23 February 2012


I came across the following list on my Facebook news feed.  I see signs of a few items coming true, and dispute others.  I do not know the identity of the author, but will gladly add the citation when I find out.  (The Note that follows each item is my own commentary.)

Nine Things That May Disappear In Our Lifetime.
Whether these changes are good or bad depends in part on how we adapt to them.  But, ready or not, here they come.

1.  The Post Office
Get ready to imagine a world without the post office.  They are so deeply in financial trouble tht there is probably no way to sustain it long term.  Email, Fed Ex, and UPS have just about wiped out the minimum revenue needed to keep the post office alive.  Most of your mail every day is junk mail and bills.
[Note ~ preliminary evidence may be found in a Washington Post article entitled Post Office Closing May Affect Rural Isolation, Economic Disparity.  These closings are already in the pipeline.]

2.  The Cheque
Britain is already laying the groundwork to do away with cheques in 2018.  It costs the financial system billions of dollars a year to process cheques.  Plastic cards and online transactions will lead to the eventual demise of the cheque.  This plays right into the death of the post office.  If you never paid your bills by mail and never received them by mail, the post office would absolutely be out of business.
[Note ~ This may be the case, but I will resist it.  Online payments are convenient, but there's nothing like a cancelled check as evidence in a billing dispute ~ and nothing like the pleasure of receiving a greeting card or personal letter in the mail.]

3.  The Newspaper
The younger generation simply doesn't read the newspaper.  They certainly don't subscribe to a daily delivered print edition.  That may go the way of the milk man and the laundry man.  As for reading the paper online, get ready to pay for it.  The rise in mobile Internet devices and e-readers has caused all the newspaper and magazine publishers to form an alliance.  They have met with Apple, Amazon, and the major cell phone companies to develop a model for paid subscription services.
[Note ~ Am I the only one who sees an antitrust issue here?]

4.  The book
You say you will never give up the physical book that you hold in your hand and turn the literal pages.  I said the same thing about downloading music from iTunes.  I wanted my hard copy CD.  But I quickly changed my mind when I discovered that I could get albums for half the price without ever leaving home to get the latest music.  The same thing will happen with books.  You can browse a bookstore online and read a preview chapter before you buy.  And the price is less than half that of a real book.  And think of the convenience.  Once you start flicking your fingers on the screen instead of the book, you find that you are lost in the story, can't wait to see what happens next, and you forget that you're holding a gadget instead of a book.
[Note ~ I do not agree with this prediction.  E-readers have a weakness that books do not ~ power failure.  Besides, there is nothing like the texture, the smell, the heft of a good book, IMO.] 

Unless you have a large family and make a lot of local calls, you don't need it anymore.  Most people keep it simply because they've always had it.  But you are paying double charges for that extra service.  All the cell phone companies will let you call customers using the same cell provider for no charge against your minutes.  
[Note:  Again I disagree.  Cell phones are limited by reception coverage ~ there are dead zones the size of entire counties, or as small as a building.  Landlines have no such problem.  Their strength is in reliability, cell phones in portability.  I use both.]

6.  Music
This is one of the saddest parts of the change story.  The music industry is dying a slow death.  Not just because of illegal downloading.  It's the lack of innovative new music being given a chance to get to the people who would like to hear it.  Greed and corruption are the problem.  The record labels and the radio conglomerates are simply self-destructing.  Over 40% of the music purchased today is "catalogue items", meaning traditional music that the public is familiar with.  Older, established artists.  This is also true on the live concert circuit.  To explore this fascinating and disturbing topic further, check out the book "Appetite for Self-Destruction" by Steve Knopper, and the video documentary "Before the Music Dies".  
[Note ~ I do see evidence of this trend.  Stores devoted entirely to recorded music (LPs, audio tapes, CDs) no longer exist.  And the diminishing number of stores which sell music as part of their inventory, are cutting back the size of that part.  My own musical passion, classical music, is nearly impossible to find in a retail outlet.]

Revenues to the networks are down dramatically, not just because of the economy.  People are watching TV and movies streamed from their computers.  And they're playing games and doing lots of other things that take up the time that used to be spent watching TV.  Prime time shows have degenerated down to lower than the lowest common denominator.  Cable rates are skyrocketing and commercials run about every 4 minutes and 30 seconds.  I say good riddance to most of it.  It's time for the cable companies to be put out of their misery.  Let the people choose what they want to watch online and through Netflix.  
[Note ~ I do see signs of this media evolution.  I don't see TV disappearing anytime soon, but I do recognize the diversification of uses (streaming movies, online apps) possibly phasing out broadcast television.  My own hunch is that someday our computers, TVs, DVD players, and many of the smart functions in our cell phones will merge into one universal, multifunction device.]

Many of the very possessions that we used to own are still in our lives, but we may not actually own them in the future.  They may simply reside in "the cloud".  Today your computer has a hard drive and you store your pictures, music, movies and documents there.  Your software is on a CD or DVD, and you can always re-install it if need be.  But all of that is changing.  Apple, Microsoft. and Google are all finishing up their latest "cloud services".  That means that when you turn on a computer, the Internet will be built into the operating system.  So Windows, Google, and the Mac OS will be tied straight to the Internet.  If you click an icon, it will open something in the Internet cloud.  If you save something, it will be saved to the cloud.  And you may pay a monthly subscription fee to the cloud provider.  In this virtual world, you can access your music, or your books, or your whatever from any laptop or handheld device.  That's the good news.  But will you actually own any of this "stuff" or will it all be able to disappear at any moment in a big poof?  Will most of the things in our lives be disposable and whimsical?  It makes you want to run to the closet and pull out that photo album, grab a book from the shelf, or open up a CD case and pull out the insert.
[Note ~ Yes, the cloud concept is like a scenic country lane salted with land mines.  Just in terms of legal ownership, if one stores the developing manuscript for a novel in the cloud, my instincts tell me that one does not surrender proprietary rights to that manuscript or the ideas it contains.  Technology is leaps and bounds ahead of contract law, copyright law, patent law, and criminal law.  Stay tuned.]

9.  Privacy
If there was a concept we can look back on nostalgically, it would be privacy.  That's gone.  It's been gone for a long time anyway. There are cameras on the street, in most [public] buildings, and even built into your computer and cell phone.  But you can be sure that 24/7, "They" know who you are and where you are, right down to the GPS coordinate, and the Google street view.  if you buy something, your habit is to put into a zillion profiles, and your ads will change to reflect these habits.  "They" will try to get to you buy something else.  Again and again.
[Note ~ Yes and no.  Yes, in public you have little or no privacy.  At home, different story.  The Orwellian assumption is that your entire household is wired into the system.  But who says it has to be?  Build your own computer with its own memory, and do not network it or connect to the Internet.  Instant privacy.  As law enforcement and criminals know, for every measure there is a countermeasure.  Generally, though, I do agree that privacy is on the wane.]

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