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500 Years into the Future

Date: 06-02-03
Host: George Noory
Guests: Watts Wacker, Robert Cohen

"500 years from now the average life span will be 800 years," said futurist Watts Wacker, who appeared on Monday night's show. He commented that silicon and carbon are beginning to fuse and that the "Six Million Dollar Man only costs about $12,000 today."

Wacker also discussed his book The 500 Year Delta, which posits that civilization has gone through major changes approximately every 500 years. He suggested that the current age of reason is giving way to a new age of paradox where people are able to comfortably hold seemingly contradictory viewpoints, such as believing in both Darwinism and Creationism.

Two tools that Wacker said he uses to study the future, are "content analysis" which looks at such things as the amount of media coverage a particular subject gets, and "scenario planning." He mentioned that some of the most long-lived companies are those that grow into other areas than those in which they initially succeeded in. Curiously, he said that while companies such as Coca Cola may have drafted a 500 year plan, "the longer out you look, the more you tend to focus on the here and now."

Paradoxes in Futurology

Watts Wacker co-authored the Visionary's Handbook, which examines some of the paradoxes involved in preparing for the future, both in a business context and in one's life. "The smallest guy has got to think big and the biggest guy has to think small," Wacker said in an interview with Government Technology. Wacker stresses the importance of having a vision, because if you don't, you're liable to get swept up in someone else's. One thing he's learned about visioning is the "difference between bacon and eggs. The hen is involved but the pig is committed. In the end, your vision is only as good as your commitment to the execution of it," Wacker said.

"Life has never been easier, and because it has never been easier, life has never been more hard," Wacker writes in his book. He also talks about learning to live with the future but expressed in the present tense, because the way a person conceives of the future will determine how that future will play out. The future will be played out with a given set of events, regardless if one is pessimistic or optimistic. "What isn't given is how we react to unknowable and unpredictable events as they arrive. It's the response, not the events, that determine both our future and our satisfaction in the present with the future we expect," Wacker writes.

Mad Cow Disease

Researcher Robert Cohen joined George in the first half-hour with an update on Mad Cow Disease. He reported that three people under the age of 30 have died in Michigan this year from the disease, and that three farms in that state are under quarantine. Cohen traced part of the problem to the feeding of animal byproducts to other animals, which he believes helps spread prions, the difficult-to-kill infectious agent. Cohen advocates avoiding eating meat and dairy, the consumption of which he referred to as the "drinking of diseased body fluids and the eating of diseased flesh."

Bumper Music

Bumper music from Monday June 02, 2003

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