Never before has the potential for significant sociological change resided so strongly-and so clearly-in the hands of technologists. Computers already are redefining virtually every aspect of human existence. The onset of the year 2000, along with Y2K computer bug concerns, caused many users to reflect on the importance of these information machines in their lives. In addition to streamlining many duties and opening up new applications, the ongoing evolution of computers also is changing the way that businesses, governments and their militaries interact with the people they serve.
Now that computers have established themselves as the main driver for socioeconomic change in the foreseeable future, many analysts are questioning whether their perceived productivity gains are largely illusory. Issues such as software complexity and time efficiency weigh against a prevailing mindset that businesses and individuals cannot succeed, or even survive, without their new silicon-based mentors.
In the coming decades, autonomous robotic devices will patrol battlefields and vacuum the floors in homes. Recent advances in software and hardware are preparing the way for a generation of vehicles and tools able to operate with minimal human supervision for prolonged periods of time.
U.S. Navy meteorologists directly aided coalition forces in the Kosovo operation, where the advantages of high-technology weaponry and rapid force deployment could easily have been offset by new vulnerabilities imposed by a dynamic environment. While cold fronts, wind and rain may not immediately be thought of as combatants, weather and sea conditions are more than a mere backdrop for military forces. And, the applications for weather pattern data go beyond determining if it is safe to send aircraft into the skies.
As China's great wall of trade barriers crumbles, telecommunications companies are positioning themselves to take advantage of the major emerging market in Asia. The promise of increased competition and fewer Chinese government impediments to trade could result in a dramatic shift in the focus of telecommunications marketing and is already changing the way companies operate in the region.
Researchers are adapting voice over Internet protocol technology to establish communication between Earth and spacecraft, satellites, and, perhaps someday, other planets. Using modified commercial approaches, scientists will design space-based and mobile Internet standards that provide access to science mission data and interactive communication with inhabited and uninhabited spacecraft. These technologies also will become the connection to a future Mars-based communications infrastructure.
Future military cyberspace security may require next-generation network management and intrusion detection systems that combine both short-term sensor information and long-term knowledge databases to provide decision-support systems and cyberspace command and control. Sophisticated computer hardware and software would identify a myriad of objects against a noise-saturated environment. Cyberspace command and control systems would track the objects, calculate the velocity, estimate the projected threats, and furnish other critical decision-support functions.
Past met present and looked toward the future as top-level decision and policy makers convened in Hawaii to discuss the role of the military in the Pacific. With reminders of Pearl Harbor and the Cold War present, key military, industry and government leaders expressed the need for preparedness in the region. They also explored the technologies that are key to operations in the area.