The Death of the Mail Man

David Horsey Copyright 2013 Tribune Media Services
David Horsey Copyright 2013 Tribune Media Services

The invention of the modern computer can be seen as a fundamental paradigm shift. But contrary to what the technology geeks want to make us believe, it is not about technology, digital content, the internet, or electronic devices.

Since it can (and in a few decades, will) be seen as fundamental, and since we are still in the thick of it, it is very hard to realise the implications of this revolution. We are part of the “Zeitgeist”, and being immersed in it, only rare individuals are able to see further. Because of that, we are slowly starting to exploit some of the aspects of this invention, but mostly in the context of the familiar concepts dating from before the invention. New things are possible, but it needs a generation to grow up with the new invention as an intrinsic part of their world to truly see them. In the meantime we are acting as car builders did when building the new cars, based on the blueprint in their minds of the stage coach.

Siegfried Marcus car (ca. 1864)

It was motorised. But it was still based on the concept of the old stagecoach blueprint, needing a driver, and passengers in a slightly more comfortable compartment. It took several years for the concept to grow mature enough to make the leap to placing the driver inside the compartment, making it possible to move oneself to ever distant destinations.

We do not need a driver anymore. Such as the mail man. They are obsolete.


But do we really understand the impact and extent of this change? I don’t think so.

What about 3D printing? We do not need factories, at least not for a great deal of stuff. Even buildings can be printed. Factories, and the entire delivery-chain surrounding them, are becoming obsolete. Not fast, not tomorrow. But that is not because the change is gradual, it is because we are still not ready to embrace this change.

3D Printer
3D Printer

But how is Facebook different? Do we need a company, a mega-company at that, to communicate with people all over the world? Why not directly link with the people of our choice? Why not set up peer-to-peer networks without a middle man, without a controlling agency? Why not make it easier to manage all these privacy concerns and security leaks, by assigning ownership of information about ourselves to ourselves? My phone already “knows” where you are, you have a link to the network where I can reach you, circumventing any middle man such as WhatsApp or Facebook. Any device using the internet has its own address where it can be reached.

To me many of the so-called “services” all these companies are providing feel like opportunities created by the immaturity of the technology, the newness of it all, the lack of heuristics and “embedding” in society.

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