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Opening Remarks by Rep. Edward J. Markey, U.S. House of Representatives

Good Morning and welcome to the New Economy summit. It has been nearly a year since I began working with Boston College - under the excellent, and blessed, leadership of Father Leahy - to convene this gathering on the New Economy. Our focus is most appropriate to this moment in time in eastern Massachusetts when an extraordinary outburst of entrepreneurship and technological innovation, new policy direction aided by foresighted governmental decisions, and a spiral of capital formation options have combined to provide, both here and throughout our country, the lowest sustained level of non-inflationary unemployment in history.

To aid our understanding of this confluence of events, and to help place it in proper context, we have for you today one of the all-time all-star line-ups ever assembled, anytime, anywhere. These outstanding guests have graciously agreed to share their special insights with us, and we are grateful for this opportunity.

All of us have heard of the New Economy, but what it is, where it exists, and what it means still largely eludes many people - from economists to entrepreneurs, dotcom people to dotgov people. For some, it is a new reason for increased optimism and hope for our future. For many, talk of the New Economy induces anxiety about what the future might hold.

That's natural. There's even some comfort in the thought that it's remotely possible that even Bill Gates feels this way sometimes. Yet corporate decision-makers in their 50's -- the same age as the electronic computer itself -- are often at a loss for what to recommend for their companies as they contemplate business ventures in cyberspace.

Sometimes watching non-computer literate, mid-level managers (and some of the old economy CEOs) attempting to articulate the new business opportunities on the Internet is downright "dotcomical".

I sometimes conjure up the image of the Gary Larson cartoon where a Tyrannosaurus Rex is at a gathering of the Society of Late Cretaceous Dinosaurs, listening to a lecture on "How to Enjoy the Cooler Weather."

The Tale of Two Economies

There's no question that there is dramatic change afoot. Yet what is the character of this change? Thomas Mann once said, "A great truth is a truth whose opposite is also a great truth."

And so it is with the New Economy, where the "wondrous wire" that brings new services to homes, businesses and schools will have a certain Dickensian quality to it: it will be the Tale of Two Economies: the old economy and the new economy, a Dow economy and a NASDAQ economy. Often the Two Economies seem to exist side-by-side, in uneasy competition. At other times they seem to blend together.

We're seeing off-line, old economy stalwarts - such as the auto industry -- becoming online, new economy entrants, where autos, tires, spare parts can all be previewed and ordered online. Moreover, we're seeing new business models developed such as those pioneered by Lycos and CMGI and Yahoo.

Here in Massachusetts, look at what has happened to the top companies in the Bay State over the last year. Four of the top six - Sycamore, CMGI, Analog Devices and Akamai - were not even in the top eight just one year ago.

A New Economy Boston

A generation ago, here at Boston College, business leaders gathered with policy professionals to craft the blueprint for a new Boston. Over a series of meetings and seminars here at BC that new Boston took shape.

Those discussions constituted an industrial era investigation into the infrastructure needs of the region - roads, bridges, beltways, airports, parks, commuter trains. Sometime in the 21st century, rumor has it that we will finish the Big Dig, which will mark the culmination of this infrastructure renewal. In other words, the physical infrastructure is now largely in place.

Now we need to focus on the challenges posed by cyberspace in an online era rife with both risk and reward. We must look not only at the technological change rippling throughout industries and throughout our society, but also, at the changes in society and our cultural attitudes toward the new economy itself that the technology compels us to consider.

We need to look at our educational infrastructure. At the ties between corporation and community, between business leaders and the neighborhoods from whence their future workers will come. Do we have an effective plan? Have we thought about it sufficiently? How do we build on the E-rate, a critical feature of the Telecom Act, to ensure the success of discounted connections to schools and libraries?

MassINC recently released a report entitled "Opportunity Knocks" which analyzed the intersection of worker training and the New Economy. Not surprisingly it found that education was a key ingredient for income, but the disparity between educational levels was striking.

What the report found was that in 1980, male college graduates earned on average 34 percent more than their counterparts who only had a high school education. Today, male college graduates earn 60 percent more than their high school counter parts.

Moreover, male post-graduates in 1980 made 15 percent more than male college graduates. Today, male post-graduates make 58 percent more than their college counterparts.

This disparity has widened even though we are in an era of increasing college enrollments. In 1960, for instance, 54 percent of males and 38 percent of women enrolled in college. By 1997, college enrollment rates had soared to nearly 70 percent for women and close to 64 percent for men.

Job training, therefore, takes on increasing importance, especially for "old economy" workers as we transition into a new economy, post-GATT, post-NAFTA world. We have to look at this in a way characterized by author Tom Friedman's term "globalocalism." We want Massachusetts to be the brain trust of the global village, we have to prepare our local communities and our local business chieftains to lead as the Bay State transforms itself into the "dot.Commonwealth."

A Series of Conferences

This is the third in a series of conferences I have helped put together with BC, and my fourth since 1992. I have done so to help leaders here in Massachusetts understand the vast changes being wrought by digital technologies throughout our economy and our society.

I believe these conferences help explain the concept of convergence, the reasons why some of us fight in Washington to break down bottlenecks to competition in telecommunications and electricity, the necessity for open platforms and open markets where convergence, innovation, and growth can take place.

Here in Massachusetts we probably have the highest per capita concentration of brainpower anywhere on the planet. Nearly one out of every five National Merit Scholar finalists attends school within 10 miles of where you are sitting. With our universities and our labs we are a globally-recognized center for learning. We have natural advantages in a world headed toward a knowledge-based economy.

A century ago in the era of steam, Boston was known as the "Hub of the Universe." Today, in an era of zipping "zeros" and "ones" we're fast becoming the "Hub & Router of the Universe." Where once Boston was a great port, we are now a world-class portal. The Cradle of Liberty is now the Crucible of Internet Innovation. We now have all the responsibility that comes with leadership. This conference is part of fulfilling that responsibility.

The Noosphere & Cyberspace

It is also appropriate that we are having this conference at Boston College, not only because this is where the seminars were held a few decades ago on the New Boston. It is also appropriate because BC is a Jesuit institution of higher learning.

The Jesuits, as many people here know, are the pre-eminent sacerdotal order within the Catholic Church when it comes to education. What many people don't know is the Jesuit contribution to science and to the values that should shape human interaction with technology.

In 1947 -- one year after the computer was created - a French Jesuit priest named Teilhard de Chardin began talking about an emerging worldwide web.

He wrote, however, not about the sheer wonder of a linked network of machinery, but rather about the true intelligence of such a network -- the human aspect of it. In a book called The Formation of the Noosphere a half a century ago he wrote the following:

"No one can deny that a network (a world network) of economic and psychic affiliations is being woven at ever increasing speed which envelops and constantly penetrates more deeply within each of us. With every day that passes it becomes a little more impossible for us to act or think otherwise than collectively."

This philosophy foreshadowed what we would hear later from Marshall McLuhan. McLuhan's "global village" metaphor was in many ways merely "secular shorthand" for much of Teilhard's philosophy.

As a student at Boston College, I was taught that what Teilhard envisioned 50 years ago, at the birth of the electronic computer, was a convergence of humans in a single, massive "noosphere" (from the Greek "noos," meaning "mind"). Although Teilhard articulated his vision using a religious lexicon, his concept of a web of human connectivity that would envelop the Earth and be propelled by human consciousness sounds remarkably similar to today's Net.

I want to thank the Jesuits and the Boston College community for their contributions to this endeavor and for hosting us today.

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