Hey, my name is Sage Merlin so if anyone is going to make predictions around here, it's going to be me, no matter how dumb they may be.
But AOL occasionally lays a big one, and today's "7 Products, Concepts and Ideas That Won't Exist by 2025" from The Motley Fool is a perfect example of the breed.
The Motley Fool is a Wall Street tout, a website that disseminates recommendations for the purchase and sale of stocks and bonds. Like most touts, they are usually wrong. If they really knew what was going to happen on the market - or anywhere else - they wouldn't be selling that information. They would be keeping it close to their chests and using it to make their own fortunes grow.
The seven items - energy drinks, digital cameras, 3-D televisions, Credit Cards, the US Postal Service, the European Union, and the status of the United States as the pre-eminent world power - leaves them with a predictable 43% success ratio, and here's why.
Of the seven, four of these picks for extinction - energy drinks, digital cameras, the US Postal Service, and the status of the United States as the world's dominant superpower - aren't going anywhere.
Energy drinks have been around for tens of thousands of years. You know them as coffee, tea, anything with caffeine....or cocaine. While Monster Beverage might go out of business, human beings will always want and need energy drinks.
The Motley Fool predicts that the digital camera will go the way of the dodo bird because cell phones all come with cameras in them....with resolutions of up to 8 MP. Wow. Isn't that impressive?
Well, not really, because, first of all, the cameras in your cell phones are, in fact, digital cameras in the first place, so the disappearance of the digital camera is a syllogistic impossibility. You can't replace a thing with itself and consider the thing replaced.
More importantly, camera phones will never displace true digital cameras because the current generation of high end digital camera have resolutions of 80 MP, ten times the resolution available from smartphones. Beyond that, there are no cell phones with viewfinders, and no professional photographer will use a camera that doesn't have a viewfinder for a whole host of reasons.
Yes, 3-D televisions will disappear. Stupid ideas usually do, but who cares? Only the people who were dumb enough to buy them.
Credit cards disappear? Exactly how would that happen? The use of near-field communications devices to conduct financial transactions assumes that everyone owns or will own one of these devices, and is also stupid enough to use them. And, while the method of conducting the transaction might change, the essence of a credit card is the credit part - advancing money to the consumer - not the card part.
Now, if the Motley Fool had said that paper money was going to disappear, that would have been a much more righteous call. Paper money is an anachronism in a world where virtually (pun intended) all transactions are conducted electronically.
The U.S. Postal Service will be the last government service to disappear and, if it should disappear, it will be resurrected by the next administration.
The Postal Service doesn't just handle letters, it also handles packages and those packages are the lifeblood of American commerce. Millions of people will be thrown out of work if the Postal Service is allowed to fail, and online commerce will go into eclipse because, on average, Federal Express costs up to four times as much as the Postal Service to ship the same item. Whether the pundits like it or not, there are still millions of people in this country who don't have computers, and millions more who don't want to use them to pay their bills. Sure, you can pay your bill by phone....but can your utility company send you a bill by telephone?
The Postal Service is the one government service that every American interacts with every day. Without it, the social glue that holds this country together will evaporate.
And that's a prediction you can take to the bank.
Okay, the European Union is toast. No question about it. Germany is not going to cover the bad bets made by the PIGS forever, and perhaps not for much longer. But, really, who cares? The European Union is a legal fiction and nothing more.
But the idea that the United States will somehow lose its preeminence requires a simple explanation: how?
The preeminence of the United States is based upon one inarguable characteristic: the throw weight of the nuclear weapons at our disposal. That's what makes a superpower a superpower: it's war-making capacity.
Insofar as the supposed Chinese economic miracle is concerned, the ability of the Chinese to maintain their economic growth depends solely upon our willingness to buy what they produce because there's no other market on the planet, including their own domestic market, that has the capacity to absorb their production output.
When it comes right down to it, the undisputed champion in the global strength statistics has only one clear winner: the American consumer.
If we stop consuming, the world economy goes into collapse. If we can't maintain the middle class, our ability to continue consuming goes into collapse. Therefore, the American Middle Class is the world's preeminent superpower.
Do I actually believe these things? Well, yes and no. Yes, I believe in the laws of logical consequences but, no, I don't believe we live in a logical world any more., if we ever did.