WSJ Europe article on the world of 2010

Rohit Khare (
Tue, 3 Dec 1996 16:38:33 -0500

I could respond to this quote-by-quote, but I thought I'd leave it to the
FoRK pirhanas for maximal entertainment value. And I think ACC's gone a bit

> The Wall Street Journal Europe (WSJE) STORY 7
> Winter 1996
> ---
> Market Pull
> ---
> The Good, the Bad and the Scary:
> Welcome to the year 2010, and a bulletin
> Direct from the trenches of high-tech hell
> By Kenneth Neil Cukier
> 19759 Characters
> 11/25/96
> (Copyright (c) 1996, Dow Jones & Company, Inc.)
> Nation states fail to come to terms with the global nature of
> technological trends, and the power of these technologies is perverted
> to restrict human rights, personal privacy and individual freedoms. A
> handful of multinational companies are firmly in control of
> international networks and set the rules and prices for access.
> Sound like a nightmare? That's because it is. But if it also sounds
> remotely feasible, that's because it's the nightmare of John Dryden, the
> OECD's head of Information, Computer and Communications Policy.
> Convergence magazine asked Mr. Dryden and about 50 other leading
> technology experts, from chief executives to cyberpunks, to share their
> visions of the year 2010 -- both nightmare and trend-realized. The
> results were startling on two counts: first, for their wide agreement
> that computers and telecommunications will infiltrate most areas of our
> lives; at the same time, however, there is deep concern about the
> potential abuses of individual privacy by governments and businesses.
> To be fair, Mr. Dryden says he's only predicting a "worst-case
> scenario" because we forced him to (his views here do not represent
> those of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development).
> Like most of our respondents, Mr. Dryden prefers to point out all the
> positive technological trends that will take place.
> Leaders from the fields of computers, telecommunications, multimedia,
> consumer electronics, law and public policy were generally bullish on
> what's to come. If Big Brother -- or Big Business -- does oppress us, it
> seems that it will happen at a time when nearly all the developed world
> enjoys high-capacity, broadband communications.
> Not just computers, but cars and household appliances probably will
> be linked to a network and may even be voice-operated. And developing
> economies will benefit from the technological changes as well.
> Convergence of computer, telecommunications and media sectors will
> speed the development of tele-medicine and tele-learning and inspire
> more democratic participation. Electronic shopping will make up about
> half of our consumer transactions.
> What's more, those interviewed say, the cost of technology will
> become almost meaningless, in the same way that electricity is taken for
> granted today. Real value will come in what a company does with its
> computers.
> "Hardware will be free," says John Bateman, president of Electronic
> Data Systems Corp.'s European operations. "People will want to buy
> access to information, not components." Others foresee rented,
> pay-per-use software over a network becoming the norm, "saving" the
> software industry.
> By 2010, using the Internet will be as simple and ubiquitous as
> making a phone call. It will have to be, our savants add, if the
> Internet is to become truly a mass medium.
> Big Brother may yet have a positive role to play -- keeping Big
> Business at bay. Although many we spoke with are concerned about
> attempts to regulate the Internet, others believe the state also has an
> obligation to maintain a competitive environment. Foster innovation and
> open standards, but protect citizens from businesses hungry for
> information. These soothsayers want it both ways: no government here,
> some government there.
> While only time will have the last word, Esther Dyson, the president
> of New York-based EDventure Holdings Inc., a venture capital and
> consulting firm, offers this assessment: "We could stop all
> technological progress tomorrow and spend the next 20 years learning how
> to use it better."
> ---
> Computers with sense
> The next wave may be machines that interact with humans. We gave
> computers sound, but not ears or tongues; graphics, but not eyes. "The
> human interface today is terrible, because it is sensory deprived," says
> Nicholas Negroponte, director of the Media Lab at the Massachusetts
> Institute of Technology. But this will change.
> Joaquim Jorge, a researcher working on human-computer interaction at
> the Institute for Computers and Systems Engineering in Lisbon, says that
> a personal computer interface "might one day replace all computer
> peripherals. Using a program or any software system in 2010 will become
> an exercise in controlled hallucination -- we will talk to people as if
> they were there. We will hear, smell and see things that really do not
> exist."
> James Woudhuysen, manager of Philips Sound & Vision's world-wide
> market intelligence division in the Netherlands, notes that "given the
> scale of world-wide illiteracy, inexpensive voice-operated systems are
> key to opening up access to IT to billions in Asia and the Third World."
> Bruno Bonnel, president and CEO of Infogrames Entertainment in
> France, says that "the hottest technological improvements are to be
> expected from the voice and body recognition, which will allow a much
> better communication with the computers and from the high-bandwidth
> network." Body recognition is the ability of a computer to respond to,
> for instance, finger pointing.
> Michel Bon, president of France Telecom, says, "We need to deploy
> speech recognition and analysis technologies. Our customers could then
> only use their voice to drive the communication tools."
> ---
> A Necessary Evil
> It is a paradox that many of those interviewed for this article fear
> monopolies, yet they concede a need for a few large players to develop
> standards and create economies-of-scale. Government's role in such a
> world: to maintain a free market so that innovation -- and prices --
> don't suffer for lack of competitors.
> Francois Fillon, French minister of telecommunications, says, "The
> worst would be if in the years ahead, a few of the large actors in the
> global telecommunications market take advantage of the opening of
> competition to fully reintroduce 'de facto monopolies.'"
> Howard Rheingold, an author of numerous books on technology, fears "a
> small number of very large companies may control access to and content
> of the networks, and that a small segment of society ends up influencing
> policy so that it restricts what others can express."
> "Imagine a world in which you need several browsers on your desktop
> -- different browsers for different Web sites," says Tim Berners-Lee,
> inventor of the World Wide Web and currently director of the W3
> Consortium at MIT. He sees this happening if his organization isn't
> successful in creating standards for interoperablity over the Web.
> Eckhard Pfeiffer, president and chief executive of Compaq Computer
> Corp., says convergence of computer, telecommunications and media
> industries "is going to occur -- the question is how much will
> protectionism get in the way of letting that convergence develop
> fluidly?"
> Scott McNealy, chief executive of Sun Microsystems Inc., says he
> "used to worry that Microsoft would own and control all content, all the
> written and spoken language of computers and all the rest of it. But
> with Java and the Web and HTML, no. People are getting smart and are
> putting their information in HTML and Java and freeing themselves of the
> Microsoft vice." Java is a computer language that works on most
> operating systems, and was created, if you hadn't guessed, by Mr.
> McNealy's company.
> ---
> Big Brother is Watching You
> Technology is not inherently evil. But experts warn that in the
> future, in the hands of human beings and large organizations, it may be
> used for less-than-savory purposes. Already, huge databases store vast
> amounts of personal information. And this is set to increase as networks
> become more a part of everyday life.
> The threat to privacy and freedom in the digital age stuck out as the
> chief fear of most people interviewed for this article, from digital
> trails based on phone calls, commercial transactions and surfing the
> Web, to government surveillance under the pretext of national security
> and regulating content on the Internet.
> David Chaum, managing director of DigiCash BV in the Netherlands,
> fears that "the whole 'click-stream' of everywhere you visit on the
> Internet and everything you pay for will be recorded by various
> organizations. Analyzing such data using techniques already developed
> for marketing could allow a range of serious abuses; just the fact that
> your actions are being recorded can stifle participation."
> P. Bernt Hugenholtz, a professor at the Institute for Information Law
> in the Netherlands and an adviser to the European Union Commission, sees
> "a trend toward massive over-regulation of content distributed over the
> global information infrastructure. The general perception of the
> Internet as a libertarian island of free morals where anything goes may
> trigger a massive regulatory response from legislatures all over the
> world."
> Rob Glaser, chairman and chief executive of Progressive Networks
> Inc., creators of RealAudio, software for receiving sound over the
> Internet, believes that "given the global and free-flowing nature of the
> Internet, heavy-handed attempts at content restriction won't work. But
> such attempts could do a lot of damage to the Internet in the process."
> Jack Davies, president of AOL International at America Online Inc.,
> says "the nightmare scenario is for various national regulatory bodies
> to seek to restrict this flow of information and commerce by erecting
> artificial barriers. We believe that our industry can give consumers the
> tools to regulate their own experience rather than have it imposed
> externally."
> Bernard Vergnes, president of Microsoft's European operations, says,
> "PCs will be ubiquitous. But the danger will be using them for the power
> of a few. A political tyrant may decide he can use this technology to
> control people."
> ---
> What About Broadband
> Nearly everyone interviewed agreed that broadband communications will
> be fully integrated into the office and home by 2010. End of story? Not
> quite. Opinions diverge from there over who will use it, what the
> content will be, how it will be paid for, and how it will affect the
> telecom industry.
> Thomas Middelhoff, member of the board of directors of Bertelsmann
> AG, says increased bandwidth will "make electronic commerce applications
> more popular. These systems allow consumers to obtain the best deals in
> the world for any kind of product. By 2010 consumers will realize 50% of
> their product purchases in value-terms with electronic on-line systems."
> Robert Seeman, a telecommunications researcher at the Theseus
> Institute in France, says: "This bandwidth bonanza means that bit
> beaming will be a commodity business. The pricing will be cost-based and
> essentially distance insensitive. Any higher than normal profits for
> industry players will come from value-added services."
> Broadband networks also threaten to turn the tables within the
> telecommunications industry itself, says E. Scott Mead, managing
> director of the investment banking division at Goldman Sachs
> International in London. "Wireless operators in 2010 may be able to
> match [the bandwidth of] broadband fixed-line networks, which would be
> an immense change for an industry that has invested so heavily in laying
> lines across the world."
> Jerry Yang, co-founder of Yahoo! Inc., a search engine on the Web,
> says the Net needs to figure out a model in which content and services
> are paid for. "From the market point of view, our industry needs to
> continue to find ways to support the models that are emerging, whether
> it's advertising, subscription or transaction," he says.
> Nii Narku Quaynor, head of Network Computer Systems Ltd., the first
> Internet service provider in Ghana, says high bandwidth will "make
> realistic use of vast global information available at affordable costs
> in very remote areas of the world. This will narrow the gap between
> developed and developing countries and foster unity in the world."
> ---
> Heirs of the Internet
> All the current bombast about the Internet forgets that it is only
> one of many possible communication networks -- and that it may not be
> the standard in the future. The way it works, called Internet Protocol,
> allows for data to be broken up into packets and then sent through
> telephone lines along a decentralized route until all packets are
> reassembled at their destination. Great for e-mail, but not so great for
> voice communications.
> Even the man who created IP, Vinton Cerf, intimates that in the
> future, IP may not be around. Instead, many place their bets on ATM, or
> Asynchronous Transfer Mode, which increases bandwidth for faster
> communication.
> Santanu Das, chief executive of TranSwitch Corp., based in Shelton,
> Connecticut, says that "for broadband ISDN to happen, one particular
> technological challenge that has to be solved is to finish completely
> the ATM standard, so that ATM can truly handle voice, high-speed data,
> imaging, video information, all simultaneously. IP will still remain,
> but it will be one such protocol that will travel over ATM. And one of
> these days, IP will vanish -- I believe it will happen by 2010."
> Ron Sommer, chairman of Deutsche Telekom AG, notes that "ATM is
> important because it offers a simple and highly flexible platform for a
> whole range of creative and attractive multimedia applications. We will
> see a development that broadband services will also become available for
> the residential customer."
> By that time, says Vinton Cerf, currently a vice president at MCI
> Communications Corp., "half of all voice services will be supported over
> whatever the Internet has become."
> ---
> Predictions for 2010 and Beyond
> Arthur C. Clarke, science fiction writer:
> "Welcome to the Cyberclysm," or "Who Will Change the Light Bulbs?"
> I'm seriously worried about the info-tainment explosion. Sri Lanka's
> eight TV channels overload me -- yet, my friends Ted and Rupert are
> talking about hundreds. Then there's the CD-ROM, and the myriads of
> electronic adventures. And of course, the Web, the most addictive drug
> ever invented. I only hope humankind can cope. Perhaps when he heard
> about the printing press, some far-sighted monk horrified his colleagues
> with the prediction that one day there would be thousands of books --
> and who could possibly read them all?
> After initial total skepticism, I'm now convinced that Pons and
> Fleischmann will one day get the Nobel Prize. Hundreds of experimenters
> in half a dozen countries have reproduced, and in some cases far
> surpassed, their results -- which may indeed have nothing to do with
> "Cold Fusion," and may depend on Zero Point Energy. (Nobelist Richard
> Feynman once pointed out that the "empty" space in your coffee mug
> contains enough energy to boil all the oceans of the world.)
> So I expect by 2010: 1. The end of the fossil fuel and nuclear
> ages. 2. Portable power plants -- no more grids. 3. Commercial
> transmutation: gold has already been detected in some experiments --
> also (alas) the thousands-of-times
> Christian Huitema, former president of the Internet Architecture
> Board and currently chief scientist in the computer network research
> division at Bellcore Corp.:
> George Orwell's nightmare of a controlled society could come true if
> we are not careful. We already leave all kinds of "digital
> finger-prints" in toll booths, credit-card slips, telephone bills.
> Technology is there that can keep track of all the pages that you went
> on reading on the Internet. Whoever believes that privacy is an
> important part of our liberties must confront this challenge.
> Parliaments have to develop appropriate laws, engineers have to study
> protective technologies that enable us to participate in the electronic
> society without necessarily exposing our identities. One of the first
> steps should be to generalize the usage of encryption, and indeed to
> remove the legal barriers to that usage. By letting everybody tap in the
> electronic archives of the world's wisdom, we will unleash the energies
> of billions of brains, increasing the chances of finding the next
> Einstein, the next Leonardo.
> Nicholas Negroponte, director of the Media Lab at the Massachusetts
> Institute of Technology and author of "Being Digital":
> By 2010 we will be closer to computers with common sense, which will
> be the single-most important step in integrating society with
> cyberspace. The human interface today is terrible, because it is sensory
> deprived, as we all know. But it is also very stupid, even about some of
> the simplest matters, like a typo. The biggest risks we face are
> security and privacy. Privacy in cyberspace is there for the wanting.
> There is no technological issue at stake. It is purely a matter of human
> rights and political resolve.
> Ron Sommer, chairman of Deutsche Telekom AG:
> The globalization of the industry is only possible if the trend
> toward world-wide liberalization continues. Some countries of the
> emerging markets might be tempted to close up their markets again.
> Surely that would hamper the expected growth of the telecommunications
> market world-wide. But the "liberalization movement" is already so solid
> that we don't really expect any negative influence from this side.
> ---
> The Last Word
> In the end, telling the future is closely akin to abstract
> expressionism: Splash a lot of paint on the canvas and wait for a
> pattern to emerge.
> Sometimes writers of fiction see the future more clearly than
> scientists or philosophers. Jules Verne offered to the 19th century
> glimmers of such coming spectacles as space travel and television.
> One vision no less accurate, though more humbling, came from an
> American mathematician and notional prophet of the computer age in the
> year of his death, 1964.
> "The world of the future," wrote Norbert Wiener, the father of
> cybernetics, the study of interaction between man and machine, "will be
> an ever more demanding struggle against the limitations of our
> intelligence, not a comfortable hammock in which we can lie down to be
> waited upon by our robot slaves."