I’m often thinking about the future. Mostly about how society will change, and my usual corresponding feeling is that I wish that change didn’t take so long. And then I get mad at those that stand in the way of progress by holding onto the past.
Why are people so afraid of change? Nostalgia? Lack of introspection into what they really care about, what really matters, and the inevitability of change? Fear that a different world might be a worse place for them? The problem (particularly with the last one) is that the world is a pretty crappy place for a lot of people, and you’re stopping them from improving their lives.
My general philosophy around change is composed of two main concepts:
- Everything is transient
- Why put off the inevitable?
Let’s consider a few issues with the above points in mind:
- Gay marriage. It’s going to happen eventually, and society will look back at those that fought against it (knowing that they could only delay it) as spiteful bigots. Think about how we consider those people who were against inter-racial marriage because it was “unnatural” and would produce “mongrel” children. Just accept that social mores are changing and get out of the way. You’re embarrassing yourself and others.
- Physical media. Bookshops will go under. CD/DVD/BluRay stores will go under. Selling stuff on physical media has no long-term future outside of a niche market (like record sales). Don’t lament it, celebrate it. Moreover, get rid of your stuff. When was the last time you used a cookbook rather than just looking up a recipe online?
- Paying for pollution. Without getting into the merits/shortcomings of any particular pollution pricing policy, it’s completely nuts that wanton pollution of the environment has been a short-cut to economic success for pretty much the entire industrial age. Why is it that we have landfills full of crap, islands of trash in the oceans, and so much carbon in the atmosphere? It’s because it costs next-to-nothing to throw things out, and even less to pollute the air. This is completely unsustainable. Given that it must change eventually, why fight the basic concept?
Aside from issues that are being held up, there’s a lot of impending cultural change that will affect various industry and social sectors. Realistically, those who have grown-up surrounded by Internet technology won’t see the value in a lot of things that those who haven’t (or didn’t embrace it when it came along) hold dear, and this will lead to gradual change in:
- Ownership. Many older people lived through times of great inflation and would hold onto things “just in case”. Everything you owned was an investment in some way. Conversely, younger people would have seen most things constantly depreciate (particularly technology products that drop in relative performance and real value at an astonishing rate). Why hold onto things or purchase stuff because it’s cheap and you just might need it later on? Wait until the last minute. Only buy what you need right now. Better yet, subscribe or rent so that you always have the latest stuff (more often media than gear). Even better, it’s probably available to stream online.
- Services. You can save a lot of money by doing things yourself right? Or so it seems. Given the dilemma and burden of ownership, isn’t it better to just get a gardener (rather than buy and maintain a lawnmower and other equipment)? Would someone with no emotional-formative-years connection to CDs really prefer to amass a collection at $20-30 a disc if they can pay $9 a month and stream music to their heart’s content. Services are more convenient and (as the market grows and pricing works itself out) will become an increasingly mainstream preference over product purchases. I wonder what this is going to mean for diy-stuff-you-won’t-ever-use businesses like Bunnings?
- Drugs. There is a huge market for drugs. People want all sorts of drugs. They just don’t want the negative (personal health or social) side-effects. Alcohol has been the recreational drug of choice for many years, because it’s legal and culturally accepted. However, energy drinks are increasingly popular for people who want to party without being a jerk and ending up with a hangover. People want to be able to choose how they want to feel and what side-effects they are willing to tolerate. Interestingly, I think that wider drug use and legalistion will be driven by the older generation. As they approach old-age, they’re going to want the memory enhancers, libido boosters, energy drinks, and anti-depressants. Before you know it you’ll be buying synthetic mood-enhancers at your local Woolworths, because it’s serving their needs rather than the demands of the younger generation. With modern medical technology and industry regulation, these drugs will be safer and more predictable. Everybody wins.
- Religion. Does anyone really think that we’re going to allow belief in the supernatural to guide public decision-making in 1000 years time? Really? Even if society hasn’t abandoned religion by then, it would likely be so religiously diverse that the importance of secular governance will be even more self-evident. So why hold up progress? Sanction everyone’s right to believe what they want, but also ensure that people don’t have others’ religious beliefs thrust upon them. Why the hell can’t we buy alcohol on “Good Friday”? Surely that’s an insane restriction with a limited lifespan. We’ll look back on that and think: how did that last so long? Oh that’s right, it was in the olden days.
Hmmm, that’s probably enough ranting for today. I’m trying to write once each week on either Friday or Saturday now, so expect more thoughts next week.