While twenty-five years sounds like a relatively short period of time, it’s an eternity from cultural and technological perspectives. The rate of change and progress in both categories is accelerating, which means even things that we assume will be around for years to come probably aren’t safe.
Below is a list of widely used technologies and cultural institutions — some longstanding — that I predict won’t be around in 25 years based on current trends and an accelerating pace of change. To be sure “won’t exist” is probably hyperbole (CDs still “exist”), but gets across the sentiment — a significant decline in use compared to today with an inevitable end in sight. These predictions are limited to the U.S., while also acknowledging that I live and work in the bubble of Silicon Valley (we’re right about 10–25% of the time).
- Zoos: Until the 20th Century, the only way for the average person to see wild animals in action was at a zoo. Today, videos of animals in the wild — either in programs like Planet Earth or amateur footage on YouTube are more educational, entertaining, and ethical. Animal ethics and rights movements will increase their calls for zoos to close (sanctuaries are a different story).
- Keys: Access control will go digital, powered by computer vision and biometric identification. Your face, gestures, and voice will be your keys to everything. I covered this in my article The Cameras are Coming.
- Cheerleaders: The writing is on the wall when it comes to objectifying women’s bodies on the sidelines of professional sports played by men.
- The NFL: Perhaps the most controversial of these predictions, as the NFL as a whole is worth over $75 billion+, and >100 million people still watch the Superbowl. The effects of playing football and traumatic brain injury will continue to be uncovered. The league will continue to adopt rules focused on player safety, which will “ruin the game” according to the most ardent fans. Many parents will stop allowing their children to play over safety concerns, which will decrease the quality of play at top levels, further compounding the decreased interest of fans.
- Federal ban on cannabis: As more states / countries legalize (and benefit from tax revenue) and scientific evidence of the medical benefits continue to be revealed, it’s only a matter of time before we see the new multi-billion dollar CPG category legalized and regulated at a federal level.
- The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade: The 119th Annual Walmart Thanksgiving Day Parade? (I don’t believe Amazon would find value in the naming rights, except symbolically)
- New combustion engine cars: While transitioning fully to fleet-based autonomous electric vehicles may take longer than 25 years, OEMs are investing seriously and heavily in electrification. GM’s head of product commented in 2017, “General Motors believes the future is all-electric.”
- Handheld smartphones: Even more quickly than smartphones were adopted, we’ll transition to spatial computing / augmented reality head mounted displays, which will increasingly take the form of a standard-looking pair of eyeglasses.
- Coal power plants:
- Facebook (the platform, not the company): Expect Facebook to continue acquiring other platforms as they did with Instagram and Whatsapp (among others). The average age of Facebook users has risen significantly and a sizeable amount of young consumers have avoided the original Facebook entirely. Perhaps there’s a name change a al “Alphabet” down the line?
- Landline phone lines in new homes: Replaced by virtual assistants that can make calls among many other tasks. Amazon has already partnered with homebuilders to build Alexa into new homes.
- The current Electoral College: In the aftermath of the Trump Administration — which won while losing the election by 3 million votes — political sentiment and voting technology will address the issue that a Wyoming voter has 3.6x the influence as a voter in California in Presidential Elections.
- Wired charging: Breakthroughs in battery and charging technology will free us from charging cables, perhaps utilizing WiFi networks — a technical use case Apple has filed a patent for.
- Nielsen TV Ratings: Long the standard-bearer of measurement used by television networks to sell ads in the $70B+ TV advertising industry, Nielsen’s surveying / sampling methodology will become archaic as MVPDs and networks aim to capture and own accurate customer & viewership data while implementing programmatic DAI (dynamic ad insertion) targeted to individual viewers, enhancing ad engagement and effectiveness. Google will likely be a big enabler here.
- Trustworthy video evidence: The technology has arrived to falsify video and audio content to convincingly produce a video of an individual saying and doing things they never did. Seeing is no longer believing. Verification software / solutions will arise, but will lag behind consumer skepticism of falsified video shared virally on social platforms.
- One-size-fits-all medicine: Human bodies differ in genetics, blood types, size, chemical balance, age, etc — yet are prescribed the exact same prescriptions and doses for many medical conditions. One day this will look barbaric, as precision medicine personalizes treatments to individual patients.
- Polio, Measles, Mumps, Rubella: Each of these diseases are nearly eradicated, and should be within 25 years (as long as people continue to get vaccinated…)
- Cigarettes: eCigarettes / “vapes” are less expensive, likely less harmful (though still unhealthy), and being rapidly adopted by young demographics of smokers.
- Human Personal Assistants / Secretaries: Will be replaced by virtual assistants, who are better at their jobs for a fraction of the price (or free).
- The gender pay-gap: Hopefully.
- Shipping fees: Logistics, shipping, and last-mile delivery networks will be ubiquitous and efficient, due in part to autonomous vehicles — especially semi-trucks. Competition will drive shipping fees to $0 (or at least baked-in to the price of goods).
- Consumer printers: While books, packaging, and other commercial and industrial materials will still be printed, consumers will have no use for printers, as everything is handled digitally. We can only hope that CVS stops printing receipts by 2043.
- Capital Punishment (a.k.a. the death penalty): Generally speaking, as humanity has progressed we’ve placed a higher value on life.
- Baldness: 2018 saw multiple supposed “breakthroughs” in curing baldness (regrowing lost hair). Whether or not these specific treatments and drugs achieve commercial viability, it’s likely that being bald is optional by 2043.
- Standing in line: One day it will seem barbaric that we used to stand in line and wait to order coffee or food, pay at a store, or enter an event or bar. Ordering ahead and delivery will be the norm for food (over 10% of Starbucks transactions are already ordered ahead). Retail and convenience stores will have Amazon Go-esque cashierless checkout. Computer vision and biometric identification will enable your face to be your ticket into a concert, or verify that you’re of age to enter a bar.
So, there you have it. Twenty-five things that won’t exist in twenty-five years. Do you agree? What have I missed? Let me know in the comments below.
If you enjoyed this, please “clap” (I feel like Jeb Bush…) and follow me on Medium. You can check out some of my previous articles: The Cameras are Coming, The Future of Car Travel: Advertising and Retail?, and How Binge Watching Doomed Comedy.
I’m currently an investor at Sinai Ventures in San Francisco. I previously worked in digital TV strategy at 21st Century Fox in Los Angeles. Northwestern Alum. Chicago Native. Feel free to reach out here, on Twitter, or LinkedIn.