The Big Question

What Mainstay of American Life Will Have Vanished in 25 Years?
Ariel H. Bierbaum Assistant Professor, Urban Studies and Planning Program Yellow school buses will become obsolete, due to a rise in complicated routes, increased costs, decreased public investment in education and innovations in transportation. Some school districts already rely on school choice, which allows students to attend a school outside of their neighborhood. In other places, schools and even school districts are closing and consolidating, which also creates complex logistics to get students to school. These forces will leave school districts dependent on alternatives like public transportation—and maybe even the flying cars and autonomous vehicles we’ve been promised! Jim Milke Professor and Chair, Department of Fire Protection Engineering Interest in smart homes and smart buildings will replace standalone smoke detectors with multisensor devices. One single-control unit will not only sense smoke and heat from fires or carbon monoxide and other pollutants, but also provide residents with centralized control of heating and air conditioning, security and motion-detecting equipment, and even home entertainment systems. David Sicilia, Henry Kaufman Associate Professor of Financial History Realtors are headed for extinction. The occupation owes its existence chiefly to the Multiple Listing Service, a former monopoly on market information that is rapidly migrating to the internet. Software is coming that will price to market with much greater precision and objectivity than real estate agents’ intuition. Video property tours make scouting from the laptop simple. For more serious in-person looks, envision bonded paid-by-the-hour docents escorting prospective buyers through properties. Contracts (like wills, powers of attorney, etc.) are easily customized online. An increasingly friction-free economy will eliminate real estate agents’ enormous fees. Monifa Vaughn-Cooke Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering The number of workplace mistakes caused by being tired, stressed or overwhelmed will fall dramatically. Semi-autonomous machines will adopt more human decision-making capabilities to support those in critical fields such as health care, aviation and energy. Human performance algorithms will predict work demands and monitor biological signals like heart rate or sweating, then modify task requirements to reduce the risk of cognitive overload. Martin A. Wollesen Executive Director, Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center The “live” in live performances will be redefined to reflect a major shift in how we consume and participate in arts and entertainment. We are moving further away from shared experiences toward individualized explorations through virtual and holographic performances that will be anywhere we are. Not only will we be able to have a holographic orchestra perform in our living room, we will finally be able to bring back Elvis from the dead.


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