Predictions about 2008

From 1968:

A typical vacation in 2008 is to spend a week at an undersea resort,
where your hotel room window looks out on a tropical underwater reef, a
sunken ship or an ancient, excavated city. Available to guests are two-
and three-person submarines in which you can cruise well-marked
underwater trails.

But many of the predictions are good, at least in part.  Get this:

The single most important item in 2008 households is the computer.
These electronic brains govern everything from meal preparation and
waking up the household to assembling shopping lists and keeping track
of the bank balance. Sensors in kitchen appliances, climatizing units,
communicators, power supply and other household utilities warn the
computer when the item is likely to fail. A repairman will show up even
before any obvious breakdown occurs.

Computers also handle travel reservations, relay telephone messages,
keep track of birthdays and anniversaries, compute taxes and even
figure the monthly bills for electricity, water, telephone and other
utilities. Not every family has its private computer. Many families
reserve time on a city or regional computer to serve their needs. The
machine tallies up its own services and submits a bill, just as it does
with other utilities.

Via www.geekpress.com.  As usual, it is presumed that traffic and transportation problems will have seen a lot of progress when in fact they have not.  Nor was it understood how unevenly the benefits of progress would be distributed and how possible it would be to continue a life basically devoid of these advances.

Comments

Nor was it understood how unevenly the benefits of progress would be distributed and how possible it would be to continue a life basically devoid of these advances.

Really? Because this strikes me as an underestimate of how broadly the benefits would be distributed:

"Not every family has its private computer. Many families reserve time on a city or regional computer to serve their needs. The machine tallies up its own services and submits a bill, just as it does with other utilities."

Virtually every family in the U.S. that now lacks even a 'private computer' owns a television that cost as much or more than a basic or used computer. And they mostly also subscribe to TV services that cost more than Internet service would. In general, the families who lack computers, lack the interest or ability to make use of one. And those 'regional computers'? Free to use at the public library.

It's interesting, too, how 'utility-minded' that vision is. No notion at all that computers would be used for communication, education, research, art, music, video, photography, games. And not much for hooking up all the appliances to diagnose themselves. Not because it's not feasible, but because appliances have become so reliable and so cheap to replace that repair services are often not worth it for appliances more than a few years old.

"As usual, it is presumed that traffic and transportation problems will have seen a lot of progress when in fact they have not."

- not to mention fixing the weather.

The other element to futurism isn't just what we predict will change but hasn't but what changes so utterly. I remember reading Fahrenheit 451--not strictly a futurist novel, but giving a vision of futuristic life, Wall TV's, portable defribrilators, etc--and noticing one thing that was out of touch with our world today.

Characters smoked like chimneys. They smoked in other peoples' living rooms (like watching "All The President's Men"). They smoked on the job.

In extrapolating trends, it is difficult to predict large changes in opinion like that which aren't necessarily driven by technological change.

Can we get a review of Richard Florida's new book?

Is it a reasonable assumption, then, than in our own predictions about the year 2058 a large proportion of the world will still be in poverty without access to clean water or basic healthcare, despite a slew of technological advances?

"Nor was it understood how unevenly the benefits of progress would be distributed and how possible it would be to continue a life basically devoid of these advances."

No, you are completely wrong. The American middle class is fabulously more prosperous than it was in 1968, and those who dispute this are ignoring the facts. The New York Times had a great editorial on this, and unfortunately I can't find it, but it contained a graph of the percentage of Americans who owned all of the important products created by our technological progress: cars, washing machines, tv's, phones, electricity, the internet, etc. The percentages are much higher today than they were 40 years ago. Moreover, newer inventions are spreading more quickly than they did at the beginning of the twentieth century. For example, the middle class is getting the internet much more quickly than it got electricity or phones.

The fact of the matter is that if the world is peaceful, capitalism will slowly produce great wealth for everyone. Those who think differently need to take a long hard look at the facts.

They missed the single most important enhancement to civilization since 1968: my wife.

Monk: try Hans Rosling's celebrated presentation at Ted Talks for a start: http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/92 The software Rosling uses is at http://www.gapminder.org

"As usual, it is presumed that traffic and transportation problems will have seen a lot of progress when in fact they have not."

Perhaps we have seen progress, but not the type some imagined or desired. Geogrpahic dispersion of workplaces and housing the past four decades allowed many more workers to live close to workplaces, in affordable housing they desired. That may not be the situation along the upper Atlantic coast. But that's been my observation in Tennessee, Missouri, Texas, and Arizona.

Sprawl, that dirty word of government planners, has enabled Dallas-Fort Worth to grow to the fourth largest metro area in the U.S., without an appreciable increase in commute times. Edge cities and now edgeless cities kept urban congestion to manageable levels.

Of course, not every community has enjoyed the freedom that Sprawl allows. Sprawl's mortal enemy, Smart Growth, continues to inflict its damage on commuters in states with socialist tendencies.

"Sprawl, that dirty word of government planners, has enabled Dallas-Fort Worth to grow to the fourth largest metro area in the U.S., without an appreciable increase in commute times."

We're way ahead of you. See, in the northeast we have this magical ability to telecommute. Do y'all have toothpaste down there yet?

How do you sweep floors over the internet? In the south we not only have toothpaste, we have lower taxes, bigger houses for less money, better weather, and way hotter women. My property taxes, in Tennessee, are a tenth of my cousin's in Jersey. Our houses are about the same size and mine cost less than half of what his did. He would move down here in a heartbeat, if his kids didn't live up north.

The Dubai underwater hotel publicity has been floating around (pardon the pum) for about 5 years, but construction hasn't started, or even pre-started. That's one bit of the Dubai hype that's going nowhere.

"As usual, it is presumed that traffic and transportation problems will have seen a lot of progress when in fact they have not."

Here's a handy tool for the futurist: the more regulated the sector, the slower the rate of innovation. Government-owned roads: the same. Heavily government-regulated autos: some advancement. Deregulated railroads and airlines: very different than their 1960s predecessors. Unregulated computer design and manufacturing: need I say more?

North v. South? Are we going there?

The greatest thing about about the internet is that it allows us Southerners to give our opinions to almost as many people as Northerners can with their mouths on busses, in movie theaters, and libraries.

Actually, traffic and transportation problems have in fact seen a lot of progress, for instance in areas that can be addressed by software (supply chain management and logistics). FedEx didn't exist in 1968, and might not have been possible. The volume of shipping and world trade has vastly increased; containerization has created a physical packet network that rivals the Internet in importance. Also, air travel is tremendously cheaper and more widespread than it used to be; cars are far more mechanically reliable, safer, and handle the road much better.

What you're probably referring to is that we don't have faster transportation by an order of magnitude (New York to London in an hour), flying cars, affordable maglev trains, undersea intercontinental subways, and perhaps we never will: in a world where everything you need for work and entertainment will be transportable with you (a combination iPod/iPhone/Kindle/wearable computer), you'll be able to telecommute and social-network while on the slow boat to China, without any urgent need to arrive there on the same day.

To follow up: an obvious form of progress involves inventing things that are order of magnitude more advanced technologically. A more subtle form of progress involves the same old things, but an order of magnitude cheaper or more plentiful or more efficient. However the latter is still progress, and often more important than the former.

Agriculture and traffic/transportation fall in the latter category. We still eat the same basic food groups as we did in 1968, albeit with far greater variety and refinement and culinary diversity, rather than getting our calorie and nutritional intake from a single daily pill. However, there has been tremendous progress in agriculture, a green revolution to enormously boost crop yields, without which our planet would face mass starvation at current population levels. The same situation applies to transportation: current levels of air travel, trucking, and automobile traffic would not have been possible in 1968.

Subtle, unobtrusive progress is often far more significant than showy, flashy new technology. Plastics and air-conditioning had a much bigger impact in the 20th century than moon rockets or jet aircraft. This was true even in earlier times: if the ancient Romans had invented hay and stirrups, they would probably have retained control of Germany.

The one thing that had me rolling on the floor with laughter was "A repairman will show up even before any obvious breakdown occurs."

'Allo --dis is Ralph in Cal---I mean, Kalamazoo, would you pliz hold?...9elevator music)...for technical assistance, visit our website at www.wehelpyou.com...please choose from the folowing menu...'

Or if you actually get a tech service, "They'll call you sometime between now and tomorrow evening and make an appointment....we can be at your house any time between 8am and 5 pm on Wednesday."

there's actually an underwater hotel being build in Duabi - not too far off on the first one!

The flying car equivalent UAV navigation equipped electric planes getting the equivalent of 498mpg or hybrid planes getting 100mpg. Commute at 100mph.
$40k-150k for two seaters.

Price, operation, safety (could have a parachute for the whole 500-1000kg plane and the they are based on gliders, so engine failure would mean moving ahead 40 feet for every one foot of drop and impact would have decent survivability with airbags etc...)

http://nextbigfuture.com/2008/07/hybrid-100mpg-plane.html

http://nextbigfuture.com/2008/07/438-mpg-commuter-uav.html

Bah. The 21st Century has been grossly overrated. Where are the robots, the air cars, the vactions on the Moon? As far as I can see the 21st Century is just like the 20th Century except with better computers and worse Presidents.

it can give us some advice

Comments for this post are closed