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The Calm Decade

  By now we all know how we survived Y2K-whether computers unable to handle the switch to 1/1/00 shut down the country, or whether it was the nonevent of the decade.

  For the record, I predicted more than once in this column that, certainly in terms of your electricity, there would be no problem. Since I’m writing this before the new year, you now have the luxury of being in awe of my wisdom, or laughing at me for being so wrong.

  You may want to keep that track record in mind for this next forecast about technology. I predict we’ll be able to call the next 10 years “The Calm Decade.”

  A little less than 20 years ago writer Tom Wolfe termed the ’80s “The Me Decade.” That seemed accurate enough to become a popular cliché. About 10 years ago Tom Shales, an entertainment writer for The Washington Post, guessed that the ’90s would be known as “The Cranky Decade.” That phrase didn’t catch on, but for my money it pretty much hit the mark.

  I think we’ve had it with being cranky. I think we’re sick of being too busy. I think we’re tired of technology telling us what to do.

We’re not about to flip our cell phones and computers into the recycling bin. In fact, what we can do with technology will continue to change faster and faster. Instead, I see signs that we’re going to start deciding to be the boss of our machines, instead of the other way around.

  We’ll learn when to turn off those cell phones and pagers. We’ll quit buying complicated VCRs and computer connections to the Internet. And the inventors will invent easier machines. 

  Parker Brothers is running ads suggesting you start a family game night-sure, it’s a way to sell more board games, but it’s obviously responding to a desire to keep the family together. And church attendance is up.

  It all adds up to a yearning to find a calmer place, in our world and in ourselves. We’ve had enough experience with information technology to know that it’s not going to solve our problems. We can use it to make life better, but we’re going to have to make our own life.

  So put “The Calm Decade” in the time capsule and check up on me in 10 years. If it’s not a good prediction, I hope it can be a good goal.
Happy New Year.

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