The most comprehensive futures studies book released in the first decades of the 2000s is “The Foresight Guide” by John Smart. It includes input by global futurists, it is extremely comprehensive, it is available free online and it is open to comments and suggested edits and additions. Its goal is to be the “best big-picture guide to 21st century foresight.”
Circa 2006, these were considered to be among the finest non-fiction books on futures topics:
The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, by Ray Kurzweil (Viking, 2005/652 pages). The “singularity” foretells a time within the next few decades when technological change will be so rapid and deep that human life will be irreversibly transformed. Developments in various technologies will come together to allow us to live longer and smarter. Kurzweil explainse, for instance, how nanobots (molecular-level robots) will reverse human aging and vastly extend human intelligence.
Nanofuture: What’s Next for Nanotechnology? by J. Storrs Hall (Prometheus Books, 2005/333 pages). The chief scientist at Nanorex describes molecular manipulation and the probable potential in the next 25 years for quantum nanocomputers, self-replication, engines too small to see, nanomedicine, the personal synthesizing manufacturing system, extreme artificial intelligence, and more.
Autonomous Robots, by George A. Bekey (MIT Press, 2005/577 pages). Autonomous, intelligent machines will proliferate in the next few years and will play a major role in our lives. Developments for the next decade are described for household, construction and industrial services; the military; AI companion pets and playmates; care for the elderly and disabled, molecular-sized nanorobots, and multi-robot systems in space or under the sea.
Infinite Worlds: An Illustrated Voyage to Planets Beyond Our Sun, by Ray Villard and Lynnette R. Cook (University of California Press, 2005/252 pages). The universe has at least 100 billion galaxies, each with some 100 billion stars, and there may be a billion or more rocky planets the size of Earth, some of which are habitable. The extraordinary illustrations in this book offer a glimpse of possible landscapes and atmospheres that almost certainly adorn alien worlds and may support life.
The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century, by Thomas L. Friedman (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005/488 pages). Mainstream best-seller describes the forces that have flattened the global economic playing field. A similar theme is found in Three Billion New Capitalists by Clyde Prestowitz (Basic Books, 2005/321 pages), but with even greater emphasis on China and India.
Powerful Times: Rising to the Challenge of Our Uncertain World, by Eamonn Kelly (Wharton School/Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005/275 pages). CEO and president of Global Business Network identifies seven matching pairs of forces that will grow in the next decade: clarity/craziness, secular/sacred, US power/vulnerability, tech acceleration/pushback, intangible/physical economies, prosperity/decline, and people/planet.
And in 2005 the staff at the Acceleration Studies Foundation recommended the following 50 titles as being best for studying accelerating change and projecting what might come in the 2000s:
Big Picture -“A Brief History of Everything,” Ken Wilber, 2001; “Global Brain: The Evolution of the Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century,” Howard Bloom, 2000; “Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies,” Jared Diamond, 1999; “Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny,” Robert Wright, 2000; “The Singularity is Near,” Ray Kurzweil, 2005.
Business –“Creative Destruction,” Richard Foster and Sarah Kaplan, 2001; “It’s Not the Big That Eat the Small, It’s the Fast that Eat the Slow,” Jason Jennings, 2002; “Leading the Revolution: Making Innovation a Way of Life,” Gary Hamel, 2002; “Seeing What’s Next,” Clayton Christiansen, 2004 ; “The Balanced Scorecard: Translating Strategy into Action,” Robert Kaplan and David Norton, 1996; “The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid,” C.K. Prahalad, 2004; “The Intelligent Investor,” Benjamin Graham, 2003; “The World is Flat,” Thomas Friedman, 2005.
Science/Science Theory -“An Introduction to General Systems Thinking,” Gerald Weinberg, 1975/2001; “Biocosm,” James Gardner, 2003; “Cosmic Evolution: The Rise of Complexity in Nature,” Eric Chaisson, 2002; “Life’s Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe,” Simon Conway Morris, 2003; “Linked: The New Science of Networks,” Albert Barabasi, 2002; “Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age,” Duncan Watts, 2003; “Ubiquity: The Science of History, Or Why the World is Simpler than You Think,” Mark Buchanan, 2001.
Society, Politics, and Humanism -“Development as Freedom,” Amartya Sen, 2000; “Diffusion of Innovations,” Everett Rogers, 2003; “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds,” Charles MacKay, 1841/1995; “From Third World to First: The Singapore Story, 1965-2000,” Lee Kuan Yew, 2000; “In Defense of Globalization,” Jadgish Bhagwati, 2004; “Millennials Rising,” Niel Howe and William Strauss, 2000; “Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, and the Economic World,” Kevin Kelly, 1994; “The Future of Freedom,” Fareed Zakaria, 2003; “The Mystery of Capital,” Hernando De Soto, 2003; “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference,” Malcolm Gladwell, 2002; “The Wisdom of Crowds,” James Surowiecki, 2004.
Technology -“Digital Biology”, Peter Bentley, 2000; “Flesh and Machines: How Robots Will Change Us,” Rodney Brooks, 2002; “Nanotechnology: A Gentle Introduction to the Next Big Idea,” Mark Ratner, 2002; “Natural-Born Cyborgs: Minds, Technologies, and the Future of Human Intelligence,” Andy Clark, 2003; “Net Attitude,” John Patrick, 2001; “On Intelligence,” Jeff Hawkins, 2004. “Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution,” Francis Fukuyama, 2002; “Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do,” B.J. Fogg, 2002. “The Age of Spiritual Machines,” Ray Kurzweil, 1999; “Visions of Technology: A Century of Vital Debate about Machines, Systems, and the Human World,” Richard Rhodes, 2000; “Visualize This: Collaboration, Communication, and Commerce in the 21st Century,” Joe Clabby, 2001; “When Things Start to Think,” Niel Gershenfeld, 2000.
Trends and Indicators -“2000 Index of Economic Freedom,” Gerald O’Driscoll, 1999 – “Global Trends 2005: A Owner’s Manual for the Next Decade,” Michael Mazarr, 2001; “It’s Getting Better All the Time: 100 Greatest Trends in the Last 100 Years,” Stephen Moore and Julian Simon, 2000; “Penguin Atlas of War and Peace,” Dan Smith, 2003; “Penguin State of the World Atlas,” Dan Smith, 2003; “The First Measured Century: Trends in America, 1900-2000” Theodore Caplow et. al., 2000; “The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse,” Gregg Easterbrook, 2003; “World Factbook 2004” Central Intelligence Agency, 2003; “The World in 2020,” Hamish MacRae, 1996
World Security/Outlook/Environment -“Of Paradise and Power,” Robert Kagan, 2003; “Global Crises, Global Solutions,” Bjorn Lomborg (Ed.), 2004; “The Pentagon’s New Map,” Thomas Barnett, 2004; “The Skeptical Environmentalist,” Bjorn Lomborg, 2001; “The Transparent Society,” David Brin, 1998
Youth Reading -“Tackling Tomorrow Today,” Art Shostak (Ed.), 2005. (Four-volume set).
View predictions for other time-spans: