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IT Confidential: Apocalypse Now, Or Is It Low-Level EMFs?

I've resisted thinking of this period in world history as the "End Times," what some people see as the last years before a fast-approaching end of the world, cessation of time, the big blow-off, the final curtain.
I've resisted thinking of this period in world history as the "End Times," what some people see as the last years before a fast-approaching end of the world, cessation of time, the big blow-off, the final curtain. Whether they see it resulting from technological disaster, cultural imperialism, political intrigue, or fulfillment of religious scripture, many people--more and more every day, it seems--are afraid we're witnessing the signs of impending apocalypse. And, suddenly, so am I.

I've deliberately ignored the early warning signals--the Red Sox winning the World Series, another Clinton presidential candidacy--chalking them up to global warming or low-level EMFs. But last week saw developments that can be interpreted no other way. Let me enumerate and explicate.

1) Microsoft is offering to let other vendors look at its source code for Windows. I know there are limitations to this offer--it's strictly lookee-no-touchee and applies only to specific parts of the source code--but still, for things to come to this point, for Microsoft to open up the product it has spent a zillion worker hours and a trillion dollars developing, either the world is coming to an end or hell is hosting the NHL playoffs. Windows is the product Bill Gates bet his company on and swore no one would ever get an inside look at, the product he ruthlessly crushed competitors with in large part due to the fact nobody else knew how the hell the thing worked.

2) The general public is afraid of online crime more than physical crime. According to an IBM survey on computer security, more respondents are afraid they will be bilked online than held up on the street. This can be interpreted two ways: (A) Some people feel the streets are safe to walk again; if so, please write me the location of said street (cross-street, city, state, ZIP code), or (B) the Internet is a haven for hucksters, con artists, and criminals. Since we know A can't be true, and B always has been true, the only thing we can conclude is that a certain portion of the population is losing all sense of perspective, probably due to media overexposure.

3) Several vendors have gotten together to fight spyware, including Google, Lenovo, and Sun. This sounds noble-minded enough, and it probably is, but remember this: There was a time when a company's online strategy equaled spyware. That was, of course, before it was called spyware, instead referred to euphemistically as "customer-tracking software," or something equally unthreatening. Now the industry has chosen to attack its own. These vendors have even coined the term "badware," which, as a substitute for spyware is both more judgmental and unassuming at the same time--a neat trick. When applied to the software industry as a whole, though, badware isn't a bad generalization.

OK, so maybe these aren't the signs of a rapidly approaching Armageddon. Instead, they may be signs of a rapidly changing technology industry, for which we may just be better off in the long run--if there is a long run.

Why are there more dystopian novels about the future than utopian ones? More 1984s than, uh ... Know of anybody with a positive view of the future? Or an industry tip? Send it to [email protected], or call (516) 562-5326.


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