People, Not Tech, Drive Obsolescence

July 12, 2016 by

“Thanks in part to advances like email, Facebook and Twitter, mail carriers will be all but obsolete in the not-so-distant future.” – from Business Insider, October 2015

Do you remember the first time you received or sent an email? I do; it was 1988, fresh out of college, wet behind the ears in a cubicle staring at an IBM PC that weighed more than my car. My ID was something like jk92hn and I suspect my password might have been something horrific like “joanna.” (Those thuds you just heard were four Chief Information Security Officers and an internal auditor fainting.)

It was a few years down the road until I got email (via a 96K baud modem, most likely) at home, and even then it was work email. Now I have mail, tweets, posts, chats arriving on no less than four devices, one of which might as well be surgically attached to me. However… 28 (gasp) years after, I still get paper mail at the office and at home. I have physical mailboxes, complete with little red flags. So despite spending likely thousands of employers’ and personal dollars on modems, desktops, smartphones, laptops, tablets, Internet, and mobile plans, I have not retired a single physical mailbox.

I recall clearly in the mid-1990s hearing an executive say “by the year 2000, we will be paperless.” I signed, with a pen, four approval forms just today. Has technology failed us? No. The technology exists to make mailboxes obsolete and signatures purely ceremonial. However the willingness to change behavior and ergo retire old methods is up to humans, not technology. (Let’s leave Terminator and Matrix out of this discussion for now.)

And we humans should choose carefully. A recent New York Times article presented a solid case for continuing teaching handwriting to children. I for one am not excited about a world where the truly written word becomes obsolete. The World Economic Forum recently reported that 65% of children starting school today will have jobs that currently don’t exist; this assumes that robots and automation will cause jobs to disappear.

Don’t put your mailbox in the attic just yet.

“Technology is a useful servant but a dangerous master.” – Christian Lous Lange, Norwegian historian, teacher, and political scientist

Worth considering:

Worth learning from: The most Google’d items post-#Brexit were questions like “what is the EU?” Some believe this signals #Regrexit … good luck, Theresa May.

Worth reading: The next world war may not be fought on the ground, air, or at sea. It could be a silent war waged between countries’ increasingly digitally-enabled infrastructure. Think going from Pokémon Go to the Dark Ages.


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