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

06.12.2000 · Research Group on the Global Future

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

Concern for man himself and his fate must always form the chief interest of all technical endeavors ... in order that the creations of our mind shall be a blessing and not a curse to mankind. Never forget this in the midst of your diagrams and equations. -- Albert Einstein, 1931 Address to the California Institute of Technology

(1) Dot.com and Friends
(2) Health Care and Medicine
(3) Noted in Passing



At its November meeting in Marina del Rey, California, ICANN - the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (http:www.icann.org, news21.htm) - selected seven new generic top-level domains to join the well-known .com, .net, and .org.
The new domains are

.aero and

(The less widely recognized .gov, .mil and .int will continue to operate without changes, as will the country top-level domains like .de, .uk, and even .tv.)

The .biz domain is aimed toward business, as a supplement to .com. The rationale behind .info is more obscure, as it was the proposing group's second choice, behind .web, but perusal of their documents (http://www.icann.org/tlds/info1/) points toward a business-oriented space. The .name domain will allow individuals to register their own names, with the registrar controlling the family name and individuals entering their first names. Thus one of the editors of this newsletter could set up richard.resch.name; it is not yet clear how the operators intend to deal with multiple persons with the same name. The .pro designation is intended for licensed professionals, such as doctors and lawyers, to make themselves known; registrars have said that they will require proof and credentials before allowing the registration of, say, juergen.turek.lawyer.pro.

The more narrowly conceived .museum, .aero, and .coop are intended to serve museums, airlines, and cooperatives. Thus, it will no longer be necessary to wonder if the Louvre is a .org or a .net. (It's actually .fr.)

The top-level domains (TLDs) are known as "generic" because they are not tied to a specific location, although .gov and .mil are limited to the government and military of the USA. Top-level domains were introduced in a major reform of the internet that pre-dates the world wide web, in order to end confusion caused by a proliferation of named spaces in the net. At that time, all domains were herded into top-level categories, mostly the generic TLDs. Thus, the Georgia Institute of Technology became gatech.edu, rather than just gatech.

Since the explosion of the web, the largest number of domains have been registered in the .com TLD - the December issue of Wired magazine puts the portion at more than 60% - leading to the perception that the .com space is overcrowded and confusing for users. Proposals for new TLDs have been brewing for several years, and a number of self-help approaches have borne some results. (See Noted in Passing below.)

The new top-level domains are expected to be up and running in the first part of 2001. All of them were required to tell how they would handle intellectual property disputes, with the hope of sparing the new internet space controversies that have cost considerable time and money in existing domains. On the other hand, given the amount of money involved, and the uncertain policies implied - can, for instance, the administrators of .pro check the credentials of lawyers in every country on earth - disputes seem certain to continue.



Booming markets of the 21st century

Health care systems and markets increasingly are important. The breathtaking progress in biotechnology and genetic engineering may make it possible to cure hitherto incurable diseases. There are visions that in the 21st century incurable diseases will no longer exist.

However, biotechnology and genetic engineering are only one aspect of progress in this area. Furthermore, modern medicine creates also new instruments for a holistic medicine sector which includes both psycho- social diseases as well as environmental disasters. For the German scientist, Leo A. Nefiodow, psycho-social health is the most important basic innovation in the upcoming decades. He described this development last on the future-oriented conference Millenium Tage in Kassel, Germany, that dealt with the future of health.

From his point of view, physical and mental disorders have reached such an extent that quality of life is being challenged. For example 14 percent of developed countries' population are estimated to be psychological ill; fear and anxiety produce in Germany costs of around DM100 billion per year (nearly 90 percent of German managers report going to their jobs every day with fear); the world market place for drugs is estimated at US$800 billion. On the whole, social, psychological, mental and ecological disorders and diseases increasingly are hindering positive development in modern societies.

In the past, health care lost its approach as a holistic view of human beings. This leads to the necessity to create a new health sector. To this belongs the wellness- and life-style-wave: personal well-being, the feeling for one's own body, and good nutrition. Furthermore, to this sector belongs both the environmental as well as the religious sector. Nefiodow has no doubt that the demand for holistic health will be an economic engine and locomotive in the 21st century.

(Find more information in his German-language book "Der sechste Kondratieff. Wege zu Produktivität und Vollbeschäftigung" and in the documentation of the Millenium Tage, Kassel. The documentation is available in German from the office of Millennium Tage-Kassel, Postfach 10 12 67, 34012 Kassel (DM78,-) or, in a less detailed form, on the internet at www.millenium-tage-kassel.de)



1. Updated Web Site

We've fine-tuned our web site to make it easier to navigate and to highlight our most recent projects and events. Quicker access to past events, direct reach into our topical portals, and capsule descriptions of our categories are just some of the things that we have done to improve visitors' experience of the global future.

We have also just reviewed British philosopher John Gray's newest book, False Dawn: The Illusions of Global Capitalism, to coincide with its publication in German. Read the review by Richard Resch.

2. Alternative Net

While much media attention focuses on ICANN, and its presumed authority in setting standards for the global internet, the coropoation and the system it oversees are, strictly speaking, voluntary. When a web user clicks on an address, the browser looks to a local Domain Name Server to translate the name into the numbers that make up true internet addresses. All of the Domain Name Servers have tables to look up the correspondence between names and numbers; these tables are in turn based on tables housed by thirteen root servers - ten in the USA, two in Europe and one in Japan.

Most systems are set up to look through the local servers, and these confirm their tables with the root servers. It is possible, however, to configure software to look at other Domain Name Servers, and other root servers. There are a number of alternative root servers, supporting domains like .parody, .geek, or .oss (for operating systems). It may not be easy to find them, though; efforts to research both http://www.open-rsc.org/ and http://www.youcann.org met with technical errors.

3. Commentators Anonymous

One currently active question in privacy disputes in the USA is whether companies that believe they are maligned in chat discussions can force operators to reveal the identity of the person behind the nickname. This is a rapidly evolving field of law, and no clear standards have yet emerged. On the one hand, anonymous rumors can have effects on companies' stock values, and other important business elements. (Indeed, long running urban legends about a clothing maker and a retailer have hurt their businesses for years, and a number of market frauds have been committed by using chat about companies to manipulate prices.) On the other, anonymous speech has a long and honorable tradition in the United States, and has recently been valuable for whistleblowers to expose misdeeds.

The most recent court ruling in this area, handed down by a judge in New Jersey, stated that the company in question had not proved that it was harmed by the postings, and that he would not grant it the legal support necessary to reveal the posters' identities.

As reported by ZDNet: Abby Notterman, counsel at Internet Crimes Group Inc., a Princeton, N.J., firm that investigates message-board postings for corporate clients, said the decision should demonstrate to companies that lawsuits are a poor way to root out online critics. "The suits are really about attacking a fly with a hammer," she says. "The judge is saying the courts shouldn't be used by corporations to unmask individuals, and I think that is a reasonable decision."

4. The New Millenium

The third millenium will begin on January 1, 2001, following the completion of two thousand years. Not that there will be extra fireworks, or world-wide television coverage, but it is nice to get the facts about the future and the past straight sometimes. global_futures wishes you a happy holiday season and will return in the new year.



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.



Sascha Meinert, Douglas Merrill, Richard Resch, Juergen Turek

Research Group on the Global Future
Center for Applied Policy Research
Geschwister Scholl Institute
Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich
Maria-Theresia-Strasse 21
D-81675 Munich, Germany
Tel: +49 89 2180 1300