I know I don’t need to remind anyone of the enormous differences between now and 1990, but just consider these things: video rental stores, pagers, Grammy winners Milli Vanilli, the debut of The Simpsons. Everyone was watching Thirtysomething or 90210. A young Julia Roberts captured our attention in her breakout film Pretty Woman. Acid-washed jeans, big perms, shoulder pads, overalls, baby doll dresses, pleated pants, vests. Nelson Mandela was released from prison; Mikhail Gorbachev was the first-ever elected president of the Soviet Union and went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize that year. Every salad you ordered had goat cheese and walnuts and every pasta had a pesto sauce. We drank white zinfandel and Michelob. Microsoft released Windows 3.0 and the first incarnation of the World Wide Web was created.
So what will we be nostalgic for when we’re 75-plus? I’m not a futurist, but I have some ideas.
1. Talking on the phone. More and more we are texting instead of talking. In 2040, our voices will be unrecognizable even to those we love most. Voices will be as exciting to hear over the telephone as faces are fun to see on Skype in 2015. Where photos used to be valuable keepsakes, we’ll now keep recordings of voices on our nightstands and on our shelves.
2. Drive-through restaurants. As we become more and more health-conscious, fast food will go the way of the original Twinkie. French fries and onion rings will only be available in gourmet restaurants and will be considered a fine dining item, much like foie gras and truffles are now.
3. Desks. We will have no need for desks, since paper will be used only for the most important and sacred documents. Desktops will disappear as we grow more and more used to working on our mobile devices, which we will sync with our massive televisions to get things done. Offices will be filled with conference tables and standing pods to keep people moving and interacting.
4. Books and magazines. With the banning of paper products, only the most revered and historical works of literature will be preserved on paper. Reading material will be available in an instant, much like it is now on Kindles and mobile devices, and there will be a central lending library where you can borrow any book virtually. We’ll miss the feel of a book in our hands.
5. Movie theaters. As our television screens grow bigger and bigger, movie theaters will become unnecessary and found to be extremely unsanitary. We will gather in movie clubs, much like book clubs now, to watch the latest releases on our home screens. The cost of a movie on your home screen will vary depending on if you want to pay to delete all advertising in the film.
6. Network news. Needless to say, information will be available at an even more rapid and all-consuming level than it is today. We will no longer look to handsome men and beautiful women to interpret the news of the day, but will get input about current events from commenters and moderators on news items, hundreds and hundreds of opinions at a time.
7. Freedom to travel. As the world grows increasingly dangerous and terror cells pop up regularly and unpredictably all around the world, travel will become more and more arduous, with safety restrictions and security checks taking weeks for international trips. Ironically, the older you are, the easier it will be to be cleared for air travel, though sadly it will be more and more difficult to travel as we age, since 90% of plane space will be standing room only. We’ll long for the days of hours-long security lines and only one form of personal ID, as well as too-small seats and no leg room.
8. White flour. The government will ban all white flour in all food products, making it virtually impossible to find a decent bagel. The cream cheese industry will be decimated.
9. Cigarettes. Smoking will be outlawed everywhere except for special clubs that are underground and cost thousands of dollars to join. The only way to buy cigarettes will be to join one of these clubs. Despite the fact that cigarette smoking will, by 2040, be linked to nearly every disease known to man, some will continue to smoke in defiance of the cultural stigma attached. Despite how much most people despise cigarette smoke, there will be nostalgia for the smell of tobacco.
10. Privacy. As we live our lives online to an even greater degree, young people will begin building glass houses in suburban neighborhoods to stay connected to the community around them. There will be very few boundaries between families on the same street, and choosing your neighbors will be as important as choosing your flooring. Senior citizens will be appalled by this, and refuse to live in these communities. Curtains and window coverings will be considered collectibles.
11. Network television. Everything will be pay per view. Cable will be but a distant memory, and we’ll remember fondly flipping from channel to channel, idly looking for an old movie or an episode of “Friends.” The more popular a show is, the higher the price to watch it. There will also premium fee to delete all product ads on shows. “The Simpsons” will be in its 50th year of production. Reruns of sitcoms will be the most popular shows on television for aging Boomers.
12. Radio DJs. Like television, all music will be available on a fee-based program. We’ll remember Ryan Seacrest and Casey Kasem with love.
13. High heels. With virtually no one sitting anymore, as sitting has been proven to be more of a health hazard than smoking, a high fat diet and heroin use combined, women will abandon high heels in favor of comfort shoes, since the population is now perpetually standing or in motion. The fashion industry will be thrown into a tailspin trying to figure out how to make an evening gown work with a pair of Clarks walking shoes.
14. Kale. Sometime around 2025, it will be discovered that kale has none of the health benefits it was believed to have as soon as it’s been chewed, blended, chopped, steamed, roasted, dressed or otherwise changed. In other words, everyone was eating this crappy-tasting stuff for no good reason. But still, there will be some who long for a good old-fashioned kale smoothie.
15. Stores and shops. There will be no need for freestanding stores or shopping malls anymore. All purchases will be made online. Enormous warehouses will replace malls, and drones will populate the sky to such a degree that Sundays will be declared drone-less days, allowing for viewing of the sky. We’ll miss those aimless hours spent wandering around Target, won’t we? Not to mention those sunsets.
Previously published on Purple Clover