AL GORE HAS GROWN SINCE THE LAST TIME YOU SAW HIM. His chest is bigger, his bank account is bigger, his vision is bigger. When he walked into the conference room in his LEED-certified offices in Nashville on a recent afternoon, he was dressed in a Beltway uniform of dark suit and conservative striped tie, and his hair was noticeably grayer than I remembered, but the inner Al seemed playful and loose and expansive. I mentioned that I’d just returned from a trip to Jordan, and he quipped, “Did you stop in and see the king? How is he?” Then he went into a quick history lesson about how the disruption of the trade routes through Jordan in the second century A.D. eventually led to Arab nations missing the scientific revolution and – fast-forward a few centuries – to the whole quagmire in the Middle East. It was a classic Gore riff, covering 2,000 years of history and technology and politics in 30 seconds.
Since abandoning politics after the 2000 election, Gore, who turns 65 on March 31st, has been on a tear: He won an Academy Award and a Nobel Peace Prize, earned an estimated $300 million with shrewd investments and wrote serious, weighty books – the latest of which hit the shelves last month, and is titled simply The Future, as if it were written by god himself.
The Future is a big, long, absorbing, sometimes brilliant, sometimes tedious book, and one that will surely raise questions about whether Gore is an arrogant technocrat or a mad visionary who has glimpsed over the horizon at the troubles to come. Subtitled “The Six Drivers of Global Change,” the book is, on one level, a compilation of shit that will scare and amaze you – human jaws manufactured out of titanium dust by 3D printers, telepathy helmets that will allow soldiers to communicate on the battlefield, genetically altered goats that will produce spider silk.
Gore argues that we are in the midst of a revolution that is changing our economy, our politics and who we are as human beings. But he warns that if we don’t get smart about what’s happening in the world around us, civilization will soon be swamped by rising seas and castrated by greedy corporations. “There is no prior period of change that remotely resembles what humanity is about to experience,” Gore writes. “We have gone through revolutionary periods of change before, but none as powerful or as pregnant with the fraternal twins – peril and opportunity – as the ones that are beginning to unfold.”
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