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50 books that are RAND
January 26, 2006 10:50 PM   Subscribe

50 Books for Thinking About the Future Human Condition, a list by the RAND corporation.
posted by stbalbach (25 comments total)

 
One important caveat is worth mentioning. This is a Western-centric look at the future. There is much here that is assumed about Western culture and history.

A Western, capitalist/marketist and often self-fulfillingly (or self-preservingly) hegemonic look at the future at that.

Interesting list, though.

However, in the fantasy world that exists solely in my head I expected or hoped to find more good fiction or science fiction included on the list. Brave New World, say, or the low-lying fruit of 1984. Or even Marge Percy's The Woman on the Edge of Time, or Neal Stephenson's Diamond Age, or many others.
posted by loquacious at 11:25 PM on January 26, 2006


That list actually elicited a physical reation from me: I drooled. It seems like my next 9 months or so are charted for me.

Why the cumbersome .pdf download instead of .html text, though?
posted by sourwookie at 11:29 PM on January 26, 2006


Oh, shit. 50 books. Make that 90 months, not 9.

Damn OS X Preview.
posted by sourwookie at 11:31 PM on January 26, 2006


Is Bucky Fuller passe these days?
posted by well_balanced at 11:35 PM on January 26, 2006


More on the sci-fi angle:

1. A Handmaiden's Tale. If anything a very likely scenario for the future of westerners. If not, its at least a well written cautionary tale.

2. Dune. Sure, its fantasticly unreal, but its all about the future of humanity. Its a little deeper than just entertainment and isn't sci-fi as political metaphor like 1984.

3. Gibson's Bridge Trilogy. Why not? All the cool kids keep reminding me that cyberpunk is dead, but aura of dystopian politics and futureshock is everywhere nowadays. Perhaps this is a case of not seeing the forest for the trees.


Yeah, Fuller would be a nice touch. Critical path or Nine Chains to the Moon. Or both.
posted by skallas at 12:11 AM on January 27, 2006


There should certainly be a place in the history or environment section for Something new under the sun, an environmental history of the twentieth century by John McNeill.
posted by apodo at 12:56 AM on January 27, 2006


I love the inclusion of the Hostetler book (Which is spectacular)
posted by allen.spaulding at 1:27 AM on January 27, 2006


very interesting list, though it does expose the sheer scale of my own ignorance. I'm off to Amazon.
posted by johnny novak at 3:01 AM on January 27, 2006


Seems a little light on the dystopic vision. Bill McKibben? Jonathan Schell? Noam Chomsky? Also: any recognition of the role(s) of media and propaganda?

I'm with Loquacious: SF has been useful in this line of thought. Maybe Neuromancer as a for-instance. Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, anyone?
posted by palancik at 4:15 AM on January 27, 2006


"For nearly 60 years, decisionmakers in the public and private sectors have turned to the RAND Corporation for objective analysis and effective solutions that address the challenges facing the nation and the world."

or

For nearly 60 years centerist and right wing capitalist policy makers have turned to the RAND corporation as, even with the purges of McCarthyism, university based researchers, with their insistent rationality and regimes of peer review, haven't been able to tell voracious capitalists exactly what they want to hear.
posted by anglophiliated at 4:15 AM on January 27, 2006


10% of the list are the annual reports since 2000 of the United Nations Development Programme. And I guess pop cultural gems like Future Shock and Guns, Germs, and Steel are there so hordes of passerby will feel they've got a good start on understanding tomorrow.

Deep thinkers, those RAND folks...
posted by paulsc at 4:32 AM on January 27, 2006


The People We Pay to Think:
How does RAND affect the War on Terror? Who are we paying to think about the situation in the Middle East?

Well, there's former Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci.
He's on the RAND Board of Trustees and he's also the co-chair of the RAND Center for Middle East Public Policy Advisory Board.

But isn't he also the chairman of The Carlyle Group, a defense contractor with ties to the Saudi Royal Family and the Bin Ladens?

That's right. He's the head of a $13 billion dollar private firm that invests people's pension funds in companies that make money when our nation is at war. The Carlyle Group stands to make many billions of dollars from the War on Terror.[3]

So, someone we're paying to tell us what to do in the Middle East is a person who stands to get rich from increased military spending?

That's right. But Frank Carlucci isn't the only one making decisions about the war who will be making a fortune from Carlyle Group money.

President Bush also stands to make a fortune. His father is a Senior Advisor in The Carlyle Group, and he gets paid in Carlyle shares that just keep going up in value. George Bush, Sr. recently visited Saudi Arabia twice and met with the Saudi royals and the Bin Laden family. The Bin Ladens and the Bushes have been doing business together for a very long time.
[lightning flash, thunder, scary music]
posted by pracowity at 4:38 AM on January 27, 2006


> For nearly 60 years centerist and right wing capitalist policy makers have turned to the RAND corporation

...but they'll hardly be pleased with this list, what with all that UN material. Seems a fairly balanced collection to me.


> pop cultural gems like Future Shock and Guns, Germs, and Steel

One does suspect the quality of the list of the list at once, with Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, right up there at the top. It was doltish to assimilate societies to individual choice-makers. Societies are wooly abstractions, not conscious entities, and no more choose to succeed or fail than mountains choose to erode to the sea. Dimbulb choice of organizing metaphor (but then assimilating all societies to Easter Island was less than sharpest-knife thinking also.)
posted by jfuller at 4:43 AM on January 27, 2006


Is it overly crass to suggest my latest book as a way to recapture the past in the name of reshaping the future?
http://urlsnip.com/740280
http://www.mickeyz.net
posted by mickeyz at 5:02 AM on January 27, 2006


Hmmm, this reminds me of something I read once.

In the best possible future, there will be
no war, no famine, no crime,
no sickness, no oppression,
no fear, no limits, no shame...
...and nothing to do.


Modesty forbids me to actually post the link.
posted by localroger at 5:13 AM on January 27, 2006


You can skip the .pdf by using the links in the left side-bar.
posted by OmieWise at 5:57 AM on January 27, 2006


Looking at my own field (energy/environment) the choices seem pretty perfunctory. It's difficult to find a book which considers the possibilities for the range of future energy scenarios but it's lazy to just go straight for Lovins, especially where the book they recommend is concerned only with energy use for transport. Definitely important but should have been matched with books giving consideration to changing the way we generate and deliver electricity and on the need to address energy use for heating and cooling needs.
posted by biffa at 6:35 AM on January 27, 2006


Apparently I haven't been RANDing my reading enough. I've only read one book on the list...and, it wasn't a Jared Diamond work. To bypass the gloss-like feel of it all, I would've liked a list of 50 books for each of the six main topics. But it was an interesting link none-the-less. Thanks, stbalbach.
posted by safetyfork at 7:12 AM on January 27, 2006


I don't see "The Dirt."
posted by bardic at 7:22 AM on January 27, 2006


Nice to see that the faceless corporation behind the war machine now has a book club. Watch out Oprah!
posted by destro at 8:09 AM on January 27, 2006


Just a note for those who might be searching for the books on the list... the second Jared Diamond book is actually called Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. They've only got the subtitle listed there.
posted by Zinger at 8:33 AM on January 27, 2006


Interesting reading. Hmm...No God but God is on there.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:34 AM on January 27, 2006


I really hate the 'guilt by association' boogeyman about 'ties to the Bin Ladens'. What the fuck? What's your point? The Bin Ladens are construction people, hence will benefit from the war? Why bring it up thrice?

It really gets my goat when self-described liberals descend like a pack of hungry wolves to tar two huge families with the same brush. Nice going, Michael Moore. I guess in your war against Bush everyone else is fair game.

'Ties to the Saudi Royal family and the Bin Ladens'. That's propagandist, not analytical, writing. The Bin Ladens want war in Iraq? Is that the conclusion? Why not spell it out explicitly?
posted by Firas at 10:36 AM on January 27, 2006


Oh Firas, that's just sad.

The ties are soooo deep and sooo long and the situation is sooo much more complicated than 'The Bin Ladens want war in Iraq' it's mind boggling.

In part, I think the thinking of this administration involved setting up a second oil-producing nation that was friendly to the us in the middle east. That would check some of our total dependence on SA, which was highlighted by so many of the 9-11 highjackers being from SA, but had been obvious for years from the tacit support of Osama from many of the SA royal family. Plus the insane anti-american schools that SA funds with the money we send them. Mind you, many in the huge and various SA royal family hate the intolerance that OBL represents, but that's not the prevailing feeling in our closest middle eastern ally.

Really, you need to do some reading about this.
posted by lumpenprole at 12:38 PM on January 27, 2006


Under the wildcards....#50 Amish Society!!!! sounds a bit Dr. strangelovian to this humble narrator!
posted by OU812 at 7:30 PM on January 27, 2006


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