Simon & Schuster
September 1, 1992
Is it possible to predict how long one will live? Can we forecast future trends in energy consumption and industrial growth? Can we foresee the course of “old” diseases like tuberculosis and “new” diseases like AIDS? Do fluctuations in the world’s economy occur at regular, and thus predictable, intervals?
Until now, foreseeing the future has been the domain of fortune-tellers and crystal ball-gazers. In Predictions, Theodore Modis presents the mathematical and scientific techniques that will enable us to anticipate many future trends and events with a high degree of accuracy.
Bold, illuminating, and utterly compelling, Predictions jolts us out of traditional patterns of thought to answer a host of questions about what lies ahead for us as individuals as well as for our society as a whole. The book draws upon the amazing science of S-curves to explore – and explode – the assumptions we might make about everything from crime rates and car safety to life expectancy and artistic achievement. It gives us a fascinating new way to understand our society and ourselves, both in interpreting the past and predicting the future.
For instance, what would you say if someone told you that most mammals die at the same age? Impossible? Only if you measure age in years and months. Things look different if you count the number of heartbeats. Under natural conditions, the average lifetime of rabbits, dogs, cows, elephants and humans comprises about one billion heartbeats. It is only the rate of the heartbeats that varies.
Pointing out that once a natural growth process is been established and its future course is predictable, Modis uses S-curves to chart that process, whether it is future populations of cars and computers, life expectancy of creative geniuses, or the frequency of economic booms and busts. He illuminates such diverse subjects as the staying power of new products, the birth rate among women, the origins of Christianity, and the impetus behind Columbus’s discovery of the New World. His predictions include: deaths from AIDS will will peak shortly after 1992 and will never account for more than 1% of all deaths in the United States; fatal car accidents will increase by 20 percent during the 1990s; the incidence of major nuclear accidents will subside from the early 1980s, which witnessed five major accidents in three years, to the point where we can expect in the 1990s not more than one accident in a period of five years.
Fully illustrated with S-curve graphs, and highly accessible to the general reader, Predictions scientifically reveals an unexpected order and simplicity in our lives. With thought-provoking insights into how, when, and why society undergoes changes, Predictions takes you on an exciting, intellectually stimulating, and unforgettable adventure.
Theodore Modis is a management science consultant at Digital Equipment Corporation International and has taught at Columbia and Geneva universities. He lives in Geneva, Switzerland.