This morning, I was in the Back Bay and I ran into my friend Skip, a Boston real estate broker, and we were discussing how much the times are changing with technology. So here are 10 items that will most likely disappear in their current form in our lifetime. Whether these changes are good or bad depends in part on how we adjust to them. But, ready or not, here they come:
1. The Post Office. Get ready to visualize Boston with no post office. They are so deeply in financial trouble that there’s probably no chance to sustain it long term. Email, Fed Ex, and UPS have just about wiped out the minimum revenue required to maintain the post office alive. Most of your mail every day is junk mail and bills.
2. The paper check. Britain has already been 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 an internet-based transactions will lead to the eventual demise of the check. This plays directly into the death of your post office. If you never paid your debts by mail and never received them by mail, the post office would absolutely close shop.
3. The Newspaper. Younger generation simply doesn’t read the physical newspaper. They certainly don’t sign up for a daily delivered print edition. That could go the way of the milkman of my grandparents. As for reading the paper online, get ready to fund it. The increase in mobile Internet devices and e-readers has caused all of the newspaper and magazine publishers to form an alliance. They’ve met with Apple, Amazon and also the major cell phone companies to develop a model for paid subscription services. But don’t worry: this Boston real estate blog will always be free.
4. The Book. My friend Skip said he wouldn’t ever ever give up the hard cover/paper back book, which by the way, he held in his hand as we were having this conversation. I said to him that I once thought the same thing about downloading music from iTunes. I need my hard copy CD. But I quickly changed my mind when I learned that I could get albums for half the cost without ever leaving home to find the latest music. Exactly the same thing may happen with books. You are now able to browse a bookstore online and even read a preview chapter before you purchase. And also the prices are less than half that of a hard cover 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 due to the fact they’ve always been with them.
6. Music industry. The music sector 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..”
7. Traditional network television programming. 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 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. Let the people choose what they want to watch online and through Netflix.
8. The digital “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 traditional sense 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 on it. 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 possess any of this “stuff” or will it all be able to disappear at any moment in a big digital “poof?”
9. Privacy. This is one of the saddest parts of the changing times we live in. If there has ever been a concept that we can look back on nostalgically, it might be privacy. That’s gone. It has 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 “they” know who you are and where you are, right down to the GPS coordinates, and the Google Street View. If you buy something (online or via plastic), your habit is put in a zillion profiles. And “they” will endeavor to get you to buy something else. Time and again, through customized ads.
10. I could go on with banktellers, travel agents, fax machines, err..
And real estate agents.
All we’re going to have that can’t be changed are Memories. Let me say that again… Memories
Hat tip to Skip Barry (who stll doesn’t have a Boston real estate website), so I can’t give him link and Ritholz