When I went to college, I had a Mass Communications Course where the professor came into class one day and asked everyone to come back in two weeks with our predictions for the future. He wanted to know our thoughts on how the world of television, media, and social sciences would change.
To get us started, he offered a few predictions of his own. He pulled out his list and started to read off his predictions one at a time. He predicted that newspapers would die out and the big three network news anchors would increasingly lose their power and influence. In the pre-Internet Age in the late 1980’s, we all shook our heads in disbelief. He predicted that Network TV was on its last legs. In his future world, consumers would pick and choose the movies and television shows they wanted to watch without commercial interruption right from the comfort of their own home. My friends and looked back and forth at each other and laughed out loud. We couldn’t believe what we were hearing.
Fast forward to today, I can’t tell you the last time I read anything from a real, live newspaper. I read tons of newspapers and news magazines online each day, but rarely if ever from a real live printed page. In fact, when I saw someone reading a newspaper several months ago on the train, I couldn’t help but think how “quaint” it was. I used to always see them when we traveled and stayed overnight in a hotel, but I can’t even tell you if that’s still the case and I once worked in the newspaper industry.
I remember laughing most at the idea of picking and choosing what you wanted to watch. Now I can’t imagine not having Netflix or Amazon Prime or HBOMax or a handful of other streaming services from home or on my smartphone. (I originally wrote this column prior to the COVID-19 quarantine. I shutter to think where my family would be during this crazy time without streaming entertainment.)
The professor wasn’t my favorite, but I have to give him credit: everything that he suggested, everything that he predicted has come to pass. I can’t tell you much about my future trend submissions. Most of my ideas came straight from The Jetsons, the Hanna-Barbera Productions, cartoon that ran in the 60s and later in syndication. I loved the idea of a robotic maid, named Rosie, magically cleaning up after you. In the show, George Jetson usually got the short end of the stick, but I always thought he still managed to come out on top, as long as he had Rosie to clean his house.
I’m not sure we’re any closer to that robot, but here’s my picks for the future:
–Driverless cars and delivery drones. I’m really not going out on a limb on either of these two. Both are here. It’s happening now. We’re on the cusp of driverless technology, it’s just a matter of time.
Drones, remote-controlled aircrafts or “unmanned aircraft vehicles” (UAV), have been used by the military for years. The Federal Aviation Administration now allows companies to apply for certificates that allow them to fly drones for research and development, including for agricultural and real estate purposes. It’s just a matter of time.
–Recall vacations. In the movie Total Recall, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a construction worker in the year 2084 who dreams of visiting Mars. He visits “Rekall,” a company that plants false memories into people’s brains, in order to experience the thrill of Mars without having to travel there.
It’s a Schwarzenegger movie, so you know the rest: he flexes his muscles and kills a bunch of people. However, with the explosion of virtual reality and video gaming, I see a future, minus the memory implant, not far off from the one proposed by Total Recall.
–Video walls will replace televisions. Smartphones and tablets have come to be used more for solitary viewing, but consumers have continued to gravitate towards bigger and bigger television sets. One consumer electronics firm estimated that the average size of LCD TV screens in the United States more than doubled from 1998 and 2019, growing from 23 to 50 inches. What’s next? I think it’s natural: video walls.
—Online education. Like I mentioned earlier, I originally wrote this piece prior to the COVID-19 quarantine and had included the prediction that online degrees will one day outpace traditional classroom degrees. In that time, thanks to COVID, traditional colleges and universities have taken a pummeling, trying their best to shift on the fly and turn traditional classrooms into online programs. It’s really not much of a prediction now to say that the percentage of students enrolled part-time or exclusively in online classes will grow significantly over next five years and will continue to grow well into the future. My guess is that online programs in twenty years will improve their reputation and will easily surpass traditional ones. If only, online had existed when I went to school, class in my pajamas, now we’re talking.
I have no idea what the future will bring, but I’m still counting on one thing: The Jetson’s robotic maid. Now that would be a cool, innovative future.