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June 06, 2013 - Image 37

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2013-06-06

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Guest Column

Predicting The Future


avid Passig, a professor at Bar-
by Israeli warplanes. Many casualties
Ilan University in Ramat Gan,
were sustained, including a number of
is the first to admit that he is
Passig's friends.
neither a prophet nor a seer.
"I was 25, and I thought, 'Will I fight
Still, his job is to predict the future,
forever?' I kept thinking about the
based on the new academic discipline
future" and whether it was Israel's fate
of Future Studies. His latest book,
to be in a constant state of war:'
At the urging of his father, Passig
2048, describes the conflicts that likely
will dominate the next half-century,
took time off, toured Europe
including a major world clash between
and, while in Brussels, hap-
superpowers by 2020, the emergence
pened to visit an exhibit on
of Turkey as a key regional power and
homes of the future. He was
buffer between the U.S. and Russia, and intrigued. "How did they
a major Israeli attack on its northern
know?" he wondered.
neighbors that will result in its con-
Though he had been
quering Lebanon and Syria on the way
studying psychology, he
to making peace with the Palestinians
found a graduate program
and the Arab states.
in future studies, called
Anticipatory Anthropology,
The 400-page book, first published
in Hebrew in 2010 and updated for its
at the University of
new English edition, is a self-described
Minnesota. He had never
"rather depressing and deterministic"
been to the United States,
look at how Israel will fare. It's based
but he applied, was accepted and
earned a Ph.D., specializing in the
on Passig's close study of history, psy-
chology and technology, as well as the
future of technology, social trends and
theory that history tends to repeat itself education. In addition to teaching at
in cycles of 60 to 80 years, culminating
Bar-Ilan and heading the university's
in major clashes.
Virtual Reality Library,
Anticipating my
he consults for clients
skepticism during a
ranging from private
recent interview here
companies in the U.S.
— he is living in New
and Europe to Israel's
York this year — the
ministry of education
frequent lecturer
and air force.
and consultant noted
His focus is always on
that in the 1990s he
the future, but in talk-
predicted a major
ing to Passig and read-
terror attack at the
ing his work, one sees
beginning of the 21st
that he believes much
century, on a build-
depends on ancient,
ing, a major symbol of
and basic, human emo-
world order. And his
with an emphasis
Prof. David Passig
last book, The Future
on deep-seated fear for
Code, a bestseller in Israel, described
the security of one's family, people and
the coming of a world economic crisis
nation. Also of critical importance, he
by 2008.
believes, is a country's geography.
"It's not about intuition but about
Seeking to understand why nations
science," Passig explained. "Futurists
go to war and are willing to send their
believe in the logic of history. We have
children into battle, he employs a
come to believe there is order in the
methodology that explores the conver-
disorder?' he said. He uses his skills to
gence of a nation's "six key variables:
forecast trends by understanding pat-
geography, topography, demography,
terns from the past.
economy, technologies and scien-
"It's a big struggle to have people take tific developments?' In 2048, he offers
this work seriously," he acknowledged.
detailed analyses of these factors in
"It's very humbling work" because one
writing about the U.S., Russia, Turkey,
often makes predictions that may be
key Arab countries and Israel. His over-
only 50 percent accurate. But he noted
all thesis is that "a new historic era is
that his is a multidisciplinary, complex
now about to dawn in the Middle East"
field that is just beginning to emerge.
and will play out in violent ways.
The story of how Passig came to this
Turkey, he writes, will become an
pursuit goes back to 1982, when he was increasingly influential power, of
part of an IDF unit ambushed by the
importance to both the U.S. and Russia,
Syrians during the war in Lebanon, and which will renew their major struggle
for dominance. Russia and Iran will
later came under attack, inadvertently,

seek to "wreak havoc on the front
between Israel, Syria and Lebanon?'
Israel, driven by strong fears for its
survival, will launch a major attack to
"wipe out large areas deep inside Syria
and Lebanon" in a devastating war that
will "reshape regional history for years
to come?' And years later it will be
Turkey, not the U.S., that will
play a major role in oversee-
ing a peace treaty between
Israel and the Arab states.
Passig is quick to point out
that his scenarios are not to
be taken too literally. But his
emphasis on the importance
of geography to the mindset
of a nation amounts to a
warning to Israel, noting that
he wrote the book "to help
raise its consciousness" and
encourage its leaders not to
"It is the nation's connection with
the land that is destined to change the
nation's identity," he writes. "Unknown
fears and urges will surface, and only
an awareness of these facts will help
the nation mature" and survive. He
says Israel must recognize its limits as
a small country in the region it finds
itself, and must always be "alert,
clever, cunning and unpretentious,"

aligning with "the superpower of the
hour:' whether it is the U.S. or another
Based on Jerusalem's current behav-
ior, it's clear that Passig has his doubts
about whether its leaders can adhere
to this script. He believes, for example,
that regardless of who is in power,
Israel will attack Iran's nuclear sites
because it is "driven by profound sur-
vival fears?'
Though Passig maintains "most of
us live in a fog?' unable to perceive
events taking place around us, much
less effect change, he believes we are
capable of doing so. And he closes the
book with the hope that those who live
in Israel will "understand where they
live?' which will "help them shape that
understanding with a degree of humil-
Whether or not he is right about the
particulars, such a warning resonates
for those of us who share his concerns
about the future of the Jewish state.

Gary Rosenblatt is the editor and publisher

of the Jewish Week of New York.

Readers respond to
the story on Pegged,
the new social media
site being launched by
Dr. Michael Gray.

("Plastic Surgeon Reconstructs Social Media,"
May 30, page 12).

I'm calling about the article on plastic surgeon Dr. Michael Gray and his
new website Pegged. I would like to say that this man took the Hippocratic
Oath to do no harm. What was he thinking?

– West Bloomfield

I think Pegged is the worst idea I have ever read. Everyone knows when
people are anonymous, they can get nasty on the Internet. I think the
whole idea of anonymous assessment is going to bring out so many haters.
Terrible idea.

– West Bloomfield

Thanks for informing your readers about the hurtful activities of Dr. Gray.
He is opening wide opportunities for slander and needs to re-examine the
Ninth Commandment.

– Farmington Hills

Got something on your mind?
Call Soapbox at (248) 351-5146.

June 6 • 2013


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