Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Say goodbye to the Uh-Ohs. Long live the Tens.


By David Gewirtz

So this is it. The end of the first decade of the new millenium -- which isn't really new anymore, is it? What do we even call this last decade? We called the 80s the 80s, and the 90s the 90s. But is this the 0s? The 00s? Given what the last ten years have been like, what with the economy, terrorist attacks, and the mortgage crisis, I tend to think of the last ten years as the Uh-Ohs.

We're done. Ten years have gone by since we all worried about Y2K and we're still not driving flying cars.

What has ten years of tech bought us? Are there colonies on the moon? Can we "beam" from New York to San Francisco in seconds? Have we cured cancer?

Nope. Instead we got Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Seriously, that's what we got out of ten years. We've learned we can be inane 140 characters at a time. Special.

Craigslist and Google have teamed up to kill newspapers. Bloggers are bashing magazines. And e-books are causing print publishers to both lose revenue and hair.

So, yeah, we got the iPhone. We've learned that Apple can be petty, capricious, and completely non-responsive in all new ways. Yay?

Computers are cheaper, which is nice. You can buy a low-end desktop or netbook for under $300. But Windows and Mac users are still bitching at each other, Linux is still not the top dog, and while Firefox and Google's Chrome are nice browsers, they just don't seem like they contain a full decade's worth of innovation.

Ten years also brought us a huge increase in computer and network threats. Viruses have morphed into rootkits, DDoS attacks, and 'bot nets. Every time you turn on your computer, you put your financial identity at risk. We thought spam was a problem at the turn of the century, but now it's become a complete and total hassle, with many messages carrying nasty payloads.

Well, bummer, right? Not entirely.

If anything, the Uh-Oh's have been a decade of incremental improvement. The Internet has solidified its hold on society, which is both a good and bad thing. But there still aren't flying cars and we still aren't wearing silver suits (which is probably a blessing).

While the last ten years haven't resulted in any super sci-fi wonders, we have managed to link more members of our society together online. We have managed to get Internet speeds up to a point where it's possible for family members across the world to see and talk to each other.

We've managed to tap the power of crowds in amazing ways, creating wonders like Wikipedia. Then there's Twitter, which almost single-handedly saved Iran -- and probably would have, had Michael Jackson not died right in the middle of the mess.

What about the next ten years? What will we see in 2020? Personally, I'm still hoping for flying cars.

If it's going to be good, it's up to us. We have all these amazing toys. We have the technology. We can be better, stronger, faster. Let's make the next ten years the best darn ten years, ever! Happy New Year!