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Monday, April 11, 2011

thoughts on: The Wonderful Future That Never Was

The Wonderful Future That Never Was: Flying Cars, Mail Delivery by Parachute, and Other Predictions from the Past (Popular Mechanics Magazine)The Wonderful Future That Never Was: Flying Cars, Mail Delivery by Parachute, and Other Predictions from the Past by The Editors of Popular Mechanics

Popular Mechanics has been in continuous publication since 1902, and predictions of the future have always been found in its pages.  Many of those focused on what life would be like at the turn of the next century - the one we are in now.  So it is fun, often funny, to read the predictions and compare them to what our lives are actually like.

Many of the predictions have come true over the past hundred years:  we travel by jetplane; we have computers in our homes; plastics are everywhere; use of gps is replacing maps; and radio movies, ie television, are very popular.  Many, of course, have not:  hovercraft have not replaced cars; no one I know has a personal jetpack; pneumatic tubes did not pan out as a method of mass transit; we have not colonized Mars.  Yet.

Reading all the predictions gives me the post-family-vacation thought:  where ever you go, there you are.  It seems like scientists predicting the future make the same omission I make when imagining travel with adolescents.  They forget that new places or new technology doesn't make new people.  Even if, as predicted in 1950, scientists were able to manufacture candy from our dirty paper napkins and rayon underpants, it doesn't mean people want to eat it.  Designing new towns doesn't mean people won't litter.  We wouldn't be safer drivers if we all had helicopters instead of cars.

Still, we've put men on the moon.  We have refrigerators and freezers in our homes.  Life expectancy has increased by 50%.  We've done some pretty cool stuff.

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