The high-tech world of tomorrow--complete with the ""ugly problems"" that futurists like Toffler and Naisbitt block out....


THE WORLD AFTER OIL: The Shifting Axis of Wealth and Power

The high-tech world of tomorrow--complete with the ""ugly problems"" that futurists like Toffler and Naisbitt block out. Nussbaum, Foreign News Editor of Business Week, says he got onto the drift of things when he learned, in shaky 1979, that a few ever-cautious Swiss were investing in Japanese high-tech firms; from there, he advanced toward the conclusions presented here with weekly-journalism zip and a specialized journalist's command of privileged sources. His first chapter bets on three technologies--robotics, bioengineering, and telecommunications; explains the state-of-the-art (including US standing); suggests the social implications (robotics and unemployment, bioengineering and public safety, telecommunications and privacy). What-happens-next is megadrama (per the chapter headings): The Twilight of OPEC; The Decline of Germany and the Breakup of Europe; The Disintegration of the Soviet Union; Deindustrialization of the Third World; Electronic Tribalism; Crimes of the '90s; Japan Leads the Pacific Basin; American Renaissance. Whether or not the course of events follows Nussbaum's scenario, he has loaded the book with insights valuable right now. On OPEC: the crucial drop in the demand for imported oil didn't come from conservation, but ""from the shrinking of the heavy industries that depended upon it for so long."" (Washington, however, hasn't yet awakened to the Arabian peninsula's political eclipse.) On Germany: the heavy-industry/high-tech shift (where Japan and the US lead) is turning West Germany toward ""the less-sophisticated"" East. On the Third World: ""Nations that have spent the past forty years struggling to move out of their agricultural roots into the industrial era will suddenly find that the world has already moved on."" (Why is the Third World frantic to pass the Law of the Sea legislation? For fear that underwater mineral fields, developed by the multinationals, will kill their own mineral exports.) Nussbaum's analysis is shrewd, in short, but some of his points are also momentous. As for his envisioned American resurgence, that's a question mark: dependent on whether or not the high-tech ""sizzle""-to-create is transplanted (by government policy) into other realms of endeavor--including, to avoid a superlumpenproletariat, education. The absolutely Real Future or not, this one is for realists.

Pub Date: May 25, 1983


Page Count: -

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1983