Monday, April 30, 2012

In My Castle on a Cloud

I came across an interesting list the other day, called “Nine Things That Will Disappear in Our Lifetime” written by a fellow from Florida named Plinio Granado which appeared on I thought, someone sounds awfully sure of himself, but when I read the list, I agreed. I’ll put it at the end of this post so I won’t interfere with the “narrative flow” of the piece. (Right.)

Basically, Mr. Granado says the post office, the “cheque” (check to you and me on this side of the pond), the (paper) newspaper, the (physical) book, the land line telephone, recorded music, network television, “things” you own, and  privacy are toast. He discusses each one in the article and includes his rationale for thinking each will disappear in 30 or 40 years or even sooner. Some I just have to say, “Yep,” good as gone. Those would be the post office, the check (I used to write 50 a month. Now I do one or two), network television, and privacy. For the others, I have some comments.

Starting with the paper newspaper and physical books, I think we are at a watershed. By and large, the younger generation has embraced the epaper and the ebook. In the area I live in there are a number of good hyperlocal electronic papers. Some of my friends write for these papers, and they are darned good writers. At the same time, I think people my age have one foot planted in each world. I have a Nook and read the local paper online but I still like the feel of a book in my hand (and its battery never runs out) and being able to fold the Post so I can work on the crossword. Paper newspapers and books might go the way of the buggy whip, though, although I think there will always be devotees of each, just as some people still ride horses for recreation. They might still be used on some ranches in the West, but my understanding is that on the big cattle ranches the cowboys ride ATV’s. 

A writer friend of mine believes that physical books will survive in used book stores as the castoffs of those who still use books, and will be a place where writers and aficionados of the books will gather to write, contemplate and discuss. There’s a phenomenon that has sprung up with the advent of so much personal technology called “high tech, low touch,” meaning that the same people who embrace all the technological devices will also engage in traditional activities such as weaving, knitting, painting or playing instruments (just to name a few activities) as a counter to all the technology. Some readers of electronic books will go to have an "old school" experience at used book stores. Make sense to me.

A number of young people, including our daughters have only cell phones now. We still have a land line and I wonder why. The rationale used to be that the landlines worked during a power failure and of course cell phone batteries would run down if they couldn’t be recharged at a wall socket. Well, Amy’s college roommate Kyle was without power in New England this past winter for ten days and charged her cell phone from her car. I think land line phones will become as dead as phones with dials. Remember those? I do, dimly.

Recorded music has changed drastically in the cyber age, with bands and singers being able to bypass music companies and establish a following directly through the internet. So, I’m conceding that one. At the same time, the high tech/low touch principle means more people are making their own music. The popularity of local choruses is at an all-time high. 

When composer Joseph Martin was here for our Voices United 2012 workshop and concert, he talked at lunch about the disappearance of objects from our lives. An example is the CD collection, which has been replaced by MP3 files on a player. As a result, said Martin, it’s no longer possible to walk into someone’s house and know something about their taste in music. It’s not visible: it’s a digital file on a computer, or increasingly, on the Cloud. It is possible even now to keep pictures, sound files, movies, artwork and even holograms of objects completely hidden away from view and call them up on demand.

I remember watching the original Star Trek series and thinking, man, they don’t have much stuff. Spock’s cabin had a few weird looking objects sitting around and that was it. Undoubtedly that was a cost-saving measure for the production since the set dressers didn’t have to do much. But I wonder if Gene Roddenberry was on to something about how we will live in the future. As for now, I’m resisting this. I want to put my CD tracks on the computer but that takes time and the mp3 files don’t have the sound quality of disks. Still, mp3's are easier to carry and more convenient so I’m sure I will make the switch. As for the rest, I have too many objects that mean something to me sitting around. Yep, it’s a bear to dust and makes for a cluttered look, but it represents who I am…for now. But hang on. I have a feeling we’re all going to live in a castle on a Cloud. And I hate that song...

Here’s the list of

Nine Things That Will 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 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 Cheque 

Britain is already laying the groundwork to do away with cheques by 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 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 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 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 "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."

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

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! 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.
"They" will try to get you to buy something else. Again and again ...

1 comment:

  1. Awesome post, Dan, and one I would like to respond to in a full blog post of my own. However, this will take time, and I don't have enough of that this morning.

    I agree with some of the predictions, but there may be more I disagree with, especially the notion of "our lifetime." Who is this "us"? People under the age of 40? 30? 20? I think the writer is disregarding baby boomers and many others. As someone who is increasingly "growing up," I am offended at this generalization which dismisses an entire population. We count, dammit! : )