Tuesday, March 25, 2008

You say you want a revolution, well you know we all want to change the world

I've wanted to sink into this for a while, but haven't had a chance to do so until tonight. TechCrunch linked to a November, 1968 James R. Berry article from Mechanix Illustrated that predicted THE FUTURE - in 2008. Here are some of the things that Berry predicted on a typical day in November, 2008.

  • A national traffic computer.

  • A newspaper that you could read on a flat screen TV.

  • TV phones.

  • An attache case with a TV screen upon which you can draw information. (Yes the acronym "TV" appears many, many times in this article.)

  • Domed cities.

  • Banning of private cars within city centers.

  • Prepackaged meals which are microwaved automatically.

  • Disposable plastic plates and utensils.

  • The computer, the most important item in 2008 households. Since the 1968 mind could not conceive of a "personal computer," even the concept of a "private computer" is remarkable. In this case, the private computer also takes care of a lot of the home management.

  • Limited use of money, with direct deposit of payroll and frequent use of credit cards.

  • Shopping without going to a store. In this article, it's called "TV telephone" shopping, but the computer gets involved also.

  • Four hour workdays, but people have to spend two hours a day studying up on new technology. But they don't learn in classrooms; they take "programmed TV courses."

  • You can see hit movies on your TV, for a nominal charge.

  • Farmers are now business executives.

  • "Heart disease has virtually been eliminated by drugs and diet."

  • "No need to worry about failing memory" because of intelligence pills.
After reading this futurist's view, the thing that struck me the most is how one's view of the future is shaped by the present.

In this article, the prevalence of the television in the future is related to the dominance of the TV in the world of 1968.

Computers themselves are seen as powerful, massive things - this same view can be seen in the original Star Trek, where the computer on the Enterprise was an impersonal large data storage mechanism. The idea of having a small computer that didn't manage your house - or, heaven forbid, multiple computers in the same house - was beyond the comprehension of Berry.

There are hints of the Internet in Berry's view of the future, since something is needed to manage the TV shopping and all of the other wonderful things that the TV will do.

But the underlying view here is that technology will make our lives better. Berry's view of 2008 doesn't hazard a guess of the problems that technology will bring. For example, the fact that people will live longer does not suggest to Berry that memory problems may actually INCREASE rather than decrease.

However, Berry's view of the future is remarkable, and is true in many respects. An interesting document. And, as Shane Richmond notes:

The idea of a holiday on the seabed or in space is a way off yet but we still have eight months until November 18, so who knows what delights await?

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