Almost exactly 5 years ago, I published the post below on an internal blog. The trends I describe -- towards an increasing digitalization and thus virtualization of many aspects of our physical world -- have continued and, I believe, accelerated now during this Covid lockdown period. More activities have been driven quickly on-line by necessity, and others have gone into a kind of in-between place (restaurants turning into take-out only, for example). In light of this, I thought I should republish my post below:
I’ve been talking a lot with various folks recently about the “digitization” of financial services and of business in general. If you take a huge step back (which I hope those of you who reads my blogs regularly have seen that I like to do), you can see digitization of business as part of a larger, almost cosmological, trend: the world is disappearing into the electronic ether. All kinds of things that were once physical are becoming pure information and exist only in the world of computers.
Cash has been vanishing for years. Yes hard currency still exists, but is slowly being replaced. It went through some intermediate steps with checks and credit cards, which are less physical than currency in some sense, but still have physical manifestations, but even those are disappearing into “contactless” pure transfers of information. Mail (and yes I mean snail mail) has also been disappearing into email and other forms of electronic communication over decades. Amazon did away with physical books to a large extent. I now have a library of hundreds of Kindle volumes, all available to me through a variety of devices, wherever I am. Amazon has also been doing away with whole stores! They are simply vanishing into the digital world.
Experiences have been increasingly virtualized as well. A physical face-to-face meeting is approximated with video conferencing, and I can take what feels like a mini sightseeing trip to a distant land on Google Earth.
If you take this to the extreme, you can imagine that this will continue and that more and more of the physical world we know will dissolve into the electronic ether. If you think about it, we are fundamentally our genes and the sum of our experiences, which are both just information. In theory, we could be recreated from them. But that’s the realm of countless science fiction books and movies. In the very real practical world, we do see things like cash, books, and stores increasingly virtualized.
What else? How far do all of you think this can go? What are the next things you predict will disappear into the ether?
I am very sorry that I have neglected this Blog for far too long! I have simply been entirely engrossed the past couple of years with my start-up, Crux Informatics. And I do post a bit on LinkedIn. Please follow me there to stay up to date with my latest musings. Meanwhile, I do plan to continue to post here from time to time...
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