There is a lot of technology that is quite impressive, but most of it feels like its still in development. The whole internet and computer industry feels like its in permanent Beta mode (similar in concept to Orwell’s endless, permanent war). There always glitches and compatability issues. They always come up with a new product or service before ever quite perfecting what they provided before. The companies are more afraid of controlling their product than offering the best possible service. Its a shame considering the potential.
There are the cable and dish tv companies that have near monopolies. These monopolies are being challenged. Also, the monopolies of other media (newspapers, networks, etc.) are likewise being challenged. And they’re all fearful of the internet and wary of investing too much in it. But mostly its just the monopolies from one industry butting heads against the monopolies of another industry.
Its not all negative. A few companies are paving the way. Starz and CBS have stood out as companies who are willing to make deals and experiment. As for internet companies, Google and Amazon seem to be the leaders in bridging to non-internet companies.
The problem is that integration and standardization is happening slowly and in a very flawed fashion. For example, Blu-ray won the war of new video format and has been out for years, and yet it has so many flaws as to be almost utterly worthless to the average person.
Three companies that personally interest me are Netflix, Amazon, and Rhapsody.
Netflix has a great service, but you can’t buy movies from then and instead have to go to another site such as Amazon. Amazon has a wide selection of services including two that I’m attracted to. The Kindle is revolutionary, but relevant to Netflix is Video On Demand and the Unbox. However, in order for Amazon to make its deals with the movie industry they have to control the data. So, you buy a movie and yet you don’t own it. Its very convenient and reliable, but whenever they lose rights to a movie you lose the product you bought. You can download it to your computer and that is fine as long as you keep using the same computer. Netflix is also having a constant change in the movies available in the online streaming. The movie industry seems to be fidgety and unwilling to come to any final agreements.
The music industry is similar, but is quite a bit more established online. Rhapsody is one of the best models ever created. They have a reasonable subscription price for an all-you-can-listen-to service which has an immense selection. Also, they’ve copied Amazon in selling MP3s and they’ve made them DRM-free which puts them above iTunes. Rhapsody is doing what most companies fear. Besides offering compatability with players they don’t make, they’ve also encouraged scrobbling with Last FM. They’ve have made their own player, the ibiza which does what no other player does. It uses a similar concept to Amazon’s Kindle in that it directly connects to your account. The downside of Rhapsody is that they don’t have much in the way of spoken word and no audio books. Also, they don’t have movies.
What I want is to have tv, movies, music, music videos, spoken word, audio books, and electronic text from a single company… instead of needing multiple companies and constantly having to search around. What I want is fairly simple in that its not beyond present technology. If Netflix, Amazon, and Rhapsody merged or integrated their services, that would be awesome. And if they could make permanent deals with the entertainment industries, they’d have a perfect product.
The problem at the moment is that there isn’t enough cooperation and neither is there enough competition. There are just a few mega-corporations that own practically everything in the world, and so its not that far off from being a complete monopoly. These companies have no reason to be in a hurry to offer a great service because they have the only game in town. And any company that attempts something new (such as Youtube) eventually has to chose to go out of business or sell out to one of the large mega-corporations.
Another reason that companies don’t want to cooperate is because they probably think they can get more by nickle-and-diming the customer. If something you bought a few years ago isn’t compatable with somethin new you’ve bought, then you have buy a new version of that or a new upgrade. Also, it would seem like more money if you paid for all these technologies and services together. Separately, the customer is less likely to notice how the cost adds up.
Humans are strange. If we wanted to, all kinds of things could be possible… but something always holds us back. There were all these utopian dreams from the ’50s (and also from the 1800s). The thing is the only thing unrealistic about those visions is that they didn’t take into account the limitations of human nature. Technologically-speaking, we could have fully functioning colonies throughout the solar system by now. We could have robots that did almost all manual labor and people could be freed from long work hours of drudge work. War, famine, and poverty could be ended almost instantaneously. Humans have proved themselves capable of near miraculous leaps in development during certain periods… often periods of war, unfortunately.
However, it comes down to control. Change doesn’t happen because those in power would rather have control than change and those not in power would also rather the world stay predictably the same. Companies only create new services if it helps them control consumers better. Corporations have become quite talented at manipulating people. We aren’t free because the manipulation is unconscious to us in that its seamless. There is no way to protest except to feed back into the system which is something Tim Boucher talks about.
Its to companies advantage to keep customers contented. But its also to their advantage to control development and feed it slowly to the public. People in power have a vision and it takes decades or even generations to fulfill that vision. Its no accident that most politicians come from the same set of families and that those families have royal blood. Its no accident that politicians have good jobs waiting for them in the industries they used to oversee.
The one nice thing about this internet age is that the world is becoming more complex. Its less clear who is manipulating who. Its easier for the oppressed masses to manipulate in return. The real hope is in the potential for cooperation. Humans have never been good at equal-opportunity cooperation especially on a large-scale. This is becoming a real potential with the internet, but its still yet to be seen whether it will ever become more than potential always just beyond the horizon.
From a spiritual perspective, maybe seeking for freedom in this world of power games and materialism is looking in the wrong place. Still, it seems we humans are incapable of giving up on the hope that the world might eventually be transformed. Places like this here Gaia seem to be all about that hope. Gaia maybe primarily about the connections between people, but human connection is inseparable from human technology.
Even our understanding of God is limited by our technological metaphors. That is an area that is explored by many Sci-Fi stories and movies. I guess I managed to bring this blog back to my recent thinking.