From the Wall Street Journal comes this comment about the impact of cheap digital storage on the physical world.
The Post-Stuff World: We invented records, books, newspapers and cash to hold those “idea” nouns — music, writing, news and value — and we larded up our homes with these media and wrote on small watermarked pieces of paper when we owed people money. We knew we owned things because we could touch them and give them to people for Christmas. Now, we have grown comfortable owning music and video that exists only as bytes on a hard drive. Debit cards and electronic bill paying are rapidly replacing paper checks. It will take a generation or more, sure, but even physical books may be destined for extinction in our increasingly stuff-free, wind-swept family rooms. As for the holidays: Gift certificates or cash remain gauche, but gift cards — well, those are ok.
While I like the use of the word virtualization I’m reminded that Buckminster Fuller used to talk about the ephemeralization of the physical, the logical outcome of “doing more with less”. Culturally we are still caught up in the physical embodiment of our media, from the ten commandment’s archetypal stone tablets to the soothing solidity of a book-lined wall. Perhaps those models will give way to something as sleek and magical as the holographic computer interfaces of Minority Report.
Right now, I think I’ll turn off iTunes and finish watching my new DVD.