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FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the Internet.
Technology is advancing at warp speed, and the way we live is changing constantly. Indeed, what was once lifestyle bedrock is now going the way of the dinosaurs.
For example, when I backpacked in Europe more than three decades ago, I kept in touch with my family by way of aerogrammes and postcards. Those days are gone. My daughter just started her study abroad program in Copenhagen, and within hours of hitting Danish soil, I heard from her by way of Facebook messages and mobile telephone calls via Skype.
On top of this example, I recently read an email that is spreading across the Internet that suggests the imminent disappearance of certain aspects of life that we have been accustomed to for a very, very long time.
The first email suggestion is that the U.S. Postal Service will not survive. Email, text messages, social media communications, FedEx and UPS all will wipe out any marginal remaining post office viability. It is true that the postal service has been impacted greatly, and we will see if it remains in force, at least to some extent. There may be some continuing utility, but perhaps in a much decreased role.
The next email prediction is that in short order we no longer will make payments with hard-copy checks. Plastic cards and online payments already are rendering checks as quite a secondary payment method. While check writing may have decreased, checks may not disappear completely as a means of payment.
Also soon to be extinct is the traditional newspaper, according to the email. People now are getting their news on their laptops, their mobile devices and their e-readers. Plus, it is suggested that the current younger generation does not even consider the newspaper as an option. And while news will be obtained online, it is predicted that in the near future we will have to pay for such access. This all could be true, certainly to a large extent.
And what about the old-fashioned book? Won't there still be instances when people want a hard copy in their hands so they can experience actually reading from and turning pages? Not according to the email prediction: People will prefer the storage, ease and cost-effectiveness of reading on gadgets. While reading will continue to go the electronic route, it is difficult to imagine hard-copy books no longer on the scene at all.
Not too surprisingly, it is suggested in the email that the landline telephone will fade into history. People use their mobile phones constantly for many purposes, not just phone calls. And there is no true reason to have a landline phone other than habit, and there is no valid reason to pay for such a phone in addition to a mobile phone. This could come to pass, at least for the vast majority of people.
The email also decries the death of innovative music. The argument is that a good portion of the music purchased today is that created by established artists. However, the Internet has allowed some previously unknown artists to be discovered and to make it big.
The demise of traditional network television also is suggested by the email. It is true that people have many more ways now to entertain themselves in the past. There are so many forms and means of entertainment in the new electronic age. So, yes, the dominance of traditional television programming has waned.
The email also predicts the end of "things that you own." The point is that rather than owning your music on CDs, for example, you will have access to your music in the cloud. This also will be true for photographs, movies, documents, etc. Yes, there is a good deal of truth here, although we still will want real possession of some aspects of our personal lives.
Finally, the email proclaims the death of privacy. Certainly, the world is a smaller, fishbowl place than it used to be. There are cameras practically everywhere tracing our moves. GPS technology maps out our exact locations, and where we go online leaves digital footprints. But still, human dignity requires privacy in certain spheres, and the laws are developing to protect privacy. Privacy is like oxygen: It is not really noticed until it is gone, so there must be protection on the front end where it counts.
It is a brave new world; fasten your seatbelts, and enjoy the ride.
Eric Sinrod is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP, where he focuses on litigation including information technology and intellectual property disputes. You can read his professional biography here. To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod's columns, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org with Subscribe in the Subject line. This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author's law firm or its individual partners.
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