As another decade comes to a rapid close, it seems like just yesterday that the main topic of discussion was how to prepare for the impending Y2K disaster that was supposed to throw computer networks into chaos and create massive disruptions in our lives. Though most level-headed citizens did not buy into the Y2K hype, many of us heeded warnings to back up data and stockpile water, food, batteries, lanterns, and other survival supplies just in case.
Fortunately, the dire Y2K predictions did not materialize. But few of us could have predicted what has transpired since then. From the tragedy of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to rapid changes in technology to arguably the deepest economic downturn in decades – all have combined to create unprecedented changes in our professional and personal lives. And the recent aborted terrorist incident aboard an airplane landing in Detroit served as a stark reminder the world remains a politically volatile place.
What lies ahead? Economists say conditions are improving, yet there are millions of people – encompassing a wide range of skills and educational levels – that remain unemployed or underemployed. There’s increasing concern over the nation’s Social Security system as the population ages, and no one really knows what the real effects of impending health care reform will bring.
If we examine technology and science – the world many of us breathe and sleep – the picture is no clearer. Computers will likely get faster and network speeds will increase. But can we harness technology to reduce our use of imported oil and conserve precious natural resources? Will the U.S. space program stall due to budget cutbacks or will we make progress on interplanetary exploration? What innovative technologies and applications will change our lives the way iPods, smartphones, and social networks have over the past decade?
There’s no shortage of expert predictions on what 2010 and the decade ahead will bring. While I’m not discounting these predictions, the only clear vision in my crystal ball is that the world will likely be a very different place when we look back ten years from now.