Analog Absurdity in the Digital Realm

January 19, 2007 at 1:43 pm 1 comment

So I got a free movie out of the deal, but why should I stay signed up for Blockbuster’s “Total Access” program?  When you think of it, what an absurd idea: to use the web to access a list of (artificially) scarce resources and then have a physical DVD sent to me by mail days and days later, if ever, if it’s a popular rental?  It’s all digital, and bits are cheap.

Netflix is moving forward with streaming video from which it seems a short jump to just putting stuff out as torrent files.  Already, in some cases you can download TV shows if you live in the right spot (e.g. I remember that The IT Crowd was available to UK residents as a download).

Remembering the comment from Vannevar Bush’s As we may think, “Once it is available, with the photographic reproduction methods of the future, duplicates in large quantities could probably be turned out for a cent apiece beyond the cost of materials.”

We’ll look back years from now and laugh, I’m sure.  I’m reminded of The Anarchist in the Library and The Future of Ideas which both discussed this problem of keeping the cat in the bag and enforcing artificial scarcity through controlled access: “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.”

Folks talking about the Blockbuster Total Access program wonder if people will continue once the free trial is over.  Nope, not me.  Why wait for the DVD to arrive in the mail after languishing in your queue for days or weeks (only to find that it’s scratched or damaged..?) when you can download the show/movie in an hour or so (if it’s popular) in digitally “pure” form.  And taking a step back….I really don’t mind the drive to the video store.  If I could reserve a copy and pick it up at the store we could dispense with the silly mail-bag ploy.  That’s got to be costing them a lot.

It is interesting to imagine where “TV” and “Cable” will be in a few years.  It’s easy to envision a complete merge of computers and TVs.  Instead of just a few “on-demand” channels, everything will be on demand.  Shows will last as long as they last, destroying adherence to the 30 minute quantum that exists now.  How will networks make money?  What Networks?  Google Adsense?  DVDs and CDs will be a thing of the past – everything will be stored in flash-type, non-moving media, made out of carbon nano-tubes or something….

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Entry filed under: feed my pet brain.

More wonderful heresy from The God Delusion Comments on A Canticle for Leibowitz

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