It has been a rough year. Who could have predicted what 2020 would have in store for us? Trying to see what will happen in the future has always been a bit of a dart game. Prognostication is fun, but hitting the bullseye requires a hefty measure of knowledge mixed with a modicum of pure luck. 


Looking at some wrong predictions that were made about how life would be in 2020 reveals the perils of the exercise. Supposedly in 2020: The future human would  be a cyclops, live-in apes would clean our houses and take care of the gardening, we'd all own personal helicopters, we'd eat candy made of underwear, houses would fly and be able to relocate themselves, spouses would be able to secretly control one another’s moods with grouch pills, and the alphabet would be reduced to twenty-three letters (because C, X, and Q would no longer be needed). (https://www.considerable.com/entertainment/history/historical-predictions-about-2020/ and https://time.com/3646074/past-predictions-for-the-future/)


What brought the topic of predictions to my attention was an article by an analyst in India. It stated: “There is reason to believe most or all of the following will become a reality in the next ten to twenty years. Some of us won't see the changes, but our children and grandchildren will. Welcome to tomorrow!” Thirty-eight predictions followed. (https://www.newsbreak.com/news/2116805811171/welcome-to-tomorrow-interesting-observations-and-predictions)


One prediction that caught my interest had to do with electric vehicles and the ripple effect of that technology. In the near future “auto repair shops will disappear.” Why? 'An electrical motor has only twenty parts. Electric cars will be sold with lifetime guarantees. Faulty electric motors will not repaired in the dealership but will be sent to a regional repair shop that repairs them with robots.'


The process of replacing your motor will be very simple. “Your electric motor malfunction light goes on, so you drive up to what looks like a car wash and your car is towed through while you have a cup of coffee and out comes your car with a new electric motor.”


This sounds like pie-in-the-sky, right? Well, according to Tech Republic: “There will be a seventy-one percent jump in electric vehicle purchases projected for 2021.” This is on top of a thirty percent increase in sales in 2020. Ford announced this week: “A major push into electric vehicles in Europe to convert its entire passenger car lineup on the continent to electrics by 2030.” General Motors said last month: “Its entire global fleet would largely be electric by 2035.”

(https://www.techrepublic.com/article/report-71-jump-in-electric-vehicle-purchases-projected-for-2021/ and https://www.freep.com/story/money/cars/ford/2021/02/17/ford-investing-europe-all-electric-zero-emissions/6778328002/)


If this prediction about electric vehicles holds true, it will cause a ripple in other segments of the business world. “Gas pumps will go away. Street corners will have meters that dispense electricity. Companies will install electrical recharging stations; in fact, they’ve already started.”


Right on cue, a company in New York is “charging” ahead. “Electric transportation company Revel announced today that it is building a DC fast charging Superhub for electric vehicles (EVs) in Brooklyn. The site will be the largest universal fast charging depot in North America, with thirty chargers open to the public on a 24/7 basis and accessible to owners of any electric vehicle brand.” (https://gorevel.com/superhubs/superhub)


Need more evidence of this trend? The Shell (oil company) is getting in the game. “Shell is a massive business with more than one million commercial and industrial customers and about thirty million customers coming to its 46,000 retail service stations daily. Shell intends to invest around $5 billion to $6 billion to its (energy) initiatives, including the development of 500,000 electric vehicle charging locations by 2025.” (https://techcrunch.com/2021/02/11/ev-charging-stations-biofuels-the-hydrogen-transition-and-chemicals-are-pillars-of-shells-climate-plan/)


The ripple will also affect daily life. “Electric cars will become mainstream in about 2030. Cities will be less noisy because all new cars will run on electricity. Cities will have much cleaner air as well.” 


There is no way this can happen, at least not so quickly, right? It might be instructive to consider how fast a business model can change. 'In 1998, camera companies sold film and photo paper. Within just a few years, their business model disappeared. What happened? Everything went digital. With today’s smartphones, who even has a camera these days?'


How about taxi cabs? A few years ago who would have predicted that Uber would be the largest taxi company in the world? This despite the company is “just a software tool and they don't own any cars.”


Do you think any of the big hotel chains saw Airbnb coming? “It is now the biggest hotel company in the world, although they don't own any properties.” 


And what about Amazon? “In the mid-1990s, the Internet was widely seen as a replacement for the library. Amazon’s ultimate goal was to digitize all of the information in the world’s books and make it available universally. But there was also a more practical reason. Books are ideal because you can stuff them in a box. They’re relatively cheap to ship. Also, they’re easy to protect when shipping. It’s difficult to damage books.” So, Amazon was created to sell books. 


Fast forward to today. “Amazon is the second-largest private employer in the United States after Walmart. The company captures $4 out of every $10 spent online.” (https://logicmag.io/commons/inside-the-whale-an-interview-with-an-anonymous-amazonian/)


One last example of the rapid pace of possible change is what is going on with drones. “Back in 2012, the FAA anticipated 30,000 drones operating by 2020. According to data from the government, there are at least 1,746,248 registered drones in the US, and likely many more unregistered ones.”


This is such a warp speed change: “Emerging Tech Brew created an in-depth guide outlining what the proliferation of drones means for farmers, emergency responders, the military, and a bunch of other industries and professions. Drones could account for thirty percent of same-day package deliveries by 2040. The drone age is upon us.” (https://www.morningbrew.com/emerging-tech/s/drone-guide)


Now, like candy made from your tidy whities, none of this may become a reality. Then again, science fiction has a way of becoming science fact. The BBC has compiled a nifty graphic on the subject at: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20130102-tomorrows-world. It shows: “Forty intriguing predictions made in recent years about the shape of the world from 2013 to 2150.”


As George Bernard Shaw observed: “When people shake their heads because we are living in a restless age, ask them how they would like to life in a stationary one, and do without change.”


Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at CadillacNews.com and Neffzone.com/cadillacnews



Tomorrow’s world: A guide to the next 150 years

From Visually.