Monday, August 02, 2010

Going the way of the dodo

This was my column on the date indicated above. This post is antedated.

There are tens of thousands of “thank you” cards from the former occupants of Malacañang for public school teachers stuck at the Education Department. They have difficulty delivering those by courier service. Why couldn’t these be delivered by post mail? Oh, right. Most people have forgotten that we still have post offices in this country.

My friends and I decided to make a joint donation recently to a social cause and the one tasked to pool the money asked everyone to just issue checks. We were momentarily stumped because not all of us had checking accounts. “But how do you pay bills?” someone wondered aloud. The answer: Credit cards, automatic debit accounts, and by cash which can be withdrawn at an ATM.

I have a Kindle that I use to download and read books, a number of people I know read books, magazines, and newspapers from their iPads. The Bank I work for recently gave me a duo sim card, which instantly transformed my mobile phone into a landline. Music, movies, television shows can now be easily downloaded from the Internet and stored in and viewed from computers and iPods.

These changes are the subject of an article that is going around again on the Internet. I am not surprised the subject is affecting people in profound ways; those of us who grew up with the artifacts discussed in the email once saw these things as indispensable.

I spent some time trying to ascertain the real source of the article but had no luck. What struck me though were the many times the same article was re-titled and attributed to other authors in various sites. Anyway. I’d like to share in this space a condensed version of the article, edited for length:

Whether these changes are good or bad depends in part on how we adapt to them. But, ready or not, here they come!

The Post Office. Get ready to imagine a world without the post office. It is 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.

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.

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 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 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.

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.

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-destruction. Over 40 percent of the music purchased today is “catalog items,” meaning traditional music that the public is familiar with.

Television. People are watching TV and movies streamed from their computers. And they’re playing games and doing all lots of other things that take up the time that used to be spent watching TV.

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. 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.

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.“

Quite affecting observations, aren’t they?

No comments: