THE YEAR 2000 CRISIS
12:00 AM, Sep 23, 1996 • By LAWRENCE J. SISKIND
It was not always so. On the eve of the 20th century the world had a different view of the future. In The Great Illusion, Oron Hale wrote of the long-range optimism pervading society: "The sense of a boundless future was strong among all Western leaders in 1900, and it brought zest and assurance to the cities and cultures of men. It was a time of incredible innocence: War was unlikely; social reform was every man's duty; and progress was inevitable." In such an age, men thought and created for the long run.
In Boston, site of the nation's oldest subway system, there is a tunnel connecting downtown to East Boston. It was designed in 1897 and opened for traffic in the spring of 1900. The tunnel was constructed by immigrant laborers from Ireland, Italy, and Eastern Europe. The men worked hard for low wages so that their descendants could have a better life. Some of those descendants got into Harvard and MIT across the Charles River. Some became computer programmers, and they ride through the tunnel today on their way to Logan Airport. More than likely, it brings the builders no comfort in heaven to know that their handiwork will outlast that of their great-grandchildren.
Lawrence J. Siskind is a San Francisco attorney specializing in intellectual property law.