The Cost of Information

| January 1, 2018 | 0 Comments

Reluctantly, my father (and occasionally my mother) would stop at a gas station to ask for directions. Not the kind of gas stations with hotdogs and coolers of beer. The kind that offered “full service”, checking your oil and windshield wiper fluid and without more than a few packs of gum or peanuts, if that. The kind with a couple of bays with lifts to repair cars at the gas station. Many years later I would do the same. Arguably, you might find someone going to the same garage or estate sale at the gas station looking for the address after your dashboard map failed to give you the answer (or you failed to read the map correctly). You had to interact with other humans.

When Betamax, later VHS and then DVD came out going to the local video store was almost as much fun as watching the movie. You would see your friends and neighbors, perhaps some kids or people you didn’t like. My father might even try to sell the video salesmen a watch or diamond while the video guy was trying to rent him a 2 dollar movie.  You had to interact with other humans.

Years ago Blockbuster did some market research that suggested Netflix was not a threat, because movie watchers wanted to read the back of the DVD jackets. Of course, it turns out, people would rather sit in bed and “Netflix and chill for the rest of the night” rather than go to Hollywood or Blockbuster or Family Video when it is -22 windchill to read the back of the DVD or Blu-ray jackets. I would go so far to say that on demand streaming video products has affected restaurants, bars and movie theaters where you would have to interact with other humans but no longer. Movies that are blockbusters still can make movie studios hundreds of millions in theaters but the population increase biases this a bit from 4 decades ago when making comparisons. Have your dinner and breakfast sent you via Amazon Prime and you do not have to interact with other humans.

Of course this is nothing new. “Brick and mortar” retail has been under pressure competing with their own Internet sales or giant “big box” stores and/or warehouses that have made it difficult for many small “ma and pa” stores with some exceptions like novelty clothing, candy, cosmetics, car washes or perhaps a few specialty bookstores. Here you still have to interact with other humans.

Google Maps has killed actual maps. Netflix killed the corner video store owned by your friend’s dad. Amazon will replace the grocery store. The gas station is just that anymore, don’t even try asking for directions if your phone isn’t working.

Until I was about 6 years old we lived above my father’s photo studio along a busy thoroughfare in a Western suburb of Chicago. Our block had an A&P Grocery store on one corner and a store that sold fine china and silver dinnerware and porcelain items on the other. In between there was a coin dealer, a pet shop, a donut shop and an antique dealer. Our building was right in the middle. I would make the rounds after half day kindergarten and check out the latest gold coins, dishes from England, imported reptiles and cichlids from Africa, any new antiques bought or see if certain pieces I liked may have sold and of course make a stop to get some milk and a chocolate bismark from Ed or Mary Lou. There were probably a few adults in there who had just come from the antique or coin store complaining about the parking meters. I chose to interact with other humans.

But information, goods and services, literally at your fingertips, negates the need to go up and down the block, run to the corner video or grocery store. One can research and rate and choose from billions of products from many more sources. A continuous feed of on demand goods and services and products fueled by and endless stream of ratings, rankings and reviews and social media references present information to us like never before.

But what is the cost of all this information and on demand delivery?

As I try to wrap this up, there was a Carmax commercial to hold the car you choose online for up to 7 days. So much for going to a car dealer to buy a car now. What happened to the test drive and kicking the tires?

I am concerned we are going to lose the art of verbal communication, bartering, asking and giving directions, as simple as that sounds, telling stories and more importantly, creating them. Getting our thoughts into abbreviated tweets and texts.

But for now, I think given how cold it is and how much content there is, I am going to check out Netflix and c u later.



Tags: , , , , , , ,

Category: Pathology News

Leave a Reply