Aunt Lowey's Fair and Balanced Handy-Dandy Blog

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Sunday, July 06, 2003
In the year 2000:

According to this article that ran in Popular Mechanics the year I was born (actually, the month I was conceived!) within the next fifty years:

-- Electricity is mostly generated by solar power.
-- Average suburban houses are made mostly of concrete, metal and plastic, cost about $5000, and last only about 25 years. They may have pools of water on the roof to help keep the house cool. Housewives use hoses to clean indoors, including furniture and any laundry that's not meant to be disposable.
-- Trans-Atlantic travel is apparently mostly by atomic-powered ocean liners. Rocketships also carry passengers across in about 3 hours, or between New York and San Francisco in about 2 hours, but they are expensive. "Corporation presidents, bankers, ambassadors and rich people in a hurry use the 1000-mile-an-hour rocket planes and think nothing of paying a fare of $5000 between Chicago and Paris." Note that this is the same price as a house.
-- Not only do modern electronic "calculators" forecast the weather, they enable scientists to do something about it -- by spreading oil on the ocean to quell hurricanes.
-- "... sawdust and wood pulp are converted into sugary foods. Discarded paper table 'linen' and rayon underwear are bought by chemical factories to be converted into candy."
-- "Nobody has yet circumnavigated the moon in a rocket space ship, but the idea is not laughed down."
-- "If old Mrs. Underwood, who lives around the corner ... and who was born in 1920 insists on sleeping under an old-fashioned comforter instead of an aerogel blanket of glass puffed with air so that it is as light as thistledown she must expect people to talk about her 'queerness.'"

Actually, there were some things the article got right. Fax machines, for example. Home shopping channels on TV. Microwave ovens. Teleconferencing. And some that were partly right: "Tuberculosis in all of its forms is cured as easily as pneumonia was cured at mid-century.... Wrinkles, sagging cheeks, leathery skins are curiosities or signs of neglect. The span of life has been lengthened to 85.... such virus diseases as influenza, the common cold, poliomyelitis and a dozen others are cured with ease." Computers run machinery at work and predict the weather.

Oil spills don't count, since they aren't on purpose (at least I don't think they are, but I'm naive sometimes) and don't seem to do much to prevent storms.

The idea that computers would do so little, compared to how we actually use them, makes me giggle. What really amused me though is the failure to predict social changes. These are obviously much less predictable than the scientific stuff. The husband goes to work, the wife stays home -- to hose the laundry down, melt the dirty dishes (soluble plastic), order groceries, etc., via the television, and pop the "synthetic" dinner in the microwave, but that's still a full day for her, apparently. And this seems to be a family with no kids. In 1950, already several years into the baby boom, that seems unrealistic to me right there!

Last but perhaps not least: I refuse to comment on "queerness." Changes in the language may be the most unpredictable of all!

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