Times change, and what is comfortable and ever-present one day is relegated to the dust-bin of history the next. New technologies and new ideas come along and obliterate the status quo, and in between a blizzard of lawyers and industry types screaming that it isn’t fair, the marketplace itself decides what’s going to survive into tomorrow and what’s going to become a niche industry for fetishists, like vinyl records, VHS tapes and world peace. They’ll always be around – at least as idealized conceptions of a better past that may or may not have actually existed – but nobody you know will use any of them, with the possible exception of your hipster cousin who still gets around town in roller skates. And that’s most true with the following nine things that will very likely be gone ten years from now.
We’ll start off easy. These are already pretty much gone. Sure, they exist, but that’s just because the record industry hasn’t really found a new tangible technology to replace them. They’re still there in theory, but in practice, who actually buys CDs anymore? Old people and those still clinging to romantic notions of what an album “means,” that’s who. Sounds a lot like vinyl fetishists, huh? The way we consume music – from downloads to YouTube – has completely changed the game. That’s not really a big revelation, but what is, is that the music industry has seemed to finally throw in the towel and accepted that the age of the physical record is dead. It doesn’t happen with a big announcement. It just happens.
Nobody today gets a new landline phone. It just doesn’t happen. The only ones still around belong to businesses and people too stubborn or comfortable to get rid of theirs. But once somebody moves, they don’t bother to get a new landline, do they? No. And that’s because they’ve become redundant. After all, everyone has their own phone now. Even to call them “cell phones” seems antiquated, doesn’t it? That’s how ubiquitous they’ve become. They’ve finally reached the point where they’re just known as “phones.” They’re like “touchtone phones” or “cordless phones” before them, each of whom carried that extra adjective before they became the norm and became, simply, phones. Plus, you can’t play Candy Crush on your landline.
Considering they basically don’t even make them anymore, I think this one’s a pretty safe bet. These are pretty much already finished, and with each passing year they become rarer and rarer. It’s to the point now that it’s almost surprising if you walk into somebody’s place and see one of these clunky monstrosities in an old-fashioned entertainment cabinet. At best, they survive in people’s bedrooms now, at least until they start to go bad, at which point they are hauled off to the island of misfit technologies, or used as target practice by rednecks. Same thing, really.
Since everyone has basically already ditched their CRT TVs for Hi-Def, it makes sense that they would also upgrade from DVD players to Blu-ray. Of course, the elephant in the room here is that, like with music, the Internet has begun to make physical movie media obsolete. So, honestly, DVDs are fighting an unwinnable battle. Most people will ditch them – or have already begun to – because they have no need for a physical copy of a movie or TV show. And then those that do will choose to own it in Blu-ray, or whatever technology comes along to replace that, and given how quickly the tech evolves now, there’s a good chance that not only will Blu-ray also be obsolete in ten years, but that so will it’s successor. This is the new economy – buying crap to replace the crap we just bought last year to replace the crap we bought the year before that to replace the… you get the point.
Again, we’ve already seen the changeover happening. And, ten years from now, video stores will seem weird to people even as a concept, like jerk-booths and porn shops. Without the demand for physical media, what’s the point? Even the companies that rose up and destroyed the video store, like Netflix, have moved away from being physical media distributors. And while physical media will probably always exist in some form, those who want it will get it from the descendants of Netflix and the like, not from some giant corner store that rents them out for one night at a time. See? Already, this seems conceptually weird, doesn’t it?
Okay, so cigarettes are never going to go away. But what will go away is smoking them in public. Already, if you want to smoke in public, you are forced to stand in some weird quarantine zone like a diseased animal. Lighting up in a restaurant is fast becoming almost as big a faux pas as dropping your pants and playing with yourself during dessert. The response is basically the same – “Sir, I have small children here, can you please put that thing away.” Smoking cigarettes will become like smoking weed – everyone will still do it, they’ll just do it in the comfort of their own home, or underneath the bleachers at the football field like all the cool kids.
Another technology that is being rapidly overwhelmed by the influx of new mediums, the desktop computer already seems sort of quaint and old fashioned, doesn’t it? The only people who have them are old people or professionals who are used to having a physical office presence. But in ten years, even that won’t be the case. That’s because laptops are quickly becoming powerful enough to handle any professional need you may have, while tablets and phones are quickly becoming the norm when it comes to more recreational uses. The reality, of course – and this is a common theme – is that the tech moves so fast that laptops and tablets will probably be passé in ten years, while the desktop will seem like some ancient monstrosity, like one of those giant room-sized computers that could barely play Pong back in the day.
Yet again, dedicated cameras are a technology that has already mostly disappeared. Outside of professional photographers, artists and hipster fetishists, there is really no point to their existence, is there? The camera technology in phones has improved dramatically, to the point that the layperson can’t really tell any difference in picture quality. Of course, that speaks to the larger point – pictures themselves are quickly becoming obsolete. Everything is digital. Just think about it – when was the last time you really sat down and looked at brand new physical pictures? Everything exists in the online, archived world. We have become the Borg. Resistance is futile.
The one theme running through all of this is that almost all physical media technology is being completely consumed and subsumed by the connected world in which we now live. And this is happening so fast, and evolving so quickly, that the idea that we’ll still consume entertainment the way we do now is absurd. Everything that seems fresh and new now will probably seem old, out of date, and positively ancient ten years from now. This isn’t a straight line of progress. It’s a parabolic curve. Everything from newspapers to magazines to books to cable TV to everything else already discussed in this article will just seem like some strange idea from the past, and while most of these things will still likely exist in some form, they will never, ever be the norm again. The future is now, and in ten years even the future will be just another old and easily replaced idea.