Seven Tomorrows Part 1





BANTAM NEW AGE BOOKS                  1982



Back cover

THE OFFICIAL FUTURE – Where people gladly trade environmental deterioration, rising crime and personal freedom for technological triumph and widespread affluence

THE CENTER HOLDS – Conformity becomes the passport to success and the system becomes rigid and intolerant

MATURE CALM – Young people stay in school, families buy homes, and we all wonder what the big scare was about in the late seventies.

CHRONIC BREAKDOWN – Defying rational planning, the slow decline – not the fall – of industrial culture is accompanied by electric guitars and breaking glass.

APOCALYPTIC TRANSFORMATION – can people change directions like a flock of birds, all at once?

BEGINNINGS OF SORROW – Our nerve fails, and our worst fears are confirmed short of nuclear disaster. Yet that is also a distinct possibility.

LIVING WITHIN OUR MEANS – Hardly a choice, it’s a painful necessity born of reality. We change because the old ways no longer work.

SEVEN TOMORROWS: Toward a Voluntary History

In an effort to make accessible to a wider audience the collective work of the futures research group at Stanford Research Institute – now SRI, International – Hawken, Ogilvy and Schwartz show us logical changes that can be expected to take place and how we can effect those changes by the choices we make in the 1980s.

“The coming decades are likely to be a watershed… Ultimately, the future of our country and planet does not lie solely in external events, but also with the will of its inhabitants.”

The authors



Chapter 1: A Stance Toward the Future

The future is unsettled, yet we need a future we can believe in. Fewer Americans than ever before believe the future will improve their lives. Following years of faith in automatic progress, many Americans have abandoned hope for growth and prosperity. No longer taken for granted by the bulk of the population, the American Dream, like a fading faith, has few apologists. But it is not dead.

The hope for abundance, power, prestige, and success was no more than a dream for most Americans of the Depression Era. In the years following World War II, however, many people’s dreams were fulfilled. As it was translated into programs, plans, and expectations, what had been a dream became the Official Future. Its newest version is more cautious. The new optimism purports to be more realistic – a slightly chastened version of the American Dream that nonetheless includes prosperity for all hard-working Americans. The Official Future is embedded in our legislation, corporate planning, and political platforms. It promises greater economic growth and a future more prosperous than the present, but the Official Future may be built on images of yesterday’s success rather than today’s realities.

  • We need a future we can affirm, a future that is neither so hopeful as to be unrealistic, nor so grim as to invite despair.
  • Our book is about the possibilities that exist in the future. We propose seven plausible scenarios for the 80s and 90s.
  • Human choices make a difference because human history is partially the product of choices among alternative possibilities.
  • The act of collective creativity allows human beings to change some of the rules of the human condition in a way that nature does not allow her wholly instinctive creatures.
  • Human freedom consists in the capacity to invent and to choose a better way to live.
  • This capacity for inventing a future different from the past has drawn the attention of very different schools of 20th century thought. All reflect a common awareness of the importance of projecting alternative goals, then choosing a preferred path.
  • Our aim is to project alternative futures so that responsible and intelligent choice is possible.
  • The future we will eventually inhabit is largely, though not completely, a matter of the choices we all make in the present.
  • Because perceptions are slow to change, social change is a halting thing – two steps forward, one back.
  • We believe that each of our 7 scenarios represents a real possibility. The data that have fed those projections are the results of more than a decade’s research performed at SRI International.
  • We are eager to make the fruits of this research public because we believe that both its methods and results are important for the future.
  • Its publication is essential to our primary purpose: to increase awareness of the potential crises that face humankind and to highlight the role of human choices in determining the future.
  • How we see the future has everything to do with how we live in the present.
  • The coming decades are likely to be a watershed, a time that will change much that we hold familiar.
  • The basic premise – that the future depends on human decisions and the values that inform those decisions – will not go unargued.
  • We would argue that no one is in control of the current course of history, not the President of the United States, not bankers, not “the international communist conspiracy.”

Humanity stands at a unique point: simultaneously our problems are so acute and our communications network so widespread that, for the first time in world history, genuinely collective and democratic decisions are both demanded and possible. In order to choose intelligently, we need a sufficiently widespread consciousness of our condition and of our capacity to alter it through the decisions of enough people. We need a collective intelligence of a kind that may not have characterized the human species in the past; but we see no reason to believe that, given the highly developed nervous system of an advanced communications network, a whole population cannot reach a stage of mature self-consciousness much as an individual does.

Past societies have either neglected planning or left it in the hands of elites. We cannot afford to neglect planning because we have global problems that require coordinated planning for their solution. In a highly diverse nation, however, planning by an elite is both undemocratic and rarely effective. Therefore, it is imperative that the society-at-large achieve a forward-looking intelligence.

  • Like an adolescence whose nervous system is capable of deliberation and responsible action, modern civilization has the physical wherewithal to come of age.
  • Also like an adolescent, modern civilization has a greater capacity for self-destruction than an 8-year-old.
  • Our objective as authors of this book is simply to articulate the availability of choices in order to make our power to decide more real.
  • Our interest lies not in any single outcome but in the process of getting there.
  • Will people wake up to the possibility of self-determination, or will we muddle along merely reacting to what an arbitrary history hands us?


Chapter 2: Constructing Scenarios of the Future

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