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Back to the future

March 26, 2008, 5:24 am

Via Slashdot, here’s an article from Modern Mechanix magazine from 1968 (complete with the original article scanned in) predicting what life will be like in 2008. The technological predictions are often surprisingly accurate:

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.

While the social predictions are, um, not:

Other conveniences ease kitchenwork. The housewife simply determines in advance her menus for the week, then slips prepackaged meals into the freezer and lets the automatic food utility do the rest. At preset times, each meal slides into the microwave oven and is cooked or thawed. The meal then is served on disposable plastic plates. These plates, as well as knives, forks and spoons of the same material, are so inexpensive they can be discarded after use.

I guess neither women’s liberation nor conservation were on anybody’s radar screen 40 years ago!

The obvious next step is to give predictions for what life will be like in 2048. I’ll give one for education: The development of cheap, secure, high-speed computer network components will render physical location irrelevant for almost all social gatherings, including schools. Rather than attending schools physically and being tied down to the schools or college’s in one’s local area, students “attend” the school of their choice anywhere in the world.

My prediction will probably also be way off on the social end of things just by the mere fact I am suggesting that reasonable school choice provisions will be in place 40 years from now. At that time some people will still be arguing against charter schools because they “take money away from the public schools” despite the fact that physical location really will be irrelevant due to network technology advances.

Your predictions for 2048? You think we’ll have flying cars by then?

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