s specialness. This is part of what makes “The Future” so seamless and engaging.
It is in Chapter 5, “The Reinvention of Life and Death,” that some would take issue with Gore. In fact, one can conclude that if he actually believes some of this stuff, should he ever find himself in a castle turret, he’d better keep an eye on the window for burning torches below.
Gore believes in vast opportunities for redefining the future of humanness: “For the first time in history, the digitization of people is creating a new capability to change the being in human being.”
Indeed, Gore offers this kind of analysis of the future: “In mythology, the lines dividing powers reserved for the gods from those allowed to people were marked by warnings; transgressions were severely punished. Yet no Zeus has forbidden us to introduce human genes into other animals; or to create hybrid creatures by mixing the genes of spiders and goats; or to surgically imbed silicon computer chips into the gray matter of human brains; or to provide a genetic menu of selectable traits for parents who wish to design their own children.”
Like I said, you don’t have to agree with the guy, but you do need to read him. As a teaser, I’ll say that Chapter 6, “The Edge,” will blow … your … mind.
From his shattering defeat in 2000, Al Gore has built something else with his life, altogether. It is an agenda that has little to do with the past and very much everything to do with the future.
“The Future” is one of the most fascinating books I’ve ever read. Highly recommended.