Every revolution has elements of tragedy as well as triumphs — even the bloodless revolutions in the way people earn a living. Economist Joseph Schumpeter called it "creative destruction," the entrepreneurial-driven process that "incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one." Such a process was set in motion by digital technology, which released information from its physical bonds and allowed it to be stored, displayed and shared as data.
This digital transformation is now on the verge of claiming its most iconic victim: Kodak, itself one of America's great innovators and the erstwhile king of film and photographs. The real tragedy, though, is that Kodak helped invent the technology that gradually wiped out the demand for its main products, but couldn't capitalize on it. And much of the entertainment industry is facing the same dilemma.
The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Kodak was trying to sell patents in an effort to stave off filing for bankruptcy. It's conceivable that the company could rebound, but its fundamental problem is that it was built around the practice of physically capturing, storing and copying images. Digital cameras and online photo albums don't just threaten Kodak's raison d'etre; they render it obsolete.