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global_futures 02/99

The Research Group on the Global Future's e-mail newsletter

03.02.1999 · Research Group on the Global Future

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Research Group on the Global Future
Center for Applied Policy Research (CAP)
Munich, Germany

(1) Biotechnology Portal
(2) Y2K
(3) Die ZEIT and The Edge
(4) Future Kids
(5) For Our German-Speaking Audience
(6) German E-Commerce
(7) Japan-China
(8) On the Digital Portal
(9) Noted in Passing



Three years ago Nobel Prize-winning chemist Robert F. Curl proclaimed that the 20th century "was the century of physics and chemistry. But it is clear that the next century will be the century of biology." We are already in the midst of a transition into the Biotech Age. Genetics and biotechnology have paved the way to make the gene pool a primary raw resource for economic activities. As our first successor to the digital portal, we've opened up our files on genetics and biotechnology. Above all, we want this portal to serve you as an open window to a better understanding of the variety of issues involved and their implications for society. Get to know key gateways and the companies which are forging the Biotech Age. Learn about the efforts to maintain and preserve Planet Earth's biodiversity. Or see what topics trouble those who are working in the realm of bioethics or cloning. As with all of the Research Group's portaly, you'll find not only comments on the most important web sites, but also relevant primary documents and a bibliography of key books.


(2) Y2K:

The millenium bug reminds us that the working of technical surrounding of modern societies can not be taken for granted. The technical problems will probably cause serious, but manageable infrastructure and economic problems on the eve of the new millenium. But the Year 2000 bug is more. It is also a technical methaphor for a set of dysfunctional communications patterns in the fragmented societies of the late 20th century which seem not to be prepared for the future. It displays the necessity that the different systems of society should try harder to make their knowledge transparent to each other and to future generations. The steering of the common future should be subject to reciprocal learning and control.

We have compiled a collection of articles and websites which deal with this challenge.

Year 2000 Information Center

Peter de Jager offers various solutions for the millenium bug.

The Year 2000 Problem: Impacts and Actions

The OECD report urges governments to take a stronger leadership role.

In German: 'Die Millenium-Epidemie' by Aaron Lynch,
Telepolis October 20, 1998

The Year 2000 problem requires not only technical, but also mental solutions. Find some interesting links to websites in English at the end of the article.

Dr. Ed Yardeni's Homepage of Deutsche Morgan Grenfell, New York, deals with various economic problems of the Year 2000 Bug. Wired labelled him 'one of the most vocal 'millennium bomb' prophets of doom.' He predicts a serious economic recession for the Year 2000. http://www.yardeni.com

Wired: Y2K's modest bite http://www.wired.com/news/news/email/

The computer problem might actually give the economy a tiny boost in 1999, and hurt it just a bit in 2000, a nationwide survey of economists predicts.

GartnerGroup: Year 2000 Risk Assessment and Planning for Individuals.



The new year's edition of the German weekly newspaper Die ZEIT was completely dedicated to the future of the human race. It carefully compiled the upcoming challenges of the new millenium in politics, society, economics, biology, art, and modern life - combining these disparate elements into a multi-faceted and thought provoking picture. A month later, we're still enjoying crunching through all of the articles. Well worth the time of all of our subscribers who read German.

Die ZEIT, 30 December 1998 - Milleniums-Sonderausgabe: Die naechsten 1000 Jahre. Was Wird? Was bleibt?

Samples of the edition at
http://www.jahr2000.zeit.de or http://www.zeit.de


Edge is an occasionally updated e-zine with essays and debates on social, political, and cultural issues. It gathers thoughts from some of the most interesting people on the planet, and it's completely addictive reading. The magazine also runs an invitation-only forum, where hundreds of leading scientists and thinkers share their views on issues ranging from the meaning of numbers to genetics to affirmative action. Once gathered in the closed forum, comments are brought out on the site for further scrutiny and debate. Excerpts from two or three articles a month are also discussed in FEED (http://www.feedmag.com) where readers can add their own observations to Edge's debates. If we were truly in an attention economy, Edge's backers would be well on their way to becoming Rockefellers.



The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab has expanded a major effort to involve children from around the world in creating their common future. The initiative began in 1995 when Mr. Isao Okawa, chairman of SEGA Enterprises, attended the G7 conference of world leaders in 1995. Leaders from many countries were talking about the Global Information Infrastructure; Mr. Okawa felt that children should be involved in the discussion because today's children will be using the infrastructure much longer than today's leaders. In eight months, Mr. Okawa organized a Junior Summit in Tokyo. In November, 1998 MIT hosted the second Junior Summit, bringing together 100 children from around the world to present ideas and projects before an audience of leaders from industry, academia and government. Many groups talk about working for the benefit of future generations, but the Junior Summit is actually doing it.




(Two articles about genetics; one about plans to use the population of Iceland as a data bank for research into many aspects of human genetics - inherited diseases, genetic drift over long periods of time and so on; the second about possible costs to farmers of consumer resistance to genetically modified crops.)

Gendatenbank für ein ganzes Volk Vermarktung einer einzigartigen Ressource

Nächste Woche wird das isländische Parlament über einen Gesetzesvorschlag entscheiden, der bislang wahrhaft einzigartig ist und gleichzeitig eine neue Zeit der kommerziellen Genforschung einleiten könnte, bei der wieder einmal die Themen Datenschutz und geistiges Eigentum eine entscheidende Rolle spielen. Das Gesetz über eine medizinische Datenbank sieht vor, einer Firma, die dieses Gesetz vornehmlich formuliert hat und gleichzeitig dessen Nutznießer sein würde, das exklusive Recht über einen Zeitraum von 12 Jahren einzuräumen, die genetischen und medizinischen Daten aller Isländer in einer zentralen Datenbank sammeln und sie anonymisiert an interessierte Dritte weiter verkaufen zu können.


Wachsender Widerstand gegen Genpflanzen
Wird die EU zur biotechnologischen Wüste?

Auf dem European Biotechnology Forum (http://www.kluyver.stm.tudelft.nl/efb/tgppb/confs.htm) am 15. Und 16. 12. haben Wissenschaftler davor gewarnt, daß Europa im Bereich der Gentechnologie aufgrund des wachsenden Widerstands der Konsumenten gegen genetisch veränderte Lebensmittel zurückfallen könnte.
Das würde auch die europäische Landwirtschaft langfristig schädigen, da man in anderen Ländern wie in den USA oder Japan bereits genetisch veränderte Pflanzen in beträchtlichem Maße anbaue.




This study reveals that, unfortunately, many German businesses fall in the category of Still Not Getting It. The one third of companies surveyed who think that the web is not a serious business medium represents a major opportunity for both competitors and potential advisers; too bad the survey didn't break out the figures by industry. The 71 percent who cited lack of accepted business practices as a barrier to e-commerce also demonstrates that German business is, by and large, not the home of pioneers who will strike out on their own to set industry standards.

Gemini Consulting: German Businesses Appraise Ecommerce

A new study conducted jointly by Gemini Consulting,the University of Freiburg and Computer Zeitung reveals how companies in German speaking areas evaluate Web commerce. The study found that while over half of the companies surveyed have a positive view of the Internet, a third do not consider the Web a serious business medium. Further, over three-quarters of the executives surveyed say the Web cannot replace one-to-one contact with major consumers.

Just over 15 percent of companies offering online purchasing said their Web presence was profitable.A further 36 percent expect their Web sites to generate a profit in the next few years. A third of companies described their Web presence as a successful public relations tool. Fully 85 percent of respondents said that ecommerce had increased international competition in the market place. When questioned about the major barriers to ecommerce, 71.1 percent cited the lack of accepted online business practice. 70 percent pointed to the need for electronically signed contracts in order to speed up development. In contrast, technology issues were considered a minor hurdle.

(Source: Nua)



Japan's Nihon Net Research Foundation (a non-profit think tank underwritten by several leading Japanese companies) and the China Internet Research Foundation recently agreed to share research, engage in joint projects and exchange personnel. Peter Yip, vice chairman of China Internet Corp, said the link between the foundations promotes cross-border exchange of information in Asia and works as a "forum to bring government, commercial and academic elements together to develop the Internet." The two foundations plan to eventually co-develop an Asian Internet Research Foundation that will develop alternatives to US technology for regional markets. The agreement was reached late last year, so it is too early to expect results. On the one hand, the project has impressive backing; on the other, if the sole goal is to produce internet technology that is not American, well, that seems to be missing the point of the internet.

Read more:



Our portal on the digital revolution is growing by leaps and bounds. If you haven't visited recently, you'll find many new items.

Recently added to our Digital Documents list:

1. The Hi-Tech Gift Economy by Richard Barbrook

Barbrook argues that the 'New Economy' of cyberspace is an advanced form of social democracy.

2. Report of Ireland's Advisory Committee on Telecommunications, November 1998

Ireland is a digital hot spot. A group of American Internet experts (Vinton Cerf and other Internet gurus) has suggested in a report that Ireland, host to many U.S. computer companies' European headquarters and major manufacturing facilities such as Microsoft and Intel, could easily catch up to the United States and lead Europe as an e-commerce superpower.

Wired reports: The Dawn of the E-Shamrock

The Guardian online: Europe's wired isle

3. Networked Computing for the 21st Century

A report by the US National Science and Technology Council, Committee on Technology, Subcommittee on Computing, Information, and Communications R&D, August 1998

4. Towards 'digital intermediation' in the European information society

By Richard Hawkins, Robin Mansell, and W. Edward Steinmueller, Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) of the University of Sussex, June 1998

5. The European Information Society at the Crossroads, FAIR Annual Report, 1997

The central concern of 1997 FAIR Report is that the pace of technical innovation and the implementation of regulations increasing competition and liberalisation are proceeding more rapidly than other necessary social and economic changes. Translated from bureaucratese this means that many people in Europe aren't ready for a competitive, wired future.

Find more interesting woking papers by European scientists and consultants on socio-economic impact of advanced communications at

6. New books in our digital bibliography including:

Davis, Erik. Tech Gnosis. Harmony Books (1998)

In 'Techgnosis' Davis sets out a kind of secret history of the way mystical visions and dreams have always clustered around new technology, in particular communications technology.

Reviewed in Wired:

Reviewed in The Guardian online:



Web art exploding

Read about it in Wired:

Walker Art Center in Minneapolis:

The Thing, a New York based multimedia workshop and computer network for artists and activists.

World Development Report 1998/99.
Knowledge for Development.

The world bank report argues for the importance for developing countries to reduce technical knowledge gaps and improve quality control information via appropriate national policies and new media technologies like the Internet.


What is Cyber Society?

5th-7th July 1999 - What is Cyber Society? What are its social, political, economic and cultural dimensions? What are its theoretical and policy implications for the 21st century?

An International Conference at the School of Social, Political and Economic Sciences, University of Northumbria at Newcastle, UK.

Further details:



global_futures also offers an interactive forum. Recommendations, letters, and tips are welcomed by the editors, particularly on the topics of the digital future, biotechnology, sustainability and the new economy. Send all feedback to fgz@lrz.uni-muenchen.de.



Douglas Merrill, Patrick Meyer, Juergen Turek, Markus Vorbeck

Research Group on the Global Future
Center for Applied Policy Research
Geschwister Scholl Institute
Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich