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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Detailed and stimulating insights to read with caution.
I bought this book as I am fascinated by imagining how the world may look like in half a century or more. I was not disappointed. The author pulls together much data and historical context to paint a pretty convincing picture. Or did he?

I simply loved the historical context of his "forms" representing power centres such as Venice and later Amsterdam, London,...
Published on February 29, 2012 by Remco D. Van Santen

versus
23 of 29 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The triangle is a stable figure: Attali, Kurzweil, Fukuyama
Almost 30 years ago Alvin Toffler published 'The third wave' there he says history was a tide with three waves: an agrarian age, and industrial age, and then a third, 'post-industrial' for which he coined the word 'information age' and he said for example 'through telex and long distance communication people will work, buy, have social relations from home..'. He was...
Published on March 11, 2009 by GUSTAVO PRADO RGUEZ


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23 of 29 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The triangle is a stable figure: Attali, Kurzweil, Fukuyama, March 11, 2009
This review is from: A Brief History of the Future: A Brave and Controversial Look at the Twenty-First Century (Hardcover)
Almost 30 years ago Alvin Toffler published 'The third wave' there he says history was a tide with three waves: an agrarian age, and industrial age, and then a third, 'post-industrial' for which he coined the word 'information age' and he said for example 'through telex and long distance communication people will work, buy, have social relations from home..'. He was absolutely right, even when he can't really name the new technologies, he get quite well which would be the tides and changes, opening wide the eyes in order to catch the actual zeitgeist of his time he then be able to make an honest and logical prediction about the times to come.

At this particular moment we have the brightest of this kind of prediction in the form of the scientist-futurist Ray Kurzweil -'The Singularity is near', 'The age of spiritual machines- where he foreseen not only the next 50 years, but the entire history of human race through technology. To answer this we have Francis Fukuyama, whom through a philosophical 'must' he tries to embrace technology into a humanistic frame.

In this case Jacques Attali, a former adviser to president Miterrand and also President of the European Bank of Development in the 90's, bring another side to the figure: political and sociological forces. He mainly divide human history 'a la Toffler' in three main stages: a theological one, a militaristic one, and then the one we are: an economic driven one. In it, capitalism unbounded has grown from the vitality of 9 main 'hearts' -as he called them- Brugess, Venice, Antwerp, Geneva, Amsterdam, London, Boston, New York and finally Los Angeles.

Each was a pole of development and creativity, becoming the world's motor in their own age. Eventually, now Los Angeles he identifies with Silicon Valley activity and even Hollywood's as the main entertainment-cultural producer. Then he identifies a moment between 2030 where United States stop being the main power in the planet -The end of United States Empire-. After that he says capitalism develops into the main government and force through the ascension of the enterprise and particularly insurance companies with the same level of power of the old time governments. This eventually leeds into three new eras: hyperempire that is 'solved' into hyperconflicts until we reach the hyperdemocracie -economic power controlling all; awakening war, terrorism; and then we get into an era of total happiness, peace and opportunities thanxs -to what he dares to imply he coined the term- to the transhumanists.

Then he says Transhumanist are: Mother Theresa and Melissa Gates!!!!!! since he identifies, totally mistaken, that this so called trans, goes further than humanism, and are people without ambition, full of helping other people needs. So, transhumanist= trans-hippie????, he only gets the point of H+ as the best part of humanity...

But I do not believe someone in this kind of studies could ignore what, we, transhumanist are: people involved in technology at such grade, that eventually through nanotechnologies, artificial intelligence, robotics, and biological sciences, are called to change the world as we know it.

The thing is his vision is not deeply root in the techonological side. And precisely because of that is a very good lecture side to the authors mentioned before.

Cons: he says he invented the term 'nomadic objets', about all this technlogies like laptops, cellphones, that make our live movil. I'm ok with it. But his pretention about redefining 'transhumanist' is not acceptable

As an european, french particularly, sometimes his book is too much anti USA, and even when that can be something good in terms of objectivity -he always tries to see the whole worldwide scenario-, his claims can became quite extravagant, like the many times he mentioned the wars of the 'raising Mexico' against the 'falling empire'. (I can accept the possibility of machines becoming intelligent, but that my country -yes I live in Mexico city- could be able to get just organized to do anything against the greatest economy in the world is nonsense. Even when he carefully avoids to put France as the power to see in the future, at most he mentioned Europe and Euro as an example to future world governments...

When Fukuyama talks about philosophy in order to stop the future challenges of technology becoming intelligent, he lacks of realism: all three recognizes 2050 as the year were human population reach the top in 10 billions, with a total ecological collapse; to say then to the mobs: do not turn into nanotechnological solution to poverty and hunger, because Heidegger and Kant says that is against human spirit... would be the recipe to get linched. Here is where Attali works: the forces then would be political, and sociological, society articulation principles would be and extraordinary force to put into equation. (In the same way Kurzweil is based more into the optimistic american side, at into techno solution, sometimes forgetting a little, but just a little, some other fronts and scenarios)

At the end of the Attali book -I have the Spanish edition-, there are three little pages about an apologetic future in Spain. I wonder if in the american edition he is going to do that or would stick to his pages describing the fall of american civilization.

So, go read it, but just as an annotated companion to Kurzweil.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars LOUSY BOOK WITH AN AWFUL VISION OF PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE, March 29, 2010
This review is from: A Brief History of the Future: A Brave and Controversial Look at the Twenty-First Century (Hardcover)
This book is an outrageous and awful book and on so many levels, it's difficult really to know where to start. Just to say at the top, it may be that more than half of what's wrong with this book has to do with the translator, Jeremy Leggatt.

To begin, the book as a whole is not coherent in construction. The author starts off telling the reader that history has laws and he, with his knowledge, is going to show those laws to you by illustrating them in providing a brief history of capitalism which just happens to be the content of Chapter 2 and consists, in general, of a description of the nine "cores" or major cities that developed a mercantile class, starting off with, after introducing the Greeks and the Mediterranean continent, Bruges, Venice, Antwerp, Genoa and ending up with Amsterdam, Boston, London, New York, and finally Los Angeles.

By the end of Chapter 2, you know nothing about the laws of history nor about any laws in history whatsoever. You only know what the author asserts: there have always been a military class, a religious class, and a mercantile class (as if you needed the author to teach you this!) - and always will be--, though the author's history here serves to show only that the mercantile class was, is, and will be always the very top class.

Secondly, the book then swiftly launches into discussions about the end of the American Empire, planetary war, and then the so-called (by him) planetary democracy for no historical or logical reasoning laid down by any foundation he created, throwing the reader into the future willy-nilly with all sorts of false, wild, outrageous, and quite horrific assertions as if he were himself were engaged in playing a nasty game with the reader. Are these results the consequences of a poor translation from the French, or is the author on a self-created and self-lacerating sado-masochistic drug trip?

How can the author be trusted with any accurate description of the future when he cannot even describe the present accurately? He writes on page 124 "Google recently made available to the citizens of Mountain View . . . and to those of San Francisco free and universal access to wireless and high-performance Internet." This is not a true nor an accurate statement. Speaking as a San Franciscan myself, San Francisco, in particular, has no free WiFi, except in certain coffee houses, which is a fact no different from many other cities in the United States. Elsewhere, the author asserts: "There is today no war between two countries for the first time in more than six decades." This, too, is an assertion that goes against contemporary evidence. Relying upon certain highly partisan and highly politicized and non-scientific information, the author falsely asserts ": "The last decade has been the hottest in history. And doubtless this phenomenon is only beginning." And finally, on page 227, while discussing Islamic conversion and ignoring the whole Islamic concept of Sharia, the author incorrectly states, "In principle, conversion is individual and without political connotations." What kind of knowledge, integrity and authority does this author truly possess when such assertions are made?

In the category of the outrageous, the author wholly disparages the idea of freedom and liberty, making the following statements which are scattered here or there within the book. On page 14, in discussing empires, the author declares, as if himself only a friend of totalitarian regimes and dictatorships, "The enslavement of the majority is the condition of freedom for the few." As he discusses the future in later chapters, the author asserts that "Some will then find that freedom itself - humanity's target since the beginnings of the mercantile order - is in fact only the illusory manifestation of a caprice within time's prison." When, according to his vision of the future, man and woman are totally solitary and totally selfish creatures completely filled with narcissistic desires, the author says on page 179 that " individual freedom will have reached the mountain top, at least in the imagination, by the new use of nomadic objects."

On the level of the incoherent and confusing, the author, in one instance, writing about John Harrison, the inventor of the chronometer for ships, states that the invention "was willed into being by political powers." It was? How? No explanation. In another instance, the author writes that the authoritarian state creates the market, which, in turn, creates democracy. It does? How? No explanation. Here is another of the author's assertions for which there is no support or explanation at all when he is writing about New York from 1920 to 1980 in Chapter 2: ""Throughout the West, service activities (whether private or public) cannot yet be automated, and therefore demand an increasing share in the surplus. In the absence of automation of the services, provided by the white-collar workers in industry, the productivity both of work and of capital stagnates - as military and social spending rises." What surplus is he talking about? No explanation. Besides these flaws and confusions, the author needlessly invents new words, words like "hyperdemocracy" when he really means planetary totalitarianism, "hyperconflict" when he means planetary conflict, and "transhuman" when he means people with human, loving values (although I wouldn't myself have chosen, as the author does, people as duty-bound as Mother Theresa or as outrageously wealthy (by marriage) as Melissa Gates as exemplars of the human species).

But let's skip any further academic discussion of why this book is riddled with flaws and just jump into Jacques Attali's brief history of the future. What does he say the future has in store for us? . The tenth core or major mercantile city for the immediate future is and for the distant indefinite future will be, Los Angeles, although it could be San Diego or LaJolla. In 2030 California will cease to attract the lion's share of the world's innovators and the United States could become a Scandanavian-styled social democracy or a dictatorship. In 2040, "the Watchers" will be watching everyone since "surveillance objects" will be the norm in this era of Big Brother. (Aren't we already in the era of Big Brother?) Everyone will be monitored and everyone will agree to be monitored, the author says. In 2050, the "world order" will coalesce around a market that has become planetary. (Isn't that already here?) By 2050, we will have an "informal world government." (Isn't that, too, already here?) On page 181, the author says, "The market will breach the laws of democracy," - as if they haven't already been breached with this private/public manipulation of government services? He adds, "Financial insecurity will become the rule for everyone." Hello?

In 2090, the author says the moon will be colonized (yawn), and a little later, the interior of the solar system will be colonized (yadda, yadda), and, on page 209, the human being will have become a commercial object through cloning and self-repair. Bet you never heard this before, eh?

There's your brief review of the brief history of the future for you! Skip this book! It's either a joke or the author's written masturbatory fantasies about himself as an historian and thinker. Or, it simply could be, as I stated at the beginning, a very bad translation. I read Jacques Attali's earlier book, "Millenium," which is also about the future, and while wild in many senses, it wasn't incoherent as this book is.

P.S. The author does state that in the 22nd century, everything will get much better with the United Nations as our sole world government where everybody on the planet pays his or her green taxes.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars the worst a book could ever be, October 22, 2011
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I have found books normally have some value, even the bad ones. I have always kept every book I have bought in a bookshelf somewhere at home ... except this one. I felt so embarrassed to have this book in sight that I had to put in in the garbage bin.

When I bought this book I was always expecting controversy. One cannot predict the future, but I was hoping so see some reasoning presented, in the hope of making me think about the issues. Unfortunately, this author just fills his pages with a torrent of sweeping statement about what "WILL" be .. without any discussion about his thinking behind it.

I could have forgiven it if the statements, even without justification, had some merit. Not so! Everything this author states is almost laughable (some I can see happening ... but that's my view formulated from other observations, and certainly not because of Attali's writing).

In reading other reviews of this book, I was captivated by the allure that the author spends a good deal of time looking at our past. Unbelievably, Attali commits the same crime with the past as he does with the future. It is full of sweeping statements about what "DID" happen ... how he could describe with such resolve what happened in pre-historic times is beyond belief. I knew I was reading rubbish early on when he becomes fixated with "cannibalism", focusing on it on four different age spans.

This book represents everything that is bad in writing. The cover also has a blatant lie written on it ... Henry Kissinger states that it is "brilliant". Lies by politicians and a con-job by the author, also a politician. I am now convinced the positive reviews on this site are disingenuous remarks made by the connections, and should be disregarded by reviewers thinking about buying this trash.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not worth the price, September 18, 2011
By 
What do you expect when the cover of the book declares it "Brilliant and provocative" by none other than Henry Kissinger? And at the bottom of the cover Alvin Toffler tells us it is a "sweeping, controversial look at the future?" Thus we are given Jacques Attali's A Brief History of the Future.

I guess, if you're like me, you'd wonder why the starlets of the 1970's had to be dragged out to boast about a book about the twenty first century. It doesn't get a lot better.

Forgive me, but on first reading this was about the most boring and pompous clap trap that I've read in ages. Take claims like this:

"There will of course be attempts to produce a little time by prolonging the human life span. The target will be an average 120 years, for a work week of twenty-five hours"

Says who? Jaques Attali the author, and if he has such a perfectly predictive crystal ball then he should share it around. Where did 120 years and 25 hours come from? No doubt he has some obscure source, but wow - I wish my crystal balls were as trustworthy as his. Most of his book is little more than unfounded claims and old fashioned conservative economics. Sure we want to live longer, and some folk want to work less, but where did these magical figures appear from?

Attali does a masterful sleight of hand. He states many truisms that appear profound: "no war can be won unless the people waging it believe it just and necessary..." so the "chief weapons of the future will be propaganda, communication and intimidation". Amen, I say. Ever has it been so. But so what? Attali mingles this ancient military truisms with tightly claimed predictions such as "Around 2035 or 2040, the Alliance will realise it lacks the means to maintain the mercantile order". Now before you ask who "the Alliance" is, and who the "mercantile order" are you need to either read the book or check out some old fashioned economic texts - mainly those of a more conservative type. You will find the same trite argument, albeit without the presumption of fortune telling.

There is a tragedy in this book. Many of Attali's insights are raw gems that deserve treasuring for their own worth. His understanding of the interplay of Africa, Asia and Muslim interests, the importance of natural resources (including water) are unchallenged. Where he looses the plot for me is in his interpretation of his data. I guess if you can get Kissinger and Toffler to do a cover blurb then you've made it. For me the book would have been something great if Attali could have reigned in his self assuredness of what the future held, and maybe focused a lot more on what our current options are.

My advice: if you are a right wing conservative economist don't waste your time - you know what he is going to say. Anyone left of centre should at least try the first few chapters. You'll spit chips, rant about his outdated views, but like most things I find disturbing, there is always some value in being challenged.

In five years time Attali's book will fade into oblivion, or I might be dammed as one of the many who couldn't perceive his wisdom. I'm happy to take bets on that bit of soothsaying if anyone is open to it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Detailed and stimulating insights to read with caution., February 29, 2012
By 
Remco D. Van Santen "remco" (Scarborough Western Australia) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I bought this book as I am fascinated by imagining how the world may look like in half a century or more. I was not disappointed. The author pulls together much data and historical context to paint a pretty convincing picture. Or did he?

I simply loved the historical context of his "forms" representing power centres such as Venice and later Amsterdam, London, Boston etc. Attali represents a clear succinct case to identify what created these centres and their ultimate fading out. Very satisfying reading particularly when one is drawn into the current era and can see why for example Japan failed to carry through its meteoric rise (not open to foreigners).

He then begins to paint the picture over the next forty or more years. The growth of individualism, the breakdown of geopolitics and the collapse of the public sector. Whether they are strictly true, that is up to the reader to conclude but the fact that Kissinger and Toffler put their names as endorsement on the front cover speaks.

I can understand why Atalli received some mediocre reviews, painting a picture of how the future may look like will be confronting for some and there will naturally be arguments to be made why those projections are wrong, well, read this book with an open mind I suggest. Boundaries are teased and with that, some people will feel confronted. A future of transhumans, hyperdemocracy,hmm well - a possibility I guess.

That said I found myself annotating parts. Page 49 the outsourcing of jobs will lead to a decline of income? Hmm our politicians may promote that thought but that is not the experience in today's world. Page 50, (America) will "succeed in keeping its agriculture going, " wow, given world shortages, that's hardly headspinning. And throughout a range of prescriptive projections such as that the future computers will be DNA based (page 171). What about quantum computers?

But not to nitpick on fine detail. Attali projects a future of a burgeoning population in the context of the selfish, self centred individual living in extended families. Perhaps so, but already there are signs that couples are producing less than the required number of children to sustain population. Some talk of population collapse (eg David Goldman's How Civilizations Die: And Why Islam Is Dying Too recent book). Will Attali's projections stand up?

Whatever, this is for me a fascinating and hard to put down book. Sure I am only a one-time economist, but I really enjoyed getting a sense of the major shifts and contributors in our rapidly changing world. Attali has done a superb job in pulling together a contentious subject. I feel it deserves five stars for making me thing, its just a pity this book isnt worked over a bit more and with some references. There are NONE and that cost a star in my rating.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Many expectation of the author came true, October 14, 2012
Many expectation of the author came true.
As for the start, the explanation and it of the history of the history of mankind and the world give the reader the lesson in this book.

The content is a story at the description concerning the ancestor of man and the Stone Age, ups and downs of the Roman Empire, and messages that should be learnt from prosperity and the decline of a lot of large countries afterwards.

Some of the history were achieved in the future recorded based on the law of which the Jew writer looked and had begun to go out to those histories.

This book that had been written six years ago was expected, 'China will become an economic power in the second place in the world'.
Actually, it became it so.

The author had expected the boom before 'Digital book' was acknowledged to the world.
In addition, the author's various expectation came true.

He wrote a lot of other things that had not been achieved yet either. They will be realized in the near future.

This book teaches the importance of the thing that learns the future and the necessity of provision to the future.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, July 9, 2014
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The history outlook is the most interesting part. After that it becomes blurry and slightly confused.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Chilling view of a possible future., July 31, 2009
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This review is from: A Brief History of the Future: A Brave and Controversial Look at the Twenty-First Century (Hardcover)
The first portion of this book covers the historic rise and fall of previous economic empires. To be honest, it does not start out promising. Perhaps it was due to the fact that I knew most of the information already. At least it was a nice refresher on the past.

However, the author uses this beginning to offer a base for his theory. As in all of the future books, the information presented is a best guess of what may happen. The only problem here is that I have, after reading hundreds of current event and historical books, I have come to a similar conclusion as the author. The viewpoint presented is a bleak future with hope existing only in the distant future, which lies beyond our life expectancy. Of course, every generation thinks it will be the last. And it is easier to focus on the negative.

While I agree with said I agree with many of the conclusions, I have to say that these would fall into my worst case scenario. I think anyone who reads this should look at the book in the same fashion. People either tend to be overly optimistic, or continually negative. Reality tends to fall somewhere in between.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book, July 30, 2014
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This review is from: A Brief History of the Future: A Brave and Controversial Look at the Twenty-First Century (Hardcover)
Great book every college level student should read
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5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Innovative, thought-provoking view of the future, August 7, 2009
By 
K G R "K G R" (Alexandria, VA USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: A Brief History of the Future: A Brave and Controversial Look at the Twenty-First Century (Hardcover)
Attali's book is truly thought-provoking, and superbly written. This books aims to show where humanity is headed in the twenty-first century, and how it got to where it is now.

I have to disagree with what some of the other reviewers wrote about this book being anti-American. As a proud American, I did not find the book to be at all anti-American. There are obviously those who can't tolerate a foreigner (particularly a Frenchman at that) critiquing their country at all.
I do agree that Attali's knowledge is at times superficial, but then again, could one seriously expect him to be an expert on all possible subjects?

His focus is on humanity's trajectory from its earliest days, which has been moving in a more economically-focused, narcissistic fashion. His scarier predictions are disturbing, but at the same time, anyone who pays attention to the news can't help but realize that they are taking place already. For example, the growth of military contractors in recent years and privatization throughout the world only seem to confirm what he predicts will happen with public services throughout the world. Similarly, the gradual break up of multi-ethnic states throughout the world would also appear to prove correct another prediction he makes.

While Attali closes his book with a hope that many of his predictions don't come true and that humanity realizes the error of its ways (seems like a bit of a cop-out to me), he also predicts that humanity will soon enter a golden age of greater harmony and global peace, one that will hopefully be realized sooner rather than later.

If you are interested in sociology, world history, or in the future generally, I highly recommend this book.
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