Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Internet Changes Everything

Have you considered how completely different our lives are since the Internet? It's been brought home to me lately.

Most recently, my guy's new "album" is out. Well, it isn't really an album. It's an mp3 download. The music industry is quickly phasing out the last physical evidence of music recordings - the CD. Two years of hard work is now available (with some soulful backup work by yours truly) on the Internet for your downloading pleasure.

The entire music industry has been gutted by digital audio files because the big players didn't see it coming. Then Napster started giving music away for free. And the industry's been scrambling to figure out what to do ever since.

Anyone can be a rock star, at least in their minds. All you need is Garage Band or some other basic editing program and - ooooh - your music is out in the world. That's generally not a good thing, as some folks should keep their music in the garage where it belongs. But it's also opened opportunities for some truly talented people to be heard by a global audience.

My guy's been a professional musician his entire life and he's watched the industry expand, contract and then go cold like a dying star. He's feeling his way in this new world where anyone can knock on the door; only the truly talented get in.

My area of study these days is the publishing industry. That's changed a bit lately, hasn't it? Writers, for a decade or more, have found it easier to submit their work to agents and publishers. Agents and publishers have become more and more selective as their inboxes fill and crash. And then came the ebook.

My NPR affiliate has a no-ebooks policy. They won't talk about them. They don't think they're real books. It reminds me of the music industry's attitudes toward downloads. They'll be changing their minds soon because they'll have to.

I have an ebook. And it'll soon be a paperback. We're doing it backwards because nowadays we can.

At work? We all have computers and now we edit documents in a program that lets us all see each other's edits. We're phasing out paper, eliminating the need for thousands of square feet of storage space. And where are those documents stored? The cloud. The vast, nebulous, virtual digital warehouse. In other words, they don't really still exist. But they do.

It's a change in concept, in thinking. Just because you can't see it, touch it, taste it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. It's a transition to a virtual world. And when I think about where it could be going, I think it's time to write a scifi novel.

What do you think the world will be like in ten years?


Nocomme1 said...

The speed with which technology has been progressing has been interesting to me for some time. Society's ability to absorb it is has been the subject of increasing attention. Futurist Ray Kurzweil has made a career out of analyzing and predicting the impact what he and others refer to as the impending "Singularity".

The particulars of what the next hundred years of tehnological advances is likely to look like is examined in detail in physicist Michio Kaku's latest book, "The Physics of The Future". The advances he foresees will look like magic to us here in the early part of the 21st century. (Arthur C. Clarke once famously said that, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."). I saw Kaku speak at the Boston Museum of Science a few months ago and he very convincing on the subject.

While I enjoy the benefits of all this change as much as the next guy, I'm certainly not immune to the feeling of being caught unhappily off guard. Over the last few months whenever I want to go to a book store, you know, a place where you can actually by a book with real paper pages, I find that I practically have to make a day trip of it, so many book stores closing recently that the travel time required to find one makes it almost (but not quite) not worth the effort.

The times they are a'changing, Sue. For good and bad.

Susan said...

Nice tease, Eddie. Spill the details for people like me who no longer get to read for enjoyment. Singularity? Kaku's predictions?

The bookstore phenomenon is a sad one, but I heard about one brilliant idea for survival - print books on demand at a bookstore/publisher. I'd love to run a shop like that!

Nocomme1 said...

Well, here's the definition of the singularity: Technological singularity refers to the hypothetical future emergence of greater-than human intelligence. Since the capabilities of such an intelligence would be difficult for an unaided human mind to comprehend, the occurrence of technological singularity is seen as an intellectual event horizon, beyond which the future becomes difficult to understand or predict. Nevertheless, proponents of the singularity typically anticipate such an event to precede an "intelligence explosion", wherein superintelligences design successive generations of increasingly powerful minds. The term was coined by science fiction writer Vernor Vinge, who argues that artificial intelligence, human biological enhancement or brain-computer interfaces could be possible causes for the singularity. The concept is popularized by futurists like Ray Kurzweil and widely expected by proponents to occur in the early to mid twenty first century.

Kaku wrote his book predicting future technology after discussions with numerous scientists from many disciplines about in-progress innovations and extrapolating those technologies into the near future. Some of the things he predicts are "flying" (magnetiic) cars, safe, driverless cars, cheap, nonpolluting energy, healthier, MUCH longer lives, ubiquitous nano technology - resulting in merchandise that can change color, shape and function, Internet glasses and contact lenses, etc.

These aren't fanciful hopes or dreams but are the likely (imminent?) developments of current innovations. You should really find the time to read read Kurzweil and Kaku because I'm certainly not doing them justice here. Fascinating stuff.

I like you print books on demand suggestion but it still can't replace wandering around a bookstore and discovering a new book.