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Millennium Musings, January 1, 2000

By Jim Pinto

So, 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 millennium emerged.

Some people passed on with the old millennium, 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 dreams and nightmares beyond the regular evolution of development and progress in this global village.

Where were you as the New Year approached? Did you think about it with a sense of awe? I did. 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 would crash, but rather because I preferred to be at home with friends and family. I watched the new era emerge in televised ceremonies that happened first in the Far East then Europe and then New York – all before it finally came to California. We were watching and waiting for the future to arrive. And, it did.

Although time is measured using a seemingly artificial, man-made clock, the reality of our dependence on technology and its adjuncts was brought to the forefront by fears of untold calamities resulting from the shortsightedness of programmers some decades ago. But y2k is here and, apart from incidents that were more the result of scare-tactics than substance, the world continues to function as if this was just another day and month and year – which it is. Or is it?

How will that visible mirror of business progress – the stock market – respond to this once-in-a-thousand-year event? Like others, I tried to read the minds of countless capitalists, as they bought and sold in uneasy uncertainty, unwittingly adding my hidden hand to the fluctuating frenzies of the market. Of course, my musings go beyond just short-term prognostications. How will business respond to the changes and challenges of the new millennium? Will the Dow and Nasdaq resume their seemingly unstoppable surge? Or, in a stock market that is linked with electronic immediacy, will some new far-away financial-flu trigger an inevitable disaster?

Technology has fuelled our progress for much of the past several decades. New and startling discoveries and developments will change the scenario as significantly as did the microprocessor and the Internet in the last decade or two. Moore's Law (the doubling of computer power every eighteen months) is predicted to come to an end by 2017 (by then integrated circuits will be 1 atom thick). The Human Genome Project, which was designed to construct detailed genetic and physical maps of the human genome, is expected to be complete in 2003 – just 3 years away. This, and similar developments, will soon re-write the intrinsic ground rules that mold the human condition. Some new bionic invention will probably 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. This may signal the start of the trans-human era, where ordinary humans are obsolete. Or perhaps, human spirituality will transcend mere technological boundaries.

During the latter part of the old century Communism collapsed, leaving Capitalism as the shaky survivor – but one wonders how long the old capitalistic icons will survive the fast pace of change. Capitalism makes the rich richer, but the world 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, local ethnic and religious conflagrations continue while the eclectic, multi-cultural world watches on CNN with a half-hour refresh. How many more Bosnias and Serbias will there be, before a new, enlightened, global community finds a way to eliminate hatred and prejudice? Will war become outmoded? Or, will someone be mad enough, to push a nuclear button?

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.

I looked up words that rhyme with “millennium” and found quite a few. So, this poetic ditty flowed naturally, to sum up these millennium musings.

‘Tis the start of the new millennium A break in the time continuum Will the world find a new moratorium? Or explode in a nuclear crematorium? Anticipate the swing of the pendulum As we enter the new millennium

Copyright © 2000 Jim Pinto

Jim Pinto is Founder and Chairman of Action Instruments, San Diego, CA. Jim is 62 - born in India, lived in England for about 8 years and moved to the U.S. in 1968 - he considers himself eclectic. He has previously been named California Small Business Person of the Year and is a Fellow of the Instrument Society of America. His articles have been published worldwide in several languages. He has also written several whimsical and satirical poems, published in national journals and on the web at : http://www.actionio.com/jimpinto/writings.html

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