More data for my theory: predictions of the future tell more about the present.
This weekend, scanned pages of Modern Mechanix offered us images of 2008 from the vantage of 1968. Some predictions are on the mark, some are off. More than anything, it’s particularly cringe-worthy to read that we will today use only plastic disposable plates and flatware. While it’s a “wife-saving” way to cut down on dishes, the world of 1968 cared not where all that petroleum came from and what landfill the plastic was going to.
Again, Bostworld offers us a set of pictures and captions of the year 1975 from the vantage of 1962 (or go direct to the Flickr set). You’ll see some familiar things: computers in libraries and schools, compact stereo sets and microwave-able bacon. However, it also imagined that we would still be plagued by door-to-door salesmen and that women’s jobs are limited to homemaking, teaching and typing.
Of course, the hardest thing to predict about the future is social and societal change. So, we import our own attitudes about the present near-directly. Although the Jetsons showed the oft-promised flying car, no one imagined that women would learn to drive them in the 21st century. While we can now have instant translation of the Pravda, no one in 1962, 1968 or 1975 was ready to predict that the Soviet Union would collapse and that the Pravda would become a tabloid.
To paraphrase Cory Doctorow: if you want to know about the future of technology don’t read Jules Verne; if you want to know about Victorian attitudes toward technology, read Jules Verne.
See my previous post on the Monsanto House of the Future for more.