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Friedman, George

Entry updated 29 October 2021. Tagged: Author.

(?   -    ) American academic and consultant, founder of the Strategic Forecasting (STRATFOR) think-tank, and author or co-author of books of Prediction concerning issues in global Politics and Future War. Although sold as Futures Studies nonfiction in the vein of Alvin Toffler, Friedman's books can also be parsed as a desiccated Future History, in which nations rather than individuals are the agents of the narrative (see Mainstream Writers of SF).

Beginning with the reconstituted Yellow Peril of The Coming War With Japan (1991), much of Friedman's output might be regarded as exercises in the day-after-tomorrow Technothriller, self-confidently placing the United States of America at the centre of twenty-first century geopolitics. As the title implies, The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century (2009) is far more ambitious, and soon leaves the relatively secure grounding of Friedman's Near Future speculations for wilder flights of fancy concerning the collapse of China, the rise of Turkish and Polish power blocs, and possible developments in Technology, including American orbital Weapons platforms, whimsically termed "Battle Stars" (see Battlestar Galactica). The grand pay-off, a terse account of a World War Three that commences with a Japanese sneak attack from the Moon on 24 November 2050, is notable in Military SF for its sheer optimism, with Friedman predicting a loss of life of a mere 50,000 combatants.

Friedman's unique selling point is that he knows whereof he speaks: a surer bet when discussing contemporary conflicts than when guessing when war will break out between the US and Mexico in 2080. His earlier books might serve as rich inspiration for sf authors, but The Next 100 Years falters in comparison with more accomplished and eclectic works of Futures Studies, and indeed with avowedly fictional future historians such Robert A Heinlein or Kim Stanley Robinson. Crucially, sf authors rarely imply that they are prophets speaking with any degree of authority, a fact which even Friedman reluctantly concedes at several points, making for a book of predictions that often predicts it will probably be wrong. Friedman's next work, The Next Decade (2010), settled back into the near-future comfort zone of his day job. [JonC]

George Friedman

born Hungary

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