I had a vision of the possible future last night as I was perusing the internet and reading the news. Brick and Mortar stores were closing at a record pace. Restaurants were struggling with high food costs and minimum wage increases. Tesla was at an all-time high, and seemed to have all of the answers. “Marijuana goes Mainstream” was a headline on my browser, and solar technology was announcing yet another breakthrough.
It was the year 2030, and the cities had evolved more in the past ten years than in the prior 50. There were no car companies left in the United States, only divisions of Tesla. There were no ride sharing companies either as Uber, Lyft, and traditional taxis had all disappeared. Uber had hung on the longest, but change and innovation on their part had come too little too late. Electric vehicles were virtually maintenance free, and households rarely had more than one private automobile. The cities are deafening in their silence. What little noise electric cars created was almost eliminated by the sounds of nature emitted from Federal and state parks that replaced parking garages and automotive shops.
Fleets of self-automated Tesla vehicles drive themselves from hibernation stations which are massive charging and maintenance depots situated 30-45 miles outside of the major population centers. The driverless cars make their way into the cities in organized waves picking up commuters along the way and shuttling passengers within city limits. There is no minimum wage for the Tesla vehicles nor a labor board. There are no disgruntled drivers, road-rage or human error at the controls. Traffic accidents dropped by over 90% with almost the entirety of the remaining accidents caused by drivers who cling to control of their vehicles. Vehicular-focused personal injury and DUI attorneys became obsolete. Police departments reduced their size drastically as over 80% of prior police resources was spent concerning traffic matters and marijuana enforcement which became a legal substance in 2022. The shared vision that flying cars would be littering the skies never actually materialized (another detail that ‘Back to the Future’ missed). The truth was, there was simply no need for them once we took human error out of the transportation equation.
The retail world as brick and mortar was all but extinct except Amazon storefronts, movie theaters, recreational facilities and high-end luxury stores; after all, who wants to buy their Birkin bag online? Restaurants had experienced significant expansion up until approximately 2017, but by 2020 more than half of physical eateries had boarded up their doors. The reasons for the failure of the traditional hospitality model was the subject of many conversations, but at the end of the day it all came down to dollars and cents. Broad and significant increases in minimum wage, coupled with rising food costs caused restaurateurs to shave costs at every other opportunity and raise prices. The effect was the degeneration of the customer experience in its entirety. Eating at restaurants boiled down to service of an inferior quality product by overworked and stressed-out wait staff. The demise of the restaurant was broadcasted all over Yelp and other similar sites. What they didn’t realize was that the over publication of hospitality shortcomings was the final blow to struggling restaurants, resulting in the extinction of the review sites as there were no businesses left to advertise on them. The only winner here was the restaurant delivery services who were far better equipped to deal with these challenges. They were able to run on significantly less labor since they had no Front-of-House employees and they had considerably lower rents as there was no requirement for them to have prime property, only a permitted commercial kitchen.
Silent drones littered the sky traveling to and from ensuring that anything you need could be at your fingertips within one hour. Customized pole platforms stationed at every residence raised and lowered themselves on a signal that a package was arriving. Between Amazon and 3D printing, there was nothing that couldn’t either be delivered to you within an hour or created at your home workspace. Skyscrapers and towers were all constructed with photovoltaic windows which turned the buildings into massive solar generators. The solar power storage is in the form of Tesla battery pods situated underneath the structures in what used to be monthly and visitor parking. With no need for solar panels on the rooftops, cities and municipalities enacted ordinances providing for the creation and maintenance of rooftop gardens that not only provided fresh food and helped regulate temperatures but also served as a home for the birds and the bees.
What do you think? Where are we going and what will the next decade look like in your vision of the future?