Scripture says, For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come (Heb 13:14). It also says, for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Cor 4:18). And yet again, And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 Jn 2:17). And even yet still, For the present form of this world is passing away (1 Cor 7:31).
Well OK, I suppose you get it by now. But actually we DO struggle to get it. We get so attached to things here and think, “well here’s a howdy do” to the latest in things.
I still remember my first shiny new 8-Track player. The picture at the right is from the 1979 Sears Catalog and looks a lot like my dad’s machine. Funny how almost everything displayed on this 1979 stereo is gone now: record player, 8-Track, cassette, all gone.
Some years ago, I remember laughing at that old technology as I went into the record store and bought the latest CD recordings. “Now this is it,” I thought, “music has reached perfection.” And less than ten years after that I ripped my closet full of CDs to my iPod and carted those now “old fashioned things” out the door. How amazingly fungible our technology and culture has become. And while a little fascination is understandable at “something new,” we do well to remember it’s all passing away.
I ran across this list of Nine Things That will Disappear in Our Life. Let me give you the list and make some comments. I am less convinced as the list goes on, I must say, but here they are.
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. E-mail, Fed Ex, and UPS have just about wiped out the minimum revenue needed to keep the post office alive. Most of your mail everyday is junk mail and bills. Yes, and the bills are fast going away too, I am doing more on line. In fact almost none of my bills do I pay by check. I do all my major bills online and even many of the one-time bills. Only Charitable donations get the paper check these days. Even my parish tithe is taken right out of my account. The parish bills are another matter. We, are still using the old paper heavy approach to paying them. Accountants are slow to change their ways and auditors still want to see tons of paper when they make their triennial visit. There will continue to be some need and ability to post a paper letter, but there is no reason to have a whole Postal Service to do this.
2. 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. If you never paid your bills by mail and never received them by mail, the post office would absolutely go out of business. This is already largely true for me, as I’ve said. However, I currently have no way to get funds to another person. Let’s say I wanted to send $100 to my nephew, how would I do it with out a paper check. If the check really is going to disappear as early as 2018 in England, I think we’ll have to have a pretty convenient way to transfer funds electronically, person to person. I would also add that cash itself will be greatly reduced as a daily reality. Right now, I carry almost no cash. And when I run out, it may take me days to notice and days more to replenish it. I pretty much live off my debit card. I can see that in the next 10 years even smaller scale venders (like hotdog sellers at the corner) will be expected to take plastic. There are already devices the size of a cell phone that let you swipe a card and send the transaction. Of course we may wonder what will happen to beggars if we go increasingly cashless.
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. Definitely see this too. When I was a kid we used to have milk delivered to our door. Supermarkets, and better, cheaper refrigeration put an end to that. Electronic versions of newspapers are already a reality and the paper versions are going bye bye. I must say though, there is more to the demise of the newspaper industry than technology. Many people have come to consider the traditional newspaper publishers arrogant and biased. Simply making electronic versions of these papers available is not going to stem their demise. People just want more variety and views with their news now and the newspapers stubbornly refused to do that for too long.
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. We’ve talked about this before. I still think there will continue to be need for physical books that feature a lot of art and drawings. But I’ll admit, my physical book collection is one third the size it used to be, and it is still shrinking. The first books to go were the large reference books, for the Internet took their place. Who needs the Catholic Encyclopedia when newadvent.org has it on line. More recently my Kindle has started filling and I do like reading text on it. The screen is very agreeable to my eyes. So other books are being “set loose” from my shelf. But for the record, I do not see the total demise of the book coming. It’s like the movie theater, in the era of DVDs. There’s still something special about seeing things on the wide screen. There are just going to be some books that need that physical edition to really show their stuff. Fewer to be sure, but still here in thirty years.
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. Yes, businesses still have the land line needs though. I have yet to see a cell phone switchboard and some of the easy switching back and forth between multiple lines that land lines offer. But for personal stuff, I live on my cell phone. I would like to see cell phones integrated in business settings so that, when I get to my desk I can just plug that baby into a larger module and have easier dialing, intercom options, and other lines available to me. It’ll come, but I don’t see it yet. Also, when I do radio interviews they always want me on a land line. Simple reason, the quality is better and the technology is more reliable. So, before land lines disappear altogether, things like this will have to be addressed.
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 “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.” This is crazy, music will never die. How we share music surely has changed. And all the corruption in the industry and people stealing music is a problem. But in the end, the soul has to exhale. Musicians will continue to make music even if the money is poor. You just have to understand the soul of a musician. Music is here to stay. The music industry as a multi-billion dollar things is something else. But music itself will never die as long as we human beings have life and breath.
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. I think what they mean here is the television as “dumb monitor” enslaved to the schedules set by networks will go away. This is probably true that networks and stations as we know them may begin to disappear. However, I wonder if we will get the same quality programming if everyone is just living in their own little TV world. It Nat Geo can’t be sure a proposed series on crocodiles will get enough orders, it might not make it in the first place. If we atomize the audience by narrow casting, a lot of the benefits of broadcasting might go away. I don’t watch a lot of TV, but when I do, I often surf and find something interesting that just catches my eye. This experience will be lost if I’m just ordering from a menu. Sometimes sampling from the buffet is a richer experience.
8. “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 hand held 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. I already store a lot of things in “the cloud.” But I’ll be honest, I keep backups on my backup drives too. I don’t currently use any cloud software solutions, they’re too expensive. But, I would never keep all my data just “out there.” I keep my 2 terabyte backup drive humming away in the background along with Carbonite.
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. The “man” is watching. To be clear, privacy is going to get harder and harder to ensure. Sounds like the birth of another industry! Purchase Privacy insurance now, only $19.95 per month. Morph yourself monthly and be a man who’s hard to see or remember. And remember: Nationwide is on the Hide.
Here’s a song that moved from my vinyl record collection (45rpm), to my eight track collection, to my CD library, and now resides on my iPod and also in “the cloud” as a backup. It is the timeless and perfect voice of Karen Carpenter (RIP). Have you ever heard her voice in the head phones, (err, I mean, Bose ear buds)? It is fabulous.