Thursday, June 21 , 2018, 10:55 pm | Fair 61º

 
 
 

Paul Burri: Predicting the Future, Part I

From food to pets, let's look ahead at what might be store

It was Yogi Berra who said, “Predictions are hard, especially about the future.” I agree, but in spite of that, I have always had the predilection of wanting to speculate on what things will be like 20, 50 or 100 years from now.

Paul Burri
Paul Burri

Having lived for well more than 60 years, I have seen and experienced enormous changes. I even remember a time before ballpoint pens, underarm deodorant or Twitter. I recently read an older book by Bill Gates called The Road Ahead in which he talks about the information superhighway and all of the electronic wonders we can expect in the not-so-distant future — things such as “personal newspapers” and Dick Tracy wrist radios. Oops! We already have those wrist radios, don’t we?

So, at the risk of someday being laughed at for such foolish and farfetched ideas, here goes. (On the other hand, I won’t be around to care, will I?)

I predict that we will someday be eating artificial meat and vegetables. In those future days, people will look back and say, “Can you believe it? Back then, they actually had huge areas of land reserved for cattle to graze on. Then they would round them all up and haul them to a slaughterhouse, where they were killed, cut up in pieces and delivered to markets where people would buy the various pieces — they called them steaks and chops — to take home to cook and eat, That was also the time when they spent endless days and weeks working the soil with big machines, watering it and fertilizing it — all in order to grow things like lettuce and brussels sprouts. Unbelievable!”

I predict that the first useful robots to be developed will not be those butler-like, wheeled things designed to bring you your martini that I used to see in Popular Science magazine in the 1940s and ‘50s. Instead, they will be artificial pets.

Think about it. You will be able to buy a pet dog or cat that always — if you wish — remains at the cute puppy or kitten stage. You will never have to feed it, walk it, pick up after it or pay for vet bills. You’ll never have to board it when you go away on vacation or pay for grooming fees. And you’ll never have to go through that last traumatic trip to the vet. Just install a new battery and you’re good to go for another year or two. Sounds like a great idea to me.

I predict that someday soon you will be able to buy an in-store GPS system that will be about the size of an ordinary cell phone. Walk into any grocery store and say “ketchup” and the thing will answer, “Middle of aisle 16, about waist high.” Or use it in a major department store and say, “Ladies’ room.” It will answer, “Third floor, rear, near the credit department.” It also will work in places such as Home Depot when you’re looking for 16 penny nails. Just don’t ask it for the location of the nearest salesperson — there won’t be any.

I predict that someday — probably around 2066 — that we will have cracker and cereal boxes that will actually work the way they’re supposed to when it says, “Lift tab to open.” Ditto with plastic packaging that says, “Easy open. Tear along dotted line.”

There will be child-proof medicine bottles that even adults can open. And it will be only 15 to 20 years after that when we will be able to open those tough plastic boxes that kids’ toys come in without using industrial-strength shears or reciprocating saws.

— Paul Burri is an entrepreneur, inventor, columnist, engineer and iconoclast. He is not in the advertising business, but he is a small-business counselor with the Santa Barbara chapter of Counselors to America’s Small Business-SCORE. The opinions and comments in this column are his alone and do not represent the opinions or policies of any outside organization. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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