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John Naisbitt and his wife Doris during a trip to China. Photo courtesy: Chinadaily.com

John Naisbitt is recognized as one of the world's leading Futurists who coined the term "Megatrends". Describing himself as a “social forecaster” Naisbitt spoke on some key trends shaping our future during an interview to People magazine. Some excerpts from that interview:

In a profile of Naisbitt, the People magazine of the US reported that every day 200 newspapers from around the U.S. stack up in the suburban Washington, D.C. offices of the Naisbitt Group, where their local stories are painstakingly clipped, categorized, measured and assessed. Naisbitt's newspaper-shredding methodology is patterned after a World War II intelligence-gathering technique formally known as "content analysis," a system still employed by the CIA.

Naisbitt and his staff of 24 package their findings in trend reports and in speeches and in seminars for a list of 65 mainly corporate clients, including AT&T, General Motors and IBM. After 12 years of tapping the grass roots, Naisbitt created the term "megatrends," his word for "big trends that reshape or restructure society."

Raised in Utah, the son of a bus driver, Naisbitt served in the Marines and studied political science at Harvard, the University of Utah and Cornell. During the 1960s he was an assistant to the U.S. Commissioner of Education. Following are some excerpts from an interview he gave to People:

Q. Are we more obsessed with the future than past generations?
JN: Yes, because of an important shift in our time orientation. As an agricultural society, we were oriented to the past, with traditions of how to plant and harvest. An industrial society is oriented to the present—get it out, get it done, ad hoc, bottom line, short term. Now we're changing from an industrial society to one based on information, and that's a megatrend. An information society is oriented to the future, which is why we're so interested in it. We're drowning in data, yet thirsty for intelligence and knowledge.

Q: With this deluge of data, don't a lot of people feel they may go under?
JN: Of course. People are looking for something to hold onto, and that's why we're having a religious revival. That's also why we have all these waves of nostalgia. We want to cling to the past, which is becoming ever more recent, by the way. The past is the 1950s and 1960s.

Q: How can you get a fix on the future?
JN: A sense of what's happening now would put us way ahead. Practically the whole country (US) continues to act as if we're an industrial society. You shouldn't get depressed about the latest gloomy business statistics, which are often rooted in old indices like the Dow Jones industrial average. Many companies in electronics, biotechnology and other so-called "sunrise sectors" are going strong. They're the ones to invest in now. The economy is much better off than the economists represent to us.

Q: Why are there so many start-ups now?
JN: Because access to the system is so much easier. In the old economy the strategic resource was capital. Now it's what's in your head, it's information, not how much money you've got in your pocket. Think about all those kids starting software companies. One-third of the new businesses today are started by women.

Q: Will the threat of nuclear war still be with us?
JN: Indeed, but such a war is not as likely when the various national economies are becoming linked in a global economy. Our interdependence is the great hope for peace.

Q: How can you be so sure?
JN: Because these are times of expanding choice. In lots of ways these are the best of times. During stable periods everything has its name and knows its place and we don't have much influence. During turbulent times we have more leverage personally, professionally and politically. So these are times of fabulous opportunity not experienced by our parents, or their parents, or their parents' parents.

Nasbitt on Global Warming:

Amid all the conflicting claims and advice, it is sometimes difficult to know whom to believe about the environment, I cannot stop my life the next 2 to 10 years to become an expert on the environment or sustainability. Nor can any of us. I can only use my experience and best judgment.

The debate is exacerbated by the superior tone of those who are so sure about global warming. Global warming has become a religion, and those who don't buy into its gloom and doom scenarios are infidels who must be banished from any public forum.

I believe the environment must be protected and that regulations is often necessary. No matter who is right about the environment and sustainability, I support attending to the environment because the remedies are so attractive. I want a clean air and clean water for everybody. I vote for nature. But exaggerating problems without any real idea of the score of the game distorts society's priorities and makes it hard for citizens and leaders to make the best decisions.


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