The late Herb Caen (iconic San Francisco Chronicle columnist) once wrote an opinion piece about the worsening state of San Francisco and in particular, one of its main corridors, Market Street.
In it, he lamented about how this thoroughfare was always under construction, how the city’s charms and enduring traditions were getting swept aside by outsiders, and how the place was becoming less and less hospitable to locals and long-timers.
This harsh "truth" forced Caen to wonder if perhaps San Francisco’s best days were behind it.
But Caen was setting up the reader. In the next paragraph, he would reveal that, “Would it surprise you to know that I wrote this piece way back in 1954?”
Caen’s point was that then, as now, every generation sees their generation as the Real Generation and the Right Approach, when in truth, progress just moves Forward. It waits for no one.
Hence, the locals of San Francisco, circa 1954, saw a city losing its mojo when in truth, it was just moving forward with the times.
Thus, decades later it should be unsurprising that today’s locals would reach the exact same conclusions about the “good old days,” with the good old days being their particular generation's definition of good and normal.
Progress Just Moves Forward
I thought about this truth when the iPad came out, and the old guard railed against it as a "step backwards" for computing, which I wrote about here.
I think about this truth every time I hear someone lament about the loss of newspapers, bookstores and magazines (I feel your pain...though Joe Nocera's sermon against Twitter in the New York Times was a classic 'false dichotomy').
I think about this truth whenever I see another retail segment go from "darling" to deceased (retail NEEDS a reboot).
And, of course, I painfully think about this truth reading George Packer's 'The Unwinding,' beautifully written narrative that captures the convulsions and cardiac arrest occcuring in numerous cities across America.
Yes, progress isn't always pretty. Sometimes it brings beauty. Sometimes it brings change. Sometimes it is just brutal and downright ugly.
But, also know this. Progress doesn't care. It just moves forward. For gravity...just IS.
- Grumpy old men, the "Inmates" and margins: iPad and the future of computing (O'Reilly)
- Old Media, New Media and Where the Rubber Meets the Road (O'Reilly)
- Retail Needs a Reboot to Survive (GigaOM)
- The Jobs Engine: The Art of Reinventing an Industry (GigaOM)