An Agenda for the 21st Century
"If you do not think about the future, you cannot have one," the British author John Galsworthy wrote at the beginning of this century. In An Agenda for the 21st Century, Rushworth Kidder, award-winning columnist for the Christian Science Monitor, has taken up Galsworthy's challenge. He conducts wide-ranging interviews with 22 of the world's most compelling thinkers - artists, scientists, statesmen, and philosophers - asking each one this fundamental question: What are the major issues that will face humanity in the 21st century?
The answers that emerge are thoughtful, often surprising, and as diverse as the respondents themselves. While the group generally agrees on the set of issues most critically in need of addressing - the arms race, overpopulation, the environment, the North-South gap, education, and morality - there is often sharp disagreement over the course the future will take.
Educator Michael Hooker, for instance, foresees a world in which technology has solved humanity's survival questions, and in which the main problem is an excess of leisure time. The Russian poet Andrei Voznesensky, on the other hand, worries about human beings becoming increasingly standardized, resembling more and more the robots they have created.
Philosopher Mortimer Adler calls for a massive commitment to education in critical thinking, without which, he says, democracy cannot survive. Historian Barbara Tuchman and novelist Carlos Fuentes each focus on the need to restore a greater sense of morality, both public and private. Repeatedly the interviewees argue that life in the 21st century will not be shaped simply by technology, but by our ability to come to terms with the social impact of new inventions.
Others interviewed by Kidder include Sissela Bok, Jimmy Carter, Norman Cousins, Freeman Dyson, Amitai Etzioni, Douglas Fraser, Theodore Gordon, Hanna Gray, Paul Johnson, Shuichi Kato, Robert McNamara, Olesegun Obasanjo, David Packard, Lloyd Richards, Abdus Salam, Richard von Weizsacker, and Marina Whitman. Kidder has written brief portraits of each interviewee and a concluding chapter.
The interviews were originally published as a series in the Christian Science Monitor where Rushworth Kidder covers social issues and trends. He is also the author of books on poets Dylan Thomas and e.e. Cummings.