Last week brought me back to Washington for most of the week. I was there to talk at a meeting of the Centre for Transatlantic Relations in Johns Hopkins University on the global economic situation. I have recently become a Distinguished Fellow at the Centre.

I will be doing work with the Centre on the social, economic, and security challenges facing North America and Europe in the next twenty five years.

Of course, it is quite impossible to foretell the future. A similar exercise twenty five years ago would probably have missed many of the most important trends that have since revealed themselves

But we are, each of us, making assumptions about the next twenty five years, whenever we choose a career, buy or extend a house, save money or invest it, buy health insurance, or take out life insurance.

Likewise Governments are making assumptions even further ahead, when they build roads or mass transit systems, set pension policy, and decide which investments to make in education.

Some of these assumptions we use are fairly solid and explicit, for example those in regard to size of the population which are derived from trends in births, deaths and immigration or emigration. We will have major social change in the western world because the average age of our population is rising, and a bigger share of our people will be above retirement age and thus more vulnerable to some chronic illnesses.

Other assumptions we make are much harder to verify, such as those about whether we will avoid a war, whether we will prevent epidemics, and about new technological breakthroughs and how quickly they will be available to the general public.

The usefulness of the exercise I will be doing with the Centre will be in the possibility that it may make some of our hidden or implicit assumptions more explicit, challenge and examine them, and make suggestions for improvements in the way we plan for the future, both as states and as families.

While in Washington , I went to see my first ever Ice Hockey game. It was fast and furious, great entertainment, and easier for me to me to follow than baseball or American football.

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