This editorial is a
follow-up to an article called The
End Is Near that I wrote in December 1999. I'll let my dear
readers be the judges on whether I was right in the predictions that
I made back then.
It's the Economy,
Just a year ago, everybody seemed to think that the "New Economy"
was supposed to make the world a better place. The pundits told us
that it was somehow going to let us live longer and happier lives,
eradicate illiteracy, cure all the diseases, eliminate crime, and
bring prosperity to every last inhabitant of the planet Earth. But,
in the end, the New Economy doesn't even seem to be able to save
For a while, the mass media insisted that the Internet was
causing a fundamental and irreversible shift in the way the
financial markets operate and that it has brought an end to the
"cyclical" economy. If that is so, then why are we hearing all those
rumors about the possibility of a "hard landing" or even a
At the beginning of this year, we were led to believe that the
Nasdaq would just keep on rising. Instead, it has literally fallen
in half. I think it's time to fire all those financial "analysts"
who maintained "Strong Buy" ratings on stocks that were destined to
sink 90 percent or more. The whole situation has been described as a
"total collapse," with the tech sector heading for its worst year
since the mid-1980s, yet these guys are still "bullish." Somebody,
please get them out of my sight…
It probably really sucks to be a part of the "Internet
Generation." They were told that the "new economy" was supposed to
make them all into multi-millionaires. They thought that everybody
who knew a little HTML would be rewarded with stock options worth
more than the Queen of England.
Surely, the "whiz" kids that expected to drive Ferraris by the
time they were 20 years of age are rightfully disappointed. They
were deceived and they were taken advantage of.
Clearly, the "Internet Golden Rush" has had its toll. The entire
value system where education was worth something, experience was
respected, and money was not the only thing that mattered, has
collapsed. Those who have entered the labor force in the late 1990s
were convinced that it didn't make any difference whether they had
an IQ of a chimpanzee as long as they could generate SQL queries.
The entire idea of a career has somehow been reduced to
job-hopping every six months in search of a better "package." It
worked for some but most were left empty-handed and emotionally
Now, it's payback time. The e-commerce employees are unionizing.
They are tired of working 80-hour weeks, something that has been
explicitly forbidden by the Labor Laws for about a century now. They
don't want any more "productivity gains" that simply result from
their unpaid overtime. They are sick of being lured to work on "the
next big thing" only to be handed a pink slip soon thereafter. They
seem to have finally learned to know better.
A year ago I secretly wished I was one of them. Now, I'm not so
Do You Want a
Anyway, here's what I really want to know. What the hell has gone
wrong with this whole "Internet Revolution" thing? Where are those
free PCs that all of us were supposed to have by now? Universal
connectivity? Cheap broadband? World peace? And, lastly, what has
happened to that lovely sock puppet that spent a fortune peddling
dog treats at the last Super Bowl? And I thought my refrigerator
should have been wired already to be able to order food for all my
pets…not that I have any.
Here's a reality check. All the cheap talk notwithstanding, our
lives haven't changed that much. Take me for instance. I need only
one hand to count the things that I do differently now from how I
did them a year ago. Most notably, I pay my credit card bills
online. But is that the absolute best a hundred billion dollar
investment in technology can do for us?
The way I see it, as long as high
tech is being ran by college dropouts turned visionaries, we
shouldn't expect much. Besides, history tells us that technological
progress takes time. I guess some teenage CEOs just never had a
chance to go to school to find that out…