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Special Event

Millennium 2000: Seeing the Future

Aired January 3, 2000 - 5:12 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANNOUNCER: What far-fetched idea did Arthur C. Clarke propose in 1945? The answer: global satellite communications. In his article "Extraterrestrial Relays" Clarke proposed that three satellites placed at an equal distance around the globe in a stationary orbit could provide global coverage and solve the world's long distance global telecommunications problems.

In 1962, Telstar I launched, becoming the first satellite to transmit live television signals and telephone conversations across the Atlantic Ocean. Half a century later, about 150 communications satellites provide global coverage.

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: In recent days and weeks, we've heard many predictions about the future, even here on CNN, uttered by some of our guests during our special millennial coverage.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And some of those predictions actually may come true. At least that's the prediction of CNN's Garrick Utley, who looks at forecasting the future and the brain-power required to perform that task.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARRICK UTLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From the Oracle Delphi in ancient Greece, to the predictions of Nostradamus, there has been an eternal human desire to see the future.

"I wish to work miracles," said Leonardo da Vinci, the renaissance artist, engineer and thinker. His visionary mind saw a helicopter in the future, he saw artillery, and this tank with wheels and armored siding. He even envisaged cars and the contact lens. His goal, Leonardo said, was to know how to see.

Five hundred years later, Jules Verne captivated readers with his vision, traveling 20,000 leagues under the sea in a submarine. Of traveling around the world in 80 days, of traveling from the Earth to the Moon, science fiction, you say; perhaps. But Verne, who wrote in 1873, place the site of his moon launch near Tampa, Florida, not far from where the Apollo astronauts lifted off to the moon.

Visions of the future require a vivid imagination and a sense of the possible. The mind of Arthur C. Clarke provided both in "2001, A Space Odyssey." Some of his predictions were close to the mark. The computer Hal, who seemed almost human. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "20001, A SPACE ODYSSEY")

"HAL": I am putting myself to the fullest possible use, which is all I think that any conscious entity can ever hope to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UTLEY: Others missed, the original Pan Am isn't flying anywhere anymore, least of all into space. Clarke's lasting vision, though, was based not on fantasy but hard fact. In 1945, he calculated that a satellite, put into orbit 23 miles above the Earth, would remain in a fixed position over the Earth. He predicted that only three of these satellites could connect the entire world with sound and pictures.

Since that prediction, more than 7000 satellites of all kinds have been launched, and this program is bouncing off several of them.

(on camera): What these great minds had in common, of course, is that they were exceptional minds filled with imagination and open to fantasy, based on fact. What they could not predict, though, was that the mind itself, the brain, could be altered, changed for the better. In the 21st century, that will happen.

(voice-over): A man who already sees how that world will look is Fred Gauge (ph), a neuroscientist at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California. In 1998, he and his colleagues discovered what science had long rejected, that the brain can create new brain cells.

DR. FRED GAUGE: The big surprise was that there were some of these cells that could continue to give rise to neurons in the brain.

UTLEY: Which means neurons needed for basic human functioning can be regenerated.

GAUGE: How much capacity does the brain have for repairing itself or being repaired after damage? So that's the major focus of what we've been involved with.

UTLEY: Dr. Gauge's inspiration and insight, like scientific visionaries before him, came in his laboratory. Working with mice, he found the more they exercised, even older mice, the more their healthy brain cells divided to create new cells and neurons for learning and memory.

(on camera): For example, right now there's a mouse running on that wheel over there.

GAUGE: Yes.

UTLEY: He's using up a lot of energy.

GAUGE: Right.

UTLEY: So what is happening in his brain?

GAUGE: I think we can say that the animals that run in the running wheel have more cells dividing in their brain.

UTLEY (voice-over): New brain cells that can be seen.

GAUGE: And these are the controls. These are the animals that had a running experience from which you can see quite clearly is that the animals that have a running experience have more new cells in their brain.

UTLEY: What this shows is not only how important exercise is for the brain, but also that new brain cells can be used to replace old, dead ones.

GAUGE: I think that these results can potentially have important implications for individuals because it means that if all of this unfolds as we think it's going to unfold we actually have more control over our own mental destiny than we previously thought, even most mature individuals.

UTLEY: A first step in that control over our mental destiny is expected in the next five to 10 years with a memory pill to halt normal memory loss. And predictions for the 21st century are even more breathtaking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to be able to correct and prevent many of the diseases of man. I predict in the future people will live beyond 120 years and do so in a healthy and productive manner.

UTLEY: Through the centuries and the millennia, the most compelling question has been the future of us. If Leonardo da Vinci illustrated the fascination with the body and how it works, Jules Verne described the power of the mind and imagination. "Whatever one is capable of conceiving," he wrote, "others will be able to achieve."

Garrick Utley, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHEN: Ideas from the visionaries of the past and the present, but where do we find the great thinkers of the future?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: They can make criminals, like, better. They can delete their minds.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Look no further than the classroom, playground or romper room.

That, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He turned the whole world around, when it came to rock 'n' roll, rockabilly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Born in 1935, Elvis Aaron Presley popularized rock 'n' roll music by blending the sounds of country to the beats of rhythm and blues.

During the height of his career, in the 1950s, Elvis sold millions of houses and packed movie houses across the country, starring in 31 feature films, including "Viva Las Vegas" with Ann Margaret.

Over one billion Elvis Presley albulls have been sold worldwide, more than any other musician in history.

On August 16, 1977, Elvis was found dead in his Graceland mansion outside of Memphis, tennessee. To this day, more than one million Elvis fans visit Graceland annually.

BLITZER: The name Elvis Presley has little or no meaning for today's children. For them, most of their life will be spent in the 21st century, and it remains to be seen what their future holds.

CHEN: In Southern California, correspondent Anne McDermott found youngsters who are thinking ahead and looking forward to it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNE MCDERMOTT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Raise your hand if you can tell me what an L.P. is.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT: L.P.?

MCDERMOTT (voice-over): Nope, they've never seen a needle on a record or a TV that only got a couple of channels or a world without computers. And they don't really remember Ronald Reagan. They've never seen the "Mary Tyler Moore Show." And the Vietnam War, ancient history.

(on camera): Raise your hand if you can tell me when the Vietnam War was.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT: In the 19 something.

ALMESHA SMITH, STUDENT: 1993, something like that.

MCDERMOTT (voice-over): Of course they haven't studied it in school yet. But beyond that, their world is different from ours. The eyes of these children are fixed firmly on the future.

(on camera): So you all are looking forward to this new millennium, am I right?

JAMGOTCHIAN: The best part about the new millennium...

MCDERMOTT (voice-over): They believe it will all be wondrous. JAMGOTCHIAN: We wouldn't go to school because we could just say put this microchip in our head and ta-da, we learned everything we want to know.

MCDERMOTT: What does she wish?

SMITH: It's like have you ever watched "Back To the Future?" The flying car? I've dreamed of that.

MCDERMOTT: He dreams of machines.

SONNY ONORATI, STUDENT: You would press this one button and that means you could like talk to animals and like maybe like you could talk to babies or something.

MCDERMOTT: They are certain that the future will be fun, that there will still be a Disneyland but with rides to the moon and roller coasters that really roar.

KELLY SANDERS, STUDENT: You'd get in it and it like took off and it went around like the whole entire world.

MCDERMOTT: Movies? They will be amazing.

ONORATI: We will like have 3D movies and...

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT: 3D movies...

ONORATI: ... like real explosions would like go right into your face.

MCDERMOTT: But they won't hurt. These kids never want to see anyone get hurt. And they seem to think the world of the future will be a world without war. Sure, there'll be bad guys. But thanks to new technology, they'll get good again.

BRIAN SHIN, STUDENT: They can make criminals like better. They can delete their minds.

MCDERMOTT: What about aliens? Well, what kind of millennium would it be without men from Mars?

JAMGOTCHIAN: We could make friends with aliens and maybe the aliens could suggest better techniques.

MCDERMOTT: And we could show them special chewing gum.

ONORATI: Like let's say you're an alien and you like get a human gum, you turn into like a human, maybe.

MCDERMOTT: A dazzling vision. But will it come true? They think so. They sure hope so.

ALLISON GREEN: The only thing I wish is for this world to be a better place for us and all creatures and almost plants and all living things. MCDERMOTT: We shall see.

Anne McDermott, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHEN: We hope they are right.

What do the Internet, medicine and politics have in common? All three have a pretty sizeable impact on our present and on our future.

BLITZER: They're also three subjects we're going to explore in- depth, coming up, as our coverage of the millennium continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHEN: Hello, and welcome back to our special 100-hour coverage of the new millennium.

In this hour, we're looking to the future and considering what life may be like in the years ahead.

BLITZER: We begin with a topic important to everyone on the planet. What does the future hold for medical care?

Joining us now from our Washington bureau, Dr. Martin Makary, a physician at Georgetown University Hospital and a trauma surgeon at D.C. General Hospital.

Dr. Makary, thank you so much for joining us on this millennium coverage of ours.

What does the future hold in terms of new technological breakthroughs that all of us might be able to envisage in this 21st century, some of the more important things you see on the horizon?

DR. MARTIN MAKARY, TRAUMA SURGEON, D.C. GENERAL: Well, what's exciting so far is the use of a microscopic camera called a laparoscope. Many Americans have had surgery now with this scope, which can be placed through a small, one-inch incision, sparing patients a large operation. Many Americans have had knee surgery, a gall bladder removed, and patients can often go home the same day of the surgery.

Lasers are very promising, and new medicines have both eliminated the need for certain operations, and, on the other hand, they have made other operations like liver and kidney transplants a lot more successful.

BLITZER: So looking, using these three new technologies you just talked about, which are already basically, some of them at least, in their infancy, in operation. where would the practical benefit for a sick person, an ill person, an aging person, some practical benefits, at least in the next 10 to 20 years, become?

MAKARY: Well, certainly within the next 10 years here, more and more patients will have surgery with the microscopic laparoscope, many patients are benefiting from these medicines. Life expectancy in the last 25 years has increased by nine years on average, and certainly I think we're going to see many more developments in terms of medical therapy and new advances in surgery.

However, because the techniques are getting better and safer, there are more indications that rather than suffering with a gall bladder, now sometimes surgery can be done quickly, but on the flip side, more expensively.

BLITZER: But these new, cutting-edge technologies in medicine -- right now, at least, they're basically only available in the United States and some of the other Western nations. Most of the world won't see these for some time to come. Is that right?

MAKARY: That's exactly right. Hopefully, that will be within the next ten years, but the disparity in who gets access to these high technologies is, similar to the Internet, a major access problem. And we still deal with 44 million Americans who have really no health insurance, and the concern is this number continue gross despite our country's prosperity.

BLITZER: So put on your crystal ball. Tell us how that may or may not change over the next decade or so.

MAKARY: Well, many of us in medicine are hoping that the concept of universal health care coverage will be extended from the people that already have it, which are Americans over the age of 65, in the form of Medicare, and U.S. Veterans, in the form of the free V.A. health care system, the next step perhaps will be children, who constitute approximately 25 percent of those 44 million Americans who are uninsured.

BLITZER: You know, as we're looking ahead, when I was a kid growing up in the '50s and the '60s, a lot of people were then predicting there would be a cure for cancer, certainly by the end of the century. We now know, of course, those predictions did not turn out. Is there ever going to be a cure for cancer?

MAKARY: The strides that we've made in cancer research have been monumental. And right now, the research is moving at light speed, identifying genes which cause cancer. And perhaps one of the greatest discoveries in the past few years has been a very practical application of a blood test known as the PSA test. It's essentially a way to, from a blood sample, tell whether or not you've got cancer and need further workup. Hopefully, we'll see a simple blood test to screen people for other types of cancer, like breast cancer and pancreatic cancer and hopefully lung cancer...

BLITZER: Yes...

MAKARY: ... but remember...

BLITZER: Go ahead.

MAKARY: Well, we already have the answer for a lot of the problems in terms of the causes of heart disease and cancer and stroke, which are the No. 1, 2 and 3 killers in the United States. Perhaps a better application of the preventive aspect might be the focus.

In terms of a molecular medical-based cure for cancer, I see that happening probably within 20 to 50 years.

BLITZER: And finally, Dr. Makary -- we only have a few seconds left -- we've heard other experts predict it won't be very long before people in the United States, at least, live to be about 120 years old. Do you see that happening anytime soon?

MAKARY: Hopefully just in time before I need to pass on. But I would say that perhaps we're at that point now where we've eliminated the unnecessary deaths at the early stage of life, so we've brought the average up to where it should be. At this point, I think any advances in life expectancy are going to be moving very slowly.

BLITZER: OK, Dr. Martin Makary, let's hope that all of us manage to get to that 120 stage and we're still alive in order to take advantage of the new medical breakthroughs. Thank you so much for joining us.

MAKARY: Thank you.

BLITZER: Thank you -- Joie.

CHEN: One hundred and twenty and enjoying it, that's what I'd like to think of.

We're also thinking ahead to something that is more and more a part of all of our lives, the Internet and its future. For foresight and insight into that, we're joined by the president and CEO of Yahoo!, Jeffrey Mallett, who joins us in Mountain View, California.

Thank you for being with us, Jeff.

JEFFREY MALLETT, CEO, YAHOO!: Thank you.

CHEN: There's so much that the Internet already does in our lives. Every day, it seems like I find myself on the Web and I think, holy cow. It does this, I can do all of this. Is it a matter now of there being other things the Internet can do that we haven't tried yet, or is it just perfecting what already exists there?

MALLETT: Well, the more you look at it the more that it's sort of a horizontal thing, where it's being threaded into everything we do, as you talked about, in our society, being able to distribute information and connect people, connect devices, connect information together. So more and more we're seeing it as reflecting what society is already doing, but now we're having a new vehicle in order to get information back and forth.

CHEN: But will it reach all of us? It hasn't yet.

MALLETT: It's both big and small. Big in there's 150 million people connected to the Web today, 300 million in the next 24 months. But it only represents less than three percent of the adult population in the world. In order for the Web to live up to its promises, we're going to need to make sure it doesn't become an "us" and "them" type medium, and we need to begin distributing this to more and more people around the globe.

CHEN: So is the biggest limitation for the Internet just a matter of money, access?

MALLETT: Right now, at this current stage of the Web, it's a combination of different things. Access is definitely one, making sure that we can make the Web available to people in different economic and social environments, different geographic environments, and also for the ability for folks to be able to distribute information out to others quickly and efficiently. Those are the two biggest challenges today.

CHEN: Are there things that worry you about how the Internet might be used or is being used today?

MALLETT: Well, because it represents society, as I talked about before, you're going to get the good and you're going to get the bad. But in order for it overall to make the biggest impact on people today, we need to leave it as an open platform, allow people to express their opinions, distribute their information, connect with other people. And with that, you need to also remain wary that there will be some good along with the bad.

CHEN: Is there, though, a broader sense in your mind? I mean, I was thinking about those children in the report we heard earlier saying that in the future technology would be able the take crime out of our lives or criminals out of our lives or make this world a less hateful, crime-filled, horrible place. Is it in your mind possible for the Internet to act in that function as well?

MALLETT: I really hope so. And specifically the Web can actually distribute knowledge like we've never seen before. A more knowledgeable or informed individual out there should allow them to make better choices, be aware of things that they may not have been aware of in the past. So I think in, you know, over next 10 years, it's tough to find anything else that's going to make a greater impact on society.

CHEN: We talk about the people now who we think back in history as being great thinkers, visionaries, the Nostradamus, the Da Vincis, the people of the past that we're still thinking about their ideas today and how they actually came to pass. Is there a great thinker out there on the -- in the Internet field today that maybe you're aware of that most of us don't think about? Is there one person that you would think, wow, listen to this guy or this woman? Does this individual have a great idea about how the Internet will be used?

MALLETT: There's a lot of great, smart people who are looking forward in the future, are executing, delivering on the promises today. But I think the great thing about the Web is it's all about millions and millions of people who feel they own the web and are contributing to the Web. That's what makes it really special and allows people who are experts in a particular mindset, whether it's health or education or our commerce, to be able to get the message out. But it's not any one particular person. It's all about the people.

CHEN: Jeffrey Mallet, of Yahoo!, thanks very much for being with us. Jeffrey Mallett is with us from Mountain View, California today.

BLITZER: And one sure-fire prediction for the new millennium: Kids will be kids and kids will play, but what they will play, that is the question. When our millennium 2000 coverage continues, toys of the future. Legos aren't just building blocks anymore.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHEN: The voters have spoken, and the answer is resounding: They want more Beanie Babies. Toymaker Ty Incorporated recently announced that it would retire the popular beanbag creatures, but then decided that consumers should have a say on the subject. And the company set up a virtual voting booth on its Web site. And an overwhelming 91 percent of those who cast cybervotes wanted it to continue producing Beanie Babies. Ty today announced the results, but not what it plans to do next. It says only to "expect the unexpected."

BLITZER: And consider this: Beanie Babies are nothing more than fabric filled with beans, and they are crossing successfully over into the 21st century. Can other good, old-fashioned toys compete for kids' attention with their high-tech counterparts? The answer from one of the world's best-known toymakers is this: If you can't beat them, join them.

More now from CNN's Ann Kellan.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, I've got an idea.

ANN KELLAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): That's Lego's goal in a nutshell: Give kids the building blocks, and let them work.

From castles to a replica of the U.S. Capitol, Lego is toying with the concept of giving these faces, these creates, a personality. Someday soon, this photographer could take actual pictures, or these birds could be programmed to sing and dance.

KELLAN (on camera): This is the material that makes the Legos.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes it is.

KELLAN (voice-over): In 1949, Lego, a family owned Danish company, came up with the idea of taking these heavy-duty plastic granules, melting them down and molding them into interlocking bricks. In the past 50 years, two brick styles have expanded to more than two thousand different pieces, from tiny figures to disks, pumps, switches, pulley wheels, gyro rings and balls, differentials, conducting plates pneumatic connectors, cylinders, gears, and now computers.

This little yellow brick, developed by Lego and MIT is what many consider the next generation of toys. That brick turns inanimate Legos into moving interactive robots.

Gregory Williams programmed his robot not to fall off the table.

PROF. MITCHEL RESNICK, MIT MEDIALAB: We want to let kids make their constructions more dynamic. And that's where we came up with the idea of a programmable brick, that if you have a brick with a little computer inside, it can control the things that you're building.

KELLAN: Anthony Fudd (ph) built a gumball dispenser. Inset the card, out comes the gum.

This robot deals cards. You program the number of players and the game.

And this one's head falls off if I can remember its sequence of beeps.

How it works: first you program your robot on your PC, then download that information, via an infrared transmitter, to the portable brick that has been built into the robot. The brick becomes the robot's brain, telling its motors and sensors what to do.

PETER EIO, PRESIDENT, LEGO AMERICAS: For instance, there are sensors so that a robot can react to light. There are touch sensors so it can react to touch. And they can even exchange programs and designs of their models on the Internet. Next year, there will be a digital camera which you can add to your Lego models and send pictures back to your PC.

KELLAN: MIT is developing prototypes of future toys, designed to interact with each other.

RESNICK: And they look like they're not doing much, but in fact, they're sending out signals. And if we turn them so they can see each other, they're so happy to see each other, they do a little bit of a dance.

KELLAN: Kids could one day design ways to control their robots. Here, the unit is embedded in a ball.

BAKHTIAR MIKHAK, MIT MEDIALAB: As I tilt it, you see that the car goes forward. If I tilt it the other way, the car goes backward. If you turn it the other way, it rotates the car one way and rotates it the other way.

(on camera): It's really no surprise that Lego branched into robotics with its toys when you visit its plant here in Connecticut and see the sophisticated equipment, and machines and robotics used to make Legos.

(voice-over): Robotic light sensors stand guard, inspecting each piece as they're made, spitting out rejects.

KELLAN (on camera): The machine decided these weren't .

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly. Exactly. You or I could not pick up on the deviation right there.

KELLAN (voice-over): From packing boxes, painting insignias to making sure the heads stay on straight, the technology used to make these toys is making its way into the toys themselves. So if kids of any age get an idea, they'll know how to make it happen.

Ann Kellan, CNN, Enfield, Connecticut.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHEN: Coming up here: the future of something that matters very much to every single one of us. It matters how we live and what we live on. Wonder what the mystery is. Well, the answer might be in something called the clues. We'll explain after this.

ANNOUNCER: Leo Hendrick Bacomond (ph) invented a product that changed the stuff our world is made of. What material with a thousand uses did he discover? We'll give you a hint. It can be found in everything from computers to dice.

The answer when we return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We've heard about the future and what it may hold from the point of view of children, entrepreneurs, scientists. There's a constant though in the new millennium, the importance and presence of money. You know what they say, Joie. Rich or poor, it's good to have money. And I've got to tell you, the more money changes, the more it remains the same, right?

CHEN: Not quite, Wolf. The euro isn't the only recently introduced means of exchange.

CNN's Perri Peltz now with a look at a currency with a catchy name -- listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Flooz?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Flooz, what?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You mean like the illness?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ADVERTISEMENT)

WHOOPI GOLDBERG, ACTOR: Hey who you buying that for?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mother.

GOLDBERG: Your mother who carried you for nine months in her womb. Now you're going to make her carry this? Give her flooz.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's flooz?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT LEVITAN, FLOOZ.COM: Flooz is actually a slang term for cash around the Mediterranean. So in France, in Greece, in Morocco, people use the word "flooz" as money.

We've got some momentum. This is where we want to go.

PERRI PELTZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Back in 1998, Robert Levitan was coming off a huge success...

LEVITAN: Let's go get them and have a big week.

PELTZ: ... having built the number one women's site on the Web, iVillage. But Levitan wanted to do something different. So when his friend Spencer Waxman approached him about forming an e-commerce company, Levitan agreed, but he wanted pure e-commerce, e-commerce with a capital "e."

LEVITAN: I don't want to own any product. I don't want to pick, pack and ship anything. The next wave is coming up with electronic services and products that really solve problems for people. So we talked about ideas and we both agreed, gift giving; it should be easier in a network society to give and receive a gift, and that it -- the recipient should have a choice.

PELTZ: This is how it works: You log onto flooz.com, you buy some flooz, say $75 worth. You send it by e-mail to your friend. Your friend now has a flooz account and can spend that $75 at one of more than 50 online stores. That friend can buy chocolate at Godiva, a CD at Tower Records and toys at Red Rocket.

Flooz.com takes a 15 percent to 20 percent cut out of every one of those transactions.

PELTZ (on camera): How many flooz customers are there right now? What do you call them floozies?

LEVITAN: No, we definitely don't call them that. We call them "floozers." There are no floozies.

PELTZ: An important distinction.

LEVITAN: Absolutely. None it all.

PELTZ: How many floozers are there?

LEVITAN: We currently have opened over 125,000 accounts as of today.

PELTZ (voice-over): One of those accounts belongs to Seth Price. Price is an Internet consultant with a frenetic work schedule. He says giving gifts is not his strong suit. When it comes to remembering a friend's birthday or a wedding president, Seth's record is well, kind of spotty.

SETH PRICE, FLOOZ.COM CUSTOMER: I am not a real big fan of shopping. Stores and sales people seem to get in the way, and I always seem to forget to send gifts. I sort of take full advantage of Emily Post's one year to send wedding gifts.

PELTZ: So far, Seth Price has sent flooz to about a dozen people. He says his gifts average between $25 and $100. Last month, he even managed to send a wedding gift using flooz to friends in Australia.

So if people are spending flooz money all over the world, is flooz a gift certificate or something bigger, a pure form of e- currency? Others have tried to come up with online cash. So far, no one has succeeded. Digicash filed for chapter 11 in 1988 and Cybercash has tried for nearly five years to convince consumers to use e-cash. American Express is trying with its Blue Card. Consumers can now swipe their card at their desktops. Smart cards have had some popularity in Europe but have not taken off in the United States.

PELTZ (on camera): Why do you think that so many of the e- currency efforts have failed -- Digicash, Cybercash, a lot of them.

LEVITAN: Consumers don't care about currency for the sake of currency. They didn't have an application that meant something. We have an application. It's gift giving. There's a problem. We all have lots of gifts to give. We don't have enough time. We don't know what the recipient wants. We have a solution.

PELTZ (voice-over): Ken Cassar, an analyst with Jupiter Communications, thinks Flooz may be an indicator for where e-currency is headed.

(on camera): Flooz.com says they're not gift certificates, they are a gift e-currency, so to speak. What do you make of flooz?

KEN CASSAR, JUPITER COMMUNICATIONS: I would argue that flooz could well become another form of currency. Right now, it really is being positioned as a networked gift certificate, as a gift certificate they can use an at a number of different stores, and that's an intelligent way to start.

PELTZ (voice-over): And there's opportunity for flooz.com to grow. According to Jupiter Communications, online currency is a growth market, Right now, 95 percent of all dollars spent online are transacted through credit cards. By 2003, that figure is expected to drop down to 80 percent. So analysts are watching companies like Flooz very closely. And so are other companies. Barnes&noble.com just signed up and will start accepting flooz in January.

JOY MARCUS, BN.COM: I think there's going to be a lot of development in the online payment area over the next year or so, I really do. I think we're just seeing the very, very, very beginnings of this. I think that, notwithstanding anything any of our competitors are doing, we have to stay at the very, very edge of offering any type of payment that's available for consumers on our site. We just need to make it easy for people to pay. If not, they'll leave.

PELTZ: Perri Peltz, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHEN: Thanks for joining us for this hour of CNN's special coverage of the millennium. I am Joie Chen.

BLITZER: And I'm Wolf Blitzer. We invite you to join us for our next hour, as we keep abreast of the international financial markets. We'll go live to Sydney, as the Australian Stock Exchange undergoes its first day of 21st century trading. The next hour of our millennium coverage begins right after this break.

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