Hugh Downs.


Editor's Note: The following is an edited version of the General Session Keynote address delivered by Hugh Downs, co-anchor of ABC News' "20/20."

I would like to talk about the future because I want to talk about the potential of a really enlightened society. To do that, I would like to start with a Many predictions are very vague. These [predictions] waffle and weasel because they want a chance to be interpreted in quite a number of ways. I want to make a prediction that is not like that.

It is 12 years from now at 2:33 p.m., EST, April 3, 2011. The president of the United States, Pauline Clayton, will go on national television with her surgeon general to announce there has been a breakthrough in the treatment and cure of all degenerative diseases from arthritis to Zimmer's epithelioma. By market closing that day, the stocks of two pharmaceuticals will have gone through the roof. Pfizer, after ballooning to 400, split eight to one.

I want you to check with me April 2011. If things have come to pass as I just described; if the president's name is Pauline Clayton; and if Pfizer stock is selling at the price I mentioned, you will say to me, "Boy! You really are a prophet!" I will be as surprised as you because there was no vagueness, waffling or weaseling in my prediction. There also was absolutely no validity whatsoever.

There is an interesting reason why one cannot accurately predict the future - An important component of consciousness is free will. In human freedom, will has a lot to do with molding the future and not just trying to find out what it's going to be. For example, if somebody had a crystal ball and this crystal ball told you that next Tuesday you would have your ankle broken by being backed into by a garbage truck at the corner of Third and Main at about 2 p.m., I can be pretty sure you wouldn't go near Third and Main at that time. Your decision would have rendered the prediction false.

There is a saying that there are three kinds of baseball umpires. There's the objective umpire, the subjective umpire and the existentialist umpire. The objective umpire says a ball is a ball, a strike is a strike and I call them as they are. The subjective umpire says a ball is a ball, a strike is a strike and I call them as I see them. But the existentialist umpire says a ball is not a ball and a strike is not a strike until I call them. I think we're somewhat in the position of the existentialist umpire. We [determine] a large part of the future and should not seek to discern the future, but, rather, mold it. And so our day-to-day decisions, which we take for granted, are constantly contributing to the shape of our future.

There are two things that give added voltage to our efforts to move toward what I call an enlightened society. First, new technologies and the increase in understanding how they can be used to advance civilization. Second, the knowledge that we are well into an age of teamwork. I [read] an article in your magazine, Corrections Today, that I found really inspiring. It was great to learn about bringing in a new era of communications to corrections. It's fascinating for me to learn that there are automated notification services for the safety of victims, voice verification systems that will help ease overcrowding and speaker identification technology that can identify a speaker on either side of a phone line in four seconds. The thrust of the article is that, and I want to quote, "It is up to administrations and correctional agencies to be pro-active and seek out the technologies that may improve operations in their facilities."

My second [point] is reflected in the theme of this gathering, "Teamwork Leads to Excellence." This has been known for a while, but it's only recently that we've seen the necessity of working together. The 19th century saw the great individual inventors: Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison and Orville Wright. The level of technology these men dealt with made it possible for them to think up and follow through on inventions. But today's progress demands teams of people. The great laboratories, the capital intensive equipment, things like atom smashers, space telescopes and so forth, cannot be planned, built or operated by single individuals. It takes teams.

There is still a need for individual insights and ideas. Independence...

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