PW: What was the impetus for writing Tomorrow Now?

BS: I'd promised myself once I was ankle-deep in the 21st century, I would make a serious effort to rethink my ideas. It was a midlife crisis thing for me; I had to come to terms with the passage of time and understand what was happening next. I'd also promised myself that the next science fiction novel I wrote would be a book that could only have been written in the 21st century. I now think I'm equipped to do that.

PW: How has your work as a futurist influenced your science fiction writing?

BS: My interest in industrial design was certainly influenced by attending the Doors of Perception conferences. You don't really get what industrial design can do to cities, the whole clutter of the urban environment, until you go to a city like Milan or Amsterdam, where design is taken seriously as part of a civilized way that people ought to live. That's really changed my ideas about cities and the relationship between humans and their technology.

PW: In one of the book's most important chapters, "The Soldier," you argue that the real threat to global peace isn't aberrational events like 9/11, but ongoing chaos in destabilized countries.

BS: There used to be places on Earth that were just godforsaken; nobody went there. Now, if a place is godforsaken, it's worth a lot of money to somebody who can set up whatever activities civilized society scorns and export them to the rest of the world. So now you've got Afghani tribesmen worrying about things like the heroin market, prostitution, the Islamic revolution... all these things that have been imposed on them in a way they can't escape.

PW: What are some of the trouble spots you didn't include in the book?

BS: South America's in major trouble right now. Argentina's more or less collapsed, and things aren't looking great for Brazil, Uruguay or Venezuela. Africa has very few stable governments to boast about. There are areas of the Congo that have fallen off the map. All the -stan countries in Central Asia are pretty much held up with toothpicks. It all sounds very grim, but as I point out in the book, the disorder tends to move around. The disease that hits these places is not permanent. It's not a way of life any sane person would choose, and there's nothing written in stone about it.

PW: Are you prepared to build up a wider readership among people who know you primarily as a futurist?

BS: I feel a burning, almost evangelical need to preach to people about the future and the fact that we're going to have one. You can't neglect the future just because the trends are bad right now. We need to be making intelligent decisions about major issues. The world isn't going to repair itself, but there's no reason we should end up in a handbasket. We've got bright, capable people. We have tremendous technical power. So if I have to be the futurist "go-to" guy, I guess I can do that!