We don’t own any digital content anymore

How have our lifestyles changed most in the last ten years? We live in the cloud.
Binary code
Our digital lives exist as a series of 0s and 1s: binary code. Image: Flickr

What do you own?

This took me a bit of thinking until I realised it is absolutely true. It applies to everything. We don’t own so many ‘things’ any more; we are attributed to data and binary code.

Nobody uses cash so much any more. Your salary probably comes in a digital payment to an online bank account, and you spend that money via Facebook Pay, Apple Pay, Google Wallet and Paypal.

To watch a movie, you don’t buy a DVD anymore. You stream a movie online through an internet service which adds that title to your account.

Gamers likely don’t buy a hard disc. You download a game from the internet.

We don’t buy books in a bookstore any more. You choose a title and download it to your tablet or Kindle.

I still have CD and DVD racks in my attic that used to be full (and take up a lot of space in my living room!). Now I own more movies and games than ever, but the shelves are empty.

It’s really strange to think about, but so much of what we buy is through a subscription for software. Even though I love reading the news in a newspaper, I know I am a dying breed; most people read and watch the news through their smartphone.

So – what do you actually own?

Facebook Viewpoints
Digital payments are now more common than cash in many markets. Image: Facebook

Cloud-based lives

In honesty, it hadn’t really struck me before how much things had changed this last ten years. I laugh all the time at how my four-year-old can adeptly navigate my smart TV, Amazon Alexa, and Android phone.

But the next generation are truly growing up in a new era. Cash is the epitome of every transaction we make but is rapidly ceasing to exist.

How long do you think it will be before mints stop printing new money because nobody uses it any more?

Your data and security

The big problem with ‘owning’ software and subscriptions is security. As our lives change, so too do the risks and criminals who find new ways to exploit the flaws in our defences.

When all the money you own in the world is online, how much easier is it to steal than if it’s locked in a safe? If every asset you control is licensed by a digital subscription or title deed, how much easier is that to defraud?

We reported earlier this month about the value of data. What you are, and what you can be sold, is somewhat more valuable than anything else. Marketing budgets dictate the flow of information, and every consumer is a potential spender of [digital] money.

Even your health is digital, and Google knows the power of mining this information.

The other problem is that by limiting ourselves to our selected online service, we also limit our knowledge. If you choose to subscribe to one paid news service, you just use the one – correct?

So everything you read, and everything you know about current events is skewed by the potential political leaning of that publication.

Microsoft bing data center
Data centres hold a vast volume of our information. There were 4.1 billion data breaches in the first six months of this year. Image: Robert Scoble via Flickr

The future of data

One of the new developments that makes me feel more secure is that researchers have created an unbreakable communication method.

We reported only last week on the new silicon chip built by the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), the University of St Andrews, and the Center for Unconventional Processes of Sciences (CUP Sciences).

They believe that this system will enable communications using less network space which is uncrackable, even by quantum computing.

I say this is incredibly valuable. As I download my choice of family Christmas movies, paying with my PayPal account I know my fingerprint is digital. And I really hope it is safe.

Do you agree that our lives have become cloud-based? What other ways have we swapped physical possessions for online subscriptions? Let me know what you think!

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