We've been hearing about the so-called "digital divide" for a while now. Until recently, this had been framed in terms of "how can we deploy broadband in rural areas," and "how can we make computers more affordable." The "carrot" has been the promise of access to new technologies (like LJ!) that couldn't exist any other way. The "stick" part now says you're going to be left out if you don't pony up. You have to have a computer.
Is your computer more than three years old? Sorry, that's not good enough. You'll need a machine capable of running Macrodobegooglesoft Flash 13 (with Whiz-Bang Ultimate Content Protection DRM). Not to mention mega ultra high-speed Internet access from your monopoly provider. How long before we can no longer receive checking account statements--or even vote--except online? An increasing number of schools now require students to furnish (at their expense) "approved" laptop/notebook computers in order to take exams. Got a Macintosh? Sorry, that's not approved. Installed Linux? Sorry, that's not approved. What was wrong with a blue book and a number two pencil, I ask?
Some people say, "hey, you're computer-literate--you should welcome this." I don't. I liked e-mail before spammers and scammers turned it into a fetid cesspool. I don't want anything with attachments. I don't want anything with personal/confidential information sent unencrypted. There are appropriate ways to use e-mail, and there are inappropriate ways. In 2007, the latter seems to predominate.
How many of you have lost messages because a hard drive failed (and there was no usable backup to restore from)? How many times has a "server hiccup" disrupted service? How many e-mail addresses went "poof" because you had to switch providers? I know those hands are going up. E-mail has been around for decades--it predates the Internet--yet it's still neither reliable nor dependable. And I don't believe it ever will be.
I wonder if future historians will declare the early 21st century as the end of civilization as we know it. "After all, there are no written records past this point..."