Okay, so they’re not dead yet, but they will be. One of the benefits of a digital world is the elimination of wasteful information transportation and containment systems. I speak of newspapers, CDs, Blurays, television, or any other specialized medium of information transfer.
But please don’t get defensive about your favorite medium. Newspapers come to mind. Just because the current information transfer device is rapidly losing favor with the general public doesn’t mean that reading, investigative reporting and the general American Way is going down the toilet. No. Hate the medium not the content.
We’re all used to these physical specialized items that contain our favorite information. We’re used to them like a child’s blanket. All warm and cuddly with the fuzzy end that we rub for hours. But eventually we give up the blankie.
The old mediums come with many problems and dangers. Newspapers can and are controlled by small groups and force a certain viewpoint onto the content. The mediums themselves contain dangerous chemicals that need to be disposed of carefully as with our television sets. Or the technology threatens to die before it even takes off (sorry, Bluray, I predict your early demise, you will not become my father’s Betamax!) leaving us with hundreds of dollars of worthless junk.
The digital world holds its own dangers. Cory Doctorow gives us Doctorow’s Law about the dangers of DRM in this eye-opening speech to the publishing industry.
Other dangers lurk inside size ten font EULAs that we’re too bored to read, lock-in devices and the capture of our digital information to be used against us. The battle of information control rolls ever onward.
But all is not so dark. Freeing the information from the medium allows for unintended consequences that surprise us. It also eliminates the energy used to create our perishable mediums that end up in the landfill not long after we buy them. Digital content leaps from Shanghai to St. Louis with as much energy as bating an eye. No warehouses are needed to house piles of books, just-in-case (the opposite of just-in-time) someone might want to buy them.
In the end, most medium will be eliminated in a Digital Singularity when augmented reality becomes commonplace. Newspapers, televisions, blurays and other specialized media will serve little purpose except as nostalgia. Instead informational and entertainment products will move to a personal space contained within the users vision.
Don’t despair about the loss of these physical items, because freeing the content from mass manufacturing and global controls will allow the enhancement of the content. The one billion apps on the iPhone have proved how powerful a travelling personal computer can be. The creativity unleashed by such a small device will be nothing compared to the possibilities when the information is freed from the screen and exists as information around us.
Are there pitfalls and hurdles to make this vision come to pass? Yes. But I am excited about how this Digital Singularity will simultaneously destroy the old wasteful media and enhance the content for everyone.