Predictions & Possibilities

By : Jim Pinto,
San Diego, CA.

The global family waited together, excitedly and anxiously, as Time ushered in a new year, a new century and (arguably for purists) a new millennium. These thoughts were stimulated by the historic events, and accompanying non-events, as we ushered in a new age.

The original version of this article was written on 17 Dec. '99, just before the advent of y2k. It was published in Industrial Controls Intelligence, January 2000 and on the web on 1 January 2000, with only minor updates.

I have had a lot of feedback on my Millennium Meditations, published here last month (December '99). There were the purists, who felt that the new millennium was still a year away (2001). Others pointed out that the calendar was in error and that the new millennium actually started about 4-6 years ago. Most people liked my questions and there were those on the marketing mail-list who thought that good marketing was defined as knowing which questions to ask. But some felt I should, as a self-proclaimed guru, provide at least some of the answers. So, in these musings you'll see no question marks. And, I'll stick my neck out and make some predictions.

The new age arrives...

The new millennium has arrived. Some six billion souls on this planet went through the countdown. During a span of 24 hours the globe turned into a new day, a new year, a new decade, a new century. And a new and different New Year - January 1, 2000 has emerged.

Some people passed on with the old century, getting close but never quite making it into the new age. And the newborns have already arrived, oblivious to the significance that they have ushered in a new era. For all of us on Earth the countdown clicked into a climax, bringing up thoughts and dreams far beyond our regular regimen. It is good to have such singular events - stirs the spirit and brings up the basics!

I will cross the threshold into a new century and millennium with a sense of awe. When my daughter was born just over twenty years ago, I remember thinking that she'd be 20, with a month to spare, before the new millennium came. Now she is at Berkeley and when I talked with her on her birthday, it suddenly dawned on me that we had indeed arrived at the end of my measuring-stick.

I didn't fly on New Years day - not because I feared that the airplane might crash, but rather because of my preference to be at home with friends and family. Together, we watched the new era emerge in televised ceremonies that happened first in Australia and Japan and Hong Kong, and then Europe, and then New York and Brazil - all before it finally arrived in California. More than any New Years of the past, we all had the feeling of being one with the world, watching and waiting for the future to unfold.

What happened to the y2k bug?

That pesky y2k bug was the very first question to be answered - resolving fears of untold calamities resulting from the shortsightedness of programmers some decades ago. (You might enjoy my y2k Raven Poem - written with the lilt of Poe's The Raven - on December 31, 99 morning,after dreams of what might occur within the next few hours).

North America and Europe have been y2k ready for some time, though there are reports of frantic, last minute preparations in China and other third-world countries. Indeed, one Action customer actually inquired in mid-December whether Action PakŪ plug-in signal-conditioning modules, were y2k ready; one wonders why they waited to ask, with just two weeks to spare. y2k reports from around the world indicate no probelms on the first day, with minor glotches which were soon corrected. I predict that, for most of us, y2k will be the flop that flopped. Apart from incidents that are more the result of scare-tactics than substance, the world will continues to function as if this was just another day and month and year. Perhaps now, the primary significance is philosophical.

That visible mirror of business progress - the stock market - responded to this once-in-a-thousand-year event with all major indices hitting all-time-highs on Friday, 31 December '99. Like others, I am trying to read the minds of countless capitalists, as they buy and sell in uneasy uncertainty, unwittingly adding my hidden hand to the fluctuating frenzies of the market. I predict that business will continue to respond positively to the changes and challenges of the new millennium. The Dow, Nasdaq and S&P will contine their seemingly unstoppable surge, at least for a while, because discretionary income continues to increase and most people have poor alternatives for places to put their money - few are satisfied with tax-free bonds that pay a paltry 3-4%. Of course, in a stock market that is linked with electronic immediacy, some far-away financial-flu is still capable of triggering a disaster. But it seems evident already, that the y2k bug will not cause anything beyond a mild hiccup.

Technology moves inexorably forward

Technology has fuelled our progress for much of the past several decades and its march will continue inexorably. The advances have resulted from Moore's Law (increasing computing power) operating in conjunction with Gilder's Law (bandwidth availability) and Metcalfe's Law (connectivity effectiveness). During the next decade, the most important developments will come from Bioengineering, as scientists play with DNA - altering chromosomes, adding and subtracting genes, mining the results of the vast efforts that have already been invested in the Human Genome Project. Within a couple of decades, some new bionic invention will provide the equivalent of today's parallel processing and gigabit memory, using biochemical organisms to produce brainpower that will breed synthetic intelligence exceeding the capabilities of a relatively slow and ineffective human brain. Then perhaps, human spirituality will transcend mere technological boundaries.

And how will the world keep pace?

During the latter part of the old century Communism collapsed. But, Capitalism is uneasy with its success. It simply makes the rich richer, and the interconnected global village is beginning to recognize that perhaps it is more important to make the poor less poor. During the next few decades, population in the developed nations will begin a serious decline, while continuing to surge ahead in underdeveloped nations. In a democratic global village, made ever smaller by the instant access of media and information, China and India, the most populous nations should, by the definition of democracy, control the world. But their very numbers - population density - will inevitably lead to internal conflicts and splintering. As we enter an age that professes to eschew race, color and creed, it is indeed disappointing that local ethnic and religious conflagrations continue. A new, enlightened, global community must find ways to eliminate hatred and prejudice.

What are the new frontiers?

The biggest achievement of the past century, and one that utilized all of our other achievements and inventions, was the start of space-travel. In the new millennium, perhaps the frontiers will go into outer space as we meet new aliens in new worlds.

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