By 2000 the market had survived the Y2K panic. Billions had been spent worldwide to prevent an information collapse when the computer clocks passed from 1999 to 2000. Fortunately, it didn’t happen.

The story of human civilization is written in technology. It started with the discovery of fire. Imagine life today without controllable fire. The trail of technology—hardware and software— is clear. After fire came stone tools, bows and arrows, numbers and alphabets, gun powder (the atom bomb of the 9th century), moveable type and the printing press. The 19th century saw the explosion of technology starting with the steam engine, followed by the cotton gin, clipper ships, dynamite, Bessemer steel process, Deere’s steel plow, railroads, electric light bulb and public power systems. These were supported by improving education systems.

Twentieth century technology brought airplanes, radio, television, the integrated circuit, computers and, as a finale: cell phones and the Cloud. We are living in an era of exponentially expanding knowledge. If you doubt it, think back just one hundred years ago.

When I was a child in the 1930s radio was in its infancy. For many people telephones were boxes that hung on the wall. Our home phone number was only 5769. When you picked the ear piece off the box to make a call you might hear a couple neighbors talking on the party line. Today, you can be driving your car while talking on your cell phone to a friend or customer in Australia or South Africa.

Even more astounding is the software programs that support the hardware. They drive unbelievable features as diverse as Facebook and space satellites. I had a client in the early 2000s that runs the government/military satellite system. They showed me over a thousand satellites that are collecting data every day. Beyond that, space telescopes Hubble and Webb are reaching into outer space exposing mysteries like black holes, measuring the expanding speed of the universe, studying dark energy and exoplanet atmospheres, the Story of the Stars. Simultaneously, technology is studying our brains to understand our behavior. This an even richer story to come.

What a joy it is, what an opportunity to learn. Yet it’s only the beginning. In educational terms, we’ve just graduated the kindergarten of the 20th Millenium. Now, we’re opening the door to first grade.

Some people imagine the time could come when future generation computer technology will advance to a stage wherein those unimaginable machines might take control from the people who designed them. If you saw the 1968 movie 2001 A Space Odyssey with the computer HAL taking over the space ship, you can understand their trepidation.

Next week, AI: It’s Future and its New Name.

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