View of Tomorrow from 1950: How Well Did The Futurists Do?
Oh, I Believe in Yesterday...
Last year, Paleo-Future published a fascinating post concerning an Associated Press article from 1950 titled, "How Experts Think We'll Live in 2000AD."
We thought we'd take a shot at grading these historical hotshots with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. We're being very generous here, even spotting them almost 10 years to 2009.
The text from the original article is showcased in the grey boxes below.
Let's see how well the futurists from the 50's did...
10. 3D Television with Smell-O-Vision Grade: B-
"Third dimensional color television will be so commonplace and so simplified at the dawn of the 21st century that a small device will project pictures on the living room wall so realistic they will seem to be alive. The room will automatically be filled with the aroma of the flower garden being shown on the screen."
TV manufacturers, like Sony, claim they're on the verge of a 3DTV breakthrough.
Meanwhile Johnny Lee Chung is doing some unbelievable things with holographic-like video.
Until the real thing comes along, HDTV, especially via the new LED monitors, is impressive and about as close to 3D as you can get on a 2D screen.
9. Amazon Women Grade: D-
"The woman of the year 2000 will be an outsize Diana, anthropologists and beauty experts predict. She will be more than six feet tall, wear a size 11 shoe, have shoulders like a wrestler and muscles like a truck driver. She will go in for all kinds of sports and probably will compete with men athletes in football, baseball, prizefighting and wrestling."
Does this futurist make my butt look big?
These futurists went a little overboard here, getting curiously specific about the muscles like a truck driver thing. We should give this prediction a failing grade altogether but we do think we should acknowledge the great strides women have made in amateur and professional athletics over the past 60 years. Because of the WNBA and the Williams sisters, to name two examples will give them a passing grade, though barely.
8. World War III Grade: F (Thank Goodness)
"The Third World War - barring such a miracle as has never yet occurred in relations between countries so greatly at odds - will grow out of Russia's exactly opposite attempts to unify the world by force."
Dodging a Bullet
Futurists didn't give us much credit for statecraft and saw no way around a major war with Russia. So far, so good.
7. Cell Phones Grade: A+
"The telephone will be transformed from wire to radio and will be equipped with the visuality of television. Who is on the other end of the line will seldom be a mystery. Every pedestrian will have his own walking telephone."
Apple's iPhone was a true breakthrough and now the Motorola Droid -- shown above -- is near release. Not sure how the 1950s futurists could have been so right about this one and so wrong about the muscles like truck drivers thing, but so be it.
6. H1N1, anyone? Grade: F -
"Public health will improve, especially the knowledge of how air carries infections, like the common cold, from person to person. Before 2000, the air probably will be made as safe from disease-spreading as water and food were during the first half of this century."
5. Rocket Cars Grade: F -
"Combination automobile-planes will have been perfected."
We're all still waiting for our rocket cars and Segways don't count.
The Icon A5 doesn't count either. A DUI in this contraption could be very, very serious.
4. House of the Future Grade: A+ if you're Bill Gates; C+ for the rest of us.
"People will live in houses so automatic that push-buttons will be replaced by fingertip and even voice controls. Some people today can push a button to close a window, another to start coffee in the kitchen. Tomorrow such chores will be done by the warmth of your fingertip, as elevators are summoned now in some of the newest office buildings or by a mere whisper in the intercom phone."
The Push-Button World
We leaned toward grading this one lower at first but it's easy to forget that -- with remotes for our TV and our car, our garage door openers, our microwave ovens and our iPods -- push-button control is far more integrated into our lives than we might imagine. We're still not talking Jetsons here, though
3. Video killed the Radio Star Grade: A+
"Radio broadcasting will have disappeared, for no one will tune in a program that cannot be seen. Radio will long since have reverted to a strictly communications medium, using devices now unheard of and unthought of."
This was a pretty good call 60 years ago.
Television and today's multi-format video has usurped radio as an entertainment medium relegating radio primarily to news and extreme-wing talk programming. We'll even give them bonus points here for hinting at the unheard of and unthought of internet.
2. Can you say Homeland Security? Grade: A++
"Some see us drifting toward the all-powerful state, lulled by the sweet sound of security. Some see a need to curb our freedom lest it be used to shield those who plot against us. And some fear our freedom will be hard to save if a general war should come."
This reads like the futurists got ahold of the Cheney/Rumsfeld playbook half a century ago. This is a home run.
1. Is it Quitting Time Yet? Grade: B-
"So tell your children not to be surprised if the year 2000 finds a 35 or even a 20-hour work week fixed by law.
They kind of stumbled onto this one.
Many Americans are working shorter hours today because -- as a consequence of the struggling economy -- their full-time hours have been cut back. We don't think that's what the futurists were hinting at here.