Posted April 2, 2009 by Martin Perelmuter
What Will He Think of Next???
There are a lot of writers and speakers these days who are telling the public why the economy has taken such a sharp turn for the worse – outlining the factors, trends and culprits to blame, and offering their prescription on what needs to be done to turn things around. Of course, these are many of the same people who not long ago were singing the praises of a robust, thriving global economy which was unlike any we had experienced in history, and which would continue on indefinitely in a new, flat world where the old economic norms no longer applied. Harry Dent’s new book, The Great Depression Ahead, is on many bestseller lists these days. Of course, his previous book, The Roaring 2000s, was also a runaway bestseller. Need I say more?
I once heard a joke about an economist who successfully predicted 11 of the last 3 recessions. Of course, alarmists are of no more value than wide-eyed Pollyanna’s who don’t see the writing on the wall until it’s completely covered in graffiti.
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the work of Dr. Thomas Homer-Dixon, and how incredibly accurate he has been in predicting many of the most significant events of the past decade. I first met Dr. Homer-Dixon (known as Tad to many of his friends and colleagues) almost exactly 10 years ago. I was introduced to him by his literary agent Bruce Westwood, and we met at Bruce’s office to discuss Tad’s forthcoming book, The Ingenuity Gap, and the possibility of representing him for his speaking engagements. I first heard about Dr. Homer-Dixon when I had read a major article in one of the Toronto newspapers about him and his work. I believe the title of that article was “Is he a Prophet or a Doomsayer?”, or something to that effect. We had a very interesting meeting, and I left unsure what the correct answer was to that question. We talked about several themes in the book, and I wasn’t 100% certain what the appetite of our clients would be to such serious, sombre issues at that time.
This was the height of the dot-com craze. The stock market was reaching new highs on almost a daily basis. The world was a relatively peaceful place. The environment was rarely a subject talked about by anyone other than “granola-eating, tree-hugging hippies”.
The Ingenuity Gap was published in October of 2000, and we weren’t exactly inundated with requests for Dr. Homer-Dixon to speak. A few months later, the technology bubble burst, the dot-com turned into the notorious dot-bomb, and the stock-market took a serious tumble. A few months after that, 9/11 happened, and the world changed forever. Suddenly, Dr. Homer-Dixon became one of our busiest speakers. He had been warning of the root-causes of complex terrorism, and suddenly this was not a fringe issue of interest to people and nations on the other side of the globe. The Ingenuity Gap became a #1 bestseller in Canada, and won the 2001 Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction.
Over the next few years, many of the other issues Dr. Homer-Dixon had been writing about came to the forefront of business and politics. Thanks in large part to celebrities such as Al Gore and the life-long work of environmentalists such as David Suzuki, the movement to fight global warming evolved from what seemed a fringe liberal cause to a cause celebre. Political turmoil in the Middle East, and rising oil prices brought energy issues to the forefront of public discourse and debate as well. Once again, Dr. Homer-Dixon was years ahead of the popular tide.
Fast forward to October of 2006, and the publication of Dr. Homer-Dixon’s new book, The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity and the Renewal of Civilization. Thomas Friedman’s The World Is Flat stood atop of many bestseller lists, and warning people about the complexities and inherent dangers of the global financial markets was not exactly a popular thing to do. Yet again, Dr. Homer-Dixon was incredibly prophetic in his arguments, and The Upside of Down won PricewaterhouseCoopers’s prestigious National Business Book of the Year Award.
So after more than 10 years of working closely with Dr. Homer-Dixon – reading his books and feature articles, listening to his speeches and interviews, and learning more about the thoughts that occupy his mind as we move into the future, I guess my question is… what will his next book be about? I’ll let you know as soon as I know.