By Ron VandenBoom
I didn't have much time to elaborate in my last column on my predictions for the next century so I thought I would take this opportunity to deepen the well a little bit and offer more predictions and explanations.
I said last time that I believed computers would continue to gain importance in our lives, but the Internet would burn out within the next 20 years.
It's become obvious to me over the last two weeks that speaking ill of the Internet is something akin to sacrilege. I've been told in no uncertain terms about the many blessings the Internet is responsible for and the wondrous changes we can expect to see in the near future.
Indeed over the next several years I too expect to see great things in Internet development. I expect to see cable and wireless Internet connections that reduce download times and connection speeds to practically zero. I expect to see TV and computers become one with an unlimited number of program selections that truly place the viewer in the driver's seat.
I see the Internet becoming our primary means of communication, even replacing the telephone. The Internet will allow people who are communicating to see one another as they speak and record the conversation if they so choose.
Many of these technologies already exist and are available in some places even today.
My argument is that the Internet, in whatever form we perceive it, will only expand in such a dramatic way for the next 20 years tops. It will change our lives a lot and alter, perhaps forever, the way we shop, communicate, and even educate our children. But the change will come quickly and settle into the usual pattern of small improvements in already existing technology.
Space travel was something I didn't mention in my last column and this I heard about too. Perhaps the most visible and exotic scientific adventure of the 20th century, space travel will expand during the next century and I would not be at all surprised to see man set foot on Mars. But I have serious doubts that man will see a Starship Enterprise type spacecraft roaming the heavens.
I do see a space station dedicated mostly to scientific investigation circling the planet. I could even see limited manufacturing taking place in the weightless advantages of space.
It wouldn't surprise me to learn of a space station on the moon within the next 50 years or so providing there is a good economic reason for us to be there. But I question whether there's any real advantage to be gained when compared to the cost.
The real profit to be made in outer space will come, in my opinion, from the knowledge gained by better understanding our place in the universe. A place that I strongly suspect we share with other living organisms we have yet to know.
As I look into my somewhat fuzzy crystal ball however, I find myself faced with a dualistic feelings about the future.
The last century was filled with many of the most fantastic scientific and technological advancements ever known to man, but it was also filled with at least two of the greatest wars.
In the freest, most wealthy, and most technologically sophisticated country on the planet you can also find the highest crime rates, racial hatred, children killing children, and hungry people living on the streets.
Is this the cost of our success? Have we achieved great things only to lose our common humanity? Will we continue to grow intellectually and technologically only at the expense of that which makes us human?
I have to admit to a certain optimism. I want to think that mankinds' glass is half full, that the development of knowledge and technology will enhance our ability to break down barriers, establish communication, and solve problems.
I want to think we have learned I'm optimistic that we have, some things anyway.