In the Future: No More … Well, No More Lots of Things

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When the calendar changes, it’s a natural time to look back and look forward, to gauge trends, scratch one’s head, and make predictions that will appear laughable in a few years. According to various prognosticators, because of new technology, rising costs, changing cultural attitudes and spending habits, and the ever-present desire to increase efficiency, there will be disappearing acts for many staples of everyday life down the line. And who knows, some of these predictions might actually come true.
No More Water Needed to Clean Clothes? A newly developed washing machine uses tiny plastic pellets to get the dirt and stank out of clothes without using water—or at least by using 90% less water than a typical load of laundry, according to Popular Science. Not only does this save water and shave off a big chunk of utility bills, but the pellets can be reused hundreds and hundreds of times. The manufacturer, Xeros, is expected to be tested in commercial laundry facilities this year, and if that goes well, perhaps they’ll be on sale at your local home appliance store at some point.

No More Bottled Water? In 2009, tap came back into favor as the bottled variety came to be viewed as wasteful, and sales dipped for the first time in six years. But considering Americans still drink something close to 9 billion gallons of bottled water annually, the Dasani and Poland Spring bottles probably won’t be disappearing anytime soon.

No More Cemeteries? Towns are running out of affordable land to devote to the dead, and cremations are growing in popularity due to their inexpensive cost and spreading cultural acceptance. Result? The cemetery business is something of a dying industry, if you’ll excuse the horrible pun.

No More Annoying Wine Corkage Fees at Restaurants? In a bad economy, many restaurants have dropped the silly $10 or $20 fee for BYO customers. This is a trend a lot of diners could get used to.

No More Checks? The U.K. recently voted to phase out paper checks by 2018. Why? There are a lot more efficient ways to pay for things nowadays. I’d look for the idea to get some play in the U.S., especially as banks adjust to new rules governing debit card overdrafts, among other regulations.

No More Pay Phones? There were 2 million pay phones in the U.S. in 2000. As of 2007, there were 870,000, and there are surely fewer than that today. There’s a trend here.

No More Land Lines? According to the most recent Nielsen survey, 21% of households are wireless only, up from 18% in 2008 and 15% in 2007. Because it’s becoming increasinlgy difficult to make money from land lines, AT&T is actually trying to cut the cord altogether, and is lobbying the FCC to drop requirements that it offers land lines at all.

No More Cell Phone Contracts? Wired says that fee-laden mobile-phone contracts may be goners, replaced by the practice of customers using wi-fi hotspots and free VoIP technologies like Skype to make calls.

No More Handwriting? It’s a “slow and inefficient way of getting our thoughts out—a hindrance to thinking, given the alternatives,” according to a debate over at the NY Times Idea of the Day blog. Guess that means there’ll be no more bragging about your third-grade award for best penmanship.

No More Christmas Cards? The argument against is that they’re wasteful, impersonal, and costly, not to mention that everyone is in touch with friends via social media all the time, meaning there’s less need to “touch base.”

No More Toys WITHOUT Cell-Phone Chips? A movement is afoot to make everything wireless, with products like smart refrigerators (because adjusting the temperature via phone or computer is somehow essential) and toys with cell-phone chips inside (I can’t try to explain why you might want this).

No More Free Broadcast TV? With the networks battling with cable providers over fees and access, and ad dollars vanishing, the free TV programming provided by CBS, Fox, ABC, and NBC may soon “fade to black,” as the AP reported. What can you do? You could play the game and watch only movies and shows on the Internet. But, as my colleague James Poniewozik wrote, “You can watch shows for free on Hulu if you like—well, free for now, anyway—but the cost of TV is like a bubble in an air hose: squeeze it in one place and it pops up somewhere else along the chain, in this case, your cable bill.” Probably in your broadband bill too.

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