10 Surprising Things Technology Will Make Obsolete by 2025
By Evan Dashevsky, PC Magazine, 20 August 2015.
By Evan Dashevsky, PC Magazine, 20 August 2015.
Looking outside your window, you could be forgiven for coming down with a case of the future-blahs. On the surface, 2015 doesn't look anything like the flying car super future we were promised. But the fact of the matter is we're surrounded by the future. We just don't GADZOOKS all day long because we've watched its slow, incremental development. It's crazy easy to take our modern miracles for granted.
Technological progress constantly renders once-familiar things moot. When was the last time you purchased software on a disc, bought a CD in a store, sent a fax to a co-worker, or even asked for driving directions? In 2005, you probably did a lot of those things and might have just assumed you always would.
Sure, the above examples are still available. If you really wanted to buy a CD in a store, you could, but there are far more convenient options available. In another decade, I can guarantee you that many of the things you do today - things you've done for decades - will find themselves in a similar situation: they'll still be around, but probably no longer used by most people.
We don't have a crystal ball, but if eyeing current trends, we can make some educated guesses about how things will go down.
Check out our list of 10 common things that might be gone by 2025. To be sure, we may be proven completely wrong on some of these. That happens.
1. Car Mirrors
In recent years, camera-and-display setups have become standard in many higher-end cars. Each manufacturer may have their own pet name for this technology (see Honda's LaneWatch, BMW's Surround View, and Lexus' Side Monitor), but it's all essentially a closed-circuit television system for the area surrounding your vehicle.
These systems are advantageous over a purely mirror-based system in that they (utilize occasionally ingenious methods to) cover blind spots, present driver information (e.g. speed, directions, proximity to obstacles), and just see the world better (low-light vision). And you'll soon be seeing a lot more of them.
Last year, the government announced that manufactures would be required to include back-up cameras in all new cars by May 2018. Tesla has announced its desire to take things a step further by replacing all side-view mirrors with cameras - this would provide all the benefits of a camera-and-monitor system but also allow for more aerodynamic designs.
As we make the transition to driverless cars - or even just as we utilize more partially driverless cars that can do things like parallel park - our vehicles will require more cameras and sensors. And since these monitoring systems are so much more versatile, they will supplement - if not completely replace - our cars' century-old reliance on millennia-old technology.
2. Plastic Credit Cards
Cash is dying; credit cards have been biting into that pie since the 1970s. But now credit cards are beginning to dematerialize into digital bits. This doesn't necessarily mean that credit card companies will disappear. Indeed, for now, you still need them to use Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay (all the Pays!). We just won't need to carry around physical cards anymore.
This is a good thing. Paying for things with mobile or wearable technology, as opposed to thin slabs of plastic, is far more convenient. But perhaps even more importantly, these technologies have the potential to cut down on fraud. They negate the need for any third-party vender to ever see your credit card number, and your pocket super computer has the ability to use biometric data (e.g. fingerprints) to prove that you are indeed buying that bulk-sized jar of Nutella.
3. Cords and Chargers
The unsightly wires and cords that once ruled our technological lives are on the outs thanks to the continued development of technologies such as Bluetooth, NFC, and Wi-Fi networking. Sure, these technologies haven't yet banished all the wires, but chances are very good that several of the accessories around you right now (your phone, printer, keyboard, or mouse) have, at the very least, the ability to communicate with one another without a physical connection.
Of course, there is one wire we haven't been able to get rid of: The one that connects your gadgets directly to The Grid. I'm talking plugs and chargers. But even these fixtures of modernity may soon face retirement. For we are now entering the era of wireless charging, which, just for starters, will banish the need to carry around a phone charger. In the very near future, you'll just lay your device down on a charging surface - no cords required.
While the technologies behind wireless charging have been around since the days of Telsa, they've only recently translated into viable consumer products. According to the research firm Markets and Markets, various new forms of wireless charging are expected to grow exponentially over the next five years.
A little further down the line, researchers have begun experimenting with technologies that can wirelessly charge a device from anywhere, even right in your pocket. No contact required!
Pretty soon, consumers will be annoyed if they are forced to plug a device into another device instead of having it all just happen magically through the air. It'll be that same sort of annoyance you feel today when an app or website takes an additional two seconds to load. Like you have time for that nonsense!
Cords of all kinds, you are on notice.
4. Set-Top Streamers
Which set-top streaming device is best? Is it Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, Roku, or Apple TV? Who cares!? In the big scheme of things, these are all makeshift solutions used to upgrade dumb TVs into smart sets. They will lose their necessity as consumers replace their current TVs with increasingly affordable smart sets.
Unlike rapidly evolving form factors like mobile phones, consumers can go decades without replacing their TVs. This prolonged period between upgrades has opened the market for set-top streamers. But the party won't last. As people replace their TVs, chances are their new sets will be Web-capable smart TVs - AKA, things that won't need a separate, dedicated accessory to bring the Internet to the living room.
We can already see this trend taking shape: According to Statista.com, the cost of smart TVs between 2011 and 2017 will go down 50 percent, while the number of smart TV households in the U.S. will go up 500 percent between 2011 and 2016 (and that doesn't take into account the younger folks who often forgo the TV altogether and get their content through tablets, computers, and phones).
Roku? More like "Ro-WHO?" #Burn.
5. Most Live Human Operators
To be a consumer today is to deal with robot customer service reps. While these automated operators don't make you feel particularly valued by the companies you patronize, perhaps you can take some solace in the fact that their voice-recognition skills have improved tremendously over the past few years.
Today, these automated customer service systems are chiefly used to identify customers and their reason for calling before they are placed in queue to speak with a human operator.
But here's the worst-kept secret in customer service: the support you speak with on the phone are usually just following a script (which is probably based on a computer-guided algorithm they have on a computer in front of them).
It's likely that an increasing number of companies will opt for their customers to deal directly with that algorithm - either on the phone or through the Web - rather than spend the money for a mass bank of human operators. Hopefully, these companies will take some of that money they save and invest it in a smaller bank of qualified humans who have the authority and ability to help you when things really hit the fan.
6. Dedicated Remote Controls
For decades, the "clicker" has been a staple of living rooms and Adam Sandler romps alike. As integral as dedicated remote controls have become to our culture, future generations probably won't inherit our reliance on the mini pusher box.
No, humans won't suddenly develop a love for walking short distances; however certain technological trends may cause the dedicated remote control to dodo-out.
For example, voice-activated UIs will continue to scrape away at the barrier between you and your machines. Admittedly, voice UIs are not flawless in 2015, but they will improve. You probably already use them on your mobile devices in situations where you used to type - I certainly do. There's also gesture controls (once again, they are far from seamless interfaces, but they are rapidly improving).
And keep in mind, as mentioned above, our TVs will become increasingly Web-enabled, i.e. offering on-demand content. That means things like search will become just as important (if not more important) as pushing a button to channel up or channel down. You'll have more Netflix-type menus full of things to watch on your own time rather than a parade of live streams (i.e. channels) to choose from.
We have already seen the introduction of alternative UIs in a number of living room interfaces such as the Xbox One, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV. Of course, these technologies use their voice and gesture controls in conjunction with a separate physical controller. But even those are not necessary if you have the right setup.
There are ways to connect the mobile device you have right now to your TV without the need for a dedicated remote control. For example, many phones come standard with IR blasters that can control your TV, but there's an even more elegant solution: Modern Wi-Fi networks allow users to control other devices that share the same network. Why keep track of a dedicated remote when you can just use your phone, tablet, or whatever other crazy future device happens to be on your person?
7. Delivery People
The post office is in the midst of a decades-long descent into nothingness. You know the story: Bytes replacing dead trees. Of course, the one thing the ol' post office could always depend on was being tasked with delivering packages - you can't email those over the webbernets.
Recently, the USPS went as far to squeeze out its last morsels of relevance by teaming up with Amazon to deliver packages on Sunday. But even this last saving grace for the post office may soon be on its way out, as an increasing number of companies (including and especially Amazon) experiment with drone delivery.
Drones are trackable, versatile, and don't need annoying things like sleep, pay, or union benefits; they are every company's dream employee. While the logistics and the laws surrounding drone delivery are still being worked out, the demand from businesses for a cheaper methodology of delivering physical goods will hasten their development. (And this transition will affect food delivery people as well - I love ya, but you too are on notice).
I suppose that technologies such as 3D printing could also bite into this. I suppose. But until I see a consumer printer in the near future that is capable of anything more substantial than spitting out more than one amorphous plastic chess piece per hour, I remain sceptical on that front.
8. Cable Companies
I won't lie. After an ugly battle with my last cable provider left me with no option but to cut my cord, I have GLEEFULLY watched from the sidelines as the cable industrial complex has begun to crumble. And oh yes, it is indeed crumbling!
According to research firm MoffettNathanson, the number of people cutting the cord accelerated in the first quarter of this year, the first time that happened. Why is this figure important? The first quarter is traditionally a season when pay TV services add new customers to their ranks, but instead cable companies actually lost 86,000 subscribers over this period, and satellite providers lost 74,000! LOL!
What is powering this glorious trend? That's simple: We are seeing an increasing number of options for sending on-demand Web content to our TVs (see the bit about smart TVs above). That means ISPs can concentrate on providing Internet services and move away from being cable totalitarians.
No, I do NOT want the classic golf channel, thank you very much. So don't make me pay for it! Bye, Felicia!
Will the concept of private ownership be rendered wholly obsolete by 2025? Probably not. But that is, as strange as it might sound, where we're headed. If you think that's crazy talk, just take a look at your entertainment choices: we no longer own music or movies, we just curate collections on Netflix, Spotify, and the like - where all the content actually lives.
If you still want to own everything, that's just because you're old. The millennials, for their part, have jumped headlong into the "sharing economy." They are far more interested in buying into subscription services rather than buying actual things. They're not even interested in buying things like houses or cars. Part of this has to do with the young'ns not having the economic security enjoyed by Americans over the last 70 years or so. But the other part is that technology has facilitated a mass communal lifestyle built around sharing resources.
You can envision how this trend will only expand moving forward. As things like self-driving cars develop, why would you ever own a car and take on all the responsibilities that entails when you could just buy-in to a fleet of self-driving vehicles to get where you needed to go? That certainly seems to be the model that Uber has in mind.
10. Shaming of Old Social Media Posts
Remember when those black-and-white photos of a college-aged Barack Obama looking all cool while smoking a ciggy came out? Can you imagine what kind of photos and videos of might have surfaced had he grown up with the Internet and social media all around him?
It might have sunk his political ambitions! Among all you old people.
In the future, politicians - including presidential candidates - will have to answer for decades of tweets, Instagrams, Tumblrs, Vines, Reddit comments, abandoned Tinder profiles, and whatever else. And what will probably happen is that, unlike today, the voters of the future will just learn to accept that people say and do dumb things in their younger days - because they will all have their own digital records to contend with as well. As long as it didn't happen last week, they'll probably be in the clear.
[Source: PC Magazine. Edited.]