The Power of Unintended Consequences

Senior Editor


I’ve always hated shopping and frankly found it draining. As a young man and even now this vulnerable, self-styled Superman could be reduced to an expressionless blob simply by stepping into a store without a clear purpose. It was my Kryptonite.

Yet I could walk into the same mall and bliss away the hours at the record or book stores. I could waste time simply going up and down the shelves looking at album covers. Yes. The Beatles, Dark Side of the Moon. Who’s Next, Blind Faith.

I also loved solitude in the bookstore, reading about those rock bands or sneaking in a chapter of a biography. I wasn’t just a teen-aged Freddie Freeloader; I bought as much product at those places as my allowance would allow. The experience was much the same at video stores when they began popping up in the 1980s.

So much has changed at the mall these days. There is no record store anymore—at least in my hometown—and no general-interest bookstore.

What’s happened to sever all those memories? The answer is easy: iTunes, Amazon, redbox, you can name any other Internet competitor.

I can still go out to a physical retail shop and buy a book, record or rent a movie; and I do that about once a blue moon. But just as often, I take advantage of that array of choices online

Love covers a multitude of sins, according to Proverbs and Saint Peter. On a secular level, it’s also true that technology covers a multitude of choices ever changing. Some companies survive it and some don’t. Some consumers adore binge watching and others just want to go back to their vinyl records and three networks.

This digital retail revolution has now bled over into the electric power industries. Millions of customers suddenly find their energy usage linked into the World Wide Web via smart meters and the Internet of Things. Some marvel that they can go online and get real-time information on rates and use patterns. Others want the confounded things taken away, while dogs wonder whatever happened to the meter reader who once braved their backyard.

All of this makes me wonder about the Rule of Unintended Consequences. Who knew the flood of online music would derail the recording industry as it has? Only time knows what all of these power choices will do to the longtime utilities and customers.

None of this is news to you, dear reader, but sometimes a longtime look back is good to appreciate how far we’ve traveled. Electric customers and utilities are in a brave new world, dealing from more options than ever and realizing it’ll never be the way it once was.

Rob Walton


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