Upfront News 2
Nine things that may not survive the next decade
December 31, 2009PERSONAL CHECKS
Longevity alone won't be able to save the written check, which has been around for close to 300 years. Several large department stores and restaurant chains have already stopped accepting personal checks. Recent studies show that checks make up less than 5 percent of all business transactions in America, and that this figure has been dropping year after year since 2006. Meanwhile, the use of checks has completely ended in several European countries including Sweden and Norway, with the UK planning to phase them out by 2018.
The rise of e-mail communications, coupled with social networking sites, has meant a steady decline in the art of letter writing as a means of keeping in touch with friends or family. By 2006, experts estimate 183 billion e-mails were sent worldwide every day, while 80 percent of the world's population had access to cell phone coverage. The end of the decade could also signal the end of letter writing, as schools prioritize teaching other forms of communication.
VHS & VCRS
The last decade signaled beginnings of the decline of both VHS tapes and VCR players in spectacular fashion. The last major movie to be released on the tape format was 2006's A History of Violence, while the majority of video stores have ejected the VHS tapes from their stock. Although the Video Cassette Recorder (VCR) remains in many homes, the last standalone VCR produced was in 2008. VHS is unlikely to survive the next decade, with Blu-Ray and DVD now the most common alternatives and the home camcorder market already shifting to digital formats.
It's hard to see how brick-and-mortar video and DVD rental stores will survive the next decade. In recent years stores have broadened their services to include other electronic goods, and major retailer Blockbuster has tried adding a movie-by-mail service to compete with Netflix. Yet mail-order isn't the only threat: there's also online piracy, coupled with legal availability of movies online and dedicated pay-per-view channels. In most states, the majority of independent small video shops have been forced to close, while large chains have changed hands or had to scale their operations back.
Billions of honey bees have disappeared in the last few years and some are now sounding the death knell of honey as we know it, if current trends continue. The bee is being affected by changes in landscape, but also a disease known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). The causes of colony collapse disorder are not yet certain, although various factors are thought to be responsible including starvation, viruses, mites, nicotine-based pesticide exposure, GMO crops and climate change. This isn't just bad news for honey lovers: the decline of the bee could lead to ecological disaster, as pollination is affected.
As the world's oil stocks recede and minimizing carbon emissions becomes an increasing factor in car manufacture, the next decade could herald a significant shift away from gas-powered cars to those that run to greener specifications, such as hydrogen or electric motors. At present, up to 40 plug-in electric vehicles are being developed by the world's manufacturers, with this type of vehicle expected to become dominant in the next two decades. With global oil production believed to have peaked, rising prices and carbon concerns could see the gas engine replaced en masse by 2020.
Post 9/11, many governments have used digital technologies to increasingly pry into our personal lives, utilizing everything from CCTV images to credit card purchasing patterns. The definition of what constitutes private information could continue to stretch as the next decade progresses, while the increasing digital trail we leave will make it easier for governments and private organizations to peer into our lives. Civil libertarians will struggle to compete with the war on crime and terror many governments are engaged in, ostensibly on their citizens' behalf. At the same time, our consumer privacy may be undone by increasingly sophisticated marketing techniques, such as loyalty cards and targeted online promotions.
THE POLAR ICE CAPS
The Arctic ice cover, which has been part of the world landscape for 100,000 years, may have largely disappeared by 2020. Some scientists predict that up to 80 percent of the ice covering the North Pole will vanish in the next decade. In particular, scientists believe the ice cap will disappear completely during the summer months by 2015 and accelerate thereafter. Failure to reach a significant deal at the Global Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen recently has added to dire warnings over the ice caps. Their disappearance by 2020 would drastically and fundamentally change the world in which we live.
From Dilbert comics to films like Office Space, the cubicle is an indelible symbol of the American workplace. But, as technology allows more and more people to do their jobs remotely and as the global recession forces companies to rethink employment strategies, those ubiquitous square partitions could become an antiquated relic. Of course, considering that they're often associated with corporate conformity and soul-sucking drudgery, this is one endangered species few will miss.
By Brian M. O'Connell. Article courtesy of featurewell.com
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