Thursday, August 2, 2012

Who is Eating Who?

In light of our discussion today, I have decided to cater my post towards effects of the Internet. But don't worry, I'll return to our main theme of the differences between American and English media next week.

"Many people in the U.S. and around the world lack the education and skills required to participate in the great new companies coming out of the software revolution… Qualified software engineers, managers, marketers and salespeople in Silicon Valley can rack up dozens of high-paying, high-upside job offers any time they want, while national unemployment and underemployment is sky high. This problem is even worse than it looks because many workers in existing industries will be stranded on the wrong side of software-based disruption and may never be able to work in their fields again. There's no way through this problem other than education, and we have a long way to go."
 Marc Andreessen, "Why Software is Eating the World"

       What do Farmville, Wells Fargo, the Amazon Kindle, iTunes, Netflix, and Skype all have in common? They are thiefs. Thiefs of industries. One decade ago, people were online. 50 million people used broadband Internet. Now that number is over 2 billion and counting. Ten years from now, 5 billion people may have smart phones. In the words of Marc Andreessen, founder of the world's first web browser Mosaic, "software is eating the world." But maybe its the other way around: the world is eating software.

        In 1995, Nintendo Systems delivered millions of N64 systems to American households. Mom and Dad wrote checks to pay for everyday meals, groceries, clothes, or services. People went to the bookstore to purchase a book. Or maybe the library to rent one. Record companies not only recorded music, but sold it. Blockbuster gave people hard copies of movies and expected them to return them three days later, or else suffer the detrimental "late fee." People paid telecom companies for the use of home phone services and, if you wanted to talk face to face with your buddy in Oxford, you'd either have to fly across the ocean or record a video cassette, seal it in an envelope and let the postman deliver the video message.

        Now, Farmville and gaming sites are taking over the gaming world. Wells Fargo uses software to help users manage finances. The Amazon Kindle is replacing printed type with software. iTunes controls the music industry, along with other software music programs like Spotify and Pandora. Almost everyone uses Netflix. If you don't, then they probably don't watch many movies. Skype may be the fastest growing alternative telecommunications company in America. How does this new age of software affect the physical industries of which they have successfully usurped the thrones?

        Digital means more efficient. Computers will never replace humans. Computers can't create content. But computers can do one thing: render the "Professional" in existing industries obsolete. Software doesn't make the user a professional. Software is the professional. And when physical industry succumbs to the digital takeover, what will those who lack skill and education in this new field do for a living? Jobs are disappearing with the widespread dominance of software. Where will new ones come from?

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