As Century Ends, Rosen Gazes into Technology Crystal Ball

Larry D. Rosen, Ph.D.

The National Psychologist

November-December 1999


Since I wrote my first column for The National Psychologist nearly 5 years ago, the world of technology has changed dramatically. The computer has moved into our homes, offices and lives. Technology is integrated into nearly every segment of our day. We awaken to technology, drive it, call on it from our cars, purchase products with digital displays and make it part of our sleep environment.

Technology is everywhere.

At the end of this millennium, it seems timely to speculate on the changes we might expect in our world over the next few years. Here's what I see down the road for our profession and our lives.

Y2K

Little dramatic will happen in the USA on January 1, 2000. However, I still recommend that you: (1) store a 4-7 day food supply; (2) keep some cash available; (3) keep your gas tank between half and full; (4) and organize copies of the past 3-6 months' bills, statements and other financial transactions.

Other countries will experience a variety of technological failures including airports, government computers, utilities, transportation and manufacturing. According to the State Department and the British Foreign Office, many countries using old technology are not prepared for Y2K.

IThis lack of preparedness around the globe will cause Y2K problems through the early Spring. Examine your consumer goods and see where they are produced. Most come from those same countries that are going to have Y2K problems. We may see a shortage of products manufactured outside the USA after reserves have been sold. This includes petroleum products like gasoline.

What can you do? Visit the Cassandra Project (http://www.cassandraproject.com/), which provides up-to-date, CALM Y2K information. If you use technology at home or work, make sure it is Y2K compliant by visiting the company's website and reading their federally mandated Y2K statement. If you regularly purchase supplies from outside vendors, contact them directly or visit their websites to see if their manufacturing and distribution systems are Y2K compliant. Ask where their products are manufactured and factor that into your plans. Stay informed by visiting ZDNet (http://www.zdnet.com/) and CNET (http://www.cnet.com/) for updates on Y2K. Most importantly, stay calm. The sky is not going to fall.

Psychology Online

In the next three to five years, most practitioners will have a website, an e-store and high-speed access to the Internet. Now, most business websites end in .com. A whole new crop of website designations will be available including .biz, .store and .info as possible website endings. Along with your website will come an easy, affordable e-store where you can sell books, pamphlets, measurement instruments, etc. worldwide to an audience of hundreds of millions of buyers.

We will all benefit from the new Digital Subscriber Lines (DSL) which will cost little more than a telephone line, but act as a high-speed Internet line and a telephone or fax line simultaneously. DSL connects you to the Internet at speeds much faster than the fastest PC modems, meaning that your download times will be tremendously short. People with DSL tell me that it appears to them that web pages arrive instantaneously.

This high-speed, affordable access will also make offering services over the web a reality. At this time, most online services (I will avoid the controversy of whether this is advice, counseling or therapy) are offered via e-mail. High speed access, coupled with faster, smarter PCs, will make video-conferencing finally work. The therapist will be able to see the patient and gather invaluable clues. Of course, the proper agencies will have to come up with standards first, but they are already in the works.

Traffic Jams on the Info-Highway

One-third of Americans has e-mail access. By 2003 that number will more than double, according to current predictions. If your ISP has busy signals and disconnects now, wait until twice as many people are trying to get online. Those of you on AOL have my sympathies in advance.

Along with increased traffic comes increased e-mail. You will start getting messages from long-lost high school friends and others who have long since left your life. You will also get e-mail's version of junk mail called Spam. Prepare to sift through hundreds of messages daily. Also prepare for hours of web surfing. As we close this millennium, 10,000 websites appear daily. That number is sure to grow so that, soon, information collected today will be replaced by new information tomorrow. Luckily, Spam filters will get better and eliminate some of the junk mail.

The Net Generation (and the P Generation, too)

Children born between 1977 and the 1999 have grown up with computers and technology and are referred to as the Net Generation. They have also grown up more self-confident, more pampered, more easily distracted, and less amenable to the business and family models of previous generations. They dislike long explanations and discussions and just want to move on. The World Wide Web and wireless technology provide them a perfect environment to pause just long enough to get a few bytes of information and then click onward. For an excellent book on N-Geners, check out Don Tapscott's Growing Up Digital.

Some researchers have noticed subtle changes in children who are now between 6 and 12. Dubbed the P-Generation - after Pokemon - these children spend all their spare time playing the latest Nintendo games. P-Geners are different in their level of intense concentration on game playing to the exclusion of all outside stimuli. They play for hours and research has started to demonstrate that they maintain the style or personality they adopt in the game in real-life.

Both N- and P-Geners are wreaking havoc with the family structure. As affluent, doting, Baby Boomer parents allow their children to have every available technology, the children move into their own Techno-Cocoons and pull away from the family. Less communication, less discipline and simply less family are the consequences. This will only become more prevalent as not only the children, but also their parents wrap themselves in their own cocoons.

What can you do? Help families establish clear rules and boundaries about the use of technology and teach them how to balance technology time with social and family time

Chips Ahoy

Computer chips are being embedded everywhere. How about the Techno-Bra that monitors a woman's heart rate to signal panic responses and summon police in case of attack? What about the chip that will tell you the freshness of the meat, fish or poultry at the store? If that's not enough, consider the smart chip embedded in your skin that makes all keys, charge and bank cards, and passwords obsolete; monitors your vital functions; and allows you to play guitar or piano without having an instrument.

All these technologies are in trial runs and should be available in the next few years. Certainly, we must expect more chips to appear in places we never imagined. Remember, however, that we will always have choices and we must continue to assert this most inalienable right. You have the right to choose the technology you want now, and leave the rest alone.

It certainly is going to be an interesting millennium. Try to enjoy the changes. See you in 2000 and remember to visit my past columns at http://www.technostress.com/index.htm.


Copyright, 1999, The National Psychologist. Reprinted with permission. The National Psychologist is a privately-owned bimonthly newspaper which may be purchased for $30 a year. Wr