Monday, September 27, 2010

Cautionary Tales: The Inevitable?

For our (hopefully) regular Monday morning series ...

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, FedEx 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 simply self-destruct. 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 a lot 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.

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.

(H/T to "S.L." for this contribution which saves us from doing any real work.)


Charlotte said...


However (and I know I sound like some conspiracy theorist), what if it ends up being a fact that all of these digital, mobile, and computer decvices really are causing or contributing to cancer? Then what?

This is my worry. I sometimes think I'm nuts, and other times not. I mean, the cigarette companies hid the truth forever, and I think there will soon come a day when we see that the pill is linked to cancer. Or will there just be more lies?

Mitch said...

And things like this make me want to become a hermit. I have no desire to give up the feeling of paper as I flip the pages, or the smell of old books. I have no desire to give up checks. I am 21 and I prefer them to cards. I'm a cash and check kinda guy. (Cash>Checks>Cards) I am a person who cares greatly about privacy, and will do what I can to resist cloud services in that I will do my most personal computing on computers not hooked to the internet. And if the post office dies I guess I will have to mail letters by UPS at the real market value of ground delivery.

But then again I'm a bit of an agrarian. And I am ranting here for no good reason, but thanks for listening/reading (and in secret calling me a luddite... ha)

Kim said...

@Charlotte--that day is here; the pill/breast cancer link is fact:

"There is a wealth of scientific literature that shows, on average, a 50 percent increase in the risk of breast cancer for women who have had an abortion before a first full-term pregnancy, and 30 percent increase after a first full-term pregnancy in the general population. Teenagers having an abortion before age 18 double their risk for breast cancer. In one study, girls with a family history of breast cancer, and who also had an abortion before age 18, showed an astronomically high risk of developing breast cancer by age 45."
Read more here: