Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Ten Things That Will Disappear In Our Lifetime

A friend sent this to me this morning. Let's face it, it's no surprise. You and I have been watching this coming. Our world is constantly changing and certainly digital technology has been leading this change. We've probably seen the greatest change since Y2K, the turn of the millennium.

Remember how we feared that airplanes would fall from the sky, cars and trucks would end up in huge pile-ups when traffic lights got out of sync, our money would not be available or completely disappear from our bank accounts, etc., etc. at the stroke of midnight on January 1, 2000? Well, it didn't happen, well not that way at least. But, there has been serious change since that date. 

Some of us older folks may actually view this as an "assault" on institutions, services and traditions we never imagined would disappear. But, I'm positive that the people who were around before the steam engine, the train, the telegraph, telephone, light bulb, combustion engine and automobile, photography, motion pictures, etc. had the same thoughts. They never thought the day of the stage coach, horse and buggy, candles, kerosene lamp, Pony Express (which was short lived), messengers on horseback and so on would disappear either.

Well, it's our turn. This is happening in the U.S., at a pace that's almost dizzying, where much or most of this change is originating. Whether these changes are good or bad depends in part on how we adapt to them. But, ready or not, here they come. So, take a look at this list and let me know what you think. Are you accepting them or are you letting go, kicking and screaming, as they are torn from our aging hands? 

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 check 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 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 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. Joined Handwriting (Cursive Writing)

Already gone in some schools who no longer teach "joined handwriting" because nearly everything is done now on computers or keyboards of some type (pun not intended)

10. 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 GoogleStreet 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 and again.

My Personal Thoughts On The Changes

I can honestly say that I've dealt with items 1 through 8, accepted them and adapted. I do have to admit that it did take me a while to adjust to some of them. Of course, the Post Office is still with us, but for the few things it's still good for, I can see it being reduced to probably 10% to 25% of its current size and handle only the absolute necessities.

I don't miss the check or reading a newspaper (and getting black newsprint all over my hands - and remember, I started my entrepreneurial career as an independent newspaper delivery boy at age 12) and the book (remember, I was a book publisher for about 12 years and I still don't miss it). I gave up the landline telephone toward the end of 2008 when I was finally back down to only one line for the first time in decades.

Music, I don't miss it because there are so many ways to access it digitally, today (again, remember, I recorded it, produced vinyl records on my own custom label and cassettes and even a few CDs during my long career). Television, once again, I'm perfectly happy accessing anything I want of that nature on the Internet (remember, I have a masters degree in TV & Radio and I was actually involved in the establishment of some of the earliest cable TV systems in New Jersey). Stuff, #8, I can't say how happy I am to have eliminated so much stuff from my life and how I'm still working hard at getting rid of so much more of it.

I guess I'll adjust to #9, but, even though my handwriting is something atrocious, there is still something personal and distinctive about cursive writing for personal notes and signing something. Of course, since we don't actually have to physically sign much of anything anymore, I guess it really doesn't matter. Some of the people alive today may very well be the last to use that form of communication.

Now, #10! That's the one that really gets to me. In this day of growing threats of terrorism, crime and incivility in our society, the idea of being viewed and surveilled (probably a new word that will be added to the on-line dictionary in the near future) virtually all the time, when we are in public, does unnerve me. Worse, yet, is the fact that we need to cover the video cameras on our computers (or disable them) because the government and other nefarious individuals and organizations can turn them on remotely and enter the sanctity of our homes and spy on us for whatever reason they choose, good or evil. The Internet is, for the most part, a very positive thing. But, there is always a dark side.

But, who knows, soon you'll enter a men's room or ladies room, a locker room in a gym and just about any other place you can think of and expect someone, perhaps, even a voyeur to be spying on you. We already have a massively intrusive scanning system that sees through our clothes at airport security check points. That same technology mounted in mobile units can actually look through the walls of commercial buildings and homes. But, then again, heck, I was installing cameras in the elevators of a very large apartment complex in Fort Lee, New Jersey next to the George Washington Bridge. I could sit in the lobby of the complex with the security guard and watch all kinds of shenanigans going on in the elevators. Oh yeah, that was in 1965. 

All we will have left . . . that which can't be changed . . . are our "Memories."

So, how do you feel about these changes? You've seen my views. Share your feelings and thoughts. 


Richard Rosen said...

I enjoy change. It's an aspect of growing. And that we do throughout our lifetimes and continues on into the next.

For me, having a perspective that my steps are ordered and there is a plan tailored to the growth of my soul and its character is what helps me embrace change. I know many people are so stressed that the challenge of change is one more burden. "Ah, my poor aching shoulders; I ain't Hercules."

As for privacy, you are right Ed: it's gone, gone, gone! Nonetheless, for those sufficiently concerned there are ways to prevent most online loss of privacy; it's takes effort however.

Vive la change, a token of being alive.

Ed Helvey - The Professional Nomad said...

All True, Richard. Change is not a bad thing, it's just inevitable. However, change is occurring so rapidly at this time in society that it's hard to catch your breath. And despite it all, like a pair of comfortable old shoes or a favorite old chair, there are some parts of the human experience we accept as our comfort zones and attempt to hold on to them as anchors of who we are and our value systems.

The privacy thing is a big one though. It seems that the saying "You can run, but you can't hide," is more true everyday. That is a little concerning and disconcerting to me.


Rob said...

Some years back Willard Scott (morning TV weather guy for one of the networks) mentioned people who were having their 100th or better birthday that day on his morning segment.

One day he was talking about what was the biggest change in their lifetime. We're talking about people who went from covered wagons to men walking on the moon & lived threw two world wars.

The biggest thing in their lifetime was RFD... Rural free delivery by the US Post Office. The mail man came to their door...

As you watch the post office fade away remember they still deliver on Saturday.
Ever watched {on-line} a UPS package you were waiting for sit in a warehouse over a 4 day weekend? I have.

I also read about the political maneuvers that pushed the USPS into the red.

Ed Helvey - The Professional Nomad said...

So right you are, Rob! I've had a business account with UPS for about 40 years. Believe me, I can tell you about change. I also used FedEx from about the time Fred Smith founded it plus Airborne and DHL. I even used the now defunct REA - Railway Express Agency, Greyhound Package Service and bunches of freight trucking companies - some defunct and some merged or taken over. You have to be a logistics engineer to ship almost anything these days - in some cases, even a letter or a card.

And, of course, I used plenty of services of the USPS. I even remember when we had 2 - TWO - mail deliveries a day and the mailman was almost like a member of the family. Ours was Bill. I still remember him with his mail pouch and dark aviator glasses. Cool dude to a little kid.

The unfortunate thing that happened to the USPS is that is became a "quasi" corporation. It should have either remained a government service (of course, it probably would have gone the way of the dinosaurs years ago, in that case) or as a fully separate, private sector corporation. In the latter case it would have had to operate and survive or go belly up on its own ability to efficiently generate the operating revenues and profit it needed to be a viable service corporation.

Also, unfortunately, as happened to the petroleum, steel, auto and other industries, the unions - at one time a positive force in creating a fair and decent employment environment for workers - bloated the operating costs of the USPS and even with the automation they've developed and implemented, they are still too fat and inefficient. That's a major part of what sent GM and Chrysler both into bankruptcy. But through the bankruptcy, the car makers unloaded a lot of the fat and became more efficient and able to survive. Although, now it appears they can't build cars without flaws. The pendulum swung too far the other way, I guess.

I think we'll eventually see the USPS go to 5 days and close thousands of tiny and small post offices and set up franchises in stores like Walmart, Family Dollar, convenience stores, drug store chains, etc. that are privately operated and not owned or manned by the USPS, just like other kiosk type operations. Then there will only be one PO to a district, district PO's will feed into regional PO's and they will feed hubs like UPS and FedEx. Then they might be able to compete. if they last long enough for that kind of reorganization. I doubt they will.