Forbes Magazine, June 14th, 1999
Porn stocks and a plan by the notorious Dick Morris to turn product advertising into the same rough game that politicians play were the most interesting stories in the June 14, 1999 edition of Forbes. Sure, they're not tech stories, but they were the best stories.
Forbes, known for a bit of a conservative bent (see the publisher's presidential campaign), nonetheless gives us a porn business story full of titillation and excessively busty porn stars. It is made clear that those porn stocks are the real thing, so to speak, and not some surgically enhanced fakes.
The other cool story involved Morris. He wants to take the hardball political game to the sneaker wars. Here's one idea for an ad and I'm quoting:
"Reebok commercial for DMX footwear: Tennis pro Venus Williams and Olympic marathoner Martin Fiz in separate high-tech montages doing their sport to the tune of Jimi Hendrix's "Are You Experienced?" with voiceover: 'Are you feeling it?'"
Morris Version: Exploit competitor Nike's image problems relating to its suppliers. The ad should show an American kid wearing Nike sneakers dribbling a basketball. 'He'd shoot, then you'd go to the kid who's barefoot in a Third World country. And he's barefoot so You can wear Nikes'"
Ouch. Or as the headline for the story says "Yikes". Personally, I hope Morris goes for it. Unapologetic capitalists are always saying the market cures all ills. Well, it hasn't really done a lot for Third World indentured slavery. Perhaps the marketing of shame could change that.
Now, back on point. The most interesting pure tech story had to do with the apparently successful venture by scientists to perfect the use of the blue laser. Expected benefits include 20 gig DVD Drives, as opposed to the 4.7 gig you can get now, and to quote: "lightbulbs that cut energy use and last a decade, cheap desktop printers that rival magazine quality .billboard sized video screens with incredible clarity."
The other story had to do with the number of promising Diabetes treatments. My dad has to take insulin shots every day so I'm hoping that these new treatments, everything including inhalers to pills, will come on line soon.
New Scientist, May 22 1999
Frankly, most of what's in the New Scientist kind of goes over my head. I think that's by design. I can tell they're over my head because of the ads that they've placed for people who can clone "a wheat xylanase inhibitor and its effect on baking".
And since I'm not up on my grand unification theory it turns out that that I can't quite grasp why the decay of the proton might nix the theory of everything.
But I did understand their story about Nasa's attempt to create an internet connection between the Earth and Mars. According to the story, the attempt is to place a series of satellites over Mars so that one, you could better monitor planet and create kind of a Mars version of GPS, and two, as a way to relay info between satellites heading to the red planet.
According to the article: "If all goes to plan, the Mars Network will become the communications and navigation backbone that makes the future exploration of the Red Planet possible."
The other interesting article had to do with how scientist Rodney Brooks is working to create a robot that learns like a person. From the story, it appeared as if he's making slow progress. But if he's right, it could change everything.
Whole Earth Catalog, Spring 1999
So, what happens to Pittsburgh if it becomes a hi tech manufacturing mecca but nothing is done about the daily traffic snarl? Or if we lose all of our sports teams? Or even if the new county commissioner is a republican?
There are professionals out there who do that for a living. They're good at it and the answers they come up with provide directions for both companies and nations. And if you can sift through the lead story about dirt--this is the Whole Earth Catalog--you'll find yourself reading about scenario planning and scenario planners. They're otherwise known as futurists. Forty years back they simply would have been called science fiction writers.
There are a number of stories about disciplined future prediction. And they're all quite interesting. There's a first hand account of doing field work. There's also an interview with John Clute, known as the foremost critic of science fiction and fantasy alive today, about how scenario planning coincides with modern and past science fiction. So, if you're trying to visualize where your company or where your community might be in five years, this is invaluable reading.