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Predictions of the future

Top 10 Disappearing Futures

Smartphones may have a more limited future than you think (or hope) today. And the stores we buy them in could also disappear by 2030. Doctors and schools could go, too. But so might intolerance, insecurity, and other problems, according to contributors to this special "crowdsourced" report.

One of my family's legends (unverified) was that my great-grandfather invented the coin-operated newspaper-vending machine. He never patented it, however, so watching the gradual disappearance of this sturdy, useful invention—first from my apartment building's lobby, and then from the sidewalks outside my office—leaves me with no sense of grand, despairing loss. Today, I can read whatever I want digitally, without ever having to bash a frequently failing machine that eats my quarters.

For me, the saddest loss from my youth is the soda fountain, that countertop fixture in just about every drugstore in the United States a half a century ago. Folks could have a quick meal of grilled cheese sandwiches and cherry Cokes, and then buy sundries on the way out. As the car-crazy nation spread our lifestyles out into suburbs, it became easier and faster to order food at drive-through windows. Cars with cup holders reigned supreme, and the soda fountain disappeared.

So, what else might disappear in the next 15-20 years? And will we miss these things much? The loss of newspaper vending machines hasn't affected our access to news, for instance. Soda fountains were replaced by alternative methods of meal dissemination. But in some cases, things have disappeared irrevocably and irreplaceably, some for better (smallpox) and some for worse (passenger pigeons).

One thing we might not see disappear: predictions. Though many futurists believe we would be better off learning to make "robust" decisions that enable us to adapt and succeed in a variety of potential future scenarios—without benefit of definitive forecasts—humans have always felt a compulsion to know the future with as much certainty as possible.

And that is why we have gone to members and friends of the World Future Society, once again, to seek out their informed and eye-opening insights about the future—in this case, the future we may not see.


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It is true that things change and when they do, we lose icons we have grown to know and love. Often things are replaced by better things, methods, ideas. Automobiles have gone through many changes, from cranks, to simple engines, to computer chips that drive cars and everything ...

Solution Summary

Thoughts on passage, about predictions and changes, presented in this solution.