and gentlemen, my friends, this is kind of strange. We're not even
at 2000 yet, and already youre asking me to tell you where
we all may be ten years from now, on October 23, 2009. As
the very first member of the College of Fellows, if I'm still around
then, I hope you will invite me back that evening if my forecasts
tonight prove accurate. Even tonight, it seems to me that the broad
outlines of the future already look pretty clear. This is because
our world ten years from now will necessarily be shaped by the culture,
the science, the technology and the society that already surrounds
talk first about communications. Some of our colleagues foresee
a world deluged by communications. I think they're wrong. I foresee
just the opposite, a world from which a large part of the communications
clutter will have disappeared. This trend continues away from the
mass media away from lowest-common denominator television,
away from mass magazines that appeal to broad public tastes, away
from general interest Internet websites. These mass media will diminish,
or perhaps even disappear, because even their most ardent fans dont
watch all their program, or read all their articles or visit all
their pages on the Web. The parts that don't interest them, that
they dont watch or dont read, may simultaneously, equally
fascinate and absorb someone else.
will become more personal during the next ten years.
are many different publics, and people have differing tastes. In
the world of 2009, advertisers won't have to waste their money on
messages that go unread, whether on the Web, on TV or in newspapers
and magazines. By that time, the media, using computer technology
and inexpensive massive memory will have tailored themselves to
your unique tastes and separately to those of your neighbors. You
won't get junk mail, you won't find unwanted sections of your morning
newspaper on your doorstep each morning. I'm not talking html. I'm
talking just plain common sense.
media cleanup shouldn't surprise you. On your websites right now,
you preselect the kinds of news you want to receive. Even within
the category of financial news, you select the particular stocks
you are interested in and no other. That same selectivity will accrue
to all media long before 2009. If the media can't let you choose,
and instead appeal to everyone, they just won't survive.
communications will become more personal during the next ten years.
It seems equally certain, however, that your personal choices will
diminish in other areas of our society. I have in mind especially
transportation. Ten years from now, communication will have substituted
for much transportation. Right now, above all in Southern California,
nothing surpasses your personal automobile for convenience.
our cities are choking with congestion. More cars are on the road
than there is space on the freeways and streets to drive them. In
major cities, we have simply run out of space to accommodate automobile
I foresee an opposite trend in transportation, away from the personal
convenience of door-to-door, point-to-point, that your car now provides.
You will use mass transportation more than you do now. Mass transportation
will thrive, especially better airline service. Probably the awful
hub-and-spoke service we see now will end. You've heard the story
of the commuter who lay dying, and the priest came to administer
the Last Rites and Sacraments of the Church. And he said, "Son,
have you thought where youre going?" The commuter replied,
"Father, I don't care where I go as long as I don't have to
change planes in Atlanta." But where on earth can you find
enough space, close enough to where people live, to build another
major airport? In New York, JFK Airport is already as large as all
of Manhattan Island south of Central Park. More or larger airports
aren't a realistic answer. They wont happen, not even begin
to happen, in the next ten years.
communication is replacing the physical action of getting
you from here to there.
surely have better railroads, like the high-speed services about
to begin in the Northeast. Better municipal transit systems too,
as an alternative to using your own car. You can be certain that
public mass transportation will improve. But it will take a lot
longer than 10 years, probably more likely 50 years, to see significant
change. Nevertheless, that's the direction in which society will
be forced to move.
course, using your car less may not make much difference to you,
because you will be traveling less to begin with. Business travel
is starting to decline. This is due, of course, to teleconferencing,
both by telephone and using internal corporate video networks. Increasingly,
communication is replacing the physical action of getting you from
here to there. It is simply becoming easier, more convenient, and
a lot less expensive to communicate rather than to travel.
consequences are unpredictable. for example, when The New York
Times first went on the Web, it published its full daily contents
during the night, as soon as the paper went to press. But soon,
it discovered, that wasn't enough. Within a few hours, its news
had become stale and obsolete, while its competitors on the Web
kept their news reports up to the minute, Now The Times does
too. Once-a-day update has been changed to 24-hours-a-day update.
What changes will that cause in their staffing, their management
needs, and their operating budgets? Can you foresee what will happen
in your firm and in your personal life, in a 24-hour day?
Internet will drastically change our society in the next ten years.
It will squeeze out middlemen fro every field: distributors, wholesalers,
bankers, retailers -- almost anyone who comes between the manufacturer
or owner and the final customer. If I can find on the Web the best
terms for a mortgage loan, why will I need a local mortgage broker?
I'll still want to try on my new suit in the store before I buy
it, or test drive a new car. But I wont need a department
store or a franchised auto dealer to get the best price on the exact
item I want. Carry the analogy into yow own situation and estimate
the impact on your business and your life.
of you work to influence public policy for your employers or corporate
and non-profit clients. You prepare your messages after careful
research. You use focus groups. You fine-tune your message based
on public opinion studies. You use computer systems to target your
audience precisely. Yet, even if you are the very best, the most
skilled at the are of persuasion, you are seeing only glacially-slow
changes in public opinion. Because your opponents are using your
same techniques, with equal effectiveness.
opinion is almost impossible to influence by communications these
days. Only actual real-life events like wars, bombings, crazy gunmen
running amok in schools, and the like, change public opinion. If
you know someone who thinks she or he can do it, all I can say is,
when that persons IQ reaches 50, sell!
if you will find yourself increasingly powerless to influence public
opinion, how will you be able justify your existence? What will
you be doing?
may not agree with me. You may tell me that you've successfully
conducted product introductions and brand extension campaigns. You
may tell me that public relations is more effective than I am suggesting.
But on important social and cutural issues, consider, 60 years have
passed since those pioneering researchers at Johns Hopkins first
linked smoking to cancer. It took 60 years before public opinion
crystallized against the tobacco companies. And the feminist movement
didnt begin with Betty Friedan, but was organized in 1848
by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and others. Seven or eight generations
later, women still fight to end discrimination and glass ceilings.
How many years will it take to convince Congress to enact gun control,
or to simplify the Internal Revenue tax code? Dont hold your
governments...will weaken and shrink by 2009....some government
services will surely be privatized...
change always moves imperceptibly, but today, we also see government
policy at all levels increasingly paralyzed by deadlock. That is
an inescapable result of the freest and most democratic society
the world has ever known. Everyone has the communications ability
resources to express her or his viewpoint in opposition to everyone
else. This democratic deadlock is only one reason why I believe
that all governments, both dictatorships and democracies like ours,
will weaken and shrink by 2009. And the political process in a democratic
society almost guarantees that governments good or bad
can't provide public services as well as can private industry. Public
officials need the votes of public employees to get reelected, and
sometimes that employee self-interest conflicts with the broader
public interest. Taxpayers in narrow self-interest often resist
adequate funding for many essential public services. So some government
services will surely be privatized by 2009, probably beginning with
the FAA's antiquated network of airport control towers. The Postal
Service won't be privatized, but email and the Internet will just
keep fading it away, continuing the trend that caused it to lose
Parcel Post business to UPS and Federal Express.
most intriguing question about where well be in the next ten years
is the quality of our leadership. Will strong leadership somehow
emerge to unite squabbling public opinion and to harmonize some
conflicting interests? In earlier eras, there was an Abraham Lincoln,
a Franklin Roosevelt. No such potential leader has become visible
today on our national scene. But history tells us that those leaders
and many others did not emerge until war or crisis gave them the
opportunity to lead. Where we'll find this leadership, and who it
will be, is utterly unpredictable.
ahead to October 23, 2010, I conclude by quoting exactly
verbatim the stirring words of President George H. Bush as
he uttered them in August 1990, and just as true today: "Now
is no time to speculate or hypothecate, but rather a time for action,
or at least, not a time to rule it out, though not necessarily a
time to rule it in, either."
that inspiring note, lets move ahead into the new millennium.