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The Third Turning

The second wind, and unravelling of the third turning was driven by technology. A new bunch of whiz kids, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, and Scott McNealy, to name a few, created a technological revolution. The computers of the GIs had been IBM mainframes that filled whole rooms. Boomers created "personal" computers that everyone could afford, and store on a desktop, or even a laptop. Unlike the GI whiz kids, these were mainly individualists.  Technology also led to cost-saving "re-engineering" of key corporate functions, particularly of repetitive processes, and ultimately to the "offshoring" of these functions to lower cost foreign laborers.

This period also saw innovations in finance, some of them good, others "too clever by half." Derivatives started out as 'hedging" products, and ended up as "financial weapons of mass destruction" (Buffett). Lenders threw away the old rules about the quality of borrowers and collateral in credit situations, because they thought that they could hedge these risks away through means other than underwriting (e.g. selling them to unsuspecting investors). Midlife boomers were largely, though not totally, responsible for some of the major financial scandals of the time; Jeff Skilling at Enron; Dennis Kozlowski at Tyco; Frank Quattrone at CS First Boston; Jack Grubman at Salomon Brothers.