In 1988, after the introduction of Perestrojka but before the fall of the Sovjet Union, the president of United States of America, Ronald Reagan, gives a speech at the Moscow State University. One decade before the internet becomes accessible to the average citizen, the former Hollywood Cowboy addresses the need for a universal embracing of what he calls the ”new economy”.
Standing here before a mural of the Soviet revolution, I want to talk about a very different revolution that is taking place right now, quietly sweeping the globe without bloodshed or conflict. Its effects are peaceful, but they will fundamentally alter our world, shatter old assumptions, and reshape our lives. It’s easy to underestimate because it’s not accompanied by banners or fanfare. It’s been called the technological or information revolution, and as its emblem, one might take the tiny silicon chip.
Information technology is transforming our lives – replacing manual labor with robots, forecasting weather for farmers, or mapping the genetic code of DNA for medical researchers. These microcomputers today aid the design of everything from houses to cars to spacecraft; they even design better and faster computers. Linked by a network of satellites and fiber-optic cables, one individual with a computer and a telephone commands resources unavailable to the largest governments just a few years ago.
Like a chrysalis, we’re emerging from the economy of the Industrial Revolution – an economy confined to and limited by the Earth’s physical resources – into “The Economy in Mind”, in which there are no bounds on human imagination and the freedom to create is the most precious natural resource. In the new economy, human invention increasingly makes physical resources obsolete. We’re breaking through the material conditions of existence to a world where man creates his own destiny.
Today the world looks expectantly to signs of change. There are some, I know, who fear that change will bring only disruption and discontinuity, who fear to embrace the hope of the future – sometimes it takes faith. It’s like that scene in the cowboy movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”.
The posse is closing in on the two outlaws, Butch and Sundance. They find themselves trapped on the edge of a cliff, with a sheer drop of hundreds of feet to the raging rapids below.
Butch turns to Sundance and says their only hope is to jump into the river below Johan
But Sundance refuses. He says he’d rather fight it out with the posse, even though they’re hopelessly outnumbered.
Butch says ”That’s suicide” and urges him to jump,
Sundance still refuses and finally admits, “I can’t swim.”
Butch breaks up laughing and says, “You crazy fool, the fall will probably kill you.”
And, by the way, both Butch and Sundance made it, in case you didn’t see the movie