December 16, 2005

50 Books for Thinking About the Future Human Condition

RAND lists 50 Books for Thinking About the Future Human Condition. From the Website:
The mission of the RAND Frederick S. Pardee Center for Longer Range Global Policy and the Future Human Condition is ultimately to improve the human condition in the longer-range future. While there is no sure path to improving the future human condition, there is no shortage of books that address themselves to some aspect of improving that future.

If we were to peer backward from, say, 50 years hence at the books available today, we could probably identify dozens or hundreds that had something useful to say had we only listened. From today’s perspective, however, it is difficult to identify those insightful passages, let alone the books that contain them, from among the thousands that address some aspect of the future.

But suppose we tried for something more modest – a list of 50 books covering broad topics that seem likely to be important in thinking about the future human condition. What might that list of 50 books look like?

The following is a first cut at what that list of books might look like. Why books? Why not articles, or speeches, or university courses, or documentaries, or blogs, or …? The intent of the readings is to be as comprehensive as possible on each of the topics addressed, so book-length treatments seemed like the best approach.

How were these 50 books selected? Many smart people were queried about the books that ought to be on a list of this sort. Recommendations easily numbered in the hundreds, so the same smart people were asked to pick one or two “bests” from their lists. Most of the books below represent “winners” from that process. The remainder were selected idiosyncratically (especially the “wild cards”). Some of the reasoning behind the selections is mentioned below in introducing brief summaries of the books and what they contribute to understanding the future.
Good to see Kurzweil and Jared Diamond make the list, among others.

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