Posted to, Thursday 30 December 1999
Call me naive, but I can't help marvel, risks or not, at what is going on. Here I am, on the penultimate day of the millennium (OK, I know, that will be next year, but what's wrong with celebrating twice?), listening through minuscule speakers on my computer to a broadcast of perfect sound quality from a site half-way around the world. It's playing something I know, but I can't just recall what it is. So I catch four Italian words on the fly and type "senza perdere un momento", not forgetting the quotes, into AltaVista. A second later, and perhaps fifteen seconds after I first asked myself the question "what is this?", I have the answer, thanks to someone at Stanford who keeps the full text of Donizetti's "Don Pasquale" on his Web pages.
Just a few years ago none of this would have been possible. I wouldn't have had a clue where to begin my search. Even a trip to the UCSB library would have been unlikely to help.
The prospects of using computers for advancement of human knowledge are all around us; they are staggering. Let's remember this as we continue (as well we should) worrying about the associated risks.