And those changes keep coming

The future ain’t your grandma’s world

By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index

Some changes in our lives or in the way our communities look happen quickly, with clearly discernible dates or events. Other changes happen so slowly that we barely notice them.

Downtown On the Go (DOTG) is one of the organizations that works to draw our attention to the unique or historical residue in downtown Tacoma only visible under close inspection.

I’d like to consider now some of the changes impacting us all. Think about how central some of these things were just a few years ago, how rarely you encounter, or even depend on them now, and how unlikely you are likely to see or use them a few years from now.

Some of these I will miss, but some I’ll be glad to be rid of.

Standard mail (also known as snail-mail) is dwindling by the day.

I used to look forward to the daily delivery of the mail. It was my connection to the world – to my friends, family and potential fortune.

Now it is bills and junk mail. When was the last tine you  received – or sent – anything memorable by mail?

Yes, online purchases are delivered by mail, but it is not the same. Do you even remember getting anything in the mail with a personal touch?

Some neighborhoods are closing Post Offices. How many times a week – or month – do you use your local Post Office?

Think they will exist in five – or ten – years?

Still use physical media? Will you in five years? Two years?

Paper maps - and the ability to read them - is becoming just another lost art. Photo: Morf Morford
Paper maps – and the ability to read them – is becoming just another lost art. Photo: Morf Morford

Music CDs and DVDs used to dominate our time, if not our budget. Now? Not so much.

There is a lot to like about CDs and DVDs; no one tracks how much you use them. No memberships, user accounts or passwords.

And, love it or hate it, cover art and credits were right there. Music now can be streamed or subscribed to, but it “streams” – it just flows with other music that all sounds the same and has no distinct sound, art, meaning or character.

When it comes to voting, that ultimate act of citizenship, Washington state has had mail-in voting for several years.

More and more states are finally realizing that it is far easier, more convenient, accurate and reliable than electronic voting machines.

So good-bye – and good riddance – to polling stations and voting booths.

One thing I’ll be glad to be rid of is cable TV – or even cable anything really.

Thanks to “smart TVs”,  cable, for most of us, will be a black, tangled wire memory.

I can’t say that I look forward to a media landscape dominated by Netflix, YouTube, Amazon and Hulu, but at least we can say good-bye to cable.

How about newspapers and magazines?

Every home used to have magazines, and every town used to have an independent daily newspaper.

The decline of newspapers and magazines – with their in-depth reporting and presumed level of literacy and community engagement – should frighten us all.

You don’t need to be an anthropologist to see that the evaporation of a shared information foundation has led us into paranoid tribalism that thrives on scandal, sensationalism and superstition.

Along with newspapers and magazines, actual paper based books are becoming more rare every day.

When I see anyone reading an actual book in public, especially someone under 45, I have to restrain myself from publicly congratulating them. I have been guilty of interrupting them and (almost) commending them for single-handedly saving literacy.  (1*)

Related to literacy, have you noticed the handwriting of most people under forty?

Thanks to the demise of cursive writing, no one has a distinctive – or even legible – signature any more.

Most hand writing is either a scrawl or the block-printing of a second grader.

This is a story repeated over and over in human history (and yes, the study and knowledge of history is rapidly losing value) – a decline in literacy, combined with the inability to write clearly and coherently leads inevitably to a decline in the ability to solve problems and think creatively and critically.

We are surrounded by our devices – and more and more of us, professionally or personally, rely on them for our next move. We are literally lost without our GPS, our devices are “smarter” than we are (or at least have access to more knowledge than we ever could).

Each day another industry is taken over by drones or robots, even work is becoming obsolete.

Welcome to the future.


(1*)    And, just to emphasize what a prehistoric linguistic nerd I have become, I get excited when I get an email or note that is grammatically correct and with every word spelled right.

Related Stories