Monday, June 20, 2011

Why most of these 9 things WON'T disappear in our lifetime...

There is an article making its way around the interwebs from Xenohistorian entitled, "9 Things that Will Disappear In Our Lifetime (see link below)."  While I appreciate the author's attempt to explain some of the chosen items, I disagree with some and here's why:

1) The Post Office.  Yes, paying bills online has put a serious damper on Ye Olde Pony Express.  But, I want to see how people will send small gifts to each other.  Or heck, even medium to larger-sized gifts.  While UPS and Fed Ex are out there, the fact is that it is still cheaper to send small packages via USPS.  Will the Post Office need to CHANGE in our lifetime? Absolutely.  The entire system needs an overhaul - eliminate Saturday deliveries, cut back on staff in certain offices, and streamline many of their internal systems.  Will it disappear, though? I don't see it happening.

2) The Check. This one I actually can agree. I hate checks. With gift cards and online bill paying, I see the end of the check coming someday.  Of course, I also thought pennies would be gone by now, too.  Guess we'll see about checks.

3) Newspapers. The print form of newspapers on a national level (the "big guys" like New York Times, etc) is already shifting to mobile media formats.  Small town, local and regional papers, though, are not going anywhere anytime soon.  Even younger readers can be found holding local papers.  In my town, there is an online competitor to the print paper, but if the paper can offer more in-depth coverage on recent stories (or on stories developed over time), print media can still be a viable delivery method for the future.  The article assumes that everyone has broadband internet and that we all have gobs of bandwidth to spare for content. Sorry, but just look at many of your mid-American rural communities.  You will find that many folks still fight with dial-up or awful, expensive satellite access.  Even in places where DSL is available, folks are limited to a max of 1.5 Mbps.  Those speeds are great for a single person watching YouTube, but stick more than that on the line, and you might as well be using dial-up.  Small town, local print papers aren't going away in our lifetime.  As for paying - I also disagree.  With the newer and more innovative advertising mechanisms being developed, customers won't have to pay to read.  Besides, why pay for it when someone else will post the information for free anyway.  Surely, newspaper publishers see this.  If not, then here is their wake-up call.

4) The Book.  BBZZTT.  The book isn't going anywhere in OUR lifetime.  I do foresee a time when printed books will become fewer and fewer in number during our lifetime, but there are still way too many people that prefer holding the physical book and pages over holding some electronic device to read.  One thing the article overlooks - some people simply can't stare at computer screens all day.  I do see textbooks going the electronic way, but not until the country's infrastructure can handle all the digital content the new incarnations of textbooks promise.  Until then, expect printed books to remain (again, mainly in rural schools or other areas with limited to no bandwidth).  As for leisure reading, I know my own children prefer to hold books in their hands.  I see a time where vast volumes of books are no longer printed, but rather people will be able to choose to have a printed copy sent to them (see #1 above).   Print-On-Demand will not only include self-published authors, but also will be houses where anyone can request any book be printed for a fee.

5) The land line.  See any above comments regarding limited bandwidth in this country.  Add to those comments the fact that cell coverage is awful in more places than have limited bandwidth!  You can look at all the coverage maps you want from all the carriers you'd like.  They mean nothing.  Grab a phone and walk around.  Visit America from coast to coast.  I just spent a week in Washington DC and my coverage was spotty at best - 3G or otherwise.  I live in a rural community well-known for its lack of cellular coverage.  Unless the infrastructure changes in some very major ways, people will need landlines just to keep in touch with the world (whether through phones or dial-up or DSL).

6) Music.  I believe the article was trying to say the current MODEL for music distribution will disappear.  Music itself will never disappear.  I actually believe that the death of big music conglomerates will HELP music rather than kill it.  Without the music companies sucking the profits from artists, musicians will be freer to distribute their own music through the channels THEY choose: iTunes, their own web site, whatever social media outlets exist in the future, etc. 

Radio stations will be freer to play what they want, when they want. 40% of the music downloaded may be "catalog" right now, but I believe that's because people of a certain age have discovered an easy, relatively inexpensive way to grab the music they grew up listening to.  That will change over time.  Of course, some music from the past will ALWAYS be downloaded simply because of the nature of people and their tastes - Mozart, Chopin, Elvis, Jimi Hendrix, Patsy Cline, Hank Williams, Black Sabbath, Nirvana, etc. I believe the Internet has actually helped independent artists and will continue to do so.  Think about local bands that no one ever heard of until they went viral online.  How many other bands are out there trying to go viral?  Are the record labels going to "discover" them and turn them into superstars?  Very doubtful.  Music will not disappear in our lifetime.  As long as there are people to create it, generate it, and release it, there will be music (as well as fictional works, paintings, sculptures, etc).

7) Television.  Once again, review any and all references to bandwidth.  I believe there will significant changes in how television is delivered and how shows are created and viewed, but there will still be television.  The fact is, people like canned, well-produced, easily obtainable viewing.  Television provides that.  I believe we will finally see the day where we can "drop the needle" on programming and forgo the stupid "rewind/fast forward" methods we are forced into right now.   I do agree that people will get (should get) to choose the content THEY want to watch.  Like "music" above, I wonder if the author was shooting for the "corporate delivery of television" rather than television itself.

8) "Things" you own.  I agree that more and more content will be stored in "the cloud" and be available.  The issue bends itself back to bandwidth.  In many ways, I like the idea of having my content available to me anytime, anywhere.  On the other hand, I am relying on 100% uptime. Not 99.99% uptime, but 100% availability. I also need enough bandwidth that anything I access appears INSTANTLY as if it was located on my local machine.  I am old school - I like physical media.  I have a real issue with paying $50 for a game (or for anything) where all I get is the content without any packaging, manuals, etc.  Now, give me the same game/content for about $25 and I can swallow that.  In the past, companies blamed their pricing on branding, printing, etc. Well now, what's the excuse of overcharging?  I have grown to like my digital media except for one major issue: degradation.  If you have not experienced this yet, you will.  As you move the same music from device to device, and as the media the devices are stored on break down, you will notice little skips and pops and weird screeches coming from your player.  Now, having the content in the cloud might cure some of that since it would (theoretically) only be stored on one media type, but that remains to be seen.  Of course, as I said, we have bandwidth and connectivity issues to resolve LONG before the stuff we own becomes complete vaporware.

9) Privacy. I agree with this one as well.  In fact, I've been preaching the disappearance of privacy since the days of PeopleLink and CompuServe, FidoNet and CBBS.  I don't know why it shocks people so much that their privacy is at risk when many of those same folks are publishing their entire life story online - Facebook, blogging, Piknik, Google Docs, etc.  As the adage goes: put it online in any form and assume the world is reading it.  There is no privacy. Get over it or get offline. Even when we set our Facebook options to be as limited as possible, the things we post are out in the ether for the world to see and share, to discuss and debate.  There is no way around it other than to unplug. And, even that is no guarantee. Why? Because we use our plastic cards at some local restaurant who uses Heartland to process our payment then Heartland gets hacked.  Or, Heartland (just using as an example, I am not say they do this necessarily) takes your info from the card and sells what they are allowed to mass marketers.  Ads suddenly appear on web pages you visit.  Ads run along side your blog posts that match the content or your eating habits or your preferred toothpaste flavor.  There should never be an assumption or expectation of privacy online.  No matter what "the law" says.  There is no privacy, and in the future, there will be even less than no privacy - everything will be known.

The author of the article ends with: "All we will have that can't be changed are memories."  I have to disagree there, too.  We already have (and this is nothing new) people with fabricated memories and supposedly repressed memories, projected memories and "common" memories.  Memories can be changed.  We just have to hope we are strong enough NOT to change them.

Article: http://xenohistorian.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/9-things-that-will-disappear-in-our-lifetime/

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