Academic journal article Journal of American & Comparative Cultures

The Road Ahead

Academic journal article Journal of American & Comparative Cultures

The Road Ahead

Article excerpt

The Road Ahead. Bill Gates, with Nathan Myhrvold and Peter Rinearson. New York: Penguin Books, 1995. 286 pp. Hardback $29.95.

New technology will shape the talents and abilities of future communicators as the information highway evolves in the twenty-first century. Location will cease to be a significant variable in the borderless world of communications, while collaboration will be enriched in all arenas both business and professional. These are some of the predictions Bill Gates makes in looking ahead to a world "less tethered to paper" (135).

One would expect such optimistic predictions from an entrepreneur who has built his fortune on the technologies he touts. Sometimes Gates goes overboard in seeing the information highway as a panacea to cure all ills. Also it is disconcerting to hear him describe computers being given human personalities, decision-making capabilities, and tactile attributes.

While the information highway will provide specialized content for users, it will not be profitable until it becomes a true mass media, Gates predicts. This extends far beyond its current level of use. Gates is talking about mass media in the sense that television is found virtually everywhere.

While technologies exist to create interactive storylines, Gates believes traditional linear story-telling will remain. Everybody needs to understand the same plot if there is to be a shared culture experience, he explains. Gates, the internationally known computer genius, comes across as "a regular guy" when he discusses his love for movies.

The regular guy image gives way to that of a "techno mad scientist" when he lets readers know about his house in the Seattle area. Although he says he tried to avoid the James Bond type gadgetry, that is the best way to label it. …

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