The Signposts Timeline:
Technology Transforms the 20th Century World into an Embryonic 21st

(latest update of this section on or about 10-19-2001)

_________by J.R. Mooneyham_________
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1997 through 2015 sub trends and detours; technology begins radically reshaping our 20th century world into something startlingly different

The internet revolutionizes communications and media, making hard copy mediums increasingly costly, limited, and inconvenient for most people in modern countries (relative to access via assorted network devices). Microsoft wins the early Browser wars, but it doesn't matter as Microsoft fades from the world stage anyway by 2010, dropping into the background of the industry as a pseudo government/corporate agency dedicated to enforcing laws against cybercrimes and terrorism-- sort of a combination "FBI" and "CIA" of the cyberworld, which maintains defenses against a variety of offenders from violation of intellectual property rights to identity theft, and cracking of online systems and security measures.

Microsoft has made a deal with the US government giving it (Microsoft) effective control over the internet. What did the government get in return for handing over such power to Microsoft? Will Microsoft become effectively another branch of government, performing surveillance on users, censoring or shutting down web sites the government dislikes, or helping collect internet taxes down the road? It appears Windows XP is the final lock on Microsoft's absolute control of the internet.

-- You're free to think by Dave Winer; Nov 6, 2001

-- "Microsoft Installs US Spy Agency with Windows", 31 August 1999, Andrew Fernandes, Cryptonym Corporation, 1695 Lincolnshire Boulevard Mississauga, Ontario Canada L5E 2T2

Some reasons for this development are Microsoft's immense size early on (late nineties) rendering it unable to keep up with smaller competitors as new technologies transform the markets (without illegally exercising its monopolistic clout, anyway), its surprisingly severe legal difficulties near the dawn of the third millennium, frequent and widespread security and reliability problems with its software and services, repeated attempts by the company to restrict user flexibility and convenience regarding application and OS licensing, as well as multimedia usage (MS tried to force its own streaming media standards upon consumers, including becoming an unwelcome policeman in terms of digital music and video), the surprising course changes imposed on the organization by its execs in response to various pressures (both internal and external), and, ironically, the very splintering of internet markets Microsoft itself thought desirable in 1997-1999, and actively encouraged with ActiveX (later folded into so-called 'DNA' technologies), Microsoft's own proprietary Java clone, WebTV, and more: that splintering did occur, but rather than result in a vast expanse of uniform yard grass (a Windows desktop world), it gave us an increasingly lush and wild jungle instead (thousands of niche and specialty products, many using entirely new and dedicated operating systems (or no OS at all), and offering no special advantage to Microsoft or any other legacy software-based organization (refer to The Cathedral and the Bazaar for further insights on this subject)). Fortunately, as virtually all the new products adhere in some fashion to standard net protocols, and are developed via relatively modern object-oriented programming, computing doesn't get much worse by 2010, than it was in 2001.

-- "Polese endorses Internet 'anarchy'" by Nancy Weil InfoWorld Electric, 5-29-98

Diba Mail, phone with email concept circa 1996

Basic browser and email technologies become integrated into the operating systems of virtually all consumer and business communications and computing devices, from pagers to cellular phones and PDAs, to NCs and PCs, as well as kiosks or ATM-like devices on almost every corner, and net-equipped taxi cabs by 2015. Truly reusable, object-oriented programming languages with near natural language access and visual cues syntax with active AI (Artificial Intelligence) assistance have emerged from earlier technologies like ActiveX and Java to revolutionize software development; programming finally becomes a science rather than an art. However, there still remains a huge backlog of legacy code to replace with the new industrial building blocks throughout much of this period.

The consumer device that truly brings the World Wide Web into the mainstream turns out to be an easy to set up, maintain, and upgrade appliance available in one or more levels of functionality and user interfaces.

The lowest level common denominator standards of the devices are determined by a mix of industry and governments worldwide. The 'LCD' (Lowest Common Denominator) level ends up being a very compact OS, typically based on Linux, which can be booted on standard PC hardware from a single floppy disk, or contained on an expansion card inside a PC, and booted by default if the overall system has a substantial operating problem, or the user themself triggers the LCD mode. On very bare bones, low cost systems the LCD mode may be the only mode available. LCD-only machines are common for decades among the poor and in third world countries.

LCD mode offers very rudimentary text-only web browsing and email capacities, as well as low level diagnostic tools. The protocols in all these functions are internet standards, with wide-ranging agreements among corporations and governments worldwide allowing even the oldest of such machines to remain basically globally compatible with the internet, and configurable either on-site or via remote hardware/software, for decades.

The LCD mode acts as a fail-safe mode for internet use in the developed nations, allowing consumers to stay online in minimalist fashion even if all higher functions of their terminals are disabled. This way consumers remain enabled to seek online help on their own, as well as still have their machines accessible via the net to troubleshooting and repairs from remote sources and services. In many cases even an automated government-run clearinghouse may be available to reset such machines to full functionality if necessary.

For the poor worldwide LCD-only devices provide free or minimal cost internet access and email to almost all. The bandwidth and connection reliability required to maintain LCD-only mode can be as low as 300 bps, and intermittant. But the devices can usually exploit up through DSL connections if available. 56k modems and Ethernet network connectivity are built-in standards in the devices.

Note that text-only content mean the absolute bandwidth requirements of these appliances are minimal, and therefore negligible in cost in many locales after 2005 or so. This makes it easy for them to be subsidized by governments and businesses.

The computer hardware required for LCD-only mode is ancient and long obsolete-- very slow Intel x86 architecture, 56k modems, and Ethernet networking, along with monochrome text displays, etc. After 2000 all this can be available from either a small handful of chips, or even a single chip, making the hardware cheap and easily subsidized too.

For this reason and others, the best of the devices incorporating this technology give the LCD mode its own dedicated hardware in a system, so that the LCD-ware may function even if there's a hardware failure somewhere in the more modern components of the overall machine. In cheaper devices of course, the LCD mode can make use of the same hardware as the rest of the system, to shave a bit more off the total cost.

The OS and suite of essential applications are usually open source, and maintained for free by the open source community and certain other insitutions as a service to the world. So the software costs of the LCD platform are negligible too.

Prior to 2017 perhaps 40% to 60% of the devices incorporating such an LCD minimum mode also offer one or more higher levels of functionality, utilizing more up-to-date hardware, software, and user interfaces.

In many devices this next higher mode is a developer's linux or java or java clone OS and suite of applications, heavily dependent on a 'command-line' interface-- something in visual appearance and user interface characteristics highly similar to MS-DOS and UNIX environments of decades before. This layer of functionality can duplicate the capabilities of the LCD level, plus much, much more. But a high level of technical expertise is required to fully utilize the environment. This level tends to be used mostly by programmers, developers, people in school or training, etc.

The next level up in functionality and user interfaces is basically a GUI (Graphic User Interface) filter of the developer's level, with access to the lower levels minimized or restricted under normal circumstances.

This GUI level is the minimal mass consumer level functionality of such devices, in the developed nations. This level of functionality tends to be supported and maintained wholly by remote servers and services, paid for by the user. This level provides mainstream access to sophistocated web and email services, as well as many web applications. Many basic applications like word processing, spreadsheets, web browsing, email, graphics editing, etc., are available for free online from various institutions, with more powerful or convenient versions of same usually available via annual subscription or per-use fees.

It's at this level that many vendors of the appliances and devices worldwide strive to differentiate themselves from their competitors, by offering different levels and kinds of hardware and software options and services. Through much of this period many services, add-on peripherals, and expansion cards can be utilized by both this level and any others above it. Though parts of the OS and apps here are open source, some may be proprietary-- it's a mixed environment.

The next level, when available, is typically a legacy or compatibility level primarily. For instance, some users may use Microsoft Windows or Sony Playstation other proprietary operating systems and related devices here.

Both the mixed open source/proprietary GUI OS level and the legacy/proprietary GUI OS level present opportunities for other devices to be controlled or connected to, such DVD players and the like.

Thus, late in the period one popular version of the appliance described above is capable of functioning as either a proprietary online gaming machine, general purpose web client, or standalone TV DVD-ROM/RAM set top box (next generation VCR). The device usually is sold without a display. The most popular model after 2010 holds up to five DVD (or equivalent) disks simultaneously, though only one disk at a time is writable, and only two (including the writable disk) readable at the same time by the machine (in unexpanded configurations). Each appliance comes with a keyboard and hand-held personal remote control and access device, both linked via infra-red to the central unit. The remote is more than the TV remote typical in 1997; the web device remote also acts as a limited, standalone personal computing device, offering the user the functions of a watch, calendar, outliner, memo pad, limited word processor, and small enhanced sketchpad, which can retain information and upload to the central appliance later. These remotes also include built-in telephony, paging, speech recognition, foreign language translation, and direct internet access (bypassing the set top or tower 'mothership' when desired). About 60% of users prefer the smaller keyboardless remotes, while 40% prefer those slightly larger and extra cost hand-held units including keyboards (which are strikingly similar to the Apple eMate concept of 1997, only combined with cellular phone capabilities/form factor, and multimedia/video too, as well as sometimes boasting two or more size/shape options in the same package, such as offering maximal AND minimal display/keyboard interfaces in order to make the appliance easier to carry: i.e., some units almost blossom like a flower to provide a laptop PC-like experience, and fold up to a thick wallet-size too for easier pocketing, and use-on-the-go. Nokia's 1998 9000i showed the concept of a handheld cell phone which could be unfolded to become a miniature PC (albeit lacking the realtime high res video capacities and clever display/keyboard expansion techniques later units will include). These handheld 'cell phone/PC/TV' remotes of 2010 or so are extremely rugged (capable of surviving brief use as the central equipment in football games) and represent the mainstream of today's 'standalone-capable' units in the developed nations.

Nokia 9000 Communicator digital PCS cell phone, circa 1997

Each unexpanded Web appliance will accept a family of as many as five different personal remotes. Yes, each household member typically owns their own personal remote control for one or more set top appliances in the abode.

Most online services to which these web appliances are connected usually maintain a complete archive of everything the user does with or on the Web appliance, in a distant data warehouse, extraordinarily compressed and encrypted for economy and privacy. Consumers desiring greater security from USAmerican intelligence and investigative agency search and seizures may maintain accounts with services in other countries, such as states or companies in the regions known as India and Indonesia back in 1997. These archives are a great convenience for consumers, as an automated form of guaranteed lifetime backup and personal reference (fully searchable by the user).

These often minutely detailed personal logs and other records of human actions, thoughts, and processes in themselves will offer significant implications for human civilization over coming decades and centuries.

Low end web devices are often fully compatible with old style televisions, but most of the appliances typically offer far more dazzling and practical displays with the newer digital sets, computer monitors, and wall-size projection units. Only the poorest users (and small children), mostly in third world countries, connect this appliance to 20th century technology television sets.

[NOTE: digital computer monitors/displays (as opposed to less typically interactive and lower resolution televisions) have changed a lot since 1997. Most power users of 2015 will prefer to use large, flat pen-based display pads which lay atop the desktop like a 20th century blotter pad (and usually possess about the same measurements as those earlier desktop accessories). Though these monitor pads are available in a wide variety of sizes, the average 16x20 inch pads cost roughly as much in inflation adjusted 2012 dollars as a 15 inch multi-scan monitor did in mid-1997; yes, the display often costs as much or more than the CPU of these modern systems. PS: the flat horizontal pen-based desktop display idea was offered up in "About Face" in 1995 by Alan Cooper, to name at least one source. END NOTE]

Though this device typically connects via a proprietary network of some kind (such as a satellite dish or hybrid cable TV link), earlier attempts by business to restrict users to only a small portion of the internet failed, so adult consumers who wish to generally enjoy approximately the same access to the full range of internet sites and services now as the typical full-fledged PC users of 1997 did.

This Web appliance offers virtually all the general productivity and authoring applications required by most users of the time, out of the box. And where it lacks a specific program, it can usually mimic the native operating system possessing that application (Windows, Mac, Linux, UNIX, etc.), and run the desired program off the network (sometimes for a small extra charge). However, with the native applications libraries growing by leaps and bounds, use of legacy software in this manner is declining rather than growing.

These Web appliances are of a practically maintenance-free nature, offering far greater reliability and redundancy than many basic PCs, automatic upgrades over the net, and sometimes substantially superior (if proprietary) online services.

Major hardware upgrades to one or more Web appliances are usually comprised of adding an information 'furnace' to one's home (a much more expensive and powerful machine, with much higher bandwidth capacities, and capable of vastly increasing the performance and options of all personal web appliances in a home or small office complex simultaneously).

From 2012 to 2015, less than 30% of consumer households equipped with the basic appliance and remotes also purchase an information furnace. However, business indulges substantially in the added capacity.

Contemporary online services working in conjunction with some variations of this web client find themselves in fierce competition to provide new capabilities and options to subscribers in qualities unavailable elsewhere.

-- "Sites Lure GeoCities Refugees" by Declan McCullagh, Wired Digital Inc., 7.Jul.99

In June 1998 free web site hosting service XOOM upped the ante in the online wars by giving users 11 free MB of disk space for their individual sites; competitor Tripod soon followed suit with 11 MB replacing a previous 6 MB max, too.

[NOTE: This competition of online services/internet appliances offers a preview of the future emergence of 'virtual states' online, which will spur sweeping and revolutionary changes in traditional forms of business and government.]

This period marks an early stage of an economic process that is essentially doing away with many previous human intermediaries or middle-management layers across-the-board, in favor of nearly flat hierarchies and horizontal integration (partnerships and cooperatives) in industry and government.

-- "Jeffrey Eisenach: Digital Revolutionary Studying the Internet's impact on the economy, society" By Jeffry Bartash, CBS MarketWatch, Aug 26, 1999 URL: (interview with Jeffrey Eisenach at the yearly "Cyberspace and the American Dream" summit in Colorado.)

The development of the internet looks to drastically change the way businesses maintain profitability, as consumers may quickly, easily, and reliably compare price, features, reliability, and service worldwide. Worse, copycat operations will be able to more closely follow on the heels of innovative new product and service rollouts than ever before-- thereby squeezing even the profit rewards spawned by genuinely novel ideas.

Famed economist Joseph Schumpeter said profit depends on the profiteer having some sort of insurmountable advantage over others-- a mini-monopoly if you will-- else their profits will dwindle to insignificance or even zero. The internet will tend to destroy any and all such mini-monopolies in short order...


-- Society for Human Resource Management, January/February 1998, and the Futurist, Technology Development Predictions: 2001-2030 (found on/about 6-8-98)

Entrepreneurs, free-lancers, temps, telecommuters, sub-contractors, consultants, mentors/gurus, mercenaries, soldiers, directors, producers, and execs-- that's the 21st century global labor market among the more developed states. Almost all else is increasingly automated, or practically slave labor (low wages, negligible benefits for difficult labors, often in unsafe working conditions). There's also intensifying pressure even on professionals from the wide availability of impressive and regularly updated expert systems on DVD disks, and the Web.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: These great changes in how the average person is employed tends to reduce that person's loyalties/ties to both corporate employers and government agencies, thereby paving the way for greater affiliations and sympathies with new types of organizations and entities on the part of average folks to replace the corporations/governments of old. I.e., the result is a growing number of prime candidates for defections from geopolitical entities to the newly emerging virtual states. END NOTE.

Music, graphic, and video artists and software developers are increasingly finding it easy to cut out the middle-men (of corporate employers and distributors) and market their work directly to consumers, thereby upsetting the big business apple cart in many fundamental ways...

-- "A Fundamental Shift Against Microsoft", by DENISE CARUSO, 4-27-98, The New York Times, " writing about a speculative newsletter article from Robert Jacobson of SRI International, which described one possible future (2003) of Microsoft in a report titled "After Microsoft".

-- "Brave New World" by JACK FISCHER, Mercury News/Mercury Center. Found on the web on or about April 17, 1999; article commented on the book "The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture" by Professor Manuel Castells

A new variant on the old productivity measure-- range of capabilities or total flexibility and adaptability of an organization-- overall is soaring here, with world employment racing towards the saturation point (with a few blips here and there of the contrary, of course), and software-based expert help for almost any human activity becoming widely available to the majority, as well as the previous complexity and unreliability of personal computers and PC software fading into history at last. The personal computer itself is fast disappearing, merging with the appliances, furniture, and walls of homes and offices, the dashes of automobiles, and the clothing and accessories of individuals. Increasing global competition in many markets (not all) are improving quality and reducing costs for consumers and businesses, and raising living standards rapidly in many still developing nations, as well as helping contain some of the usual problems of low unemployment like wage inflation.

Research indicates technology typically allows businesses to widen or expand their capabilities-- but does not usually save them money along the way. So new technology may be most appealing to those organizations looking for the profits that temporary competitive advantages in the marketplace can bring.

-- "We have computers. Why aren't we more productive?" By Cate T. Corcoran,, Technology August 23, 1999 URL:

Unfortunately, the art of smoothly integrating new technologies into society to minimize dislocations and stress for citizens is many decades from being perfected. Namely, governments have yet to extend the benefits of pure Open Source and related patent/copyright reforms to the whole economy. The result is an additional source of stress for many people already overloaded with same-- and the increase in mental breakdowns and aberrations one might expect.

-- "The Millennium Project" by D.S.Mercer, based on work done in conjunction with the Open University Business School and the Strategic Planning Society, found on the web in early 1999

An additional source of stress is the intense commercial, employment, and government pressures on personal privacy (as well as assaults from private citizen spurred investigations of potential mates and other associates). Elaboration on these privacy issues and others may be found throughout this work, in sections like the one immediately following.

12-3-98 jrm&aFLUX Newz&Viewz: Privacy-- as well as the greatest conveniences regarding mainstream entertainment options-- will be luxuries in the 21st century

Poorer folks will find themselves often forced to watch and listen to video/audio commercial advertising in order to keep their entertainment and communications costs down to a minimum. Worse yet, they will be subject to highly intrusive surveys and polls too, along the way-- though these may sometimes be transparent with users not realizing how much or what kinds of information they are providing to various special interest groups as they watch TV, surf the web, make phone calls, etc.

They will find themselves increasingly forced to watch public service and education advertising sponsered/subsidized by governments too, mixed into their entertainment datastream.

Last but not least, the poor will increasingly find their email, web surfing, TV viewing, phone calls, etc., more than simply monitored and mined for ever more indepth personal information about them by both corporations and government-- it'll often be censored as well.

The wealthy, of course, will simply buy a higher level of service which offers far fewer such annoyances among their entertainment and communications choices. But the differences in content between what the rich and everyone else experiences will make for a growing perspective gap between the two groups, not only in the more developed nations, but worldwide.]

[jump off sources include....Increasingly time short USAmericans are reducing their time spent in unpleasant or menial tasks to devote more time to work, family, and community. This means mounting pressures to reduce the time spent commuting, cleaning, or fixing up the home or automobile, and more time on meals eaten out, among other things.

Brand loyalties are possibly getting stronger simply out of people's need to spend less time considering or searching out alternatives. Active bargain-hunting may be declining-- but being replaced by automated searches by net bots or agents, or referrals from trusted media 'gurus'. Quality and immediacy of services may be becoming more important than quality and cost of products too, for many.

Employees are demanding more flexible working hours and conditions, and possibly more days off. Much of the workforce is gravitating more towards self-employment/entrepreneurial activity, often via the internet.

Consumer demand for household, business, and other automation, decreased maintenance requirements, and greater ease of use across-the-board is substantially changing consumer product designs. Voice recognition and built-in appliance intelligence capable of answering consumer questions and helping in regard to related problems has become the Holy Grail for many manufacturers. Identification passwords and related procedures have also become cumbersome, with consumers demanding more streamlining of the processes even as they also demand more security. They tend to carry fewer articles of identification on their person than was typical in the late 20th century.

Education is also facing upheaval in this environment. Students and employees are demanding more effective, convenient, and engaging education and training options from institutions. Similar higher expectations are held for any other activity where others may want the individual to show up at a particular place and time for some reason-- such as physical shopping and restaurant environments. Increasingly consumers will expect something like a party or concert to be occuring at any public event they are attending away from home.

-- The Millennial Mind-Set by Annetta Miller, American Demographics, January 1999

Family-started, and/or family-run businesses are appearing on the internet.

-- Dot-Coms Become Family Business by Michelle V. Rafter, 5-20-2000, Reuters/PC

12-9-98 jrm&aFLUX Newz&Viewz: The intriguing possibilities in (and potential vulnerabilities of) the open source/Linux model of software development

Hundreds or thousands of programmers, virtually all strangers to one another, all collaborating on the creation and constant improvement of a particular computer program or operating system, without formal financial compensation of any kind?

So far the strange entity described above is at least holding its own against the Microsoft behemoth and other commercial companies-- and perhaps even gaining ground-- though its success is difficult to quantify in any way but anecdotally in 1998. However, if we may exploit the anecdotes, there's some gems there: Linux seems to gaining more third party support from developers large and small, especially in the realm of server software. Netscape recently opened up their browser-ware development to a variant of the Linux model, and America Online bought them, indicating it intends to continue the practice. Sun seems recently to be applying a variant of the Linux model to Java development as well. Sun may have been forced to do so by the growing pressure of 'clean room' Java clones over which it may or may not have any practical control. And finally, Microsoft has leaked a memo that seems to indicate they consider the Linux model to be a threat in the commercial space, and might attempt to destroy it by embracing and extending presently 'commiditized' open net standards in their software-- much the same as they attempted to do to Java before recently being ordered to stop by the courts.

Can essentially non-profit software development such as this continue indefinitely? It would seem unlikely, according to conventional geopolitical market economics. But events on the net are somewhat insulated from many physical world constraints such as friction, gravity, climate, overhead, and market economics. So there may be considerably more leeway there than many suspect.

Yes, the human software developers themselves are still subject to many Real World constraints-- but in many cases those too are at least lessened somewhat by the net itself, in a positive feedback loop of sorts. For example, as research, education, and training are all made faster, more convenient, and cheaper by the net, this frees up more time, energy, and money for developers to devote to their non-profit programming efforts. And the better the developers can get the net to function for them and others, the more resources the developers have to invest in further development. The loop thus becomes an upward spiral with no firm limit on how far it can go-- but perhaps for the ratio of willing programmers available versus the number of open source projects seeking contributions.

And it's not only research, education, and training where the net can free up resources for developers and others. Shopping is another major field to mine. Thousands of dollars can be saved via the net on an auto or home loan. Hundreds on computers and appliances. Groceries and pizzas may be ordered online to save the time of a trip out. All this frees up time, money, and energy which may be devoted to other matters.

There's also more generalized and indirect effects to consider; product and service providers might often be forced to continually improve their wares even as they lower prices, due to the new powers the net bequeaths to consumers. The net may increase the clout of employees at the same time to demand improvements in working conditions and/or increases in wages or benefits-- as well as more easily switch jobs if they so choose. So a better net for everyone may indirectly increase the wages and lower the living costs of all-- including the programmers contributing to open software development 'free of charge'.

And all the above ignores many specific aspects of the Linux/open software model itself, which offers its own positive feedback loops internally to participants, such as increases in personal credibility and industry stature which might lead to new or better employment offers in commercial enterprises (employment negotiating clout), among other things. There's also the potential for work in the Linux model leading to commercial entrepreneurial spin offs for participants. But of course, perhaps the most important aspect of this model is that many participants view it more as a form of recreation than work-- solving software problems for them is like solving a crossword puzzle or building a complex model ship for someone else-- it's a HOBBY perhaps primarily done for ENJOYMENT.

This last item may be the critical one most outside observers and analysts fail to notice as of 1998, and commercial competitors dismiss out of hand (at their peril).

And yet-- throughout human history some of the greatest breakthroughs came from essentially bored wealthy geniuses who delighted in solving complex problems, and along the way advanced human knowledge by leaps and bounds-- largely for the fun of it.

Note that this 'fun' element also points up one way by which the open source model or variants could possibly be heavily manipulated or reshaped by various parties (especially in an environment where the programmer population was already overtaxxed by demands of competing projects); namely, by highly persuasive evangelists for a particular project (i.e., someone like Steve Jobs pushing a stunning new concept), or alternatively, a high profile deep pocketed commercial interest making a tantalyzing offer of extremely powerful development tools free for the taking, but applicable only to their own OS environment or other enterprise to which they wish to attract the programmers. They might also add a formidable deployment and recognition system, which could get a particular developer's or group's efforts not only into the hands of millions of users rapidly, but elevate their name or brand recognition as well. A practical micro-payment system utilizing an electronic wallet widely available on client systems (Microsoft has an e-wallet now in deployment) could fatten such programmers' purses at the same time, in direct proportion to their contribution to development and the timespan for which their contribution is relevant to current shipments/releases.

The emergence of the open source/Linux model (if not usurped by techniques described above, or others) could well become an important natural defense of the internet against any corporate or governmental entity (or even groups of same) seeking to dominate or control it. The concept of Open Source more widely applied to the economy and society in general could have significant ramifications for human freedom and opportunity for decades, perhaps centuries, to come.

Of course, despite the fact that commercial interests may not completely understand how or why the open source model works, some have naturally begun to invest in it, in various ways-- in the hope that they can profit in some way off all the free work being done by so many talented and dedicated people.

Yes, we're talking a virtual sweatshop here (from the perspective of corporations), only where the workers neither need or want to be directly financially compensated for their efforts-- at least under current circumstances.

This could change however if investors inadvertantly wreck important portions of the model as they try to stretch and warp it to fit a wider variety of projects and squeeze ever more profit or other benefits from it at the same time. There's also the possibility that as more organizations seek to use the model they'll create shortages of the types of people required to make the system work. That would then bring something more of conventional market supply and demand factors into play in the open source software model.

There's also the possibility of net-based micropayment systems becoming truly feasible for the first time in years to come, that might make it practical for individual efforts in open source projects to actually be compensated for after all. I suspect such a development would incur significant changes in the model for many insiders and outsiders alike (at least in some model variants), regardless of whether or not any large commercial interests made overt moves to exploit the issue for their own ends.

One place where some believe the open source model may be vulnerable to commercial competition is tech support for products and possible on-site help. However, it seems to me that this merely offers an excellent opportunity for small entreprenuerial enterprises to complement the open source model and make a profit at the same time, in something like what Red Hat software and possibly others were doing for Linux early on. For that matter, even large firms could possibly find opportunities in this area-- witness the announcements that IBM would ship and service open source server software to some of its customers.

All this plays well to the tune of the "prosumers" described in Alvin Toffler's futurist works. That is, Linux and many other open source projects could become the architectural foundation or floor on which a rich stew of commercial enterprises ranging from individual self-employment to small businesses of 50 or so employees to even mega-corporations may thrive into perpetuity-- in stark contrast to the monopolistic proprietary code entities such as Microsoft of the late 20th/early 21st centuries.

-- "Open code frees up the Net" By Charles Babcock, ZDNet/Yahoo! News, 10-22-98, and other sources

In 1998 you could already buy non-perishable groceries over the net at places like Netgrocer Inc., and have them delivered in 2-3 days for shipping fees of $3.00-$5.00.

By 2008 10-15% of the market may be of this nature.

-- "An Online Grocer Bets Against Bananas and Meat", by EVAN I. SCHWARTZ, 5-4-98, The New York Times

-- "Merced Software Takes Shape", 5-4-98, by Alexander Wolfe, EE Times

-- "Analysis: Why All Industries Fear Microsoft" by STEVE LOHR May 14, 1998, The New York Times

The coming virtual states will require anonymous electronic cash technology... help shield their resources from attack by the older geopolitical governments. Microsoft recently got a patent on just such technology. This patent (and others like it) could prove to be valuable bargaining chips in Microsoft's relationships with geopolitical governments (as well as the emerging virtual states) in the future.

Of course, there's no anonymous micropayment patents around which are truly indispensible to the development of global e-commerce (and the virtual states), so we might get the anonymous ecash economy we need even if Microsoft goes in league with the old geopoliticals. Plus, all this discussion is about the legal use of anonymous ecash-- but the virtual states will often do things proclaimed as "illegal' by geopolitical entities-- they'll have to, to survive their early years intact.

Though the necessary local client 'wallets' to enable anonymous micropayments began to be embedded in PCs with Windows98, it looks to be some years before there'll be enough of them in the market to matter...

-- "MS Patents Anonymous Ecash" by Chris Oakes, 6-26-98, WIRED

-- PC Magazine: 2001: Computing in the New Millennium offered an indepth look at the near future of computing around early June 1998.

-- "Technology's thinkers get daring at intellectual circus" BY DAN GILLMOR, Mercury News Technology Columnist, July 17, 1998

-- "Internet gurus predict rough road to digital future" By ANDREA ORR, Reuters, Nando Media, 11-19-98

-- "YOU AIN'T SEEN NOTHING YET By Michael J. Mandel, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., Business Week: August 31, 1998 Special Report -- The 21st Century Economy -- The Big Picture

-- "Micro-Containers: An Example of Strategic Web Thinking", Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox for May 31, 1998:

-- How Much Information Is There In the World? by Michael Lesk (found on the web on or about 3-11-99).

-- "Bullish analyst predicts 75% of Net firms to disappear" By CNET Staff August 4, 1999, URL:,4,40145,00.html

-- PCWeek, and PC Magazine, on or about 3-7-97, in predictions about future computing, Washington Post (9-30-97 datestamp, Page C01) concerning the newly emerging web economy, MSNBC regarding Nokia (on or about 2-25-98), "The Component Edge; An industrywide move to component-based development holds the promise of massive productivity gains" by Don Kiely, April 13, 1998, "Digital ghosts, the faces of the future; Is there life after death? Computer technology now has a new answer to this age-old question..." by SUE LOWE, Sydney Morning Herald, March 31, 1998, "Computers reshaping economy" by Karen Kaplan Los Angeles Times, the Seattle Times Company, April 16, 1998, "Web salaries skyrocket" by Margaret Kane, ZDNN April 20, 1998, "Online Experts Say Newspapers Face an Internet `Typhoon'" By MARK HELM, San Francisco Examiner, New York Times Syndicate (sample idea: Chris Jennewein (of Knight-Ridder New Media) even goes so far as to say this [internet] phenomenon could be bad not only for old fashioned newspaper publishers, but the entire USA as we know it.)

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