Nine Things That Will Disappear in Our Life Time

Scripture says, For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come (Heb 13:14). It also says, for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Cor 4:18). And yet again, And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 Jn 2:17). And even yet still, For the present form of this world is passing away (1 Cor 7:31).

Well OK, I suppose you get it by now. But actually we DO struggle to get it. We get so attached to things here and think, “well here’s a howdy do” to the latest in things.

I still remember my first shiny new 8-Track player. The picture at the right is from the 1979 Sears Catalog and looks a lot like my dad’s machine. Funny how almost everything displayed on this 1979 stereo is gone now: record player, 8-Track, cassette, all gone.

Some years ago, I remember laughing at that old technology as I went into the record store and bought the latest CD recordings. “Now this is it,” I thought, “music has reached perfection.” And less than ten years after that I ripped my closet full of CDs to my iPod and carted those now “old fashioned things” out the door. How amazingly fungible our technology and culture has become. And while a little fascination is understandable at “something new,” we do well to remember it’s all passing away.

I ran across this list of Nine Things That will Disappear in Our Life. Let me give you the list and make some comments. I am less convinced as the list goes on, I must say, but here they are.

1. The Post Office . Get ready to imagine a world without the post office. They are so deeply in financial trouble that there is probably no way to sustain it long term. E-mail, Fed Ex, and UPS have just about wiped out the minimum revenue needed to keep the post office alive. Most of your mail everyday is junk mail and bills. Yes, and the bills are fast going away too, I am doing more on line. In fact almost none of my bills do I pay by check. I do all my major bills online and even many of the one-time bills. Only Charitable donations get the paper check these days. Even my parish tithe is taken right out of my account. The parish bills are another matter. We, are still using the old paper heavy approach to paying them. Accountants are slow to change their ways and auditors still want to see tons of paper when they make their triennial visit. There will continue to be some need and ability to post a paper letter, but there is no reason to have a whole Postal Service to do this.

2. The Check . Britain is already laying the groundwork to do away with checks by 2018. It costs the financial system billions of dollars a year to process checks. Plastic cards and online transactions will lead to the eventual demise of the check. This plays right into the death of the post office. If you never paid your bills by mail and never received them by mail, the post office would absolutely go out of business. This is already largely true for me, as I’ve said. However, I currently have no way to get funds to another person. Let’s say I wanted to send $100 to my nephew, how would I do it with out a paper check. If the check really is going to disappear as early as 2018 in England, I think we’ll have to have a pretty convenient way to transfer funds electronically, person to person. I would also add that cash itself will be greatly reduced as a daily reality. Right now, I carry almost no cash. And when I run out, it may take me days to notice and days more to replenish it. I pretty much live off my debit card. I can see that in the next 10 years even smaller scale venders (like hotdog sellers at the corner) will be expected to take plastic. There are already devices the size of a cell phone that let you swipe a card and send the transaction. Of course we may wonder what will happen to beggars if we go increasingly cashless.

3. The Newspaper . The younger generation simply doesn’t read the newspaper. They certainly don’t subscribe to a daily delivered print edition.That may go the way of the milkman and the laundry man. As for reading the paper online, get ready to pay for it. The rise in mobile Internet devices and e-readers has caused all the newspaper and magazine publishers to form an alliance. They have met with Apple, Amazon, and the major cell phone companies to develop a model for paid subscription services. Definitely see this too. When I was a kid we used to have milk delivered to our door. Supermarkets, and better, cheaper refrigeration put an end to that. Electronic versions of newspapers are already a reality and the paper versions are going bye bye. I must say though, there is more to the demise of the newspaper industry than technology. Many people have come to consider the traditional newspaper publishers arrogant and biased. Simply making electronic versions of these papers available is not going to stem their demise. People just want more variety and views with their news now and the newspapers stubbornly refused to do that for too long.

4. The Book . You say you will never give up the physical book that you hold in your hand and turn the literal pages. I said the same thing about downloading music from iTunes. I wanted my hard copy CD. But I quickly changed my mind when I discovered that I could get albums for half the price without ever leaving home to get the latest music. The same thing will happen with books.You can browse a bookstore online and even read a preview chapter before you buy. And the price is less than half that of a real book. And think of the convenience! Once you start flicking your fingers on the screen instead of the book, you find that you are lost in the story, can’t wait to see what happens next, and you forget that you’re holding a gadget instead of a book. We’ve talked about this before. I still think there will continue to be need for physical books that feature a lot of art and drawings. But I’ll admit, my physical book collection is one third the size it used to be, and it is still shrinking. The first books to go were the large reference books, for the Internet took their place. Who needs the Catholic Encyclopedia when has it on line. More recently my Kindle has started filling and I do like reading text on it. The screen is very agreeable to my eyes. So other books are being “set loose” from my shelf. But for the record, I do not see the total demise of the book coming. It’s like the movie theater, in the era of DVDs. There’s still something special about seeing things on the wide screen. There are just going to be some books that need that physical edition to really show their stuff. Fewer to be sure, but still here in thirty years.

5. The Land Line Telephone . Unless you have a large family and make a lot of local calls, you don’t need it anymore. Most people keep it simply because they’ve always had it. But you are paying double charges for that extra service. All the cell phone companies will let you call customers using the same cell provider for no charge against your minutes. Yes, businesses still have the land line needs though. I have yet to see a cell phone switchboard and some of the easy switching back and forth between multiple lines that land lines offer. But for personal stuff, I live on my cell phone. I would like to see cell phones integrated in business settings so that, when I get to my desk I can just plug that baby into a larger module and have easier dialing, intercom options, and other lines available to me. It’ll come, but I don’t see it yet. Also, when I do radio interviews they always want me on a land line. Simple reason, the quality is better and the technology is more reliable. So, before land lines disappear altogether, things like this will have to be addressed.

6. Music . This is one of the saddest parts of the change story. The music industry is dying a slow death. Not just because of illegal downloading. It’s the lack of innovative new music being given a chance to get to the people who would like to hear it. Greed and corruption is the problem. The record labels and the radio conglomerates are simply self-destructing. Over 40% of the music purchased today is “catalog items,” meaning traditional music that the public is familiar with. Older established artists. This is also true on the live concert circuit. To explore this fascinating and disturbing topic further, check out the book, “Appetite for Self-Destruction” by Steve Knopper, and the video documentary, “Before the Music Dies.” This is crazy, music will never die. How we share music surely has changed. And all the corruption in the industry and people stealing music is a problem. But in the end, the soul has to exhale. Musicians will continue to make music even if the money is poor. You just have to understand the soul of a musician. Music is here to stay. The music industry as a multi-billion dollar things is something else. But music itself will never die as long as we human beings have life and breath.

7. Television . Revenues to the networks are down dramatically. Not just because of the economy. People are watching TV and movies streamed from their computers. And they’re playing games and doing lots of other things that take up the time that used to be spent watching TV. Prime time shows have degenerated down to lower than the lowest common denominator. Cable rates are skyrocketing and commercials run about every 4 minutes and 30 seconds. I say good riddance to most of it. It’s time for the cable companies to be put out of our misery. Let the people choose what they want to watch online and through Netflix. I think what they mean here is the television as “dumb monitor” enslaved to the schedules set by networks will go away.  This is probably true that networks and stations as we know them may begin to disappear. However, I wonder if we will get the same quality programming if everyone is just living in their own little TV world. It Nat Geo can’t be sure a proposed series on crocodiles will get enough orders, it might not make it in the first place. If we atomize the audience by narrow casting, a lot of the benefits of broadcasting might go away. I don’t watch a lot of TV, but when I do, I often surf and find something interesting that just catches my eye. This experience will be lost if I’m just ordering from a menu. Sometimes sampling from the buffet is a richer experience.

8. “Things” That You Own . Many of the very possessions that we used to own are still in our lives, but we may not actually own them in the future. They may simply reside in “the cloud.” Today your computer has a hard drive and you store your pictures, music, movies, and documents. Your software is on a CD or DVD, and you can always re-install it if need be. But all of that is changing. Apple, Microsoft, and Google are all finishing up their latest “cloud services.” That means that when you turn on a computer, the Internet will be built into the operating system. So, Windows, Google, and the Mac OS will be tied straight into the Internet. If you click an icon, it will open something in the Internet cloud. If you save something, it will be saved to the cloud. And you may pay a monthly subscription fee to the cloud provider. In this virtual world, you can access your music or your books, or your whatever from any laptop or hand held device.That’s the good news. But, will you actually own any of this “stuff”or will it all be able to disappear at any moment in a big “Poof?” Will most of the things in our lives be disposable and whimsical? It makes you want to run to the closet and pull out that photo album, grab a book from the shelf, or open up a CD case and pull out the insert. I already store a lot of things in “the cloud.” But I’ll be honest, I keep backups on my backup drives too. I don’t currently use any cloud software solutions, they’re too expensive. But, I would never keep all my data just “out there.” I keep my 2 terabyte backup drive humming away in the background along with Carbonite.

9. Privacy . If there ever was a concept that we can look back on nostalgically, it would be privacy. That’s gone. It’s been gone for a long time anyway. There are cameras on the street, in most of the buildings, and even built into your computer and cell phone. But you can be sure that 24/7,”They” know who you are and where you are, right down to the GPS coordinates, and the Google Street View. If you buy something, your habit is put into a zillion profiles, and your ads will change to reflect those habits. And “They” will try to get you to buy something else. Again and again. The “man” is watching. To be clear, privacy is going to get harder and harder to ensure. Sounds like the birth of another industry! Purchase Privacy insurance now, only $19.95 per month. Morph yourself monthly and be a man who’s  hard to see or remember.  And remember: Nationwide is on the Hide.

Here’s a song that moved from my vinyl record collection (45rpm), to my eight track collection, to my CD library, and now resides on my iPod and also in “the cloud” as a backup. It is the timeless and perfect voice of Karen Carpenter (RIP). Have you ever heard her voice in the head phones, (err, I mean, Bose ear buds)? It is fabulous.

41 Replies to “Nine Things That Will Disappear in Our Life Time”

  1. Let’s not get too carried away. Things come and things go, but one things always remains the same: Humanity. And humanity will always invent new stuff for old ideas. But above things, God is Selfsame. He never changes.

    Privacy will always be around so long as people are around. You can always think of ways to trick technology, shut off stuff, and so forth. A machine can never outsmart people. People can never outsmart imagination.

    Books, television, phones, music and privacy will always be around so long as the Church is around. After all, we carry the Gospel to the Altar, we sing to God, and the priest has his privacy to change into his vestments.

    1. Television and phone will be around as long as the Vatican is. The Vatican seems to really like them.

      Also, I know the black bolded text isn’t you. Just thinking out loud with my comment, is all. No offense intended.

  2. You may be right but it is too bad. Every time technology updates a lot of stuff gets lost-never re-recorded. Several outfits are trying to save some old books but they can’t copy everything. Perhaps this part of what the Pope means when he warns us not to be slaves to technology.

    1. Yes, there are some very nice recordings of Church music that I have lost in the transitions. I wish I would have hung on to my records a little longer now that record players with built in CD recorders are available.

  3. The only thing I’m sure will disappear totally is this list, just as futurist predictions before it have.

  4. The cloud won’t replace local storage. It looks promising, but if you’ve been around the internet for over a decade, you’ve already seen the problems with the cloud. Things that you cherish disappear or are limited in some way to fit a new business model. Things that were private are now public or bought and sold to the highest bidder. Fanciful things that were private decades ago stay exposed forever. You get locked into services that you can’t escape and have to do things their way or lose everything. In short, there is no free lunch. Keeping stuff yourself may cost more, but it more than makes it up in the long term.

  5. This is already largely true for me, as I’ve said. However, I currently have no way to get funds to another person.

    Paypal already is up and running and quite effective, though they do take a small cut of each transaction. I’d also suggest Money Orders, but I guess with no postal service that’s not really an option. I’m sure more pay-pal like operations will develop as checks are fazed out.

    As for cash, I’ve made a concerted effort to carry more, not less. It helps me budget for the week – take out what I need and spend only the cash I’ve allotted myself. It works- kind of.

  6. I saw this one earlier this year.

    I think it is a mistake for mankind to push certain things aside in favor of new, easier ones, but necessities aren’t necessarily on this list. What man has pushed aside over the last 75 years, however is what is so disturbing. City folk could barely provide for themselves in the event of a Katrina or a Mississippi flooding on a much larger scale.

  7. The main reason the Postal Service is losing money is because it must pay $5.5 billion annually to pre-fund retiree health care benefits. Without this pre-funding requirement the USPS would basically be solvent. No other private company or government agency has this huge pre-funding requirement. Another $5.5 billion payment is due in September and the Postal Service has stated it will not pay it because there is about $40 billion in the fund already, enough money for about 20 years. There will be a big political storm when this default happens.

  8. Mail volume in 1985 was 140 billion pieces. Projected volume this year is 170 billion. The peak volume was 212 billion in 2006. Estimated volume ten years from now is about 120 billion. This is a government mandated service, not a business. Not everyone can afford a computer and internet access. In some neighborhoods and parts of the country this is still considered a vital service. Since 1970 it has been self supporting by postage revenue. The postal workforce has dropped 20% in the last 20 years,
    The reason the Postal Service is going bankrupt is the Postal Act of 2006 which requires the service to pay in billions of dollars each year to prefund health and retirement benefits. Washington D.C. created the problem and when they can’t collect this year they will change the requirement and call it a bail out. The Postal Service will change much in my lifetime, but it will not go away unless the Federal Government destroys it. Some want that because there is much money to be made if the monopoly is busted up and privatized.

  9. Hey Msgr : As a former banker with IBM equipment,Burroughs etc—–they all have a hard drive for processing .if you have a scam . or bug or virus that will knock everthing you store –meaning everything on it YOU HAD BETTER HAVE A BACKUP DRIVE TO PRESERVE YOUR FORTUNE OF ITEMS YOU HAVE TRANSFERRED FROM THE ACTUAL ORIGINAL ITEM,S,,,,,,,, OTHERWISE YOU ARE out of luck FOR REPLACEMENT EVEN THOUGH IT TAKES A TREMENDOUS LESS SPACE TO PRESERVE………………BANKS FOLLOW THE SAME RULES (MANY YEARS TOO) REGARDING ”ORIGINALS” SOMETIMES “ONION SKIN””DOCUMENTS IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN

  10. To the added loss (by a reader) of freedom of speech, you should probably add freedom of religion. Today, many Christians are suffering this truth. They’ve lost jobs merely for saying they don’t believe in homosexual marriage. They’ve been brought to court because they want to wear a cross to work. Not to mention all the schools now stating that Islamic-themed events are okay but not anything that includes Jesus in the text (for example, Christmas music). Indeed, freedom of religion is continually a battle these days. One place to see how bad it has gotten is the Alliance Defense Fund who helps those who face such persecution.

  11. I doubt books will go out of fashion that easily… not until we have a reliable ‘electronic paper’ (which works fundamentally different from tv/pc screens and has no backlighting putting less strains on the eye as normal paper does)… but electronic paper is in its infancy… black and white and grayscale is available but very expensive and the images not so sharp. Color… forget about it for now. It’s also expensive… and I doubt that books in PDF format will cost any less (which will mean just more profit for the publisher).

    The same goes for newspapers. Young people do not BUY newspapers but often READS newspapers, especially those provided for free in train stations (they are very popular in Europe… in Milan after 11:00 you cannot even find them anymore, all taken!)

    I find cartaceous books or perhaps electronic paper, much easier on the eyes… reading on screen is not so confortable.

    Also ypu realle NEVER EVER have to plug-in or recharge a book to work :P’

    I have myself a huge collection of e-books… but often I do wish I actually had the real book in my hands.

    Also I like how they smell *sniff sniff*

    The post office: I think it still has LOTS of business. I often see HUGE lines at post offices… evidently many people still use them.

  12. Very interesting article. Regarding checks, money can be easily transferred to another person via Paypal.


  14. here in the Philippines, it takes 3 months! to get a small package sent from London by airmail via the post office: it’s such an obsolete system that if it disappeared tomorrow nobody would miss it!

    I would also like to see hackers, scam artists, stalkers and identity thieves also disappear, but they probably won’t.

    As for privacy: after Watergate in the U.S. wasn’t there a law passed to ensure that privacy was a right and trampling on it an offence? It seems to have become all so irrelevant these days.

    1. Hi,
      Unfortunately, you are living in a third world country with an antiquated postal system. I have received packages and letters from London & Paris to Honolulu,Hawaii in about a week. Filipinos in Hawaii use private parcel shippers(one recently went bankrupt!) to avoid the Philippines post office.

  15. My husband and I occasionally entertain ourselves with Then and Now discussions with our 10-year-old. I’m not sure she always believes us about:

    Getting off the couch to change channels on the TV
    Using a card catalogue (oh, did that EVER blow her mind!)
    Using milk crates to store records
    Cashiers manually entering prices
    People whose specific job is bagging customers’ purchases
    Having someone put groceries in your car
    Having someone else pump your gas (I think only NJ prohibits self-service)

  16. Thank you for the Karen Carpenter memory!! Like you said, her voice is incredible; timeless and perfect! Her rendition of Ave Maria always stirs my heart. Thank you, Msgr. Pope!

  17. Some of these may probably happen in the future – but not all of it. The Post Office, for example. Yes, we may have junk mail and bills filling our boxes – but what about those countries that don’t have the luxury of the internet? Are we going to deprive them of the privilege of hearing from their relatives in far-off countries? We went to Athens, population 15 – 7 houses total and their post office is as big as my living room. How long before the internet comes to them? Perhaps it’s already there, but they would still keep that post office along with the old gas pump and the teenie weenie grocery store that has everything the residents need. I’m 66 and I want to leave this world with the post offices everywhere in Dallas… or in any country I decide to retire in later on…

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