Nine disappearing things?

April 7, 2011 | By | 1 Reply More

I was sent this in an email today, along with the question: What will be the future for your children???

I’ll give some of my quick thoughts on it and let the comments flow.

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 that 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.

2. The Check. Britain is already laying the groundwork to do away with checks by 2018. It costs the financial system billions of dollars a year to process checks. Plastic cards and online transactions will lead to the eventual demise of the check. 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 go out of business.

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 milkman 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.

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 fromiTunes. 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 even 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.

5. The Land Line Telephone. 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

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 is the problem. The record labels and the radio conglomerates are simply self-destructing. Over 40% of the music purchased today is “catalog 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.”

7. Television. 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 our misery. Let the people choose what they want to watch online and through Netflix.

8. The “Things” That You Own. 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. 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 into 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.

9. Privacy. If there ever was a concept that 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 of the 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 coordinates, and the Google Street View. If you buy something, your habit is put into a zillion profiles, and your ads will change to reflect those habits. And “They” will try to get you to buy something else. Again and again.

All we will have that can’t be changed are Memories.

So, my quick take….

1. Probably right. Or at least a severely reduced version.

2. Also probably right. Online everything. Of course, sometimes don’t follow their own instructions when I turn off paper billing. That’ll need to get fixed.

3. As printed matter, again probably right. Where this hurts will be the insert advertisers (if they have no US mail to fall back on) and the comic strips. I heard Stephan Pastis, creator of the Pearls Before Swine strip, talk on Wednesday about trying to reach markets as newspapers die, and the frustrations of tapping into electronic publications. Not good. A few have made the transition, and some only know electronic distribution, but for many. it may spell the end of their livelihood (not to mention the non-reporter/editor workforce of the print paper).

4. Totally disagree. Yes, e-books grow in popularity daily, which will likely affect the printing costs (up as demand goes down), but I don’t see the printed book going away. Ever. Anybody ever try to shuffle back and forth in an e-version of a textbook. Paraphrasing Mona Lisa Vito from My Cousin Vinny, “Oh my Flying Spaghetti Monster, what a freaking nightmare!” (Be sure to read that with the appropriate Brooklyn accent – that works best.) I’ll read stuff on my phone, but when I read non-fiction and there are footnotes, I like to keep two bookmarks and flip back and forth. Not possible in electronic format. Maybe possible, but extremely inconvenient.

5. Probably. Communication technology advances all the time. This will likely disappear. Or at least VOIP will become the “landline” of the future.

6. Nope. Couldn’t disagree more. Whoever wrote this has obviously never seen the social media, viral phenomena, youtube “discoveries” – . There are too many possibilities for independents to publish their digital media. Now, the list author is right on one reason for the music industry slow death, but that greed is stonewalling any adaptation and they still wants to mark up physical media by outrageous amounts. And spend time prosecuting teenagers for downloading. This Harvard Business School study found no correlation, because the people downloading wouldn’t have bought the music anyway – can’t count lost sales that aren’t really lost. Someday I’ll read the suggested book and see what he has to say.

7. This comes off as more hope than speculation – “I say good riddance to most of it. “ Yes, content quality decreases. Commercial time increases (I’m working my way through the The Twilight Zone – on the fifth and final season – and not only did Serling produce 36 episodes for it, but the run time averages 26 minutes.) I’ll pile on the list item…“Reality” programming atrophies the already underused brain cells and sensational “news” channels dumb information down further. But it’s not going to go away. It’ll just evolve.

8. Hmm. Thinking about this one… E-books are a good example to go with the list item. When Amazon can delete what you’ve bought without your permission, that’s a bad sign. Can’t delete the book I have on my shelf (unless there’s a Fahrenheit 451 in our future.) Which ties into…

9. “It’s been gone for a long time anyway.” Can’t argue with that.

And somebody – either the author or one of the reposters – closed with “All we will have that can’t be changed are Memories.”

Sorry, even those can’t be trusted.




Category: Culture

About the Author ()

Jim is a husband of more than 27 years, father of four home-schooled sons (26, 23, 16 and 14), engineer delighting in virtually all things technical, with more than a passing interest in history, religions, arts, most sciences (particularly physics) and skepticism.

Comments (1)

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  1. Interesting list, even more interesting observations. My take:

    The Post Office is a relatively recent invention as these things go, at least as a public service. Private postal services had been around for a long time and still are. Since at base it is about communications, the important element is going nowhere anytime soon. If the physical edifice of the United States Post Office fades, we will still need to do all those things and will find a way to do it. Communications has advanced to the point where fewer intermediaries are required.

    More than likely the check will disappear. Below a certain level, it has had a troubled existence anyway. Debit cards are already widely available. Again, the same functions are being taken over by other means, and those functions are not disappearing. This is just a change of form.

    I'm not even sure this will happen. I suspect newspapers will revert to broadsheet formats and become ever more localized while so-called "national" publications will become all electronic or vanish completely. The local organs, however, with access to the internet may well swamp the field of serious news being abandoned by large papers (notice DI). The idea of the newspaper is far from moribund.

    Paper books are still over 80% of the market. They don't require batteries, can survive getting wet, and you can make notes in the margins. What will become more prevalent is print-on-demand. Not every book is worth the price of paper. But (after serving nine years in the Missouri Center for the Book) I can say with some confidence that, again, the idea of the book is far from over and may see a massive resurgence.

    No real opinion about the landline telephone. A phone is a phone is a phone, like Skype…

    Music has always had an underground component and in this instance artists have taken better advantage of the possibilities of new tech than any other branch of entertainment. You can produce your own CDs in your very own (rather impressive) home recording studio and compete quality-wise with anyone. Musicians have been carting around their own product to live gigs for decades now and this is where the music has gone. Besides, anyone with any taste has always thought little of the Top 40 scene and all that that represents.

    Television's business model is changing, not the end product. All to the good, I think. Many of my favorite programs were canceled because they couldn't get a piece of marketshare that for any other medium would have been HUGE. Once more, new tech is making great things possible from small enterprises. I just bought a camera that will make movies and if I read the instructions correctly the software that came with it has semi-professional editing ability. The content can only get better.

    Privacy is an interesting concept and means different things to different people. I find it easy to maintain mine because many things other people guard jealously I regard as beside the point. What goes on inside my head, though, is all mine. Privacy, however, has come to mean a suite of activities we wish to engage in without having to explain ourselves to anyone. We want it taken as read that we may do such-n-such without a by-your-leave from anyone else. The thing itself may be very public. What is being described as private are my reasons for doing them and my expectation of doing them without being questioned. But this is a fluid debate and will sometimes seem to change with fashion.

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