Monday, 16 December 2013

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Future

This guy.
The pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus said that the only constant is change (and, no, I did not know that source prior to looking it up on Wikipedia approximately seven seconds ago). The world keeps on spinning. The dice are always rolling. On the outset, one might very well think, “Well, duh.”

But this is something that I think a lot about, particularly in the field of communication technology and its applications. Like all technological evolution, the progress of communication methods increases in speed and variety as time goes on.  It took humans in our (likely) present form somewhere around 200,000 years to develop the written language, then another 6000 or so years to develop the most basic forms of woodblock printing, and then another 1300 to arrive at the printing press. However, in the last 500 years, things have kicked into high gear, particularly in the last century. In the last hundred years we’ve seen the birth of radio, cinema, the telephone, computers, the internet, and within the last ten years we’ve arrived at a place where virtually all the information in the history of the world is instantly available to us on a handheld device anytime we want. That’s pretty cool.

(I saw this app in person for the first time last year. Absolutely blew my mind.)

However, a person does wonder just how exactly do we know what’s coming next? (Especially if that person is in a place where their profession relies on such knowledge…)

My iPod Nano is more likely to perform space travel.
I always find it interesting how in movies set in the future, predictions concerning communication are almost always laughably behind the times. Consider the sluggish analog displays in Alien, aboard a ship flown by blue-collar workers across galaxies no less. Or how in Heavy Metal we have flying cars and relations with extraterrestrials, but somehow the most effective means of relaying information is by way of a floating TV that delivers video messages for a fee of a quarter apiece. Or, considering the technology present in the original Star Wars, why did Luke have to use such a bulky headset? The future, it seems, moves even faster than our imagination.

Recent technological advancements have also radically altered the way we interact with media. Over the course of a decade, online businesses like Netflix and Hulu (admittedly with the help of Redbox) completely annihilated the traditional video rental system, and it’s reasonable to think that within the next ten to fifteen years television programming as we know it might become a thing of the past. What’s the point of it when we have so much content and control at our disposal?

Steven Spielberg and George Lucas have both made predictions about how going to see movies in the theater may soon be the equivalent to seeing a big Broadway production (ticket prices certainly support this notion). That means bigger shows that will be guaranteed to make big bucks, entertaining effects-laden extravaganzas that will, unfortunately, not be likely to push any artistic boundaries. The reason for this is economical, of course, and is the same as the idea of traditional TV going the way of the Dodo. If online resources provide access to smaller independent films, why would you pay to see it them in a theater? The good of this lies in the fact that newly affordable hardware and software allows anyone dedicated enough to make their own films. The downside is that the overwhelming majority of these filmmakers will be lost in a sea of infinite content and will be hard pressed to make a living with their creative work, which will of course limit what they’re able to put out.
The point is that the times we live in are becoming ever more interesting and challenging. In order to stay afloat and succeed, it seems to me that it’s increasingly imperative to be willing to keep up to date with new technologies and practices and adapt accordingly. The times, they are a-changin'. Same as it ever was. 

What to YOU think? What big changes will most affect the way we communicate with each other in the coming years? What about digital arts and entertainment? Will going to the movies be the rarest of treats or die out completely? What’s the next big thing? Share your thoughts with us below or tweet to us @swagger_media.

1 comment:

  1. Great article! This is definitely true, one must adapt to the technology to stay afloat this technological tidal wave. The hardest part is being at the forefront of this crazy wave, harnessing the most innovative ideas into a singular product, inventing the next big thing.