December 21, 2009 By Chad Vander Veen
In 1982, when Arthur C. Clarke wrote his novel 2010, he imagined a world of technological progress wildly different from what resulted: Clarke envisioned that by 2010 we, with the Chinese and Soviets, would gallivant around the solar system in spaceships run by artificially intelligent -- and occasionally murderous -- computers.
In reality, our next-generation spaceships look suspiciously like those we built in the 1960s. But despite our unfulfilled interstellar ambitions, the first decade of the 21st century draws to a close heralding a forthcoming age even the most prescient science fiction authors could have scarcely predicted.
Technology, it was assumed, would be used to explore outward into the heavens. Although we've built an expensive outpost orbiting the Earth, the roads most of our technological advancements travel draw us inward toward digital communities, transparent government and a global battle for information security.
Like much of the decade, 2009 has seen much uncertainty. Our technology has brought us closer together and driven us further apart. Plentiful times spurred largely by technology have given way to economic despair. And escaping may largely depend on our technological prowess.
Still, the year dawned with renewed hope and optimism. Now, in its waning days, reality has tempered expectations, but we remain at the precipice of a new era -- born of digital interconnectedness, of economic opportunity and expansion, of finally freeing ourselves from the shackles of foreign oil. But such possibilities will require steadfast leaders who expand the scope of their duties and embrace innovation like never before.
Though rife with difficulty, there was much to savor in 2009. So as you steel yourselves for the challenges ahead, take a moment to reflect on the year that was.
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