A tale for those who are tech savvy

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  • Taking risks; avoiding redundancy

 

By Amna Khan

 

One of my most vivid memories while growing up is recalling all the VHS tapes stacked on overcrowded shelves with their names taped to them, placed strategically next to an imposing VCR which dominated most of the space in my living room, not to mention the majority of my childhood. Today’s minimalism-oriented world would never be able to devote that much space to movies, honestly speaking it shouldn’t be expected to either. With the advent of the internet we’re now more used to Kindles than books and cellular livelihoods than reality itself. The influence that broadcast television has wrought on the modern world is undeniable. Even on my own life. Personally it served as a means of travel and exploration, building my imagination & even becoming a surrogate parent of sorts. Eventually, before I knew it, DVD’s replaced the VHS tapes, economising both size & picture quality but by that time instead of a traditional DVD player a personal computer became a safer place for me to enjoy the kind of films my immoral mind was more curious to watch.

DVD rental stores was the Vaping lounge of the 00’s, with the least overhead costs and big returns, you could find them everywhere. It wasn’t until Torrents coupled with a mini-recession, did people decide to save that Rs150 and invest in better internet for the switchover that defined a century to come. Hiccups like the YouTube ban of 2012 made life difficult but VPN’s effortlessly solved even that, forcing the PTA (Pakistan Telecommunication’s Authority) to realise that the ‘Internet’ is too big to shut down, with an uncountable number of followers the world over. YouTube’s return was welcomed with updates that included live streaming of channels directly from their satellites. This is what truly signalled the beginning of television’s demise, because channels adapted to devices to become commute friendly. They figured more people would be inclined to watch the show if it’s on their smartphones. Cable operators became hindrances in progress but called themselves middle men long enough that even the PTA was convinced to switch the system completely from analogue to digital in 2016. The Cable Operators Association of Pakistan (COAP) invented the most professional sounding name they could in their attempt to matter and yet failed to adapt to the metamorphosis of modern television.

Now as the economy forces people to further tighten their pockets, digital cable or even a TV for that matter seems like an extravagant expense. If the printing press for newspapers is going out of business how far behind do you really believe digital television is? Only in Pakistan can you find inflexible mentality of resistance against inevitable change. Now adding to the list of several reasons why Indians reached the moon first is probably because the Pakistani scientists’ convinced themselves that it can’t be done. Where India’s mission was to reach the moon, Pakistan’s would’ve been finding reasons not to. Where Indian’s are racing ahead in the fight for internet TV, Pakistan is betting on its citizens being too tech illiterate to adapt to it. Netflix, the leader in initiating ‘internet TV’, was founded on the premise that eventually the internet will take over TV itself that is why the founder kept its name ‘Netflix’. They envisioned a business of the future by hitting the jackpot of calculated guesses & betting on humanity’s ability to progress against any odds.

Only in Pakistan can you find inflexible mentality of resistance against inevitable change. Now adding to the list of several reasons why Indians reached the moon first is probably because the Pakistani scientists’ convinced themselves that it can’t be done

Everything was at some point impossible to do and naysayers can be identified all throughout history. Just not as much as they do over here – I’ll give us that. Failure is the key to adaptation because if you’re not failing likelihood is you’re not trying or succeeding enough to matter. Technology becoming redundant are necessary disruptions that serve as a litmus test to assess a system’s health. In its initial stages when Netflix was competing with Blockbuster, people were resistant and skeptical about ordering online. However they stayed true to the ethos of perfecting what was coming next. They survived when Blockbuster – the world’s biggest video rental store couldn’t and didn’t get too comfortable because another even bigger challenge was waiting for them just around the corner. When their business model was based on licensed content from other networks stopped being profitable Netflix started creating its own. They were largely inspired by HBO that began its own streaming service for its original content in 2013. Assessing this threat, Netflix pulled up its sleeves and took risks with shows like House of Cards, Orange is the New Black and Hemlock Grove. Now Amazon and Netflix produce globally & leave no stone unturned in their quest to stay relevant. Variety in the world is meant to be enjoyed and celebrated, cashing in on that sentiment of uniqueness is Netflix’s sales pitch turned business model.

Broadcast television is like our fixed phone line – when was the last time you actually used it? Besides Pakistan’s broadcast revenues are already monopolised by YouTube, I guess the blasphemy charges of 2012 didn’t convince people to stop streaming. People unwisely seem to be picking the cost effective and convenient options when it comes to viewing content – who would’ve thought? Predictions signalling the demise of linear television are also making the rounds and this gave the visionaries at Netflix the ingenious idea of creating interactive television. ‘Bandersnatch’ the producer of which won at the 2019 Emmy’s because of his ability to keep the viewer engaged, unable to look at their phone and feel invested in the outcome of events. It amazes me what the world is capable of becoming and how less we are invested in helping it become all that it can be. Internet is our electricity, we wake up to check our phones to see who thought of us while we slept. We say our final goodbyes before tucking ourselves in for a restful night and throughout the day feel less alone because we know everyone is just a Snapchat away. And yes, it has its faults like all things do, as today’s version of Mother Nature for millennials does. Networking in a virtual existence amongst robots trained by AI is the future the world is headed towards, while Pakistani’s are betting on doomsday happening before they have to learn to adapt to any of it.

 

The writer is a freelance columnist.