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Future Is Online and Sometimes Kooky

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Egad. The past week has been an ardent culmination of a year’s worth of media efforts to digest the waning century. At this point, one may well be growing weary of the plethora of lists, countdowns and grand attempts to sum up the century, between commercials. As the 20th century sets, its movers and shakers have been tributed ad nauseam. Saturday dawns the 21st century. The future is here. Finally, we shall meet George Jetson. So let’s stop talking about Fred Flintstone.

Prototype of the future, the Internet offers many opportunities to glimpse the possibilities that await us. Kooky or sound, some Web sites are offering much conjecture about next year and the next millennium.

For instance, the would-be apocalypse is nearly here. But chances are, Saturday will come and go with neither rapture nor doom. “If the prophecy fails, [most believers] discover that the tension of waiting was so much fun that they rewrite the rules and start waiting again,” says Alex Heard, executive editor of Wired magazine and the author of “Apocalypse Pretty Soon” (https://www.apocalypseprettysoon.com).

Some die-hard doomsayers insist that big day is still to come. The late Edgar Cayce, a prominent New Age psychic, forecast that Earth’s axis would shift in 2000 or 2001, causing massive destruction. Some expect this on May 5, 2000 or May 17, when the moon, sun and five planets will be in close alignment for the first time since 1962. Other New Agers think the Earth will be destroyed just before Christmas 2012, because the ancient Mayan calendar will run out of dates. Some Christians are betting on 2033, as it’s the estimated 2,000th anniversary of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Others think we’ll have to sit tight till 2240, the seventh millennium, as per Jewish reckoning. For other dates with destiny, check out https://home.att.net/ ~thehessians/MillenniumProphets.html. That site also offers discussion and links to the prophesies of ancient seers such as Nostradamus, Merlin and predictions from the Mayans and Hopi.

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More recently, future forecasting continues to spark interest. The World Future Society (https://www.wfs.org) gives some credibility to the art of the hunch. A nonprofit educational and scientific organization, this reputable way station on the Web publishes the Futurist magazine and its editors have seen fit to produce, Letterman-style, the top 10 forecasts for the future. Included on this list (https://www.wfs.org/index.htm#outlook) are the notions that: tiny electronic microchips implanted in a person’s forearm could transmit messages to a computer that controls the heating and light systems of intelligent buildings; farmers will become genetic engineers, growing vaccines as well as food; human population will level off by 2035, while pet populations will increase dramatically.

Elsewhere on this site (and in December’s Futurist magazine), Graham T.T. Molitor makes some more exciting predictions, such as “beginning in 2500, the New Space Age will see humans establishing space-based travel businesses and space colonies to mine the resources of the solar system.”

Our friends at CNN have asked a slew of experts to comment on what the next 1,000 years will hold for humanity. A multimedia Web special at https://cnn.com/SPECIALS/1999/future/ offers audio and transcripted interviews in which Philip Glass talks about the future of music (the gap between audience and performer will narrow) and Betsey Johnson talks about the future of fashion (clothes will be designed by scientist-designers and chemist-engineers). Former NASA historian Alex Roland imagines that we will find life on other planets, but it may be extinct. He considers that other life forms may have already visited Earth at a much earlier evolutionary stage. Linguist Eduard Hovy believes that computers will tear down the Tower of Babel as they come to understand voice, translate languages and comprehend dead languages, currently not understood.

In the CNN video gallery, Dr. Ruth ponders whether test tubes will take the place of sex. Christopher Reeve looks toward a future in which spinal cord injuries like his are treatable. Bill Maher says longevity is overrated.

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Those venerable virtuosos at E! Online also speculate on the future at their site’s Millennial Madness zone (https://www.eonline.com/Features/Features/Millennium/Predict/index.html) While most of these entertainment predictions fail to crack a smile, one forecast is right on the money: In 2096, ABC boasts a bona-fide hit with “Who Wants to Be a Genetically Engineered, Time-Traveling Millionaire” . . . hosted by Regis Philbin’s cryogenically preserved head.

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Erika Milvy writes about infotainment and entertainment from her home in San Francisco. She can be reached at erika@well.com


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