Thomas Homer-Dixon (the author of The Upside of Down) explains it all for you.
This brief interview is one of the best, most wide-ranging, easy-to-digest mass-media summaries I've seen anywhere of the current future landscape -- real threats, the deepest sources of trouble, the actual prospects for change, and the best reasons for hope.
I keep saying that the future is not going to be like the past. Trends only go so far before you hit a discontinuity -- an event that throws you so far clear of past trends that you're now on a whole new track entirely. (This is why futurists are fond of saying that "the most likely future isn't.") Right now, we're coming up to the end of a trend track that's been running in more or less the same direction for 25, 40, or 80 years, depending on what trend you're talking about. On almost every front --social, technological, economic, environmental, and political -- we seem to be coming to the end of the horizon.
What lies beyond is going to be something very different. And this article gives you a pretty good picture of what, and how, and why this will be so.
There will be times of frustration and fear and anger on the part of many people when fundamental verities and patterns of life are suddenly challenged. They'll be scared. And in those moments, extremists can take advantage of the situation and push our societies in directions that are very bad. Those of us who are nonextremists need to be prepared to push in other directions and create something that's good.The blogosphere will remain important through these coming transformations, because it's the forum in which we'll continue to have the conversation about how to prepare, where to push, and what we want to create -- as well as educate ourselves about the extremists who are also having their best chance in nearly a century to snatch any kind of progressive future away from us.
Just go read the whole thing. Then come back here, and let's talk about it.