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All Aboard the 21st Century!

3 minute read
James Kelly

Our Person of the Century issue is still a couple of months away, but we thought we’d get a head start on the next century by launching the first in our new five-part series, Visions 21. The idea of the series is to probe the next century by asking 100 provocative questions and then doing our best to answer them. This week we explore the first 20 questions, about our health and the health of our planet.

Unlike a lot of writing about the future, Visions 21 is not science fiction. As journalists, we’re more comfortable asking questions than making predictions, so our glimpse into the future is based on the latest research. And to make sure we remain grounded in the possible, we tried to see life as it would be in 2025, far enough into the future to imagine its glorious potential but not so far as to look downright silly in our crystal-ball gazing. Most of us stand an excellent chance to see 2025, especially if we’re right about the diseases we will diminish. So save this issue and see how right we are.

Editors Philip Elmer-DeWitt and Charles P. Alexander, along with senior reporter Barbara Maddux, had a lot of fun matching writer and question. Jon Krakauer, best-selling author of Into Thin Air, handles “Will There Be Any Wilderness Left?” while Peter Benchley (of Jaws fame) addresses the consequences of overfishing in “What Will Be the Catch of the Day?” Richard Preston, who wrote The Hot Zone, muses about “What New Things Are Going to Kill Me?” while Dr. David Ho weighs the chances for an AIDS vaccine. Three of our staff members–Christine Gorman, Michael Lemonick and Jeffrey Kluger–tackle the revolution in smart medicine (“Will Robots Make House Calls?”), the crisis in nutrition (“Will We Keep Getting Fatter?”) and the prospects for repairing spinal-cord injuries (“Will Christopher Reeve Walk Again?”). Readers will learn how some cancers will be cured, when we will be able to make smarter babies, and what will be on your dinner plate (hint: you won’t need steak sauce).

To add a dash of fantasy, we asked Caleb Carr to write a novella that will be serialized in all five issues. Caleb’s best-selling novels (The Alienist, Angel of Darkness) are set a century ago, so it’s a nice twist to have him write a mystery thriller set in 2024. We can’t wait to see how it ends, especially since, in the spirit of 19th century novelists who, like Charles Dickens, wrote and published books in installments, Caleb is still writing Part 2. Who says editors don’t like to live dangerously?

The distinctive look of this issue is the work of Sharon Okamoto and Jay Colton. The next issue of Visions 21 will focus on society and will appear early next year. Don’t miss our newsmagazine show on CNN, which is doing a companion series of one-hour shows based on Visions 21. And, as always, we welcome your comments (and future questions) at time.com/v21

James Kelly, Deputy Managing Editor

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