While (still) unpacking from our (most recent) cross-country move, I came across my school planner from the year 2000 (remember way back when Y2K didn’t happen?).
Here are two goals that I apparently wanted to achieve:
This got me thinking about what other people have predicted for the future…
Here’s “Science Fiction As Science Fact” from PBS Digital Studios:
And here are some other futuristic ideas (link jumps to xkcd):
In 1950, Ray Bradbury wrote “The Veldt,” a short story about a family with a fully automated home, including a stunningly realistic virtual reality nursery room stuck on the “African safari” setting, complete with lions and the smells of raw meat. Lovely!
Then, in 1953, he wrote a novel about a futuristic world of parlor walls (televisions reaching from floor to ceiling) with advertisements that knew your name and spoke to you personally (as seen in Fahrenheit 451).
Can’t say he was wrong about walls of televisions or personalized adverts:
Yes, that is a 110-inch television. For personalized adverts addressed to you, just check your email (or the right side of your gmail screen – creepy!).
In contrast to Bradbury’s dread of our dystopic future (or present), in 1991, Robert Ballard wrote some glowing promises about “Future Travel” for National Geographic Traveler:
I expect the travel of the future to become less physical, more mental. Through the use of technology, you’ll be able to let your brain experience the sensations of a new place…. Robots and computer simulation will enable you to visit remote, exotic places without ever leaving home…
In the next 10 or 15 years I envision people having rooms in their houses that will be able to simulate other environments…. Miniature theaters with wraparound screens and sophisticated equipment that can reproduces the sights, sounds, smells, and feel of a desert, or a forest, or an alpine meadow.
Today, much of the world’s population never travels more than 50 or 60 miles from home. And even a person with abundant wealth and time can see only a fraction of the earth’s sights. But this new era of travel will cost so much less in both time and money that many more people will be exposed to a lot more of the globe. And simulated travel will help protect our planet.
He was mostly foreshadowing Titanic, the 1997 movie where a robot follows James Cameron while he’s swimming around:
But Ballard seems to have been right on a somewhat grander scale, too:
This is the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality headset. It is COOL. But I am a little bit favo(u)rably predisposed (read: biased).
Apparently, I’m not the only one who has made the connection with National Geographic Traveler.
It remains to be seen if all of this will leave us with Bradbury’s angst or Ballard’s glee or if we end up as a bunch of bojos in some third as-yet-un-guessed direction.
In the words of the Twillingate Sun editor, “Only time will tell, and the telling will take time.”