An Interesting Convergence…
When away from my office on travel, I occasionally like to take a look on my computer to catch up on the local news in Seattle. I will typically either access the Seattle Times Newspaper site or alternately the King5 Television station site. Both provide good coverage of local news, sports, and weather for the Seattle area.
As I did this on a recent trip, I began to realize that on the Internet there is basically no difference between a Newspaper site and a Television station site. They both have similar appearances and both provide essentially the same contents. If I didn’t know which was the “newspaper” and which was the “television station”, I would not be able to distinguish.
What does this tell us as we look ahead to the future? The interesting conclusion is that on the Internet every content provider ends up looking the same. Whether the original source is from a newspaper publisher, a television station, a magazine publisher, a search engine, or an original content creator – all end up indistinguishable on our computer screens. We are losing the distinctions that different media used to provide. The feel of a newspaper and how we read it is not the same as how we watch news on a television screen. A magazine has yet a different feel and we may read it on an airplane or in bed at night. Books in print provide yet another distinctive feel and a permanence that a computer screen does not have.
All these distinctive experiences are now converging and blending into one – the electronic display. Of course we are already witnessing this whenever we venture to a shopping mall, a restaurant, or an airport. It is no longer possible to enjoy any of these activities without noticing everyone intently staring at their cell phones, tablets, or laptop computers. So it’s likely that we are already adapting to this new world of all-electronic display media and accepting that our access to any and all information sources will be by looking at electronic displays of various sizes. Given this scenario what does it tell us about current enterprises such as newspapers, television stations, magazine publishers, and perhaps many others?
There is, however, a downside that is currently by and large being ignored. This downside has been noted and concern expressed by one of the originators of the of the Internet, Vincent Cerf. He is concerned that we are creating a world with no permanence – a “digital dark age”. What will happen to the family photographs stored “in the cloud” if the cloud suffers some kind of damage? All of our other information is similarly being centralized and stored in digital media. This is a fundamental change from our centuries of history where knowledge in the form of books, texts, and pictures was dispersed so that no one event could damage or destroy them all. The same was true for family histories in the form of photographs and letters. Many family members had copies that later could be retrieved and duplicated by others.
Furthermore, a photograph or a text does not require any special device to render it readable. That is of course not the case with digital media. We need compatible electronic devices in order to be able to retrieve the information. And once damaged, there is typically no way to do such retrieval.
We are living in a time of change and a time where we are potentially being careless with our future. If all of our records, memorabilia, and knowledge are stored at some unknown remote site “in a cloud” what will happen if one day this “cloud” is no longer there? Have we become too naively dependent and too willing to accept this untested way of keeping our important records? Could this become the century of lost knowledge that will have to be painstakingly recreated by future generations?
Have you committed to storing all your important records “in a cloud” somewhere? I would be interested to hear your thoughts on this topic or others. You may contact me directly from this site, or by telephone at 425-898-9117.