Optimism and Empowerment.
As the century drew to a close, the potential for human invention and understanding appeared boundless. Scientific understanding expanded daily, from the fundamental building blocks of matter to the source code of all life to the origins, and perhaps the eventual demise, of the universe. The technological advances of the 1990s ushered in what appeared to be a social and economic revolution that would rival the Industrial Revolution two centuries earlier, creating a new society of technologically connected citizens with a world of digitized information, commerce, and communication at its fingertips. The new "Digital Age," represented by the "Information Superhighway" was not all-inclusive, threatened to leave many behind, including older citizens and those who could not afford the new technology. Still, by 1999 more than three-quarters of the U.S. population was "plugged in" to the new digital society, and most Americans felt that technological advances were improving their quality of life. Optimism was the reigning tone of the decade. New advances in science and technology seemed to promise eventual solutions to problems ranging from eliminating toxic waste to grocery shopping—genetic engineers developed microbes that would eat industrial sludge and researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) Media Lab worked to devise a refrigerator that...
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