Title: "The Dilbert Future: Thriving on Stupidity in the 21st Century"
Author: Scott Adams
Length: 258 pages
Price: $25.00
Reading time: 4 hours
Reading rating: 10 (1=very hard, 10=very easy)
Overall rating: 3 (1=average, 4=outstanding)

Reviewed by Robert F. Mulligan

Special to the Asheville Citizen-Times

Who says management literature can’t be fun – surely not cartoonist Scott Adams, best-selling author of "The Dilbert Principle" and "Dogbert’s Top Secret Management Handbook." Scott Adams has seen the future, and it is dumb, but after all, he’s only projecting present trends. Armed with the raw, biting cynicism that could only come from personal experience, the former Pacific Bell manager skewers ineffective technology, bad management, and a host of lesser evils.

In Adams’ future, technological advances will provide more things in our homes and workplaces we won’t be able to cope with. As he points out, computers allow us to work 100 percent faster, but also generate 300 percent more work. For the average person, defined as anyone with "12:00" blinking on their VCR , there will be more things we can’t operate or fix. In fact, soon we’re going to have trouble telling whether some of these things are on or off. How would we know the difference? As the circle of everyday items we’re clueless about expands, more of us will cross what Adams calls the Incompetence Line.

Everything that promises to simplify our life will, in fact, complicate it. Take the network computer or NC: "The driving force behind the NC is the belief that the companies who brought us things like Unix, relational databases, and Windows can make an appliance that is inexpensive and easy to use if they choose to do that. This is a bit like hiring Doctor Kevorkian to be the physician at your day care center…."

"There are three possible paths for every major corporate recommendation: 1. The right way. 2. The wrong way. 3. The weasel way." Adams unashamedly takes the weasel way. As he explains, he’s going to take his time making his points so the book can be longer, seem more substantial, and sell for a higher price. How many authors are this honest?

Adams’ own attitudes explain why the future will not be like "Star Trek." If ordinary people had the technology of holodecks, transporters, phasers, and shields, we’d use these things for fairly selfish and ignoble purposes. Genetic engineering can improve our offspring, but then "we’ll look like a hideous Quasimodo society to the perfect generation that will follow us….They’ll look like the cast of ‘Baywatch’ and we’ll look like extras on ‘The X-Files.’"

"The Dilbert Future" is both an engaging spoof of the fashionable futurist literature, copiously illustrated with Adams’ popular comic strips, and packed with enough humor and wisdom to make the book a worthwhile read in its own right.

Robert F. Mulligan is visiting assistant professor of economics, finance, and international business in the College of Business at Western Carolina University. His research interests are monetary and international economics and he is a fierce fan of Clarkson University and ECHL ice hockey. For previously reviewed books, visit our web site at www.wcu.edu/cob/bookreviews.