Where Do We Go From Here

Where Do We Go From Here

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ABI's first Journal of the year 2000 is an appropriate place to reflect on where we've come and to look at where technology and bankruptcy are going in the foreseeable future. (This, of course, can be done without debating whether this is the last year of the current, or first year of the new, millennium.)1

The technological advances of the '90s have been nothing short of awe-inspiring. For example, this article was composed on my third notebook. (They seem to have a "useful life" of around three years.) It is more than three times faster, has a hard drive almost four times larger and has a screen that is somewhat larger, yet weighs three pounds less than its predecessor. I personally installed more RAM in this computer than the hard drive storage capacity of my very first computer of the decade. Astonishingly, this notebook computer cost only half as much as its two predecessors. The experts predict these performance increases and cost decreases will continue into the foreseeable future.

Now that the holidays have passed, do you remember hearing more about "e-tailing" than "retailing" this season? As a dedicated surfer, I must confess to using the Internet instead of fighting the mall traffic for more than just a few gifts. (Even the notebook computer I mentioned was purchased online, without ever seeing one in the store.) Billions of dollars of "e-commerce" occurred during the holiday season. This included some notable shortcomings, like toys not arriving on time (some not at all), merchants passing out gift certificates to disgruntled customers and a host of customer service and distribution system nightmares. True cyber-freaks will know that the largest single purchase over the Internet occurred this past year, when a "dot.com" millionaire spent millions on a brand new Gulfstream V private jet he bought over the Internet.2

This brings on the question of, "Where do we go from here?" Will the "dot.com" economy survive, flourish or go the way of the drive-in movie? What will computers look like and do for us in the next decade? How will ABI World adapt to even more technological changes? No one really knows for sure. We can only be certain that the only constant is change.

On the horizon, computers operating at 1GHz (gigahertz) are coming. These machines were the tightly controlled "supercomputers" of the '80s and were dedicated almost exclusively to research and military tasks. Soon, teenagers will use them every day to play animated games, surf the net and hack into those same research and military computers. "Broad-band" services will provide television, movies, information and the Internet routinely through the cable lines into our homes (or over the wireless networks being developed). The larger and faster machines will complement the Internet's ever-growing volume of content and file sizes. The availability, and even commonality, of 10-gigabyte and larger hard drives goes hand in hand with the growing content.

Ordinary folks, instead of just the technophiles, will have wireless access to the Internet through their portable phones or personal digital assistants (PDAs). A friend on a business trip recently entertained our group with both his Palm VII and his global position system (GPS) receiver by checking the weather forecast and showing our exact position as we sped down the freeway in a taxi (grateful that he was not trying to drive at the same time). While this may be the current extreme, what does the future hold for the rest of us?

Bankruptcy and the Internet will definitely be together well into the future. Dot.coms with stock values but no earnings (sometimes, without any significant assets) cannot continue indefinitely. E-tailers who could not satisfy their customers last year will probably not make it back this year. Surely the bankruptcy system will begin seeing these companies soon.

On more mundane tasks, electronically filing pleadings will surely expand beyond its current pilot projects. Courtrooms and creditors' meetings that are currently connected through dedicated video links might become available on the Internet (after the appropriate safeguards are devised). Video conferencing may replace some meetings and travel.

Many attorneys working together on the same case regularly exchange drafts of documents and pleadings via e-mail. Court reporters send deposition transcripts via e-mail. Surely, amendments to various rules allowing service of pleadings and documents by e-mail cannot be far behind. (Requiring e-mail service is probably a few more years away.)

Assets of debtors in bankruptcy will be sold over the Internet. One advertiser on ABI World already conducts auctions of distressed assets online.3 This spring, ABI and the National Association of Bankruptcy Trustees will launch a web site listing assets for sale by members of either organization. The site (www.bankruptcysales.com) will list assets for sale by bankruptcy trustees and debtors-in-possession nationwide. It will include features allowing interested purchasers to track specific types of assets (by type or geographic area) as well as allowing sellers to link the listing to sites with photos and other due diligence materials. Free listings will be yet another ABI member benefit.

The new year brings changes for ABI as well. ABI World will continue implementing improvements throughout the year. One project on the immediate horizon is an expanded international bankruptcy law section being spearheaded by the International Committee. Look for improvements on the Business and Personal Bankruptcy Discussion Boards and more "Cracking the Code" newsletter articles by ABI's newly invigorated Web Editorial Board.

While no one can truly predict everything the future has in store for the Internet's relationship with bankruptcy and ABI, we do know that it will include changes and improvements to keep you and ABI on the leading edge of technology.


1 Personally, the millennium moniker appears to be a marketing issue. I expect that those who were arguing that we have entered the new millennium will spend this year hyping 2001 just as vigorously. Return to article

2 Gulfstream's Dec. 20, 1999 press release announced that all of the marketing occurred either over its web site or by e-mail. Only the "demonstration flight" of the jet (retail price of more than $40 million) included face-to-face discussions with a sales executive. Return to article

3 bid4assets.com hosts online auctions of various assets, including assets of debtors in bankruptcy cases. Return to article

Journal Date: 
Tuesday, February 1, 2000