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'Megatrends'

By David G. WilckSpecial to The Christian Science Monitor / November 24, 1982



Boston

If you trust John Naisbitt's crystal ball, you probably would:

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* Move to Tampa, Fla., buy an ''electronic cottage,'' and decorate it with blues, pinks, and folk art.

* Begin attending language classes - Spanish and computer.

* Get a job in the computer software industry.

* Discourage your offspring's aspirations to become president and steer them toward the state legislature. Or better yet, into engineering.

* Learn how to learn - you'll be doing it for the rest of your life.

Florida? The state legislature? Spanish? Is this guy some sort of states'-rights sun-worshiper?

Not at all. John Naisbitt, a one-time Utah sugar-beet farmer, executive at IBM and Kodak, and then special assistant to President Lyndon Johnson, has spent the last nine years telling the nation's large corporations what today's events bode for their future. He and his associates at the Naisbitt Group dismember more than 200 daily newspapers, seeking patterns and trends in the 15 million or so lines of newsprint they scan each year.

Now, with his hot-selling, highly lauded new book ''Megatrends,'' he's presenting his forecasts to the public.

Across the tablecloth at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Mr. Naisbitt sits percolating. His eyes steam with intensity, but his words are soft and fatherly. ''We're living in a difficult period. What's happening to America has not happened for 150 years - we're changing economies. There are great uncertainties. But we've got to make uncertainty our friend.'' He speaks with a serene confidence that inspires the listener with hope.

''The message is that we can be victims of these great changes, or we can make these great changes work for us.'' How? Naisbitt's firm conviction is that ''you learn about the future only by really, truly learning about the present.'' Unfortunately, he observes dryly, America today is ''a society of events; we just move from one event to another, not noticing very much the process that's going on underneath.''

''The book is an effort to try to put all the pieces together,'' Naisbitt explains, an attempt to draw patterns and provide structure so ''people understand where the events fit in.''

''Megatrends'' brings hopeful news. In it, Naisbitt claims America is not an economically decaying, morally bereft society reliving ''The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.'' In fact, the United States holds the keys to a new kingdom: the information age.

America's principal product of the future will be the creation and distribution of information, technology, and expertise, Naisbitt says. The computer, with its video display screen and software, will be the essential tool of this new age, infiltrating everywhere - from the urban town house to the rural ranch, the 45th-floor executive suite to the family-run corner market.

But in response to the rapid proliferation and use of impersonal technologies , there will be increased need for what Naisbitt calls ''high touch'' - more desire to be with one another, with nature. And there will be a continuation of the current religious revival, although not necessarily abetting established, traditional churches.

On the political scene, Naisbitt sees other trends: It doesn't matter who is president anymore, he insists, or who is filling the seats on Capitol Hill. Power resides at the state and local levels, in places like Carson City, Nev., St. Paul, Minn., and Talahassee, Fla., not in Washington. Already, the electronic media and communications satellites mean that all discoveries, news events, and other information are shared instantaneously. This capability is nudging the US toward a grass-roots direct democracy. Look at nuclear-freeze referendums, Naisbitt says. They were not Washington-based initiatives, they were the result of grass-roots movements. And they were passed by voters in eight out of nine states in November.