For many years people asked me how I could function in business without wearing a watch. Recently, it occurred to me that no one has questioned my refusal to wear a watch for quite a long time, and so I began checking out people to see how many were wearing watches. I must have looked at a hundred wrists and only spotted two or three. We simply don’t need watches anymore. When we’re driving, there’s a digital clock in the car. At home, there are digital clocks on the stove, microwave, and TV. The time is displayed our on computers and our cell phones. Even my iPod displays the time.
That made me think about other things that have been rendered obsolete due to advances in technology. Cashiers no longer count back change at the store because cash registers do the figuring for them. Hand-held calculators have virtually eliminated the need to do math the old fashioned way. A friend of mine who is a teacher recently pointed out that her elementary school students have never seen an encyclopedia, a record album, or a phonograph. And I’ll bet most people under the age of 20 have never seen a typewriter.
Over the next 50 years, I expect the acceleration of technology to create obsolescence at an astounding rate. The following are a few of my predictions:
- English will gradually become the language of the world
- Improved online shopping technology will allow us to try on clothes holographically, generate 3-D images of products, and take virtual drives in automobiles
- As the technology for online shopping improves, shopping malls will cease to exist; existing shopping centers will be taken over as large government complexes
- Everyone will have an implanted electronic chip that will allow us to access the Internet through a holographic screen that will be projected in space before our eyes
- Landlines and cell phones will disappear; all phone calls will be done through the Internet, using our implanted electronic chips and Voice Over IP (VoIP)
- Mass transit, such as fast rail and mag-lev trains will be constructed in highly populated corridors throughout the country
- In the near future, cars will run on hydrogen fuel cells that produce hydrogen from water and create no emissions other than oxygen; eventually cars will be developed that levitate (such as the mag-lev trains), eliminating the need to maintain an inexpensive infrastructure network
- Expensive photovoltaic solar panel technology will be replaced by new lower priced, roll-on thin film solar products, making home heating through solar a cost efficient and environmentally responsible choice
- Plastics made from petroleum based products will be replaced by plastics made by E-coli bacteria, which are completely biodegradable
- More and more people will work from home, using the Internet
- We will no longer need to buy software for our individual computers; all software will be available on master servers online, and we will pay a per use or per hour fee for the right to access the software. Eventually, our personal documents will all be stored online as well.
- As the baby boomers begin to retire there will be a geographic movement from the suburbs back toward city centers. Cities that have thriving downtowns with cultural amenities, parks, mixed-use development, good public transportation, diverse retail, and pedestrian facilities will be in great demand.
- Newspapers and printed books will gradually disappear in favor of e-books and e-paper
- Home schooling will become the norm, with virtual classes over the Internet
- All TV will be personalized content, downloaded through the Internet directly to the TV, using a cable box that will incorporate media from sources like Blu-Ray, Apple TV, and NetFlix/LG. Uses will be able to personalize their TV viewing experience, downloading widgets that do things like scroll a stock ticker, breaking news, weather, or sports scores across the bottom of the screen. We’ll be able to watch whatever we want, whenever we want, at the touch or a button (click of a mouse). We’ll be able to get instant messaging and caller ID on the TV. Google is, in fact, developing an operating system named Android that could make all this and more possible within a very short time frame.
I could probably come up with a lot more, but it’s late and my brain hurts. I would love to hear from my readers – what do you think will be the most astounding change in the next 20 years as a result of technology?