The End is Near – Say Hello to the New Normal
I was having lunch the other day with my client, Rachel, and we got to talking about technology and the Internet. Rachel is a very successful executive and also a foodie. I was waxing on about how much fun I was having with Siri on my new iPhone (my old one died last week – may it rest in peace). She lamented that she tried Iris, the Siri option for her Android but ditched it because it stunk. She said what she really needed was an app that told her when she needed more cinnamon, noting that whenever she went to the supermarket, she was never sure what she was low on and always ended up with too much cinnamon. I assured her that if there was not already an app for that, there would be one soon. And, I am sure, the spice giant, McCormick & Company, would be coming out with smart jars in no time that would tell her not only when she needed more cinnamon but would also when the cinnamon thought the garlic powder was smelling too foul. That got us to talking about how technology was constantly changing our lives, eventually turning our conversation from amazement to nostalgia. Rachel related how she recently went shoe shopping at retail, saw what she wanted, and then bought it online. How she liked the online prices but wanted to touch the merchandise before buying it. I observed that’s exactly what’s killing Best Buy as consumers, empowered with UPC and QR codes, are using brick and mortar retailers as the showrooms for comparison shopping and then buying from e-tailers. Great for Amazon. Suicide for Barnes & Noble. This led to reminiscent thoughts of how we used to get our headlines from paper newspapers and did our crosswords with pens instead of keyboards. By the end of lunch, our discourse went from excitement about technology to regret for what it’s done to the world in which we grew up and learned.
When I got back to my office, I had an email from Bruce, my friend of over fifty years, that he’d sent to me and about twenty other buddies. He forwarded a blog entitled, “5 Ideas That Will Change the World by 2025” by Alex Planes on The Motley Fool. Alex observed that the top five ideas were (1) a surveillance society, (2) an automated workforce, (3) augmented humanity, (4) weakened nationalism and a rising global society, and (5) distributed small-scale on-demand manufacturing. Wow. You really need to read the entire blog. Pretty heady stuff and in many ways consistent with the future I’ve predicted in my own blogs on this website. Virtual sovereign nations are closer than we think.
Being the typical instant responder to such emails and without thinking about it much, I immediately sent a note back to Bruce and his buddies that read, “My friends, the end as we know it is near. Technology and multi-tasking teenagers will take over the world. Gone will be all brick and mortar retailers. There will be no tellers at banks because there will be no people at banks. We won’t need classrooms because everyone will learn remotely. Universities will crumble. Libraries will vanish. Newspapers will be memories. Paper factories will close. Doctors will operate around the world from tech centers with robots. Wars will be fought with bullets and drones that have facial recognition capabilities. Cars will drive themselves. No one will need to talk to one another any more. We’ll just text. Ain’t it gonna be fun!?”
Now here’s the rub in all of this. All the things we’re afraid of really can’t be stopped. And they shouldn’t be. The values offered through the empowerment of consumers and netizens through technology and the Internet cannot be measured. They’re invaluable. They far outweigh every negative that comes with them.
Yeah, yeah. I hear you now. What about privacy? What about identity theft, phishing, and the host of other scams that plague the online world. Guess what? Such things also plague the offline world. And while law enforcement has a much tougher time keeping up with the ingenuity of digital criminals, web cops are not without their own set of effective tools and tactics. Let’s all help them, but don’t think we’ll ever pass laws to rid ourselves of bottom feeding dirt bags.
All of this leads me to the observation posed by my headline: The End is Near – Say Hello to the New Normal. For all of us who grew up with dial phones, rabbit ear antennas, eight track tapes, and 45 rpm records, the past will never again be a prelude to the future. For those of us who grew up knowing how to change oil in a car, who passed hand written notes to one another in class, and who relied on paper maps when we got lost, technology has left all that nostalgia behind, for good and for bad.
All technology comes with the Yin and the Yang – the shadows and the light. And despite all the scary stuff lurking in the shadows, the empowerment illuminated by the light makes all those things we’ve lost and fondly remember seem pretty irrelevant and important only in our next game of Trivial Pursuit.
Carpe Diem. Carpe Futurum.
We Expert Doug Wood