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What Matters: Shaping the Future

Author: Joseph S. Nye Jr., Distinguished Service Professor, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
February 26, 2009

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Yogi Berra, the great sage of baseball, is reported to have said, "Never make predictions—particularly about the future." He had a point. If we think back three decades, to the late 1970s, the Cold War was in permafrost, and conventional wisdom held that American power was in decline. No one saw the Internet coming. Why should we think we can do any better looking forward 30-plus years?

Perhaps we won't, but planning is necessary. Some planes and ships in use today were developed more than 40 years ago, and some planned today will be the workhorses of the air force and navy in 2040. Current energy investments will help determine the extent of our future dependence on oil and our impact on climate change. That kind of planning is really a form of prediction, and it requires us to stretch our horizons and imagine—and perhaps to shape—a better future.

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