Yesterday, driving around, we noticed a street named after a telecom company. We’re not extremely familiar with where the telecoms were, partly because we lived in the Springs at the time (yeah, there were a few there too, including MCI that Dan worked for) but we suspect the (tiny) road was built to accommodate headquarters for the company, like, you know, Walmart being on Sam Walton’s rd. if they can get away with it.
The company, which was never one of the big players is long gone and in fact both of us had to wrack our brains to remember it.
And it brought to mind a beautiful day circa 1996, when Dan and I had left the kids with a babysitter and were out for a spin in his old mustang convertible (much like yesterday night. Well, except the babysitter part.) We were driving around, not up to much (I think we got ice cream, ate it outside the store and went back home) and Dan said “you realize that in tops 10 years, but probably 5 long distance will be worth nothing?”
I thought he was nuts. Sure, we had cell phones (actually we didn’t, for another few years. We had walkie talkies, because we lived in a tiny mountain town, and we could communicate with the kids from their jaunts downtown to home with a walkie Talkie. It seems like yesterday the unit crackling on my desk, and Robert’s voice “Baby bird to momma bird. Come in momma bird.”) And those often had free long distance “in the tri-state area” (remember that?) But we were still paying a hefty every-month bill for my weekly one-hour conversations with mom. And I thought “Dude, how?”
It’s twenty years later. Long distance is still here, but it’s not a money maker for anyone. I now pay an additional $10 fee a month for those conversations. Only, frankly, because we’re so cheap that if we were merchandise we’d be out on a bin with “ten for a dollar”. So our base plan is cheap as heck, and excludes international call. We added it on to my phone only, because with my parents in their eighties it wasn’t feasible to NOT be able to call at the drop of a hat.
Twenty years. The telecom companies got absorbed into bigger ones, and then different ones. the landscape changed. Today only street names remain as the bones of great bit creatures that walked the Earth and vanished when conditions changed.
They collapsed… not gradually but invisibly. Most people had moved on, and didn’t notice when they disappeared.
I predict we’re in for a wave of similar extinctions in the next five to ten years. The first wave will take out publishing, a lot of the print media, a lot of written entertainment, some art. They won’t disappear, mind, but what’s been happening with Indie will have completely replaced it, in anything that matters.
I’m not saying that book publishers will stop existing, but they’ll go more bestsellers-only, perstige-editions only, hard cover only. It’s already happening in fact. It’s sliding more that way every year.
I am predicting next will be schools. I already have a friend making most of his living of what you could call “Indie school”. It’s full time online tutoring to compensate for awful schools.
The tutoring to compensate for what the schools will not do is not news to me. In most Latin countries, Portugal not an exception, schools have gone so bad that the only way to make it to college is with someone else teaching you. (Not me, of course, because, well, we didn’t have the money. So, uphill both ways. I learned my own self, the best I could. There are still weird holes.) No, like publishing, I doubt schools will ever be replaced, or not for 20 years or so, but the revolution HAS started.
Look, it’s not just books. It’s anything that’s information, including education. It’s cheaper on line. It’s more convenient.The costs of delivering a lesson to new audiences is the cost of storing it on a server.
It will only take long (unless a catastrophe of some sort intervenes) for it to die because education is so regulated. That’s all. Mathematically, economically, technologically it’s already dead.
Movies… well, that’s harder and further off, because the tech is not quite there yet.
The movie industry is, however, doing to itself what publishing did to itself back in the nineties, so… when the tech is there for small companies to produce very professional, competitive movies? It will be swift and terrible.
The economy is getting better (thank heavens) but don’t be lulled into complacency. The better the economy, the faster things will change. It’s a catastrophic technological revolution. It hits things no one even thinks of. I just realized when writing this that I haven’t seen a walkie talkie for sale in years, because… well, who needs them?
If you’re in an artistic or communication industry, or one of the subsidiaries, you’re going to get hit.
Keep awareness of what is happening at all times. Learn what others in your field are experiencing. Prepare an escape hatch. Ideally, prepare several escape hatches.
Learn to do other things, or to do what you do in different ways. Be ahead of the change, not behind it. For is it not written “Keep your clothes and weapons where you can find them in the dark”? (RAH, PBUH)
Build under, build over, build around.
Stay alert, stay moving.
And be not afraid.