Rooney On The Millennium

The CBS News Evening News continues its look ahead to the 21st century and what life might be like in the new era.

For a unique take on expectations for the 2lst century from someone who's seen a lot of the 20th, here's 60 Minutes' Andy Rooney on the countdown to 2000.

It's interesting to consider what's happened on Earth in the last hundred years, or the last thousand. And you get thinking about what might happen in the next hundred or the next thousand.

When I was young, my mother told me about the first car she ever saw coming down the main street in the small town she lived in.

They cooked on a wood stove, did the laundry in the washtub and didn't know Teddy Roosevelt had been re-elected president until three days after the vote.

At night, as a young girl, she read a book by the light of a kerosene flame. Imagine a young person reading a book at night!

In my mother's lifetime, she saw the first electric light, the first telephone, the radio, the airplane, even the first elastic band, the can opener.

And she heard Ronald Reagan had been elected before the polls closed.

My mother sat in our living room and watched on a lighted box as pictures of men walking on the moon came through the air.

"I saw the first car, Andrew," she said that day, partly to me and partly to herself.

I remember wondering whether I would see as much change in my lifetime as my mother saw in hers, and I haven't.

We've spent our time improving the inventions we have, making cars better, airplanes faster, turning black and white pictures into color. Our can openers are electric.

We no longer need Thomas Edison. They have light bulbs at the hardware store.

We're spending more time selling things than inventing them, and there are things we need we aren't getting.

They've given us Diet Coke when what we need is a cure for cancer.

Computers, whose manmade brains may outperform our own, are doing work that doesn't need to be done. With computers, change is changing faster than we can keep up with.

And while it may be easier to communicate a thought over the Internet, the thoughts being communicated are no better than they ever were.

With all our technical progress, there's one area where we haven't made any improvement, zip, zero, none at all: That's with ourselves. Human nature is unchanged since the Romans fed Christians to the lions in the Coliseum two thousand years ago.

The first story on television news any night is often the slaughter of innocents in some far away counry, the gunning down of schoolchildren by other schoolchildren in Hometown USA.

The many religions of the world have not changed us for the better. And if we don't change, there isn't going to be a New Year's Eve party in the year 3000.

Along with a cure for cancer, we need something like a flu shot that will make us better people. I know my mother would have liked that.

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