Tuesday, January 14, 2014

For better or worse: 10 things that will be gone in our lifetime?

I was sent one of those 10 things that will be gone in our lifetime list from a family member.  There are a variety of (plagarized) versions circulating around for decades, but I decided to comment on this specific list.  Who the original author is seems to be unknown.

I consider these to be wordsmithed, politically motivated lists. One common theme is that there is various types of creative works that will "disappear" because people aren't paying. The reality is that while these creative industries are changing, people still want to pay.  Failures have been largely the fault of the incumbent industries themselves.

If there is no more for-profit music, it will be because the currently unnecessary *recording* industry kills it for composers and performers. The recording industry have been fighting a battle for decades against modern technology which makes the *recording* industry redundant, and allows all the money for the continuously commercially viable *music* industry to flow directly to composers and performers.

In the recording industries battle against the music industry they have "partnered" up with specific hardware manufacturers to try to control the industry. I put "partnered" in quotations as it is those hardware manufacturers, in their separate battle against competition, that will remain in control of the technology and thus any industry that helps it along. When you hear the terms "copy control", "DRM", "TPMs" or other such acronyms what you are really hearing about is the takeover of some part of the content industry by hardware manufacturers with the help of some insane pawn in the content industry.

Intermingled in this are some more accurate portrayals of the changes, but it is hard not to notice the politics in the commentary

1. The Post office

Package delivery is on the rise because of online shopping, and thus if a "post office" dies it is because that specific company (Canada Post in the case of Canada) doesn't change with the times -- not because we use those types of services less.  Unlike the past when these were government granted monopolies, there is now competition in these markets: which should be understood as a good thing rather than bad.

Some services must be taken away from any one company (including the historical "Post Office"), such as location labelling.  Postal codes and street addressed must become government assigned and not alleged to be owned by anyone (including the government).  There should be authorized/validated sources for this geo-spacial information, but no crown or any other copyright.  It is a serious problem that Canada Post alleges to own, control or license postal code related databases.

2. The Check

Paper checks were never a good way to accurately and safely indicate a transfer of money from one banking account to another. The underlying transaction is the same whether we indicate the 2 accounts and amount with paper or more accurately in some other way. This piece of paper has also changed drastically over the years, so the change of not bothering with the paper is minor in comparison.

3. The Newspaper

There is now competition in the news industry, whether text, audio (radio) or video.  I consider this to also be a good thing.

The discussion about an alliance with Apple/Amazon/etc is part of the hardware industry taking over a content industry I mentioned.  We shouldn't feel sorry for the old newspapers which this "alliance" will wipe out, as that is their choice to wipe themselves out.

4. The Book

Physical paper books as a medium is different than music. Recorded music has always required some sort of player, so moving from one storage medium to another is an insignificant transition, with storing the music within the player being obvious.

Printed books only need your eyes and brain, and physical/portable/transferable/cheap paper as a medium has advantages over comparatively expensive digital readers. Until digital readers become so cheap that you don't worry about them getting wet at the beach, lost in the sand, or loaned/given away to other people, paper books will always be around.

It is possible they won't be as common given there are alternatives.

5. The Land Line Telephone

The commentary is outdated and/or very US centric, as most cell plans I've seen also have a "local" calling zone and some (like WIND, which I use) doesn't charge minutes any more.

The general theme I agree with: I consider the land-line at my residence to be my wife's phone, and I don't ever answer it. It would have been gone years ago except my wife wants it.

That said, I don't use my mobile device as a "phone" very often.

6. Music

Music is not going away, and the negative aspects discussed are entirely the fault of the recording industry and not so-called "illegal downloading".

It is the "Star System" promoted by the recording industry that is making it harder for newer artists -- the recording industry sees new music as an expense and competition to the existing recordings they hold copyright to.

7. TelevisionRevenues

Television Networks and BDU's (Broadcast Distribution Undertakings, like cable and satellite services) need to be thought of as services to get entertainment to audiences. Like the horse-shoe industry declining with the growing automobile industry, these outdated technologies eventually get replaced.

The important change is the business model which is transitioning from advertiser paid (where the customer is the advertiser and the product is the audience) to audience paid (where the customer is the audience and the product is the creative content). This transition proves many of the others like the claims about the music business false: people are and continuously demonstrate a willingness to pay for content, if only the outdated middle-men got out of the way and allowed people to pay.

I consider this a positive transition for both audiences and the creator industry.  Rather than the lowest-common-denominator garbage that advertisers prefer,  smart and more audience focused scripted programming will gain better funding with audience-pay models.  Broadcast television had so few good shows on, and there is orders of magnitude more good scripted shows on services like Netflix than was ever accessible through broadcast.  Some of my favourite new shows are Netflix originals.

There is no BDU in our household, and I get my video content online through Netflix, broadcaster websites like watch.space.ca , and through DVD/etc purchases.

We have a digital over-the-air antenna and tuner on one TV, but beyond watching broadcast for the few months after ditching cable it hasn't been used in over a year.  It sits there ready for some potential (but unlikely) eventuality where we may want to watch some local live broadcast.

I've watched statistics, and have been surprised at how slow this transition (often called "cutting the cord") is happening in Canada.

There are many things slowing the transition down, including misguided creator unions (actors, performers, writers, etc) trying to add inappropriate regulations to non-broadcast delivery mechanisms.  Like their participation in the "copyright" debate when it comes to compulsory licenses and "technological measures", these unions lobby at the CRTC and elsewhere in ways which greatly harm the economic and other interests of creators (the folks they claim the work for).

8. The "Things" That You Own

For this one the author missed the transition entirely, and demonstrates a lack of sophistication. While people used to say that *posession* is 9/10ths of the law, this isn't the case.

Whether you physically posses a CD, DVD, laptop, tablet, phone, etc doesn't determine whether you *own* it, or what you are legally allowed to do with it.

Hardware manufacturers, using the content industry as pawns, has been transitioning hardware from a model where the owner is the person who possesses the hardware to where the manufacturer is the owner. The intent is that you will not own anything from the medium (CDs) or devices (computers, etc), even if they are physically in your home and held in your hand. It will be illegal for you to do anything with these things that you don't first get permission from the owners, which are the manufacturers.

Cloud services have little at all to do with this, and in fact the largest of the cloud companies (Google) is often (but not always) on the side of good in clarifying that what you have in your possession is your and what is elsewhere is not. Apple, Sony and Microsoft -- the worst three opponents to technology property rights -- have been lobbying for years to ensure that you don't own what is in your possession/home any more than you own anything in the cloud.

9. Joined Handwriting (Cursive Writing)

Agreed, although like other mechanisms to communicate that change over the centuries I don't consider this to be a large problem.   Most of us can't write or read hieroglyphs, logograms, or other such pictorial representations of concepts.  Joined handwriting is also a very geographically focused writing method, and it makes sense for such things to go out of style as part of globalization.

10. Privacy

Concepts of privacy are changing, and there are threats, but we don't all agree on what privacy means and who we wish to be private from.  I don't consider Google Street View (including the collection of broadcast WiFi information) to be invasive of privacy as I considered all of the things it collects to be public.

I have serious problems with so-called "lawful access" legislation which seeks to allow governments access to communications networks and devices.  Police forces and governments are made up of people, and the percentage risk of law-breakers or even terrorists being within the police or government will be similar to the outside.  It is simply naive to blindly trust police forces in the pursue of blindly mistrusting the general public, and we should always ask about ulterior motives and/or competance of policy makers promoting these types of policies.

I have serious problems about attacks on technology property rights, given the best way to protect our privacy and other rights is if private citizens can own and control the technology they use to communicate with each other.  It is not GPS or Street View that people should be concerned with, but Apple iOS, Amazon Kindle's and other such non-owner controlled devices and the laws which protect these rights-infringers from citizens.