Friday, July 12, 2019

Next: The Future Just Happened

Next details some of the drastic societal changes caused by the internet. It was written 18 years ago, and thus provides an interesting insight into where we thought things were going. Amazon would continue on its path to dominate retail. Ebay is still around, but it was Craigslist that played a bigger role in sucking the gas out of local newspapers. The financial markets recovered from the dot com bubble, only to hit the housing bubble and now are on their way to the next bubble. Many old school careers have died away. However, there is almost a greater clinging to "credentialism". Lawyers are still needed to perform legal activities, even if most of it can be done by a computer or somebody in India. Doctors still need to prescribe medicine, even if the diagnoses can be found on the internet. However, people are taking much more of this into their own hands.
Privacy is one area where Lewis's trajectory was way off. He saw people willing to give up their privacy for their own benefit or even to be heard. Today, however, things have flipped to an almost polar opposite. People are paranoid about exposing too much, and laws are made to give a great deal more privacy rights.
He did catch on to the corporations co-opting the rebels. Social Media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and SnapChat were nowhere to be found when he wrote this book. However, they are now behemoths in their own right. And they are now heavily utilized by companies as part of their social media strategy. Google had barely been founded when this book was written. Now they are staring down the eyes of regulators. Tech has gone from "upstart" to regulated utility.
The story of media did not follow the expected path, but has actually managed to gain more control, while at the same time losing it. File sharing has faded as people can new just stream music and video. Network, Cable and Satellite television watching has become archaic. There were cord cutters. And now there are just "never had a cord" households. The book details the launch of the DVR with TiVo and ReplayTV. Tivo is still around. However, the set-top box has been adopted by most cable providers. They did help get people accustomed to TV on demand. However, most people took it a step further and just subscribed to Netflix. Today, however, most studios are launching their own streaming services. This fragmentation seems a last-ditch effort that could lead us back to the bad-old days of piracy. Music streaming is fairly available with services like Spotify. Bands don't see much revenue from it. But they rarely did earlier. The book talks about Marillion's direct relationship with their fans. Today, bands need the direct communication to survive.
The book talks about a few "whiz kids" that had run ins with adult society. A teenager made money promoting stocks. Another gave free legal advice. Another helped write computer programs. These still exist. However, they don't make news. Society has almost brushed aside the kids and filled the internet with so much "garbage" that it is hard to find reliable advice outside official channels. Democratization has sewed its own fall.

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