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Technology and Innovation


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A World Without Toilet Paper?

Common items — from business cards to gasoline — could become obsolete in the next half-century

Piggy banks

By 2020, only 10 percent of all monetary transactions will be in cash. Governments will likely support this trend; some 25 percent of the world's circulating cash is used for illegal activities. Electronic payment systems will replace our beloved coins and greenbacks.

Shown are classic United States postage stamps

All types of stamps will become collectors items in the future. — Photo by Ocean/Corbis

Snail mail

Neither rain nor snow can keep letter carriers away today, but revenue will dry up for the U.S. Postal Service as we continue to trend toward electronic correspondence. To survive, the agency will have to scale back mail service, sending its fleet of trucks and carriers to join the Pony Express in mail-delivery legend.

Toilet paper

Toilet-seat bidets will wash and dry at the touch of a button, eliminating paper waste, greatly improving sanitation and adding a splash to one's daily routine.

Analog clocks

Our cellphones, synched perfectly to satellites, never forget to spring forward. The traditional dial clock and its mini-me, the wristwatch, will, alas, become retro novelties.

Business cards

Biz-card confetti still decorates professional conferences, but when today's batches run out, many folks won't reorder. Electronic "cards" will be sent phone-to-phone, at least for the next few years.

Gasoline pumps

When your car drives itself to a service station, it will be to plug in for a battery recharge or to fill up with hydrogen. Can't say we'll miss the pumps — or the fumes, the splashing, the pollution, the price ...

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related video

While we're on a nostalgia kick, when was the last time you were at a drive-in movie? Here's a story to bring you back to those carefree days from AARP's My Generation. And you'll find out that these cultural relics are not all disappearing. Watch.

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