Another day goes by and the world has changed. Usually the change is small, but sometimes the difference between one day and the next is drastic. The one thing that does not differ is that change continues to happen. So what are a few commonplace things in our lives that are on the way out? What has come along to replace them? Read on to find out.
Cash and coin. These mediums of exchange are visibly becoming less common as debit and credit cards take their place. Certain establishments have already started to turn cash-paying customers away. It is simply cheaper and easier to accept electronic payments or payment by card than it is to accept currency.
When looked at it from the point of view of businesses owners, the switch from hard currency to other forms of payments has obvious upsides. The business owner won’t have to spend time and money moving cash to and from banks and time won’t be lost by customers waiting in line change. This, in turn, results in faster sales and the ability to maintain fewer cashiers on the pay roll. For the average consumer this will eventually lead to lower prices as the costs of doing business fall.
Another plus for consumers as well as businesses is that the lack of hard currency will drastically decrease the odds of getting mugged or robbed. Cash is a great attractor to thieves because of its anonymity and universal acceptability. Credit cards can, of course, be stolen and used by lawbreakers, but the risk to the thief is far greater and the difficulty of getting around security features such as PIN numbers and signature matching software often makes stealing these assets less lucrative and more dangerous for the thief.
For thousands of years mailed letters have been one of the most efficient means of communicating with loved ones, business associates, and government entities. This is no longer the case. The recent developments in communication that began with widespread adoption of the internet in the 1990’s are quickly putting an end to this form of communication. E-mail and texting are simply easier, cheaper, and more convenient methods for conveying a written message.
The postal service and service companies won’t be going out of business anytime soon, however. The need to move packages will likely increase as time goes on due to a rise in online shopping and the expansion of the global economy. There is also one consolation to folks who just love to mail and receive letters. Organizations such as the United States Postal Service will likely to continue to allow the mailing of letters and cards around the winter holidays as a concession to history and tradition.
A shrinking percentage of the phone calls made in the United States and Europe are made on landline phones. The number continues to decrease each year as cellular and wireless devices take over the market share. It is true that landlines are important in areas with no cell-tower reception, but these regions are also diminishing year by year. In third-world countries the change has been even more drastic. Without the previous hard-line systems that landline communications require, many nations in Africa, Asia, and South America were able to go straight to cellular phones because they did not have to spend their resources developing the more expensive infrastructure for landlines. As much as our grandparents may have loved their rotary dial phones, cellular and mobile devices are the wave of the future that is already lapping at our shores.
There will, however, always be some landline technology still in use. Military and government facilities will need to be able to communicate securely. A well hidden hard-line communication system is easier to defend against hackers than one that depends on the open release of radio waves.
Pay phones are becoming obsolete for the same reason as landline phones. In fact, there is already a noticeable decline in the number of pay phones available on city streets and at service stations. The purpose of pay-phones was to provide a convenient connection to the wider world when the customer was away from a familiar landline. Many times they were also used by criminals because calls from a pay phone could not be traced to a particular user. With the presence of inexpensive cell-phones and pre-paid plans or phone cards, a pay phone is no longer the convenient option it once was. These relics of a bygone era are simply not profitable when everyone has access to portable, inexpensive wireless technology. Declining sales and the laws of economics are sure to make this once familiar sight a thing of the past.
Everyone has an identification document of some sort or another. In the United States, most folks use their driver’s licenses since it is society based on cars as an individual means of transportation. In other countries people carry different forms of government ID. Most of these ID’s are physical, usually in card or a small booklet form. Just like the other everyday items in this list, technology has created a more efficient and inexpensive replacement for these hard-copy representations of who we are.
There are many options for governments and organizations who want to move to a non-physical method of identifying their members. These include facial recognition software, fingerprint scanners, retinal scanners, DNA, and many others.
Facial recognition software has already seen use in many states and countries as a method for identifying lawbreakers. Because much of the technology is already in place and has been repeatedly tested, it is sure to be one of the first methods of computer aided identification used by governments. Unfortunately, there are ways to disguise a person’s face in order to fool the facial recognition software. While the programs are getting better at seeing through disguises, the infinite ways in which humans can modify their appearance will insure that the facial recognition “arms race” continues well into the future.
Thus, fingerprint scanners and retinal scanners are more likely to become the method of choice for personal identification. Each person has a unique set of finger prints and, likewise, a unique set of retina veins. This makes it very difficult to steal someone else’s identity, or to fake your own. A person may attempt to change their fingerprints or the way that their retinal veins appear in a scanner, however it is very difficult to pass yourself off as someone who doesn’t exist in government data systems. A non-matching set of attributes will certainly raise red-flags in whatever system is being attempted to be fooled.
Finger print scanner proto-types are already being produced that link credit cards and bank accounts to their users. The technology is already in existence it simply remains for it to become cheap, efficient, and secure enough for its adoption into our everyday lives.
The World Is Changing
The world is most certainly changing and many of the commonplace items and tools that we take for granted in our lives are likely to disappear before long. However, these changes are almost always a great benefit to society as a whole, improving the lives of each individual on the planet. Very few people today are lamenting the fact that we no longer use stone tools or cook most of our food over open campfires. If the changes seem odd at first, or even a little unsettling, it might help to remember the old adage: “The only thing that doesn’t change is change.”