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I believe that the most important forces behind the massive M&A wave are the same that underlie the globalization process: falling transportation and communication costs, lower trade and investment barriers and enlarged markets that require enlarged operations capable of meeting customer's demands.

International affiliates account for a fast-growing segment of production in economies that open up and welcome foreign investment.

And that is very good news because the Internet may well be the most powerful tool for combating world poverty that we've ever had.

Yet it is hard to imagine that the merger of a few oil firms today could re-create the same threats to competition that were feared nearly a century ago in the U.S., when the Standard Oil Trust was broken up.

What was less visible then, however, were the new, positive forces that work against the digital divide.

More and more governments, afraid their countries will be left behind, want to spread Internet access.

The more foreign capital you have helping you build your Third Wave infrastructure, which today is an electronic infrastructure, the better off you're going to be.

Countries that still think foreign investment is an invasion of their sovereignty might well study the history of infrastructure (the basic structural foundations of a society) in the United States.

And that is why America's Second Wave infrastructure — including roads, harbors, highways, ports and so on — were built with foreign investment.

By splitting up the subject matter into smaller units, one man could continue to handle the information and use it as the basis for further research.

The overall result has been to make entrance to professional geological journals harder for amateurs, a result that has been reinforced by the widespread introduction of refereeing, first by national journals in the nineteenth century and then by several local geological journals in the twentieth century.

A rather similar process of differentiation has led to professional geologists coming together nationally within one or two specific societies, whereas the amateurs have tended either to remain in local societies or to come together nationally in a different way.

Nevertheless, the word "amateur" does carry a connotation that the person concerned is not fully integrated into the scientific community and, in particular, may not fully share its values.

The growth of specialization in the nineteenth century, with its consequent requirement of a longer, more complex training, implied greater problems for amateur participation in science.

When I decided to quit my full time employment it never occurred to me that I might become a part of a new international trend.

A comparison of British geological publications over the last century and a half reveals not simply an increasing emphasis on the primacy of research, but also a changing definition of what constitutes an acceptable research paper.

There are newsletters, such as The Tightwad Gazette, that give hundreds of thousands of Americans useful tips on anything from recycling their cling-film to making their own soap.

I have discovered, as perhaps Kelsey will after her much-publicized resignation from the editorship of She after a build-up of stress, that abandoning the doctrine of "juggling your life", and making the alternative move into "downshifting" brings with it far greater rewards than financial success and social status.

I have been transformed from a passionate advocate of the philosophy of "having it all", preached by Linda Kelsey for the past seven years in the page of She magazine, into a woman who is happy to settle for a bit of everything.

For the women of my generation who were urged to keep juggling through the '80s, downshifting in the mid-'90s is not so much a search for the mythical good life — growing your own organic vegetables, and risking turning into one — as a personal recognition of your limitations.

Pearson has pieced together the work of hundreds of researchers around the world to produce a unique millennium technology calendar that gives the latest dates when we can expect hundreds of key breakthroughs and discoveries to take place.

There will be television chat shows hosted by robots, and cars with pollution monitors that will disable them when they offend.

"By linking directly to our nervous system, computers could pick up what we feel and, hopefully, simulate feeling too so that we can start to develop full sensory environments, rather like the holidays in Total Recall or the Star Trek holodeck," he says.

Children will play with dolls equipped with personality chips, computers with in-built personalities will be regarded as workmates rather than tools, relaxation will be in front of smell-television, and digital age will have arrived.

But that, Pearson points out, is only the start of man-machine integration: "It will be the beginning of the long process of integration that will ultimately lead to a fully electronic human before the end of the next century."

And home appliances will also become so smart that controlling and operating them will result in the breakout of a new psychological disorder — kitchen rage.

The Lord Chancellor said introduction of the Human Rights Bill, which makes the European Convention on Human Rights legally binding in Britain, laid down that everybody was entitled to privacy and that public figures could go to court to protect themselves and their families.

However, there are still no forecasts for when faster-than-light travel will be available, or when human cloning will be perfected, or when time travel will be possible.

In a letter to Gerald Kaufman, chairman of the House of Commons Media Select Committee, Lord Irvine said he agreed with a committee report this year which said that self regulation did not offer sufficient control.

Publication of the letter came two days after Lord Irvine caused a storm of media protest when he said the interpretation of privacy controls contained in European legislation would be left to judges rather than to Parliament.