messages and see through them and use them effectively. So I give our society a bit of patience in the sense that we are all learning how to do this and it takes time. You can't rush that process. It is based in human experience.

I am an optimist in the sense that, in theory, computer networking, both at an individual level and a decentralized level, ought to empower people and I think it does. I think a few people have discovered that. But it is not going to be truly democratic until a lot more people have discovered it and have the wherewithal to use it.

The second half of this is that right now, the Internet audience is a very, very special subset of American citizens, dominated by people who just love the technology and love to play with it and love to discover all of the unusual connections you can make through the Web and so forth. They are not users in the real sense of the word. There are a few, I grant that. But everyone wants to have a Web page, yet nobody asks who is really reading these Web pages? Who is really using the system? I think it is a very small group of mostly young techies, quite frankly, and libertarians. And I have total respect for their perspective, but these are people who are more or less acting alone, despite the illusion of connections. They are often not interested in real human engagement. But I don't want to over-generalize. So the question is, "Does it move beyond that stage?"

I fiddle around on the Internet and I've heard the hype, particularly from my young friends who are very enthusiastic about what it will do for our society, how it will empower people. But, quite frankly, I don't see it yet.

So I think in the broader sense, I am an optimist about the technology helping to revive democracy but I think the people who are creating these systems don't have that in mind. And why should they? That is not their role. And we have a lot of hard thinking to do as a society about empowering citizens for access and control before these technologies will deliver that promise.

GT: Turning to your new book, "One World Ready Or Not: The Manic Logic of Global Competition," you present a compelling analysis of run-away global capitalism which you describe as "a wondrous machine, with all its great power and creativity, [that] appears to be running out of control toward some sort of abyss." Can you explain why you say this?

Greider: The easiest way for people to understand what I'm trying to say is the historical framework. We are in the midst of an industrial revolution that is in many ways like previous industrial revolutions. It has been gathering acceleration for nearly forty years. And it is accelerating now, and dispersing and inventing and creating, and also destroying in the nature of industrial revolutions. If you think back to the last industrial revolution, the 1880s, 1890s and beyond, there are many similarities which I won't belabor. But the same kind of conventional wisdom drove politics in that era -- a kind of "isn't this amazing, we've got electricity and we've got automobiles and radio communications, the wireless telegraph, etc. And that's going to lead to wondrous plenty for everybody."

You have to understand that it did of course eventually lead to a broad American prosperity, but in between were World War I and World War II, the Great Depression, and generations of brutal social conflict and political upheaval as people tried to protect themselves from these forces. As they tried to get a share in the new prosperity, deep divisions formed within our own country, not to mention Europe

Blake Harris  |  Editor