PREDICTIONS

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Predictions is a series of short polemics, published by Phoenix at pounds 2 each, which provide an arena for eminent academics and writers to predict the future in their fields. Reputations can be won or lost on the accuracy of such predictions - just consider the stature of Malthus today - but I doubt that the contributors to the series are writing for posterity. The aim is rather to provoke thought and discussion now.

The questions their arguments raise are often provocative and alarming, so the further reading lists at the back of most of the books are helpful if you are compelled to pursue the subject further. Take heart though, all is not doom and gloom. Although Matt Ridley, for instance, writing on disease, sees no end to our struggle and thinks that "Never before in the history of the world has sex been so risky", he foresees that the era of terrible plagues is past. "Easy contagion and high virulence do not go together", so that the vast majority of deaths in the future will be caused by preventable diseases, which by their very definition can be dealt with, given sufficient political will.

The books are short, a mere 60 pages, and easily fit into a pocket or bag, making them ideal for reading while travelling. The language in each is fresh and direct appealing to the general reader without losing interest for the specialist, but the publishers have not enforced a rigid series style, allowing each writer their own voice.

The first 12 titles are: The Future of Disease (Matt Ridley), The Future of Terrorism (Conor Gearty), The Future of Genetic Manipulation (Robert Winston), The Future of Crime and Punishment (Stephen Tumin), The Future of Men (Dave Hill), The Future of Warfare (Francois Heisborg), The Future of Climate (Andrew Goudie), The Future of Religion (Felipe Fernndez-Armesto), The Future of Cosmology (John Gribbin), The Future of Europe (Hugh Thomas), The Future of The Middle East (Bernard Lewis), and The Future of Population (John I Clarke).

Diona Gregory

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