Life in Modularity
For quite a while, as I’ve made changes in my own life, I’ve become fascinated with how modular our lives have become. By modular, I mean that I can now customize many aspects of my life that were, for most of my memory, dictated by others.
Growing up with Music
For example, growing up I remember trips to Sound Warehouse and Tower Records to pick out cassette tapes I wanted to buy. I would reluctantly pay the $19.99 for a new tape from some of my favorite bands, knowing I was probably only going to like 1 or 2 songs from the whole tape.
Trying to find those songs on the tape to listen to over and over again was an involved, and inexact process.
When Compact Discs burst on the scene, the process of listening to those songs became much easier. However, there was still the need to pay for all those songs I wasn’t going to listen to.
From the perspective of the bands, this had an impact as well. They had to fill an album with 8-10 songs, many of which might not have been their favorites. While they might have been ready to release 1 or 2 great songs, they had to record and produce all the others to justify the costs.
More costs went into the physical act of making the CD’s, jacket, liner, plastic, security, distribution, etc. When it was all done, the artists made very little from the sale of each CD, and therefore, had little power and control of their own path.
Then came iTunes. I know before iTunes was Napster, Kazaa, and many other Peer-to-peer file sharing software programs, but iTunes was the one that legitimized it.
As the consumer, I could purchase 1 song at a time, and put those songs on my iPod. My iPod became a huge mix tape, and it didn’t take hours and hours of rewinding and forwarding, and hundreds of dollars of wasted songs just to find those few great ones. I could make my own mini-mixes called Playlists – like for working out, working, date night, etc. Amazing!!
Once we all started consuming music one song at a time – essentially like our own radio station – artists, producers, and entrepreneurs took notice.
Eventually we had platforms like Spotify and Pandora. Artists and producers could get paid based on the number of downloads or listens. They could now record and release songs as they were ready, and get almost real-time feedback.
It also meant that the artists and producers could focus on making high every song as good as possible. They didn’t have to fund all the distribution of physical media to get the music into the hands of the consumers.
Obivously now I have my music that I’ve purchased saved on my phone, and I also have Pandora stations that fit my tastes, while suggesting new music I might not have otherwise found.
From Music to TV
This change in consumption of entertainment, has of course, been replicated in TV and Movies.
First, I no longer had to purchase DVD’s, or venture out to the video rental store to find one of the few copies of a movie available. I was able to order my DVD’s on Netflix, receive them in the mail, and ship them back, bringing in the birth of binge-watching.
For me, as for many others, this coincided with the new rise of television as the dominant form of entertainment over movies. There were TV shows like The Sopranos, 24, and Lost, which were all fantastic in their writing, acting, direction, and production value. New networks were producing their own TV shows – Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, Rescue Me.
Beyond the DVD rental version of Netflix, the real technology that changed the narrative for visual entertainment was the Digital Video Recorder, or DVR. Once I had a DVR, I didn’t have to watch the latest episode of a show as it aired. I could choose to watch at a convenient time for me, and eventually, at a convenient location.
Of course, along with the DVR technology, and all the great new TV shows bring launched on several different networks, the proliferation of faster Internet speeds, which were available at home and work, and wherever I wanted to be via my phone, gave us the power to detach from the television.
Where are we Now?
To reset, in the past, I was beholden to certain institutions for my entertainment, and those became the gatekeepers.
If I wanted to listen to music, my options were to listen on the radio, or buy a tape or CD. If I bought the media, I was paying for several songs I didn’t care for. Most of that money was going to promoters, distributors, etc.
If I wanted to watch movies, I had to go to a movie theater (which was an amazing experience growing up, and one in which many of my memories reside), or rent or buy a DVD.
If I wanted to watch TV, I watched at the time and on the channel that the show aired. If I missed it, I had to hope for a rerun (or I could actually tape it).
With the new technology, I can buy the songs I enjoy, and listen to them whenever and wherever I wish. I can also listen to a “radio station” made up of the songs, or the types of songs, I like to listen to. More of the money I spend goes to the artists, since they can distribute directly to the Internet.
I can watch TV shows and movies when and where I choose, and I don’t even have to have all the cable channels (or any of them) to do so. Many of the shows I enjoy are even released as a whole season on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, etc. Many of the newest movies never even go to the theater, but are released straight to Netflix or Amazon. I can access them with a subscription.
The business model for entertainment has changed based on how we are consuming the content.
Here’s the Point
That was a really long way to get to my main point. You know all of the above, but I had to set the stage.
Our change in consumption of entertainment is going to be manifested in other aspects of our lives. We are going to have that desire for customization in our living and working situations, and our finances.
We call this Life in Modularity.
I can use technology to create many of the parts of my life that were once dictated by others. There is much more opportunity for mass customization. I get to create my little pods – music, news, movies, TV – and take them with me.
There is already a trend toward less home ownership by individuals, and more renting. More cars are leased, or rented by the trip.
I can pick up my life in one city, and relocate to a different city, or even a different country, and as long as I have an Internet connection, most people wouldn’t know the difference.
Much of this modular trend will eventually be managed using Blockchain technology. Companies, or Decentralized Autonomous Organizations, will buy homes, apartments, yurts, etc., and I will have access to them via a cryptographic token. It might work much like a timeshare, minus the sales pitch and high costs.
I might work for myself, but have many different streams of income based on the organizations I’m a part of. I will get paid in digital assets or tokens, and can exchange them as needed to fiat currency, or other tokens.
My financial investments will have the ability to be completely customized as well. Someone, living wherever in the world they choose, will create the algorithms to evaluate all the investments I might have access to. I can use that algorithm, along with my own preferences, lifestyle, other investments, etc., to create a highly customized portfolio and plan.
The plan can include my banking relationships, insurance based solely on my life, liquidity I might require, etc. It will make trades and adjustments as needed, and will charge very little.
Just as the Internet has remade our views on consumption of goods, news, and entertainment, Web3 will change our ability to consume financials, employment, and living arrangements we once thought were cemented firmly in the ground.
It won’t be an overnight transition, and there will be risk. However, we are heading that direction. As the workers of the world take their customization abilities into their 30’s and 40’s, they won’t be ok with living the same life as their parents. They will want the rest of their life to reflect their online, modular preferences.
Start thinking about how you would like your life to look in the next 10 years. Chances are you’re going to have that ability soon.