Russell Jones looks at an historic article from the 1960’s to see just how far we’ve come towards the future predicted.
We’ve discovered a fantastic new website called StumbleUpon.com which throws up random web pages based on the interest criteria you select when joining.
I warn you though, it can be highly addictive, whether that is finding a really interesting article about a New urban algae canopy which produces as much oxygen as four hectares of woodland, or just some stunning photography or architecture from around the world.
As a child of the 1960’s, I was particularly interested in a page that focused on an article in Weekend Magazine from July 1961 – the year I was born!
Under the headline, ‘Will Life be worth living in 2,000AD’ the piece confidently predicted what the world would look like at the turn of the Century with a life that looks ‘so easy that people will probably die from sheer boredom.’
So, what did they predict?
I think I may have missed something when we turned from the 20th Century to the 21st, as I don’t recall holidays in space yet becoming normal, and I haven’t see our roads full of hovercars?
I’d recommend reading the article though, if only to laugh at the dated adverts that appear alongside it and, whilst it would easy to poke gentle fun at the things that have not yet happened, reading between the lines, there are some predictions that show just how intelligent those 60’s scientists really were.
Whilst we have not yet seen heating and cooling being built into the furniture and rugs, they can and really should now be an integral and essential part of any building, with heat recovery ventilation systems and underfloor heating meaning that the building can be comfortably and energy efficiently controlled.
They also predicted that the office (It was very much ‘Dad’s when the article was written!) will be air-conditioned with stimulating scents and extra oxygen - to give a physical and psychological lift.
Whilst we are not there with the scents and extra oxygen, air conditioning is now essential in today’s commercial environments, not least because of the huge increase in heat generating computer and office equipment. Today’s systems though also focus on energy efficiency, which is definitely not something that seemed to trouble our 60’s scientists so much.
They did talk about ‘TV Telephones’ which are now a completely ubiquitous part of modern life
The scientists also predict a central room in the home, which will control everything. Whilst they haven’t exactly understood how this might work at the time, what they have actually pointed to is what the IoT or Internet of Things now offers, with all devices connecting across the cloud. Whilst we haven’t quite reached a completely connected digital home, this can actually be achieved right now for a lot of the ‘essentials’ of modern life.
Our 60’s predictors did talk about ‘TV Telephones’ which are now a completely ubiquitous part of modern life - and mail and newspapers being reproduced instantly – although they did think this would still involve the Fax machine.
The 60’s scientists also forecast that machines will be ‘doing the work of clerks, shorthand writers and translators’. They also predicted that ‘mother’ will have computers to help her with the housework!
What they didn’t see is how much machines and artificial intelligence will develop to ‘help’ automate so much of modern life but they were predicting that machines would talk to each other.
The article went further than just technology and predicted that by 2020, 5% of the world’s population will be living in space, so we’d better get a move on as there’s only two years left for that to happen.
They also predict that we will be able to regrow amputated limbs and will have eradicated cancer, tooth decay, mental illness and the common cold!
The other thing I found interesting is that the article is signed off with the cheery note: “It's the way they think the world will live in the next century - if there's any world left!”
Could that have been concern about the Arms Race at the time? Were they pre-empting concern about man’s overuse of the planet’s dwindling resources?
It’s impossible to really know and it is so easy to use hindsight to gently poke fun at the past but is anyone brave enough to predict what will happen in the next 50-60 years with absolute confidence?
Well, I’ll give it a go, but that will have to wait for another post!
Russell Jones is Content and Communications Manager for Mitsubishi Electric, Living Environment Systems in the UK.