What do Microsoft chief Bill Gates, MIT President Charles Vest, MIT alumnus Kofi Annan and business mogul Martha Stewart have in common?
All have contributed their predictions to the MIT Sloan Digital Time Capsule that Sloan sealed into its new web site. The time capsule was sealed and the new community-built web site was launched at a special event last Thursday before a Wong Auditorium crowd of 300 MIT students, faculty, staff and alumni/ae as well as several Internet experts.
To celebrate the Sloan site relaunch and capture the spirit and essence of the Internet and business in early 1999, Sloan faculty, staff, alumni/ae and business partners proposed and collected digitized artifacts for the capsule that will act as a moment of Internet time. It contains digital samples in many media (music, images, online sound clips, video and text) that reflect the crumbling Asian economy, the new Euro currency, soaring Internet startups, online Internet news, leading e-zines, and hot e-commerce businesses such as Amazon.com. The capsule, encrypted and sealed, will be opened in the year 2004.
Sloan Dean Richard Schmalensee, who hosted the event, also announced plans to offer MBA students a new Electronic Commerce and Marketing management track (part of a new multidisciplinary research and education program) expected to be ready for student enrollment by the fall 1999.
"By capturing time now, we will have a snapshot of the Internet and e-commerce in 1999. As we move forward with Sloan's e-commerce research and curriculum initiatives, we will see in 2004 how successful we were and how far the Internet will have come," Dean Schmalensee said. "The time capsule also is a fun way to capture the creativity and innovation that represents MIT's entrepreneurial environment."
Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations and a 1972 graduate of the Sloan Fellows Program, said of the future of the Internet, "In business, the Internet is radically reshaping the way in which goods and services are produced and distributed. It is revolutionizing the international division of labor. It offers the best chance yet for developing countries to take their rightful place in the global economy."
"The Internet, intelligent controllers and sophisticated logistical software will greatly reduce environmental damage by optimizing the production, use and conservation of energy on a national and international scale," predicted President Vest.
From the Lab for Computer Science, Professor Michael Dertouzos predicted, "There will be $3-4 trillion of activity in the first 25 years of the information marketplace. The annual flow of dollars will occupy one-fourth of the industrial economies in 30 years. One-half to one billion people will be connected by the Internet within a decade."
"In the realm of production, the Internet will be used to intensify the labor cycle, so that people work harder, faster and longer (weekends and evenings consumed by business e-mail, for example)," offered Dean of Students and Undergraduate Education Rosalind Williams.
Said Nobel Laureate Professor Phillip Sharp, "I look forward to the time when my personal connection to the Internet is as mobile as the cellular phone."
The capsule also includes predictions from other MIT notables: Dean Schmalensee, Professor Emeritus Jay Forrester, 3Com founder and MIT alumnus Robert Metcalfe and former Sloan Dean Glen Urban.
The future of business and the media on the Internet also was the subject of a panel of interactive media experts led by Roger Black, foremost designer of major media and web sites and author of Web Sites that Work. Panel participants included Neil Budde, editor of Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition; Lincoln Millstein, vice president of new media at the Boston Globe; Beau Brendler, managing producer of ABCNEWS.com; Bill Weber, editor of Boston Herald.com; Trish Barber, director of business development of AOL/Boston; and Alan Webber, founding editor of Fast Company magazine.
The award-winning Interactive Bureau of New York City, the firm founded by Mr. Black, designed the new Sloan site, which was developed and produced in a collaborative effort involving more than 150 members of the Sloan and MIT communities. For a closer look at the Digital Time Capsule and the new Sloan web site, see http://mitsloan.mit.edu.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 10, 1999.