"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Connecting the Dots to the Future

Things I've noticed in the past 24 hours:

1.  My daughter wanted to play the song "Forget You" (original title: "F*** You") by Cee Lo Green on the piano.   She needed sheet music.   We went on a site called musicnotes.com, and downloaded software that not only gives you the sheet music, but plays along with it, highlighting the notes, so you can hear what it's supposed to sound like.   Cost for software:  free.   Cost for music:  $4.95.  

2.  I DVR'ed my favorite show, Breaking Bad, even though I had watched it on Sunday night for the season premiere.   Then, last night, I fast forwarded through it to the climactic scene to watch it again, missing the non-essential parts and skipping the commercials.   This is increasingly how we watch television:  in short snippets, choosing to watch only what we want.   Youtube is the new model.  

3.  Borders has officially gone completely bankrupt.   “The company said in a statement Monday that it was unable to find a buyer willing to keep the company in operation and will sell itself to a group of liquidators led by Hilco Merchant Resources. Borders’ roughly 400 remaining stores will close, and nearly 11,000 jobs will be lost, according to the company.”  I wonder how many people have been hired to manufacture Kindles?   In Asia.  

4.  Meanwhile, there is this story about how to cut college costs with Kindle Textbook Rentals. “Kindle textbooks can typically be rented for any length between 30 to 360 days – you pay only for the time you need and can extend or buy anytime.”   Technology is increasingly setting us free from rackets like book publishing (huge markup), textbook publishing (even huger), and, the biggest racket of all, college education (you can create a perfectly good curriculum for a college student online for free using courses that can be found here).  

When I was born we watched TV in black-and-white and there were three channels.   When I was 21, some of my friends who were college seniors, trekked down to the computer science building to "type" their senior theses on computer terminals connected to a mainframe.  Others felt lucky to have electric typewriters.   Mine was manual.  

When I was 23 and out of college, I used to call in to an 800- number late at night to get baseball scores.   ESPN had just started, but my apartment building (in Manhattan!) didn't have cable yet, and I wouldn't have been able to afford it anyway.   The telephone calls were 50 cents each.   Now I follow Cardinals games pitch-by-pitch on my Blackberry over the Internet.

When I was 25, I got my first PC; it had 512 kb of memory, and the screen showed the text in a weird greenish-orange text, and you stored your papers on floppy disks.   Now you can by an iPad with 64 GB of memory.    You do the math.

I got my first cell phone at 40, and my first Blackberry at 47.   Now I take pictures of my kids on my phone and send them instantly to my mother.   Now I can listen to music on my phone; check the Internet; get email; review documents, etc.  

What will life be like in another ten years?

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