Everywhere you look, the media is recapping the past year and reporting how COVID-19 changed us.
I'm not reading or watching any of those stories. We lived through it; I don't need a recap. Get back to me in about a hundred years.
That reminds me of a column idea that I really do want to write, about looking ahead. We do that from time to time, and the results are often really interesting, when we ask the right people.
Really looking ahead, like what professional futurists do, is hard. When we ask people how the industry is going to change in 25, 50 or 100 years, they usually talk instead about how it's changing now.
Back in 2007, our West Coast correspondent Roger Renstrom asked some forward-thinking folks how they expected the plastics industry to change in the next 100 years. His story was part of a special report marking the 100th anniversary of Bakelite, the first synthetic plastic.
It has been 24 years, so let's review some of their predictions.
Erik Peterson at the Center for Strategic and International Studies predicted that advances computation, information technology, genomics/biotechnology and nanotechnology would create opportunities for plastics.
Peterson cited the composite airframes of the Boeing 787 and Airbus A380 as mere glimpses of the coming era.
"Plastics is going to be a critical component going forward in a complicated technology and economic environment," he said.
At the same time, a transition to a post-fossil-fuel world "could be a huge constraint looking forward," he said.
Plastics consultant and former GE Plastics executive Jack Avery predicted China would lead the way in commercializing nanomaterials, and that we'd see a broad performance range of bioresins, including engineering grades for high-performance applications.
For processors, he said in-mold assembly in manufacturing cells would be the manufacturing process of choice by 2050.
Plastics association leader Stephen Petrakis said processors needed to focus on superior technology as a way to provide customers with better service at lower prices.
Vince Witherup, at the time an auxiliary equipment executive, and now a 2020 inductee into the Plastics Hall of Fame, was bullish on the industry's future.
"It is just beginning, and the whole thing is so exciting," he said, predicting "ultrahigh-tech" products, including more voice-recognition devices and less manual labor.
There were other predictions, including more widespread use of additive manufacturing, new automotive applications, and a growing concept called sustainability. (For the record, the first mention of sustainability in the Plastics News archives was in 2001.)
Overall, I think Roger's experts did well. No one predicted a pandemic. But I predict that the pandemic is going to accelerate these and other changes that are already impacting the global plastics industry.
Loepp is editor of Plastics News and author of the Plastics Blog. Follow him on Twitter @donloepp.