“The mailbox is not entirely obsolete, but it is getting there”

In his article for the Foundation for Economic Education, Jeffrey Tucker has expressed his belief that snail mail is going ‘the way of folding maps, modems, floppy disks, video tapes, answering machines, pay phones, typewriters, pagers and books.’

The ‘books’ part is a standout. Tucker takes the view that books have lost their meaning as carriers of information and are now completely obsolete. “For generations of people, building a personal library in your home was a sign of high social status. Now you can’t even give the stuff away.” This is a strange sentiment and I have to say I don’t entirely agree with it, especially when he clearly sees books as MORE obsolete than physical post.

Tucker goes on to talk about how technological progress means that outdated technologies will necessarily be replaced. Of course he forgets to take into account the cultural impact of said technologies and the fact that some things have been around for so long that their inherent cultural significance alone might be enough to keep them around. I believe that books are one such example.

As for physical post, while I do see that they appear to be on the way out, the fact that (as Tucker himseft admits) owning a postbox has in the past been deemed enough to warrant a legal requirement does seem to imply such cultural significance. Which to me might mean that instead of disappearing completely, postboxes will need to dig a new hole for themselves to fit into.

Much like with books, a lot of it comes down to physical preference. According to a less than recent survey, the majority of people back in the prehistoric age of 2010 did still prefer to receive certain documents by snail mail. Of course seven years is like a century in tech years but it does show a certain unwillingness to let in a large number of people for various reasons – not the least of which would be the previously discussed idea of tangibility. This also raises the question of whether snail mail could be perhaps more secure than email. In an increasingly interconnected world where breaking security algorithms is not an uncommon occurence, perhaps the extra step of having to physically break into a mailbox to read someone’s email could be seen as an additional security measure.