Here is a thought experiment about changes that have taken place in the United States.
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Read the segments below about visions of the future and imagine they are from speeches given by corporate executives. If corporate leaders had actually made these comments, their visions would have been directly on target. But would the public have taken these predictions seriously, and if they had, would we have had a different course for our economy and culture?
The chairman of American Airlines addresses stockholders in 1938. Fellow shareholders, . I see airplanes becoming virtually the sole means of intercity-travel within the United States. Passenger railroads will essentially become extinct. The magnificent railroad stations in the centers of our cities will become useless real estate, with most of them eventually torn down or turned into museums.
The chairman of RCA addresses stockholders about television in 1940. Fellow shareholders, you have just seen a demonstration of the new medium of television. Soon it will be pervasive in the United States. At first it will offer wholesome entertainment for families. But that eventually it will bring pornography into almost every household in America. Programs will be too obscene for parents to watch with their children. This new technology will bring the entire nation down into the gutter.
The chairman of General Motors addresses stockholders in 1946. Ladies and gentlemen, with the automobile industry growing rapidly, that the automobile will bankrupt every mass-transit system in the United States. Mass transit will be wiped out in all but the largest cities, and where it remains, it will be only because of massive taxpayer subsidies. Anyone without an automobile will be isolated from stores, schools, medical care, and recreation facilities. And through installment debt, the purchase of overpriced automobiles will help send countless families into financial ruin.
The chairman of Universal Studios addresses stockholders in 1970. As you know, television has put a huge dent in the earnings of movie studios. Movie theaters are shuttered and abandoned across America. But . The movie industry will be brought back to life by filming acts of intimacy between men and women. In years to come, implausible as it may seem, fornication will be a key plot device in movies with subjects ranging from the sinking of the Titanic to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Even the battle of Stalingrad will pause long enough to depict sex between a man and woman in the Soviet Army.
Bill Gates addresses stockholders in 1985. We are destined to become the omnipotent software supplier in the world. But my dream is that we will also make unbelievable profits because our software will be full of errors and bugs, forcing computer owners to buy endless upgrades in the hopes we eventually get it right. And every few years, we will stop supplying technical support for earlier programs, forcing even more sales. We will be so busy making money that we will pay almost no attention to security. Our operating systems will be vulnerable to every hacker and computer criminal in the world. We'll keep promising improved security with each revision, and the cash register will never stop ringing.
The chairman of Wal-Mart addresses stockholders in 2005. that each year we will continue to drive thousands of small merchants into bankruptcy. We have done an excellent job of ruining major retailers, and now we are aiming to drive large grocery chains out of business. Eventually, every article in our stores will have been manufactured in the Pacific Rim. Also, I dream that we will obliterate the concept of permanent employees having benefits and pension programs.
Meanwhile, countless more business districts in small-town America will be abandoned thanks to our stores built along highway bypasses. Our Big Box stores and acres of asphalt parking lots will dominate the American landscape.
-- Ronald Khol, Editor
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