THE NEW MEGATRENDS

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Salzman, a veteran of the advertising and public relations industries who prefers close observation and then extrapolation of existing social, business, and geopolitical trends, follows in the footsteps of futurologist John Naisbitt and his Megatrends series. Taking the year 2000 as a starting point, Salzman looks out to 2038, trying to discern key patterns while acknowledging that some trends and countertrends pull in different directions. Instead of clear answers, there will be continuing waves of disruption, and the people most likely to thrive will be those who see the opportunities in chaos. Technology will continue to connect the world, but there will also be a movement toward simpler, more meaningful, less urban lives. The impact of Covid-19 will be felt for years, leading to more remote working and an emphasis on health issues. Salzman examines the ways in which new technologies like facial recognition have become tools of social control in China and wonders if “the end of privacy” will become the norm elsewhere. At some points in the narrative, it’s difficult to discern the author’s line of argument. She admits that her style is based on “nonlinear leaps,” and she often jumps from specific cases to general conclusions. Some of her forecasts are obvious, such as China’s rise, social polarization in the U.S., and the politicization of science. Others seem hard to believe: Will shopping malls really become “extinct,” all converted into “mixed-use campuses”? It’s clear that Salzman is working from a left-of-center perspective. She worries about the rise of right-wing extremism and fake news but has little to say about the left-wing variety, and she welcomes the implementation of a universal basic income policy. Readers who share her perspective will find enough intriguing ideas to keep the pages turning, but others may look for a more cohesive prediction of future trends.

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