We have to work in the future now.

(In fact, we are already late.)

Technological change has accelerated to the point where we do not simply have to change our technological base more frequently, but we have to work in a technology that does not exist yet but that we predict will be dominant in the future. We need to comply with CORBA standards that are scarcely implemented now. We have to code in Java although there are not yet any tools for doing that. We need to incorporate software components that may not be available for years (and who knows what they will look like or what functionality they will support if they ever do become available). I do not say all this to conclude that we should stick with our old and do-able technology. On the contrary, I think we have no choice but to work in the unknowable future; I think that is the way it will be from now on.

These new work circumstances require far more than Life-Long learning. That was a strategy for the old days when you merely had to keep adjusting to the times and learn the current technology. Now we have to predict the future. Even more, we have to create the future. If we conclude that the evidence is over-whelming that Java will be the programming language of 1997 than we have to start programming in it now or we will be hopelessly outdated by 1997. (Even in late 1995, before Java was released on any platform, I was asked in a job interview by a company turning out a Java product if I was an experienced Java programmer. Of course, I said Yes because I was already living in the future.) If I start programming in Java I have to develop my software to take advantage of object libraries, of components, of plug-ins and of global software environments that I cannot even dream of. As I and millions of other programmers around the world begin to do this, we create the future that includes all these things.

It used to be that heads of companies like Apple, IBM, Microsoft, Sun would scheme in back offices to create the future, driven by anticipated quarterly bottom-lines. Now the discussion is out on the Web. The new capitalism is driven by hype about the future. If Sun and Netscape can convince the programming world that the future is aligned with their forth-coming products, then and only then those products will create wealth. The Web is a medium for involving the whole world in creating this profitable future. If we want our products that we are undertaking now to look good when they come out in demos, papers, conferences, resumes or shrink-wrap boxes then we have to be skilled players in this futures game.

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This page last modified on January 05, 2004