Wired Magazine 1997: The Long Boom

Twitter user Hiermonyus Burps linked to Peter Schwart and Peter Leyden’s July 1997 cover story for Wired magazine, “The Long Boom.” The cover of the magazine had a bright yellow happy face declaring a 25 year boom of prosperity, freedom, and a better environment and saying, “You got a problem with that?” To whit:

We are watching the beginnings of a global economic boom on a scale never experienced before. We have entered a period of sustained growth that could eventually double the world’s economy every dozen years and bring increasing prosperity for—quite literally—billions of people on the planet. We are riding the early waves of a 25-year run of a greatly expanding economy that will do much to solve seemingly intractable problems like poverty and to ease tensions throughout the world. And we’ll do it without blowing the lid off the environment. If this holds true, historians will look back on our era as an extraordinary moment. They will chronicle the 40-year period from 1980 to 2020 as the key years of a remarkable transformation.

Five great waves of technology —personal computers, telecommunications, biotechnology, nanotechnology, and alternative energy— are called out for being the current that will herald this new amazing future, all amplified by an increasingly networked world. Also included in the issue are ten trends that would derail things. And um, well… let’s just read the rundown:

  1. Tensions between China and the US escalate into a new Cold War – bordering on a hot one.
  2. New technologies turn out to be a bust. They simply don’t bring the expected productivity increases or the big economic boosts.
  3. Russia devolves into a kleptocracy run by a mafia or retreats into quasi-communist nationalism that threatens Europe.
  4. Europe’s integration process grinds to a halt. Eastern and western Europe can’t finesse a reunification, and even the European Union process breaks down.
  5. Major ecological crisis causes a global climate change that among other things, disrupts the food supply – causing big price increases everywhere and sporadic famines.
  6. Major rise in crime and terrorism forces the world to pull back In fear. People who constantly feel they could be blown up or ripped off are not in the mood to reach out and open up.
  7. The cumulative escalation in pollution causes a dramatic increase in cancer, which overwhelms the ill-prepared health system.
  8. Energy prices go through the roof. Convulsions in the Middle East disrupt the oil supply, and alternative energy sources fail to materialize.
  9. An uncontrollable plague – a modem-day influenza epidemic or its equivalent – tabes off like wildfire, killing upward of 200 million people.
  10. A social! and cultural backlash stops progress dead in its tracks. Human beings need to choose to move forward.

Holy hell.

Article on Wired.com.

Full issue on Archive.org.






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