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The Big Answer

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The Road to 2015: Profiles of the Future

a book by John L. Peterson

(our site's book review)

In this 1994 book, Petersen underlines the fact that specialization has liabilities. For example, the more we learn about systems theory and the science of complexity, the more we learn that everything is connected to everything else and therefore interdependent, and yet the various sciences contain almost exclusively individuals who have their noses buried in a single discipline and don’t notice the connections and holistic significance. There are few synthesists (or call them generalists) like the Tofflers who put it all together for readers in a comprehensive, organized, and extraordinarily insightful intellectual framework.

“The only way to understand the problem is to understand the system,” says the author, quite accurately.

Everything is connected to everything else and therefore interdependent
Everything is connected to everything else and therefore interdependent

The book gets sidetracked at times going for New Age impact. Einstein saying that we create reality by observing it doesn’t mean that there is no “reality” when there’s no human involvement, as Peterson implies. It means that we impact reality as we observe it and become a connected part of it and therefore our reality is really "ours." But the “stuff” out there would still exist without us.

Petersen takes a familiar pratfall as he unforgivably warps the meaning of Riesman’s term inner-directed. He uses it to mean autonomous when, in fact, the term was created by Riesman to mean a conformist guided by a parentally and societally conditioned superego. Riesman specifically uses the term autonomous to mean autonomous—such people are self-led and usually self-actualized as well. Peterson’s excuse, of course, would be that he wasn’t thinking of the Riesman definition, but the re-definitions that have happened since then (by misguided word butchers). Is it wise to redefine ego as id, baseball as football, or astrologers as physicists? It’s foolish and leads only to confusion. Riesman’s The Lonely Crowd happens to be the one and only original classic on the inner-directed subject—he defines it with great care and precision, like the master sociologist he is.

Misguided word butchers have attempted to redefine Riesman's 'inner-directed' term to mean autonomous—a huge mistake!
Misguided word butchers have attempted to redefine Riesman's 'inner-directed' term to mean autonomous—a huge mistake!

The author outlines the difference between the progressive and regressive (Frommian terms) factions in society. He bemoans the spread of weapons of mass destruction to terrorists. And then he cites the Tofflers’ Powershift with regards to the fact that corporations are taking over some of the traditional roles of governments. And then he looks at the probable realities of 2015—with “wildcards” included.