The Digital Vanishing Act

Blog_pics_0708012When a new technology was introduced in the 1980's, my then Yankee Group boss Dale Kutnick would cryptically remark, "It's happening." But most of the "happening" was incremental, without much impact on society or culture.

25 years after "The computer moved in" (fascinating retrospective reading) all of that incremental digital change has accumulated. And the many water drops of progress have created a tidal force that, in its essence, is making things go away...

My CDs made my records go away...
...my iPod made my CDs go away. All of my music (and I love music) is now held in my hand.
My digital camera made film and all of my boxes of disorganized pictures go away.
Craig's List is vaporizing the classified (...and some damn good newspapers with them).
Wikipedia made my Britannica go away.
Dictionary.com deleted my cherished Webster's dictionary.
Wang word processing disposed of my typewriter.
Bluetooth in my car deleted On Star -- digital kills digital.
My EZ-Pass vaporized my friendly toll taker.
Google Earth sent my National Geographic atlas to Goodwill.
Pixar got rid of the actors.
eInk will make my books vanish.
GPS on my Blackberry deleted my Garmin handheld.
Cheap transatlantic telecom made a number of programming jobs in the U.S. and Europe go away, re-emerging in India.
Kiosks replaced my triplicate carbon airline ticket.
I'm not taking a planned trip to California this week because I'm having my meeting in telepresence -- the high definition Cisco video teleconferencing system.

Most business executives believe that history is on their side. It's not. The digital vanishing act is just beginning.

What will digital make vanish next?

Comments

re: The Digital Vanishing Act

How about:- Google Apps/Docs eating into MS Office- Blogs eliminated resumes- Some combination of new models (Wesabe, Prosper, Mint) doing something to Banks

re: The Digital Vanishing Act

George, where is the big surprise? Life is about cycles, about things coming and going. Digital or not. The fallacy is in believing that things ought to stay as they are. But life moves on - day by day - and so does business - and so does IT. I thought that was obvious ...

re: The Digital Vanishing Act

GeorgeExcellent conversation starter based on your observations. I've left some of my thoughts on my blog of what could dissipate next, love to hear your thoughts:http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/2008/07/08/what-technology-replaces/

re: The Digital Vanishing Act

* My built-in iSight replaced my webcam* Google replaced my phone book* Netflix/DVR replaced my DVD player replaced my VHS* My iPhone replaced my alarm clock* 3D printers are replacing carpenters* My parking meter card has eliminated my need for quarters

re: The Digital Vanishing Act

What’s been really interesting to me is the influence of the internet/technology on the way I and others think and interact. Right down to the very basic cognitive and social processes that we are taught as children; I can’t help but think we are losing the ability to naturally spell words, add/multiple numbers, keep actual facts in our heads, pay attention to the written word for more than a paragraph, exerting time and effort to interact with someone..etcIn some ways these new technologies have probably also allowed us to broaden our ability to reason and understand the big picture by automating the mundane. But one wonders if something important is being lost ….

re: The Digital Vanishing Act

There is no big "tidal force" movement here, there are technologies that take off, and there are those that don't, simple as that -- the why, is all case by case, usually decided upon by matters of convenience.But for such convenience, you sacrifice things, MP3's aren't sonically perfect, and digital doesn't have the look, resolution or archival structure of film. And Wikipedia is not always accurate, serious internal problems with that model. Netflix throttles and lacks the immediate gratification concept. Kiosks can't provide customer service or much in the way of customization. Telepresence, however good, can't replace a simple handshake and a lunch, sealing the deal has to be in person sometimes. And Craig's List is just a differing form, more immediate and convenient, over a pile of newspapers. But Craigs doesn't work so well, in the less-clustered rural environments. And Craig's has all the usual technology pitfalls, spam, con artists and such, the fact that Craigs works so well is testament to the local nature, over the big technologically-inhuman ecommerence infrastructure.Pixar can't replace actors, compliment yes, but yet still not in a realistic fashion, which is why it's all usually kiddie fare. The eInk promise-cure hype has been a running thing for a decade now, paper won't die, it's portable, DRM-less and doesn't need to be charged up. Cheap transatlantic telecom, is no longer cheap. And tech is relearning the lessons GM learnt in the 80s. you can save on labor, but then infrastructure, logistical and planning costs eat it all up. And development isn't as simple as farming it out to a hired hand, ask Quark on that one.

re: The Digital Vanishing Act

I know that it's a personal opinion expressed on the blog, but I do worry sometimes when people assume one new technology will wipe out an old one for everyone.Vinyl records, for example, haven't died out due to cd's or mp3s. They've simply become something which appeals to a core group of DJs and collectors. And bands like Nine Inch Nails have used free MP3 downloads to grow sales of a CD boxset.And animated films does not replace actors, and is unlikely to - even the most realistic animated Korean and Japanese popstars don't have universal appeal - particularly as some of us don't want picture perfect pop...Books and magazines won't disapear completely - some people want the physical (perhaps antique in the future) feel and appearance.What does happen is that the amounts of records/books/magazines etc will drop a lot from the mainstream to the amount which satisfies those who are interested...

re: The Digital Vanishing Act

Max:I agree, when I was composing this post, it all seemed rather obvious. But it kept haunting me -- one of those thoughts that while obvious, was somehow broadly meaningful. So I couldn't resist...George

re: The Digital Vanishing Act

Despite all the technological simulations, there's still nothing like 18 holes of golf on a beautiful summer day, George!

re: The Digital Vanishing Act

Got me thinking--what cannot/will not be totally replaced?- Newspapers/magazines(I love the new yorker, but do not think i have ever read an article on newyorker.com)- Handwritten editing(tracking changes just never seems to capture everything)- Actually learning/loving to play an American-made Fender strat(vs. the les paul-ish plastic Guitar Hero device)- the 'thank you' note(shame on you who disagree)- sense of direction(all too often lost as a result of gps dependency)Granted - some of these things have been augmented by technology (e.g., blogs, tablet pcs, ultimate-guitar.com, evites)...but, much like your noted drawbacks of the Cisco teleconferencing system...when should tech simply acknowledge that old-fashioned is better in some circumstances? Furthermore, does giving right-of-way to old school hinder tech progress?

re: The Digital Vanishing Act

There was a recent AdAge article on how digital watch sales are down amongst youths, attributed to them using the clocks on their cell phones. But how about new technologies that have caused "old" technologies to re-emerge?Mass-produced high quality audio recordings were blamed for lowering concert ticket sales, followed by downloadable digital being blamed for the slowing of CD sales....and now, as a result, we have what seems to be a trend towards more of a focus on live shows.Digital cameras made Polaroids even MORE obsolete...but Polaroid just released an inkless instant digital camera printer.The internet was once blamed for replacing human interaction, but social networks allow me to keep in touch with of more friends (and more often) than anything ever before.It's all about cycles, and sometimes those cycles come full circle.

re: The Digital Vanishing Act

In response to the closing comment (question) of George F. Colony's blog entry of 7 July 2008 that was (quote), "What will digital make vanish next" (unquote) ... I submit for your consideration two separate answers. Each answer is not mutually exclusive of the other.In the near-term, digital will render a huge percentage of conventional munitions obsolete for the purpose of state versus state organizational conflict (aka, "War"). The preliminary stages are present in such entity as Thirty-Three-Twenty-Two-dot-com as outlined in a recent Spring 2008 Business Week cover story about cyber warfare.In the long-term, human societies will transition to an advanced form of organization with a greater degree of unity and common purpose. This socialogical aspect has been outlined by author Michio Kaku in "Physics of the Impossible" in a beyond the horizon manner. It is not the science, but rather the human stuctural limitations of our current organizations ( aka, conflict and exclusion as a priority in our awareness ) that is the chief constraint on technological "progress". Of 15 "impossibilities" that might be possible, invisiblity is rather easy to conceptualize. But it won't happen without the digital revolution. Becuase the digital revolution is what is bringing humanity together on an individual to individual and a small-group to small-group basis ... rather than the more historical traditional nationlistic (state) identity.So how ironic is that. The digital revolution is a play in both the advancement of humanity and also in it's possible downfall.If you ask about the mid-term and how to expedite (minimize) the period of conflict mentioned above for the near-term (aka, "cyberwar"), well certain web 3.0 technologies are better suited for the overall good in civilian hands. Currently they are ... but the (wall) street and the (London) city are not paying attention. (pun intended).Perhaps the smart money isn't so smart after all. Perhaps the smart money is locked into the ladder of inference, and only see's what they expect to see.Artificial Intelligence exists.It is a proven, demonstrated capability.How is that for a controversial blog comment?

re: The Digital Vanishing Act

My prediction: physical forms of money will be vaporized.Every day I get annoyed when paying with cash -- stuffing dollar bills into my wallet; finding coins in my pocket amidst house keys; looking for an ATM near a cash-only restaurant.The Gold Standard has long since disappeared. How long before physical forms of money also go the way of the barter system (i.e., mostly gone, with some qualifications)?It seems to me that the Internet -- combined with promising biometrics technologies, etc. -- could be enough to tip the balance in favor of getting rid of these hassles called "coins" and "dollar bills."

re: The Digital Vanishing Act

@Leo Henton: Not sure I completely agree with your futuristic post, but nonetheless happy that you opened the thread.FIRST: My take is that you have it somewhat right: the Internet is fundamentally changing our world, in very deep and powerful ways that are only just becoming apparent. However, the idea that it will be somehow transcendant in the way you suggest doesn't make sense to me.I think the Internet will allow for a new and more robust "scaffolding" system to structure human society. But laid on top of this new technological platform will be the same old human substrates -- greed and altruism; happiness and sadness; ambition and complacency; global and local. The details of the "rules" are changing, but it's still the same "game" that Shakespeare wrote about, the Beatles sang about, etc. etc.SECOND: As a neurobiology major in college, I've got a very different take on "artificial intelligence." My understanding is that AI is of two basic types -- 1) direct mimicry of human intelligence; 2) developing "intelligent" software bots to manage complex processes such as manufacturing floors, stock trades, etc.Although #2 is far more useful and practical, #1 has long captivated imaginations and academic research programs. Coming from the neurobiology side, however, I have always been very skeptical. Human intelligence developed implicitly, as an emergent property of a larger system (i.e., earth’s biosphere). I’ve long believed that the only way to develop a true form of human-style AI is to simply model the correct evolutionary environment, and then watch the AI develop on its own.Here’s the interesting thing: I have a sneaking suspicion that the Internet itself is now becoming this requisite “evolutionary environment.” And the AI that is developing is the speciation of human culture. And the various companies in today’s “platform wars” are in fact Google, MS, Facebook, etc…their platforms - once the ecosystem is mature – will become the “chromosomes” to structure the evolution of memes (which are already known as the cultural equivalent of genes).I proposed this idea to a very thoughtful friend recently, and he gave the predictable response - doomsday worries reminiscent of The Matrix movie. To which I said - that's completely overblown. My evidence: we human beings have already starred as "the machines that tried to take over the world"...at least, from the perspective of insects, birds, trees, etc...our evolutionary forebears. And so far, it looks like we will not in fact take over (and then destroy) the world around us - at least not if Al Gore et al have something to say about it. :)

re: The Digital Vanishing Act

I disagree with you on:"Pixar got rid of the actors."Well, maybe the visible actors... but would 'Ratatouille' have been as fun without Patton Oswalt and Ian Holm? Would 'Monsters, Inc.' have worked without John Goodman and Billy Crystal?