This morning, Libby and I changed to a different Medicare Part D plan. I looked up the info on various plans on the Internet. I visisted the sites of some providers to read the fine print. I checkedpeople's comments about the providers. Then I made my choice and clicked on "Enroll".
That took me to a page that gave me an 800 number. I called that number, took some basic informaiton, and then emailed me links to finish the enrollment. When the emails came a minute later, I clicked on the link. That took me to a page with all the info I gave on the phone already filled out. I provided some additional info. I gave them a credit card number. I pressed "Accept" and it was all done.
Then it struck me. How profoundly the Internet has made so many things so much simpler than in the past. In the old days to accomplish the above using paper forms and snail mail would have taken weeks, perhaps months. It made me think back to my first overseas business trip when I had to arrange a letter of credit from my bank to a foreign bank so that I could get cash over there.
The changes brought by computers and telecommunicaitons and the Internet in particular are amazing. Early attempts at almost everything were buggy and frustrating. But they all improved so incrementally that we hardly noticed the transformation from annoyances, to indespensable conviences.
But there is a dark side. I think that almost all of us underestimate the number of jobs that will be lost to automation in coming years. The most developed countries will feel it most. Within a few decades, only a small fraction of our citizens will be priviledged to have a job. It is hard to imagine a more profound economic and social challenge.