November 16, 1997
Goodbye, U.S. Postal Service
In ten years, mail delivered by the U.S. Postal Service will be the exception, not the rule.
In twenty years, U.S.P.S. will have become just another shipping option, like FedEx or U.P.S.
I would be very surprised if it takes longer than that Ė I wonít be surprised if it happens in a much shorter time frame.
This comes to mind due to last Tuesday, where we all paused to remember Armistice/Veteransí/Remembrance Day. Among those pausing to pay homage to our surviving fighting forces were the several thousand members of the United States Postal Service.
Thereís only one thing worse in this world than getting junk mail, and thatís getting no mail at all. So Tuesday, as I checked my empty mailbox and cursed the Federal holiday schedule, I turned elsewhere to get my mail fix.
I came here Ė to the computer.
Messages were waiting. Some junk, but some quite valuable. Thatís when I realized, if I was Marvin Runyon, Iíd be making those retirement plans right about now. As Postmaster General, old Marv is going to have to enact the most fundamental shift in paradigm any major company has ever seen. The Post Office will become irrelevant, almost overnight, as a side effect of the information age.
See, sending e-mail is really cheap. And I can send it whenever I want to.
Snail mail is $.32 (and going up!). I have to wait for a guy to come to my building to pick it up, or I have to drive myself to a drop box, then wait for a guy to come pick it up. Thatís what I like about e-mail so much: It eliminates the whole "waiting for a guy to pick it up" part of equation.
Already, Iím cutting down on the amount of mail I send out. Sure, sometimes, I send photos. But isnít it easier to send someone the proofs on-line, and let them pick which ones to order prints for? Better, with the right equipment, they could just print out the photos on their computer. I already make extensive use of electronic bill paying. Soon, Iím sure Iíll be able to receive my utility and other bills in e-mail form Ė taking paper out of the equation all together. Paying on-line is quicker, much more convenient, and gives me an instant read on where my money is going. I love it! (This message not brought to you as a promotional service of my bank, but their system works pretty well.)
Of course, e-mail and the Internet still have several big reliability challenges to overcome. Remember the judge in the nanny case? He wanted to post his decision on-line, but a power failure tripped up those plans. I see that as a fault of the power supply system more than the information delivery system Ė after all, itís not like he sent out the announcement, and instead of legible text, Mandarin Chinese characters spewed out of peopleís computers, looking like the recipe for some exotic shrimp dish.
I guess I just donít see the point of paper, if it can be avoided. Donít get me wrong: I like paper as much as the next guy, probably more so. But my compulsive need to maintain physical, paper copies of things has waned with the dawning of the new electronic era. Now if there was just some way to transfer all the paper I have over to a convenient electronic medium Ö Ah, but thereís my great money-making idea for the new millennium. Donít steal it!
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