Friday, January 23, 2009

Obsolescence

Cassette Tape by ~barkerbaggies I was looking to copy a cassette tape from my stereo to my computer, since this particular album Paranoimia by The Art of Noise is only available on tape, and I couldn’t find my old copy. 

Turns out it was actually in the radio I have… which I discovered after trying to put the copy I just bought from Amazon for $4 into the player… Chalk that up to another Tomism I guess.

The radio I had is mangling the audio from the tape for some reason. So I went to e-mail my friend Mason to see if he has another tape player and ran into a minor problem… I forgot how to spell cassette. Was it casett, casset or cassett? None of them seemed right. I actually ended up browsing the Net before Erin came in and informed me.

This got me back to thinking about just how quickly something becomes so useless we forget how to spell it correctly.

I was also thinking about this because of a recent announcement by Pioneer that they would stop making Laser Disc players, essentially writing the format off to the junk yard. Do you even know what Laser Discs are? They’re the record sized, metallic discs that look a lot like CD’s except they’re huge. These were the highest quality standard you could get for watching movies, but it never really took off.

I was thinking about how this applies to everything we buy today. The iPod I just got will be thought of as a brick in ten years. The DVD player I have, or even the Blu-Ray I think about, will be formats that are dying away in place of something far, far more convenient.

I’ve been reading a lot about the Singularity, a term coined by Vernor Vinge. This is an event that’s been written about for almost twenty years now. It’s the event when computers become more powerful than the human brain, and they are also smarter, in essence able to act human. I’ve read a few books about this, both fiction and non, and it’s just impossible to know what the world will be like when computers are able to improve themselves, but everyone agrees that our lives will be completely different from the way they are now.

Truly, when it comes down to it, all of the technology we see in Star Trek (even the Next Generation) will look like antiques when the Singularity occurs.

Now for the really interesting part. This is going to happen by 2050, and probably by 2015. At that point human beings may very well be the things which are obsolete. Do any of the things we have matter, when we ourselves have been passed by?

Why do we live so much of our lives surrounded by things that are out of date within a year? Why is it so hard to get rid of it all and spend more time recognizing the beauty that is our world, and the people in it?

Peace,
+Tom

1 comment:

Cindy said...

Think about the encyclopedia salesman. Those volumes used to cost thousands of dollars, and now you can buy a CD with the entire set on there for probably $100.

Or the typewriter repair man. A lot of jobs go away when technology changes as well.

My car has a cassette player and a CD player. At first I thought it was silly, because who listens to cassettes anymore? Until I found my box of cassettes and I listen to them all the time.