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The Future Ain’t What It Used to Be

Written by Jonathan Ryder

As we have reached the time when Marty McFly arrived in 2015, there is much ink and pixel being spilled about the assorted “predictions” (quotations deliberate…this was a lighthearted comedy, people!)  that said movie made.

And while we will be amused at the fact that our teenagers are mercifully not flying around on hoverboards (can you imagine the chaos in the high school hallways?), I think it would behoove us to remember that predictions of the future are, at best, a murky glimpse into what might become.

In fact, as the recently departed Yogi Berra is alleged to have said, “The Future ain’t what it used to be.”

In fact, predictions of the future are nothing new.  And it is quite amusing to see what predictions were made, and how the did (and did not) come true.  Perhaps the most bizarre of those predictions happened at the turn of the twentieth century, when a series of French postcards predicted what life would be like in the far off year of 2000 (strange to imagine that this is now 15 years in our past). 

Looking at these from the perspective of our modern eyes, it is easy to politely snicker at how we are not flying around in Jules Vernes-esque flying machines, and how our clothes are not being made by a steampunkesque robotic tailor. 

And yet…. And yet…  just as easily as we can snicker at what they got wrong, we can also marvel at what they got right.  Mechanization is everywhere, just as the cards predicted.  We are able to make videoconference if we need to, even if the exact mechanics are a little different.  And yes, large aircraft routinely ply our skies, if more in the shape of jumbo jets than dirigibles. 

In 1968, another great vision of the future enthralled the imaginations of all who saw it. 

Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey promised a vision of routine spaceflight, a colony on the Moon, and exploration of the outer planets.  And while much of the dream is still unrealized, isn’t it amazing to think about how our lives are increasingly dependent on the real-life descendants of HAL 9000? 

Computers are quite literally indispensable to our modern existence…. even as I type these words, I realize that the laptop I’m sitting at is far more powerful than the vast computers that were sending our astronauts skyward at the time.

I could go on, but quite honestly I’d rather that you explore for yourself. 

Look at the various predictions and visions for yourself.  Or even better… wait until the waning days of 2015 and purchase a supermarket tabloid, with predictions from a “renown psychic” for 2016, wrap that tabloid in a plastic bag, place it on your bookshelf with a note “Do not open until January 1, 2017,” and see how the psychic did. 

Visions of the future are like anything else in this human endeavor… a mixture of things gone amazingly right, and things gone horribly wrong.  This especially goes for lighthearted comedies.

Your Obedient Servant,
The Historigeek

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