The Future Ain’t What it Used to Be

The 1960s were so cool with all that funky music and those micro-mini skirts and the whole free love thing. And, if you’ve ever seen a sci-fi movie from the 1960s (and there were many) you’ll know they had a total fascination with the future and what the world would be like – from unisex silver jumpsuits to jetpacks to robots.

Here is an actual excerpt from the July 22, 1961, Weekend Magazine article on what the world will look like in the year 2000. What’s amazing to me is that they were only looking 40 years into the future and yet envisioned such monumental changes:

  • Heating and cooling systems will be built into the furniture and rugs.
  • Pressing a button to change the décor of a room.
  • Garbage that would be refrigerated, and pressed into fertilizer pellets
  • Rocket belts will increase a man’s stride to 30 feet, and bus-type helicopters will travel along crowded air skyways. There will be moving plastic-covered pavements, individual hoppicopters, and 200 m.p.h. monorail trains operating in all large cities.
  • The family car will be soundless, vibrationless and self-propelled thermostatically. The engine will be smaller than a typewriter. Cars will travel overland on an 18 inch air cushion.
  • In commercial transportation, there will be travel at 1000 m.p.h. at a penny a mile. Hypersonic passenger planes, using solid fuels, will reach any part of the world in an hour.
  • By the year 2020, five per cent of the world’s population will have emigrated into space. Many will have visited the moon and beyond.

There was a lot of other stuff related to computers (electronic calendars & messaging, faxes, email, etc.) which was pretty much bang on. Then there was the one that wasn’t in the magazine, but which they used to tell us at school:

  • In the future, computers will take over most of our jobs leaving us with a great deal more leisure time. The work-week will be reduced to 4 and even 3 days. (never, in their wildest dreams did they envision how much extra work computers would create. I still marvel at that bit of naïveté)

Of course, it now behooves me to make some predictions on what the world will look like in the next century:

  • We’ll all have to subsist on a plant-based (and/or soylent green) diet as we continue to denude the earth’s fertile land and poison our water system. Land will become too precious to use for grazing.
  • Our food will continue evolve into ready-to-eat manufactured, processed food-like products as fewer people are willing or able to cook. Real food will slowly be phased out as we are unable to grow it and/or become less and less interested in eating it.
  • Reality shows will become our reality as we have a microchip implanted at birth that will contain and collect all our information from our DNA profile, to our education and job history and financial information. We will be scanned every time we enter or leave a building, every time we submit a form, every time we do a transaction. The chip will have a built-in GPS. We will be monitored 24/7 by a variety of sources. For instance, if we become out-of-sorts the microchip will transmit that information to a centralized database and the appropriate medications will be transferred to us via the microchip.
  • As the earth becomes raped of resources, we will no longer be able to travel. Planes, trains and automobiles will become obsolete. People will live their lives almost entirely from their homes. Shopping, working, visiting and being entertained by their electronic computerized systems.
  • Homes, as a result, will become very high-tech – self cleaning/maintaining.
  • The rift between the rich and the poor will grow, eliminating middle-classes altogether.
  • Increasing obesity and dependence on pharmaceuticals will decrease lifespans to 40 or 50.

Isn’t that a cheery picture? Of course, we could get smart some time in the next few years and turn the whole thing around so that the future looks a bit rosier. Who knows? What do you think our grandchildren’s world will look like?



11 responses to “The Future Ain’t What it Used to Be

  1. In commercial transportation, there will be travel at 1000 m.p.h. at a penny a mile. <—This cracks me up. A penny a mile. If only they knew the reality of fuel prices right now.

    Your predictions – eek. I must admit, for the sake of my kids I hope you’re wrong. I do see more people wanting natural, minimally processed, organic foods and I hope that trend continues.

  2. Kimberly – I hope I’m wrong, too, and yes I see a lot of people moving toward real food, but then I see oh so many, many more moving further and further away. The tragedy is that countries that up until now had a sensible diet are suddenly eager to jump on the junk food bandwagon because they think it makes them more “western” and sophisticated

  3. Two things:

    1) What’s a typewriter?

    and b) The 1960s also brought us the song “In The Year 2525” by Zager and Evans, those one-hit wonders. Kinda deals with the same subject matter.

  4. “Pressing a button to change the décor of a room.”
    We do have that already.
    As long as the button is connected to an explosive device.

    I LOVE the fact that you mentioned Soylent Green. The theories, such as they were, behind movies like Soylent Green, Silent Running (if you haven’t seen Silent Running, you should) and Logan’s Run have always fascinated me.
    I think there might be many people who possibly had the end of society as we know it on the back burner amongst their thought and fears – almost getting to the point where they were thinking themselves silly for imagining it – who are now re-visiting their previous beliefs, what with the current state the world.

    Doesn’t do much good to fear whether or not there will BE a future, though. Even if you’re at the point where you feel that there’s nothing you can do to change what’s to come, you might as well try to do something.
    It’ll help pass the time as we hurtle toward extinction.

  5. Bob – I’m not sure about that typewriter thing either, but I reckon it was something really small & at least Zagar & Evans were looking a bit further ahead — all that stuff could still happen by 2525. But when I see 1960s movies set in 1989 and everyone is living like the Jetsons it’s hee-freakin-larious.

    JB – I always think that as humans we’re much more apt to keep digging ourselves into a big nasty hole than we are to create a beautiful, futuristic nirvana. The Soylent Green world isn’t really much of a stretch considering where we’re at and which direction we’re heading — except for the women as furniture part. I don’t think that could happen.

  6. My gosh, I’m amazed at how prescient you are. You may be right on all those counts.

    I was reading an article in Atlantic Monthly last night where the writer said because of Google and Yahoo, and “instant research” on the Internet, people are losing the art of being able to read a book from start to finish. Their attention spans are diminished, and they read only in “sound bites”. Even then, most of the stuff is just skimmed over.

    I believe he may have a point.

  7. Violetsky – Yes, optimistic is the right word. They were blissfully unaware of all that awful stuff that was to happen in the next 10-20 years.

    Josie – er.. sorry, I got tired and couldn’t finish reading your comments.

  8. Josie – never boring. I was poking fun at your “short attention span” comment. Really, I always read all your stuff.