Life is changing exponentially. Does anything change except who gets ahead and who gets behind?
Yes. Technology is changing the goods and services that can be bought and sold, and marketing mechanisms are changing the way things—even ideas—are distributed.
Technology: Twenty years ago nobody owned a smart phone. Now some folks regard it as a necessity. Miniature computers have totally changed communications—from the demise of newspapers featuring investigative journalism to the way we form identity groups. The new communication has divided the culture. What next can we not do without? At what social cost?
Marketing: Twenty years ago, you hailed a cab, just as people did one hundred years earlier—except the earlier cab had real horsepower. Now there’s a new way of marketing hired transportation—a fleet of independent drivers hailed through a central office called Uber or Lyft or other name. The car still has four wheels and the driver is still human, but technology might change that.
What about the future?
Technology and imaginative marketing will evolve, changing urban life. And making life more urban.
With better batteries and driverless electric cars, we might have cities without private autos and fewer parking lots. We might routinely share rides and see fewer traffic jams. That’s a bright picture, but there are also difficulties in the evolution of technology and marketing. Some troubles will be in the commons, like clean water and roads, but others will be in shared daily pains and pleasures like health and fellowship and careers.
Education: A market model of education, delivered by technology, designed for job training and taught via remote attendance, cannot provide the base for a thoughtful democracy. Universities are moving toward teaching by temporary adjunct professors while full-time faculty are hired to bring research funds of which the administration gets a cut. The administration becomes a bureaucracy geared for profit. The objective becomes survival in an economic competition, rather than development of thoughtful citizens. Excessive competition does not produce a united, empowered culture. Quite the opposite: a divided, embittered culture.
Security: Insurance was once a market mechanism for sharing risk. However, health insurance is now a system in which you pay the insurance company to set a price cap on medical procedures. Without insurance, you pay the inflated billed price that supports care for customers who can’t or won’t pay. Insurance becomes an expensive way of banding together to regulate an industry in which maximum profit does not necessarily minimize pain. What’s next? Watch to see if disaster insurance shifts it’s obligations to governmental programs.
Groceries, drugs and duds: Our consumer market is evolving into a few chain stores that can squeeze sowers and reapers and chemists and tailors while supplying cheaper food, medicines, and clothing. But I hear complaints of unripe fruit, unfresh vegetables, uncommon clothes, and addiction to prescription drugs. Does your shopping center sell blue jeans or is it focused on fashion? For other than mechanical or electrical gadgets, might overall satisfaction degenerate despite new technologies and marketing methods?
So what do we do?
Watch out for too much freedom. Pure freedom is where one does what one wants, never mind everybody else. What’s in danger are things without prices, like clean air, the taste of a ripe apricot, and governance by citizens. Avoid promotion of quantity over quality, promotion of price instead of function, and advertising without truth.
In summation, life should be experienced rather than bought, sold, watched, or won.