Richard Riley estimates that the top 10 jobs of a handful of years from now don’t even exist today—a possibility that makes preparation particularly challenging and places a premium on the contributions of creative people with broad experience motivated to exploit opportunities.
Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates observed that “the Internet will be to the 21st century what aviation was to the 20th century.” Indeed, the airline terminal does have a new companion: the computer terminal. In the most recent century, it became practicable to move objects, including people, around the world at near the speed of sound and at moderate cost with previously unimagined safety. It is now feasible to move information in a similar fashion, but literally at the speed of light and almost without cost. Reflecting that, Americans now average 14 hours a week on line. The processing, storage, and transmission of information will soon become “virtually” free, thereby changing the entire paradigm for the handling of knowledge. In short, there is indeed no longer a “there” there. There is here. And it is here now.
The extent of the telecommunication revolution is suggested by the 35 trillion e-mails that are currently sent each year; or the growth of Wikipedia, in its 249 languages, from 100 million words at the beginning of 2004 to about 2 billion words less than 3 years later; or the increase in cell-phone users from 2 per 1,000 people in 1990 to over 400 today; or the increase in Internet users from about 2 million to over 1 billion in a little over 15 years.
Many examples of the death of distance are already to be found in our daily lives:
If a consumer places a telephone call to a service department to resolve a problem with a computer, bank account, golf reservation, or lost airline bag, there is a nontrivial likelihood that the consumer will speak with a person in Bangalore, Jamaica, or some other such place. One international call center is now being operated by the prisoners in Rome’s Rebibbia Prison. In India, courses are offered to teach students to speak with a midwestern accent to prepare them better for jobs in call centers.
In Washington, DC, visitors to an office building not far from the White House are greeted by a pleasant woman whose image appears on a flat-screen display in the lobby where she handles appointments, access, and other administrative matters. But she is not in Washington, DC—she is in Pakistan. At some time in the foreseeable future, when the impact of ever-advancing 3-D television research