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Futurist Peter Schwartz '68 Eyes the New Century
by Margaret M. Knight
The bright red hair is gray now and the beard a bit tamer. But the burning intensity in his eyes and the puckish grin are the same as the day he left Rensselaer. Most important, the idealism remains unshaken. Peter Schwartz ’68—internationally renowned futurist, business strategist, and author—still believes it is possible to create a better world.
An expert in what is called scenario planning, Schwartz has built his career and his California think tank/consulting firm, Global Business Network, by helping corporations and individuals make better decisions in the face of an uncertain future.
“I do not make predictions,” Schwartz insists. “I develop scenarios.” As the word implies, scenarios are stories about what the future might bring and how our choices might turn out. They are a way of helping people challenge their preconceptions and face the unknown with greater insight.
But with the release this October of his latest book, The Long Boom: A Vision for the Coming Age of Prosperity, Schwartz and co-authors Peter Leyden and Joel Hyatt seem to be defying this cardinal rule with an unabashedly optimistic prediction of global prosperity lasting at least until the year 2020.
The book grew out of a 1997 feature article in Wired magazine that proclaimed: “We have entered a period of sustained growth that could . . . bring increasing prosperity for . . . billions of people on the planet. We are riding the early
Photo by Jason Grow
waves of a 25-year run of a greatly expanding economy that will do much to solve seemingly intractable problems like poverty and to ease tensions throughout the world. And we’ll do it without blowing the lid off the environment.”
Not surprisingly, the article sparked heated debate, which the book is certain to fuel for some time to come. But Schwartz lives for debate, particularly about the future.
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