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CNN Presents: Welcome to the Future

Aired December 16, 2006 - 15:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Here's what's making news right now. It's a race against time and the going treacherous as crews risk avalanches and trudge up Oregon's Mt. Hood. Three climbers have been missing since last Sunday. One is believed holed up in a snow cave near the summit.
Parts of the Pacific Northwest still without power. The strongest windstorm in more than a decade is blamed for six deaths and leaves behind downed trees and power lines. Officials have warned people not to use outdoor grills or propane heaters indoors.

Power struggle, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas provokes the Hamas-led government and calls for early elections. Since Hamas was voted into power, Palestinians have been unable to form a unity government and violence has intensified between Hamas and those who support Abbas.

I'm Fredricka Whitfield at the CNN Center in Atlanta. More news at the bottom of the hour. WELCOME TO THE FUTURE begins right now.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: The clock is ticking on 2006. Across the globe conflicts old and new, emerging threats, familiar faces, rising stars. This was also the year technology seemed to deliver on some old promises. Websites, cell phones, digital cameras all changing the way we learn about the world around us. New media delivering the news at blog speed, often shaping it in the process. Now more than ever you are part of what happens next. WELCOME TO THE FUTURE.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To your health, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much.





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where is Osama Bin Laden?

O'BRIEN: That's something you wouldn't see a few years ago the president of Pakistan with Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show." Why? It's simple. That's where a lot of people are going to get their daily fix of information. Yes, from a fake newscast. Millions more are looking to the Internet, reading blogs, watching video clips, and checking out the news sites. What does it mean and what's coming next?

I'm Miles O'Brien; I gathered together a group of experts in new media to help me figure it out. Amanda Congdon who is a video blogger for ABC News, Farai Chideya the founder of and host of NPR's News and notes, Katrina Fake, the co-founder of and now with Yahoo!'s technology development department, John Avlon, who is author of "Independent Nation" and an adviser to Rudy Giuliani. Good to have you with us.


O'BRIEN: Let's talk about this notion of satire kind of driving the bus on what is supposed to be substantive information about our political discourse.

AMANDA CONGDON, ABC NEWS: So much of what is said on "The Daily Show" is true news. And I think what people are craving is that opinion.

JOHN AVLON, AUTHOR, "INDEPENDENT NATION:" Humor allows him to cut through the spin cycle and they want to see simple honesty. Has how they know they're not being spun because so much of what passes on political debate is the split screen format, people screaming talking points at each other and satire completely undercuts that.

O'BRIEN: So the irony is a fake newscast is more honest.

AVLON: Can be more truthful.

FARAI CHIDEYA, FOUNDER, POPANDPOLITICAL.COM: What I find remarkable about the way that Jon Stewart's show and similar shows like his operate is that they break through the fourth wall. They play with the conceit of television. I think deconstruct the media. So it's a critique of information systems.

O'BRIEN: Let's look at how Steven Colbert is taking it to the next level. On his show "The Colbert Report."


STEVEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT:" You have an uncontested election coming up in November.


COLBERT: Let's have some fun. Let's say a few things that would really lose the election for you if you were contested. Remember, you're not contested. There's no way you can lose.


COLBERT: I enjoy cocaine because --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I enjoy cocaine because it's a fun thing to do.


O'BRIEN: I can't believe he did that. But, obviously Congressman Robert Wexler decided to play along which shows you the power these shows have. The power does not just exist on television. Colbert himself illustrated that point unintentionally in this next clip.


COLBERT: I believe the government that governs best is the government that governs least. By these standards we have set up a fabulous government in Iraq.


O'BRIEN: That was at the White House correspondent's dinner a little while ago. It aired in its entirety on C Span. In case you missed it. We aired some clips on CNN the next day, but that's not where most people saw that clip and some others. It was downloaded 2.7 million times from a Website that didn't even exist over a year ago. You know it now, You Tube.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are the co-founders of the site and we just want to say thank you. Today we have exciting news. We have been acquired by Google.


O'BRIEN: What a great American success story that is, two guys in a garage, changing the way we're having our whole political discourse. Are they going to make us outmoded in this part of the media business? What do you think?

KATRINA FAKE, CO-FOUNDER, FLICKER.COM: We are seeing incredible news stories that are actually breaking on Flicker. For example the first news stories was the bombing of the Australian embassy in Jakarta. This keeps happening over and over. Hurricane Katrina, the tsunami. So what you're seeing is people are all over the place. They have cameras; they have a network they can upload through.

CONGDON: Because the tools are so cheap and camera phones are so prevalent, now everyone is a media maker. So everyone has the ability to say, I reported this. This is what I saw. Whether or not you believe them, that's another story.

AVLON: This is part of the messiness of a digital democracy but I think it also part of what is exciting and hopeful about it as well. People can act as citizen's journalists and send in their clips or their photographs or videos and then all of a sudden, push the cycle forward.

CONGDON: They want to hear authentic voices. That's what we are seeing in blogs.

FAKE: What blogs did was reveal these personal voices that people have. And you see all of this news and information that is coming in through just regular people.

O'BRIEN: This was really the first election that you could call the You Tube election. Let's for the heck of it one more time, play that famous video clip that brought down the campaign of George Allen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Over here with the yellow shirt, Macaca, whatever his name is, he's with my opponent, and he's following us around everywhere.


O'BRIEN: So is that democracy in action or is it malicious?

FAKE: The camera is always on.

AVLON: The camera is always on.

O'BRIEN: Is it unfair though, to constantly hold these candidates to that level of scrutiny all the time? The cameras are on, they never blink.

AVLON: Politicians have to deal with the fact that if they have chosen to enter public life there is no off the record anymore. But if they actually embrace it, then I think there's an opportunity for greater transparency and greater honesty.

CHIDEYA: And Senator Allen wasn't exactly like sitting around loafing at home on a Sunday. He was out in the public.

O'BRIEN: The one thing we haven't seen, though, certainly this is a possibility out here, is some sort of attempt to -- a fraudulent effort to go after somebody. Macaca was real, but you could very easily create a Macaca moment with creative editing and bring somebody down.

CHIDEYA: I certainly hope that we as more traditional journalists would have the wherewithal to do the research. The whole role of journalism is to separate what's in the rumor space from what is in the reality space.

O'BRIEN: But it's the Mark Twain thing, a lie can get halfway around the world before the truth gets its pants on.

AVLON: And there is going to be more casualties as a result of the YouTube-ification elections. Some will be deserved and some won't be deserved.

O'BRIEN: There will be more tragedies as a result of the YouTube-ification?

AVLON: I like that term. You are never off camera. You can either play opposition or defense roles but it will be Wild West for a moment.

O'BRIEN: So how will we be voting then, how will we be selecting our leaders in this environment?

AVLON: I think the professional partisans in both parties are still playing politics but industrial age rules. The party apparatus in terms of knocking on doors, getting buses to drive people to the polls sure that has been effective up until now, but we are dealing with a whole new area, a whole new way to reach people. That's where the opportunity exists. That's where real changes will happen.

CONGDON: That's what's so exciting because now candidates that are somewhat unknown have much more of a chance because they're able to communicate with possible voters unedited, uncut, online.

FAKE: The thing that the participatory media excels at is diversity. You know, giving many people voices, many different parties and many different groups, independents, that entire thing. And what the mass media is good at is unifying everybody. That's what happens with TV.

O'BRIEN: How is that different than 2.7 million people downloading the same clip on YouTube?

AVLON: The difference is they're choosing when to view it according to their own schedule.

O'BRIEN: It's self-selecting.

AVLON: Exactly.

O'BRIEN: Bottom line, this business, main line media, CNN and the others, are we dinosaurs?

AVLON: Evolving.

CHIDEYA: You have to be nimble. One thing I notice, this may be a little irrelevant, but on election night when you guys at CNN were doing your coverage, you ran the ads in a window pane that made it look similar to a Website, streaming media on a Website. I think stylistically as well as substantively you are evolving. We are all evolving.

O'BRIEN: We evolve or go extinct, I guess. We will continue this discussion and broaden it out a bit. Not just politics. Let's talk about the Web in general, the Internet, how we're all connecting or disconnecting with each other in the future.

Coming up, if you think online dating is a great way to find a mate, wait until you hear what's next.

CHIDEYA: One more prediction. I think it's going to be a boom for online romance.

O'BRIEN: The pick-up line goes mobile.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back. We are looking at the future and specifically looking at how things are playing out on the Internet. The Internet was kind of built on the notion of information, sharing information, scientists, government, scientists coming together. It is about information. But it's become a virtual community. How did that happen? When did it happen?

FAKE: The thing that first got us excited about it was the fact we could communicate with people.

CONGDON: Social networking.

O'BRIEN: The human desire to connect?

CONGDON: I think what's so excited about it, blogging, video blogging, and myspace. The fact that kids are now going to be growing up all across the globe learning about each other. So they're going to be connecting to a kid in America, kid in Japan, video blogging back and forth. Breaking cultural barriers, that's what is exciting to me that we can see what's all -- what we have in common.

O'BRIEN: It's cool to think about kids connecting that way. Even my kids, having moved from Atlanta to New York, they're connecting with their pals in Atlanta in ways they never would have been in the pre-Internet days. But the other side of that is, there's more of a disconnect in distance as well.

CHIDEYA: I'm a member for over a decade of something called "The Well" which is one of the founding online communities. It's 21 years old now. And so you have --

O'BRIEN: Ancient.

FAKE: It used to be a bulletin board.

CHIDEYA: Yes. It used -- it has been in it to win it from the time when screens were black and white and black and green, you know? And I have met so many great friends through there. They're constantly evolving this space of people who you met virtually that then become your real-world friends.

AVLON: I think that's what is hopeful. People are self-selecting to communities that are not restricted to where they live or how they grew up or who they grew up with but it sort of redefines travelism in a different way.

O'BRIEN: Not by zip code. More by --

AVLON: There are problems created by that, too, and real opportunities to really shake things up.

O'BRIEN: Should we be concerned about the vices that are going to migrate on to the Web, will it make it easier for people to get addicted to gambling, it certainly makes it easier for people to procure pornography. That kind of thing?

FAKE: One of the important part of providing these services is what you are really providing is a safe, friendly environment. CHIDEYA: But the one thing that is very different that I think a lot of us journalists have covered is how teenagers can be lured by sexual predators. Because they don't have the same filters about personal safety. Like I was giving a speech to a group of high school journalists, one of them said to me, oh, is myspace as bad as dangerous as some people say? And I said, well, driving is dangerous. Crossing the street can be dangerous. Anything can be dangerous you from not safe about it. As a teen you have to inform other teens how to be safe.

O'BRIEN: This is the hard thing. As a parent, we didn't grow up with it. You did, but I didn't. So you have to educate yourself in a way a lot of parents don't to make your kids safe. Right?

CONGDON: Sure, I think that's the thing that's so complicated right now is that we are in such a transition into this kind of digital world, that the parents are not able, a lot of times, to educate the kids about myspace and to tell them who to watch out for and who to talk to that kind of thing. A lot of it has to do with the parents educating themselves about these networks.

AVLON: And our laws undoubtedly will evolve and we will have a societal debate about the zone of privacy and privacy rights in the 21st century. Those are all things that are going to happen as a result of the innovations that are happening.

O'BRIEN: It will be interesting to see when my kids have their children and how they usher them through this world because they'll be so much more savvy, but there will be something else down the road which might befuddle them as well. Right? It's the nature of the beast.

CHIDEYA: They'll send them to a boring boarding school on Mars.

O'BRIEN: All right. Let's move to predictions now. Who wants to go first?

FAKE: Jet packs.

CONGDON: Jet packs, first of all. I'm hoping to see jet packs in the next ten years. I think the thing that will be most exciting for me to see is how, even in two years, in '08, how we will see candidates really put themselves out there on line and I'm interested to see how the possible voters respond and how they participate and how it kind of, it takes voting to a whole other level when you actually are able to get to know the candidates.

O'BRIEN: What is your prediction?

FAKE: Jet packs.

O'BRIEN: I'm with you.

FAKE: But I do think that one of the things that we touched on earlier, you know, mobile devices. And, you know, the Internet kind of unsticking itself from the computer on your desk top, moving around you. How are services going to change and how is your world going to change when at any time, holding in your hand you can make a movie, see a movie. You can take a picture, you can see a picture. You can read the news, find out where somebody else is, you can communicate with your friends if it's in your pocket.

O'BRIEN: Or project it on your glasses.

CHIDEYA: One more prediction, I think that it is going to be a boon for online romance. Think of all the people searching for ads. What if your profile were mobile and you had a blue tooth connection. They already tried this in Japan. You walk into a bar he's compatible. He's compatible. He's compatible.

O'BRIEN: Is Bluetoothing out?


O'BRIEN: Do you put your pick-up line on the blue tooth?


O'BRIEN: Hey, baby, what's your sign or something?


O'BRIEN: E-mail me, baby.

FAKE: Forty percent of that result in dates.

O'BRIEN: Really?

FAKE: Wow.

O'BRIEN: And 60 percent, e-slaps, right? Any other big long-term predictions you'd like to make? Way down the horizon?

AVLON: I just think that in the really in the macro sense, I do think that it's going to allow people to understand and it will break down a lot of barriers that have kept government and public figures away from people. And it really increases the chance for us to deal more directly with the people who are in positions to make decisions, public figures. I think with that also comes this idea of digital -- velvet revolutions around the world where the old ways where dictators held on to power are going to be subverted by the new freedoms created by new technology.

O'BRIEN: Even parts of the Middle East where there is so many inequalities and such a resistant to...

CHIDEYA: There's a lot of inequalities in the world, but there's great bloggers in Iraq right now. A female blogger who is really active in posting. I don't think -- I think that information in and of itself does not produce political action but it can inspire it.

AVLON: Yes. FAKE: The government's attempt to block these sites, the Internet is designed in such a way that it's easy to route around them.

AVLON: You can't kill the potential.

O'BRIEN: All right. A bunch of wide-eyed dreamers here. Great talking to you. Let's hope your visions of the futures -- technical utopia. Thank you. We'll see you in ten years when these predictions come true.

Up next, ever forget your password? Well, we all have. This gizmo may let you forget them for good.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just by putting my fingerprint.

O'BRIEN: Then one of the web's more unusual voices.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome to the future. It's funny; I have not seen that sign posted anywhere.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back. It's time for a little hands on activity here. If you are not already making some virtual friends online, we are about to show you how. Xeni Jardin is a tech cultured journalist and an editor of the blog BoingBoing, that's a great name for a blog. Xeni good to have you with us. What's out there, what's hot, what are people into at the moment?

XENI JARDIN, CO-FOUNDER, BOINGBOING.NET: One of the things they're into is second life and they're into it in big numbers. Earlier this year in January there were maybe 100,000 people who were members, and now it's almost 2 million.

O'BRIEN: Explain what we are talking about here.

JARDIN: It's like a virtual world that you can move around in, that you can buy things in, you can hang out in, go to parties. One of the first things you learn is that you have a virtual persona. You choose a name, you choose a gender, and then you choose a hairstyle and clothing.

O'BRIEN: Walk us through wherever we are.

JARDIN: So we found a boutique.

O'BRIEN: Now you are in a boutique.

JARDIN: This is familiar territory; I do know how to navigate shopping.

O'BRIEN: In any world.

JARDIN: In any world. They are using a virtual currency called the Linden. I think right now the exchange rate is something like 250 or 270 Lindens to the dollar. Here they are showing me that this costs 400 Linden dollars, which is about two American dollars right now. Big brands like Adidas and IBM and car companies setting up shop in second life.

O'BRIEN: How do you explain the appeal then?

JARDIN: Complete freedom.

O'BRIEN: And be whatever and whomever you want to be?

JARDIN: Absolutely. I can fly.

O'BRIEN: And you can fly, too. Not bad. All right. What else do you have? This one looks good because this is one of my pet peeves, keeping track of user names and passwords, the amount of time I spend trying to keep track of that stuff and I put it in places that are probably not safe, and I'm not going to say where and there's got to be a better way.

JARDIN: Well one company says this is a better way. You can store all of those passwords using your fingerprint; Silex is making these little swipers. You can see one right here. It just plugs right into your laptop or workstation and you swipe your finger.

O'BRIEN: Go to some kind of website. Your e-mail account and see how it works there.

JARDIN: Normally I would --

O'BRIEN: Name and password.

JARDIN: But here.

O'BRIEN: One swipe, it reads it. And you're in.

JARDIN: There's my mail.

O'BRIEN: That's pretty neat. What else do you have in your bag of tricks today? I want to see some more cool things.

JARDIN: I have something that U.S. forces are actually using over in Iraq and Afghanistan now. This is a translator made by a company called Integrated Wave Technology. And if I speak a command into it, a short command, it will speak back that command in a local language, in this case Iraqi Arabic. But it could do up to, I think, 120 other languages.

O'BRIEN: Try it let me see how that works.

JARDIN: Need a doctor?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Need a doctor? [Translates]

JARDIN: You friendly?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You friendly? [Translates] O'BRIEN: Wait a minute "you friendly" was all that?

JARDIN: "You friendly" was all that. "You friendly" was, do you like Americans, hold up one finger for yes, two for no.

O'BRIEN: So it gives you shorthand so you can ask quickly?

JARDIN: Exactly.

O'BRIEN: I'm going to guess that's an expensive box, it isn't quite available for the rest of us yet?

JARDIN: No it's not something you can buy at Radio Shack. The government has contracted a large number of these for soldiers and primary aid workers there. I think that the cost is like between $3,000 and $5,000 per device.

O'BRIEN: How soon will it be before we can go to a foreign country and have a conversation without having language skills?

JARDIN: The technologists and the Darpa officials that I spoke to said probably 10, 20 years to get someplace close to that.

O'BRIEN: Xeni Jardin thank you for bringing some cool gadgets and opening our eyes to some things on the Web.

JARDIN: My pleasure.

O'BRIEN: Next, we're going to shift gears a little and introduce you to five people, each with a very personal perspective on what all this technology may mean for the future. Some of them caution it is not all for the best.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We saw YouTube's effect with the war with Israel and Lebanon and with that, I think there's a real danger for our society.


WHITFIELD: I'm Fredricka Whitfield at the CNN Center in Atlanta. WELCOME TO THE FUTURE continues in a moment but first, new developments in the search for three missing climbers in Oregon. Let's go straight to CNN's Chris Lawrence near Mt. Hood. Chris

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka rescue crews in the air are concentrating their search on an area of interest. They believe they have at least spotted something that they feel could be a possible interest. You don't want to go too far with that because, again, they're looking from the air. It's about at about 8800 feet elevation. It's near about 500 yards east of an area called tie-in rock. Some of the searchers describe it as a point where you would climb off the spur, an area just below where a very steeple elevation begins. Some of the rescue teams who initially looked at this area believe they saw two figures, but again, that is an initial assessment from the air. We have confirmed with the sheriff's department that they have dispatched a Chinook helicopter out of Salem, Oregon, that was nearby just a few, five, ten minutes away.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back to our look into the future. Now we're going to talk to some folks who've been on the front lines on the big issues facing us tomorrow.

David Kuo, he worked in the White House as an assistant to President Bush and is author of the book, "Tempting faith."

Irshad Manji explores the debate over Islam in her book, "The Trouble with Islam Today."

Ilario Pantano, a former United States Marine who has been on the ground in Iraq and written a provocative best seller entitlement, "Warlord." it's about his experiences there.

Amy Dickinson writes the nationally syndicated column "Ask Amy." She knows what people at home are thinking about.

And our own Jeff Greenfield, senior political analyst for CNN.

We just saw the first YouTube election. Youtube-ification, if you will. In many ways, Jeff, does that lower the bar for entry for candidates, potentially?

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think what lowers the bar for entry is another aspect of the revolution and that is through the ability through the web to organize and raise money. If you strike a chord, you can be an obscure ex-governor of a small state like Vermont and wind up out raising all the more established candidates in sums of 10, 25, 50, $100.

O'BRIEN: So, David, is this the beginning to the end of the party structure, do you think?

DAVID KUO, AUTHOR "TEMPTING FAITH": I hope so, but I also think that American politics survived the "daily newspaper, that's all YouTube is. YouTube is an update on a daily newspaper. Unfortunately the two-party system is here, it's entrenched, we're stuck with it.

O'BRIEN: But you can bypass that whole structure.

GREENFIELD: There's a potential that I think we saw the first time really with Ross Perot who got 19 percent of the popular vote, even though, clearly, you know, his seat back and tray table was not in the full upright and locked position.


O'BRIEN: Well now, in Canadian politics, have you seen anything like this?

IRSHAD MANJI, AUTHOR, "THE TROUBLE WITH ISLAM TODAY": You really give a darn what happens in Canadian politics?


O'BRIEN: I was trying to be polite.

MANJI: You were. Stop being so Canadian about that!

O'BRIEN: That is a Canadian way to approach things, isn't it? Yeah.

MANJI: It very much is and I'm calling you on it. I'm busting (INAUDIBLE).

O'BRIEN: Let's take new media beyond the borders of the U.S., here. Think globally.

MANJI: Yes, yes, absolutely. Absolutely.

O'BRIEN: How does this change -- you know, you talk about bringing people together.

MANJI: Well, certainly I can tell you from my own experience having a website in which I've had my book, which has been banned in some Muslim countries, translated into those languages, posted, and already 150,000 downloads in just one year of the Arabic translation alone.

O'BRIEN: So, it's getting out.

MANJI: It's getting out there. And I can tell you, that I was in Cairo just about three months ago and I was stopped by more young Muslims in the streets of Cairo than I am in places like New York and Los Angeles who said, "Thank you for posting your book, not only am I reading it my friends are, too and it's making the rounds in the democracy movement."

And so, I would suggest to you that the Youtube-ification of politics is a geopolitical issue. When younger Muslims, particularly men, see images of oppression at the hands of the West, and it's not just fed to them through their television networks, now it's everywhere. All right? What we are really seeing, I believe, Miles, is the globalization of grievance. And what that does is it brings people together in anger, rather than in hope.

AMY DICKINSON, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST "ASK AMY": Like Abu Ghraib. Like -- I mean, we've seen images from the, you know, war in Iraq that we certainly didn't see even in '93.

MANJI: Absolutely.

DICKINSON: With personnel...

ILARIO PANTANO, AUTHOR "WARLORD": First saw YouTube's effect with the war with Israel and Lebanon. And I think that, you know, they're kind of the first person accounting of pain is something that can now live and not just in everyone's television set, but in everyone's personal computer, PDA and cell phone. And with that I think that there's a real danger for our society. O'BRIEN: So, where does this lead? Does this lead to, you know, global democracy?

GREENFIELD: Seems to me that you've got a millennial generation that, in some ways, is more connected to issues like homelessness and Darfur and wanting to get out there and do something with your life beside make money. And you've got other people who are determined to kill as many people as they can by using the same technology.

MANJI: Exactly right. And so what we're seeing is with the rise of new technologies, younger people feeling more empowered as individuals and as world citizens becoming entrepreneurial, hands on, and wanting to make a small impact and derive a sense of accomplishment from that small impact for better or worse.

O'BRIEN: All right. Let's go -- let's dial it back just a little bit, a closer to what's just happened, mid-term elections for a time. What do you think the world is seeing as they look at that midterm election?

KUO: Maybe the greatest argument for American democracy in the last four years was this last election. People around the world looked at it and said OK, hey look, American democracy works. They kicked out the people -- they kicked out the bad guys.

O'BRIEN: And you're saying that as somebody who used to work in the Bush White House.

KUO: Well, I'm saying that from their perspective. I'm not saying that as my own moral judgment, although, a lot of them, frankly, were bad guys who deserved to get kicked out.

DICKINSON: I agree. I feel like, when people look at this election, they'll see that the great silence center has spoken and that you know -- America's ready to make a change. We'll see what happens. I'm just waiting for the Democrats to screw it up -- and break your heart.

O'BRIEN: Is that just a matter of time? What do you think? Is...

PANTANO: You know, I spent the night before the election sitting with a couple guys that I'd served with in Iraq. They were concerned that our presence and continued presence wasn't having an effect and so I left an evening with four die-hard Marines that would do anything, that would die for their country in a moment, basically saying that they felt that it was time for to us reconsider the strategy. I left that, that was the eve of the election and I think America was in tune to what these war fighters are feeling on the ground.

O'BRIEN: I suppose you couldn't help but walk away from that thinking it's just matter of time before the U.S. Is out of there.

PANTANO: You know, it saddens me that the idea of a more offensive posture is completely off the table. That the hawk position was hold the line and the left position was reconsider. I don't know why the hawk position was never reset to actually reconsider, you know, consider, you know, plussing up and going offensive, deweaponizing (INAUDIBLE).

GREENFIELD: That's what John McCain has been saying from the get go.

PANTANO: But 20,000 is not enough. It needs to be 200.

GREENFIELD: Right, and I think that the blunt answer to that question is that it's absolutely politically impossible, there's nobody except john McCain who'd abdicate such a thing, certainly not the Bush White House. I mean, they were starting to get nervous three years ago when the guard and reserve families were saying, "Hey, what's going on here?"

And that's -- imagine what the Iraq war would have been like with a draft? Where you would enough soldiers? You would have had, I think, a political upheaval that would have made Vietnam, at home, look like a tea party.

O'BRIEN: Let's get to a question. This comes from Jeff in Carol Stream, Illinois: "We taxpayers and children for the next two generations will have to pay the bill with no end in sight." There's no question there, just kind of a statement. What are your thoughts on that -- Bill.

PANTANO: Well, I did some volunteer work in the aftermath of Katrina. And when I was handing out crayons and coloring books to naked kids in the United States, after handing out crayons and coloring books to Iraqi children, I certainly feel like $300 billions could have certainly been spent in different ways. Having said that, you know, my concern isn't what the dollar sign is, my concern is the lack of commitment to a success to an objective, to a victory and part of that is because the objectives were never clearly articulated to begin with.

DICKINSON: You know, I feel like they did articulate it. You know what they said? They said it was about terrorism and it's not. I mean, that's -- I think that's what a lot of people were voting on in this past election was that citizens were not told the truth.

MANJI: So clear objective false premise.


KUO: Ironically I think that the terror premise is probably now true.

O'BRIEN: Well, we certainly have created the problem. It wasn't in from first place, right?

KUO: You see the reaction of Iraqi leaders after the election, part of the concern is if they go, what's left behind? And what would be left behind would be this chaos. O'BRIEN: While we're on the subject of Iraq, let's go to a picture we got from one of our viewers. Allison Havanczek (ph) sent us this photograph. That's her boyfriend, Marine Captain Jason Bresler (ph), shaking hands with a little boy in Fallujah. That's the image that in advance of the war the administration...

PANTANO: That's the pay day right there. Feeling like you're...

O'BRIEN: What she wanted us to know about this is the flowers on the street kind of picture.

PANTANO: And there's no question when you're on the ground that you are changing peoples lives. What happens is when there aren't enough units on the ground and you get pulled out of that part of Fallujah to go to another one to fight fires and that kid's family gets killed because they were complicit with the Americans. So therein lies the problem, we love doing the right thing, but when we're insufficient, the consequences are devastating.

O'BRIEN: So that picture in a sense is a myth as a look to the future...

PANTANO: It's not a myth. It reminds us of what the consequences are for getting this wrong. That child will pay the consequences. Our own children will pay the consequences when my son is fighting in Fallujah like I did two years ago.

O'BRIEN: All right, time for to us take a break, back with more in a moment.


O'BRIEN (voice-over): Up next, are there surprises ahead in Washington?

KUO: I think they will you see the two best years of President Bush's presidency in the next two years. I think the Democrats...

O'BRIEN: Say that again. The best years?



O'BRIEN: Let's start with the year that just transpired, 2006. I want to begin with you, Ilario. What in 2006, as we look to the future, will be the pivotal moment?

PANTANO: Iraq. The moment or the opportunities that were missed, I think, and how that ultimately impacted the election of 2006.

O'BRIEN: The exit polling showed some other issues in play too, though. What do you think?

GREENFIELD: Yeah, I would pick this year, once again the event that did not happen is any serious attempt to come to grips with the entitlement program, social security and most important, Medicare and Medicaid and the health care crisis that is coming at us like an express train. We have done nothing about this problem and I think it threatens the financial well-being of this country.

O'BRIEN: Let's bring some users into the discussion. They've posted a few questions and thoughts for you. Catherine in Moonachie, New jersey, has this, "I'm fifty years old and unemployed. Unemployment insurance is running out, and worst of all, I'm disabled with no way to pay for health insurance in spite of my needing to take seven pills a day."

DICKINSON: This is just what Jeff was saying this is our nightmare coming to past. You know, I'm not that much younger than she is, and blessed, fortunately, with better health, but that's where we're headed.

O'BRIEN: How will we going to fix that, though? I mean, is it inevitable that people are going to rise up and demand universal health care? What do you think?

GREENFIELD: It's going to be -- it's going to require everything from some form of government subsidy. It may not be single pay or it many not be the Canadian system. And the second thing is that it's going to require, I think, a very hard decision about how much health care every individual is entitled to, one way or another. You're both going to supply health care and to some extent ration it.

DICKINSON: So how many MRIs do you get a year...

MANJI: But, that does not undermine the universality of health care because, remember, it's all about a basic level to which everybody is entitled. Beyond that, you've got to pay...


DICKINSON: And you may have to wait...

O'BRIEN: The haves and the have nots, really. I mean, the have nots get a Chevy and the haves get whatever they can afford.

MANJI: But if the haves are willing to pay for the Cadillac, why not? Go for it!

O'BRIEN: But David, 2006, what issue will we look back on as pivotal as we march toward the future?

KUO: I think the Ted Gaggard story is a huge story because I think it combines both the spiritual and the political. The story of the religious right, the spiritual grapplings of millions and millions of Christians. And I think that how that plays out over the next few years is going to be a huge story.

O'BRIEN: Is there a crisis of faith among Evangelicals or a crisis of their leadership, I guess is more accurate to say? KUO: I think there is. I think that there is a growing gap between sort of the Christian political power brokers and grassroots Christian. I think one cares more about politics, the other cares more about god and I think there's going to be a big gap that opens up.

O'BRIEN: Irshod, what do you think?

MANJI: My perspective is somewhat more global. I don't think it's so much a moment as it is a movement. The movement of power from the center, as in governments and institutions, to the periphery, as in individuals, for better and for worse. But what I think that's doing around the world is raising expectations among all kinds of people for what they want in life, materially, spiritually, and otherwise, and the anger that a lot of people feel that they don't have it whereas other people, you know, who are in richer countries do.

KUO: People want vision. You know, they want hope. And I think just a vision of hope itself on a case by case country by country level is what people yearn for.

O'BRIEN: What kind of leadership do we need in the future, though?

KUO: We need to have leaders who proclaim a positive vision. I mean, what -- who is the last presidential candidate who really rallied people? Rallied the youth around a positive vision? Was it Bobby Kennedy?

GREENFIELD: No, I mean, look, I worked for the guy, and I think he was an extraordinary thinker, but I think you could argue that for his folks, Ronald Reagan -- what was the "shining city on the hill" all about? What was "I still America's best days are before us?"

MANJI: Do you know, by the way, that when I tour Western Europe, which I do a lot, young Muslims refer, still, to America as the "shining city on a hill?" They always tell me, to this day, that they would rather live in the United States than in Western Europe,,.

O'BRIEN: In spite of everything?

MANJI: Exactly. I say, "In spite of Gitmo, in spite of the Patriot Act?" They say absolutely because America is about the future not about the past.

O'BRIEN: We got to get predictions. All right? Predictions on what you think will happen, what you think should happen. Who would like go first on that one?

PANTANO: I'll take a swing at that. I think the "Economists" put this very well, that we went to war in Iraq to scare the pants off the world and we scared the pants off ourselves. And I think, as a result of that we're going to be much more reluctant to use force in application either in Iran or in North Korea as a deterrent. And I think as a result of that, North Korea will continue to operate with impunity and in regards to Iran, they will develop a nuke.

O'BRIEN: Prediction?

DICKINSON: I feel like it's going be very, very messy in Iraq. And the American people, our fuse will get shorter and shorter in terms of what we are willing to tolerate in terms of our involvement there, unfortunately, yeah.

O'BRIEN: What do you think should happen?

DICKINSON: Well, I think that, you know, we should elect people who appeal to our better natures, who speak the truth, who we trust and believe, and we'd be a lot less cynical if we did that.

O'BRIEN: Prediction time.

MANJI: My prediction is about immigration. I worry that America is importing a very European fear of the future. And if American politicians are going to be telling foreign workers that they cannot stand tall and toil hard to achieve the American dream, then I suggest humbly that this country send back its most enduring immigrant who stands tall, and that is the Statue of Liberty.

What should happen? In the broader sense, I am a big believer in American ideals, individual liberty, freedom of conscience, universal human rights, America, remember, that is what people look to you to defend and to promote and...

O'BRIEN: Have we forgotten that?

MANJI: I think what Americans forgotten is that people not just pay attention to this country, but look to this country as that beacon of hope, still. So that, you know, when you undermine those ideals, in the small things and not just in the big things, what you're really saying to the world is your last chance is gone.


MANJI: What an incredible responsibility that this country has.

O'BRIEN: So, we owe the world hope?

MANJI: Because the world gives you love when you give them hope.

O'BRIEN: David?

KUO: Wow. Wow.

O'BRIEN: Yeah.

KUO: I think you'll see the two best years of President Bush's presidency in the next two years. I think the Democratic Congress will allow him...

O'BRIEN: Say that again. The best two years?

KUO: Yeah, I think the best two years of his presidency will be the next two years.

O'BRIEN: Wait, what about locking horns with Congress, gridlock all that talk?

KUO: I think that he will be forced to be the compassionate conservative he promised to be. I think on the immigration, on caring for the poor, on a whole host of issues, I think that whether now it's pragmatic or whether it's personal, I think he's going to moderate on those issues and I think that the Democrats will force him down that road of being that compassionate conservative and I think he'll take Democrats down that road, too.

O'BRIEN: What do you think -- Jeff.

GREENFIELD: Well you know, I like what Winston Churchill said. He said, "Americans always do the right thing after they have exhausted every other alternative." And so I think there'll be some kind of face-saving exit from Iraq, whether it's finding a strongman or the equivalent of an Iraqi hunter, some way to say, OK, it's yours, you know, the bloodshed will be on your hands, we'll get out.

We got to do something serious about global warming and get the rest of the world involved because this is not a made-up thing. And some way we've got to begin to address the fact that inequality in this country has reached proportions that even the most conservative, you know, Wall Street-types are look at and saying, this is a danger to the basic notion of America, of a broad middle class with better opportunities ahead of us. That's what I would like to see happen. I don't think it is going to happen.

O'BRIEN: Sounds like you're running. I'd vote for you. All right. Thank you all very much for taking this look at the future. And we'll see you back in 10 years. We'll see how these predictions came out. How's that?


O'BRIEN (voice-over): Next, the future through the eyes of Ze Frank.

ZE FRANK, VIDEO BLOGGER: I'm a video blogger. I'm supposed to be on the cutting edge, but I meet people who make me feel like I might as well be using my cell phone is a paper weight.

Really, you can cook eggs with yours?


O'BRIEN: The camera never blinks. So as the world becomes ever more YouTube-ified, there really is no place to hide, we're all open to a new kind of scrutiny. So many cameras, so many voices, so many ways to share your opinion, all of it happening in the blink of an eye.

Ze Frank is determined not to blink first as he offers his offbeat daily video blog which, in less than a year, has become one of the Web's hottest sites. Here's his take as he gazes into the future.


FRANK: Welcome to the future. It's funny. I haven't really seen that sign posted anywhere. I've seen other signs, signs like, "you're too old"; "turn back now"; "mind the generation gap." I'm a video blogger. I'm supposed to be on the cutting edge, but I meet people who make me feel like I might as be using my cell phone as a paper weight.

Really, you can cook eggs with yours?

To be honest, thinking about the future and especially the future of technology can sometimes scare the pants off me. I call it acceleration anxiety and it comes from looking at graphs like this one. The red line represents the rate of the change of technology. I drew it myself on a computer I bought this year because the computer I bought last year just wasn't cutting it anymore.

We're in the part of the curve that's going up. Some say it's changing exponentially, others that have an exponent of an exponent. Either way, it's steep and I'm afraid of heights. It seems like if you take the time to master any new office tool, new toy, or new gadget, by the time you do it's almost guaranteed that it'll have become obsolete.

As you unpack your robot vacuum that's going to scare your cat to death while you try to get your cell phone text messaging system to recognize the word "asparagus," it can feel like every aspect of your life is going to change. I've even heard a well-known futurist say that it's possible that within our lifetimes we might be able to take a pill that allow us to experience someone else's consciousness. And I still have trouble finding my keys.

At times like this I use my brand-new computer to draw another line on that graph. The green line represents our emotional growth as humans over time. Compared to the technology curve it moves really slowly. For example, there haven't been any major advancements in saying "I'm sorry" in over two thousand years. That line helps me think about what technology ultimately serves our experience of the world as a people.

We still get angry when someone kills our level 32 Ork in an online game. We still get jealous when someone flaunts they're faux diamond-encrusted iPod. And regardless of how many people you're flirting with in your IM buddy list, you'll still be nervous before your first kiss.

When I think about new technologies, I try to imagine how they would fundamentally affect the relationships I have with people closest to me, like my grandmother.

Well, technically she's not alive, so that would be amazing, but you know where I'm going with this. The world around us may change, but the core of our experience, the way we feel about the world, gives us something to hold on to, regardless of what bizarre toys the future things, I know what I'll be using them for -- to make someone jealous, to make someone smile, and even if I do wind up experiencing the consciousness of my father, I'm sure I'll just wind up looking for my father's keys. Welcome to the future.


O'BRIEN: Somebody get that guy some Visine.

I'm Miles O'Brien. Thanks for watching and we'll see you in the future.


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