I have regard and sympathy for postal workers. Their mission was once critical to the world, and they have a sense of duty and a code of professional ethics that reflects this. They also have enjoyed all of the security and privilege that comes with performing such a crucial task.
Today, the ideals (and the comforts) remain, but something has changed. The mail just isn’t critical to society anymore. In most cases, it’s an anachronism—overdue for obsolescence, economically and environmentally indefensible. The Canada Post lock-out will help nudge the obsolescence along
I still check my mailbox with great anticipation every day. Not for personal correspondence or periodicals—I get those online. Not for parcels—private couriers handle those. But as a freelancer and contractor, I still get paid through the mail, and that keeps me interested.
But why am I still paid by mail? Why is it taking so long for companies to put in place a direct-deposit system for non-employees? Why is it still so difficult for me to email payment to the people I hire? And why does the government still spend millions mailing out cheques for pension, social security, welfare and unemployment?
Everyone who deposits these cheques has a bank account, so their finances are already part of a digital network. The paper slip is just a note from one computer that tells another computer to change some data. The postal workers and the Canadians who cart these objects around are redundant, fleshy bottlenecks in the process. Why are we still locked into such a wildly expensive and inefficient system?
Entropy, I suspect, and a bizarre sense that removing the last physical artifact of money will somehow melt the brains of anyone over 45.
The Canada Post lock-out will help with the entropy. Organizations have trouble innovating from within, but can become surprisingly nimble when pressured externally. Nothing will force an overdue move to digital transfers like necessity. Then, once the sky fails to fall, what will remain is a much quicker and much cheaper system.
At that point, why will anyone go back to snail mail?