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What Will Life Be Like In 2008? 648

Posted by kdawson
from the vacation-under-the-sea dept.
tblake writes "Back in 1968, Modern Mechanix mused what life would be like in 40 years. Some things they came pretty close on: 'Money has all but disappeared. Employers deposit salary checks directly into their employees' accounts. Credit cards are used for paying all bills. Each time you buy something, the card's number is fed into the store's computer station. A master computer then deducts the charge from your bank balance.' Some things are way off: 'The car accelerates to 150 mph in the city's suburbs, then hits 250 mph in less built-up areas, gliding over the smooth plastic road. You whiz past a string of cities, many of them covered by the new domes that keep them evenly climatized year round.' And some things are sorta right: 'TV screens cover an entire wall in most homes and show most subjects other than straight text matter in color and three dimensions. In addition to programmed TV and the multiplicity of commercial fare, you can see top Broadway shows, hit movies and current nightclub acts for a nominal charge.'"
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What Will Life Be Like In 2008?

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  • 250 mph (Score:4, Funny)

    by britneys 9th husband (741556) on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @10:27PM (#22865476) Homepage Journal

    The car accelerates to 150 mph in the city's suburbs, then hits 250 mph in less built-up areas, gliding over the smooth plastic road


    Almost true...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bg27ckAgEiw&feature=related [youtube.com]
    • Re:250 mph (Score:4, Informative)

      by The Step Child (216708) on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @10:37PM (#22865534) Homepage
      The Bugatti Veyron can hit 253 mph.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VWJj8pAUu5k [youtube.com]
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mobby_6kl (668092)
      Smooth plastic roads aside, these wouldn't be a problem if it weren't for the stinkin' cops. You could easily do 150 in a proper BMW, and even 250 isn't unachievable. The 14 year old McLaren F1 was getting very close [youtube.com] and the Bugatti Veyron actually exceeds that prediction [youtube.com].
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Hal_Porter (817932)
        Speed limits are a political thing mostly. You can do 250mph on German Autobahns in a good modern car. Most other countries limit speed to 70mph, but that's not really a technology issue, more an issue of politicians limiting people's rights to protect them from accidents. Which is actually nonsense, since the Autobahns have the same safety record as roads with speed limits [wikipedia.org], presumably since people are smart enough to drive at a speed which is safe for the road.

        Of course there are always new dangers to prot
        • Re:250 mph (Score:5, Informative)

          by veganboyjosh (896761) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @12:08AM (#22866036)
          Yeah, yeah. There are places on the Autobahn that have no posted speed limit. But the thing most people who've never been to Germany don't realize is that if you're going over 100 kph (about 60 mph), and you're in an accident--even if it's clearly, backed-up-by-solid-evidence not your fault-- then your insurance company will not cover damages, and the state/city can find you responsible.

          It's been about 10 years since I lived there, so this may not be the case anymore...
        • Re:250 mph (Score:4, Interesting)

          by KillerBob (217953) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @09:58AM (#22868762)

          You can do 250mph on German Autobahns in a good modern car.


          There's only a handful of cars in the world that can do 250mph, and that I'm aware of, exactly one production model car that's currently available, and that car runs out of gas after 12 minutes at that speed. (Read this thread further if you want to know which one it is) Did you perhaps mean 250km/h? That's quite doable for a large number of modern cars. Heck, I have an "economy" car, and it'll do 175km/h. (2007 Chevrolet Aveo, 103hp 1.6L inline 4, fuel injected, no turbo, using 89 octane 10% ethanol fuel... this is the stock LT configuration). Even then, I rarely feel safe taking it over 140km/h and mostly stick to around 120km/h for fuel economy.

          You're right. There is a political impetus behind keeping the speed limits down. I can think of three good reasons to keep the highway speed limit around 100-120km/h: public safety, fuel economy, and darwinism. I've driven fast. Fastest I've ever gone was in a 1988 Subaru XT6... 2.7L H6 with an aftermarket turbocharger and a curb weight of about 1100kg. 290km/h on a closed track outside of Ottawa, ON, Canada. The world flies by at that speed.... fast enough that you probably won't register that you're looking at a hazard until after you've passed it. It's idiotic to the point of insanity to try that kind of speed on a public road, because human reactions simply aren't fast enough, and because a small hazard you can't even see, like a rock or nail in the road, which wouldn't really be anything to worry about at a speed like 80km/h, can cause a tire blowout. And quite frankly, most of us don't have a clue what to do if you have a tire blowout at speed. I don't remember any mention of it in *my* drivers' ed class. I've seen people flip their cars when they had a blowout at 80km/h... do you really want to imagine what'll happen at 3x that speed?

          And it's not a question of teaching people how to drive better, either. No amount of education can prepare you for driving at that kind of speed. It's just not safe for a human to do it in uncontrolled situations. Even in controlled situations, it's not particularly bright.

          Reminds me of an old motorcycle adage... there's old riders, and there's bold riders. You don't see any old bold riders.
  • Goddammit! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Eddi3 (1046882) on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @10:28PM (#22865482) Homepage Journal
    Goddammit, I want my flying cars!
  • by i_liek_turtles (1110703) on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @10:29PM (#22865492)
    Even forty years ago, he wasn't naive enough to suggest Duke Nukem Forever being available.
  • I'm impressed (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AdamReyher (862525) * <adam@pylo[ ]sting.com ['nho' in gap]> on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @10:30PM (#22865496) Homepage
    I'm actually impressed with how dead on a lot of the predictions are. Most predictions from the 60s and 70s were outrageous. One thing I think we've gotten much better at is figuring out the technological limitations of the near future so as to not make such outrageous predictions ... sort of. Supposedly we're all going to be in flying and/or driverless cars by 2015.
    • Re:I'm impressed (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Kandenshi (832555) on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @10:42PM (#22865558)
      Well, I think you almost hit the nail on the head. "most predictions from the 60s and 70s..." There were quite a few of them right? Seemed like every author or magazine wrote at least one article talking about what stuff would be like in the year 2000, 2010, etc...
      So we've got plenty of predictions from the 60s and 70s, and this guy mananged to get several of his right (though others are way way off).

      What's that they say about an infinite number of monkeys? We only had a finite (if large) number of predictors, but unlike monkeys most of them wont just write down "j ,kmdsxzqw3i98" either. It's nice for him that he got some stuff mostly right, but unlike you being impressed at this, I would have been more impressed if none of them did.
      As for the driverless car thing, I think that it could conceivably happen in my own lifetime, but I don't expect it anytime soon. Certainly not as a common thing in the next decade.
  • by flynt (248848) on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @10:31PM (#22865506)
    Some things are way off: 'The car accelerates to 150 mph in the city's suburbs, then hits 250 mph in less built-up areas

    Speak for yourself...
  • by Volanin (935080) on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @10:43PM (#22865560)
    This is a little offtopic (feel free to moderate me appropriately), but I can think of no better
    place to ask this than here at /. and its grammar-nazis!

    From the summary:
    "Money has all but disappeared."

    What does this sentence mean, please?
    Whenever I read it, I read it as: "Everything imaginable happenned to money, except disappear."
    Or even: "Money has changed color, has lost its value, has been globally unified... but disappear? No way!"

    But by the context of the summary, it seems I am getting exactly the opposite of it.
    Although I consider myself quite good at English, it is not my main language.
    Can someone clear this up for me?
    Thank you.
  • by rah1420 (234198) <rah1420@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @10:43PM (#22865562)
    ...in his prediction of intelligence pills.

    Either that, or a lot of people I encountered today need to adjust their dosage.

  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @10:48PM (#22865604)
    "When you see what you want, you press a number that signifies "buy," and the household computer takes over, places the order, notifies the store of the home address and subtracts the purchase price from your bank balance."

    "One click", I have you now!

    • Online shopping (Score:5, Insightful)

      by panaceaa (205396) on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @11:36PM (#22865886) Homepage Journal
      What I found most interesting about this article is how shopping in 2008 is actually BETTER than was imagined in 1968. The author thought items for sale would be displayed on a television, and people would order items through a different interface -- the telephone -- by pressing on a telephone keypad.

      Instead, today we can interactively view an item for sale on the Internet, get competing prices, read reviews from real people around the world, and order the item through the same interface using buttons with descriptive labels. It seems so obvious now, and as a developer I still think we have a ways to go, but look how far we've come! This wasn't even fathomable 40 years ago.
      • by plover (150551) * on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @01:00AM (#22866306) Homepage Journal

        What I found most interesting about this article is how shopping in 2008 is actually BETTER than was imagined in 1968.
        ...
        today we can interactively view an item for sale on the Internet, get competing prices, read reviews from real people around the world, and order the item through the same interface using buttons with descriptive labels.

        And you can view products that don't work from companies that don't exist, get competing prices from vendors that never ship, read reviews from trolls and shills from every cave and mother's basement around the world, and you can pay by credit card to a hijacked site somewhere in Estonia.

        "Better" is true relative to nothing at all, but caveat emptor applies far more today than it did in 1968.

  • by Psychotria (953670) on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @10:53PM (#22865638)
    People have more time for leisure activities in the year 2008. The average work day is about four hours. But the extra time isn't totally free. The pace of technological advance is such that a certain amount of a jobholder's spare time is used in keeping up with the new developments--on the average, about two hours of home study a day.

    They got it almost spot on: 4 hours actual work; 2 hours slashdot; 2 hours talking; 2 hours walking around the office; 1 hour making coffee's; 3 hours replying to emails; 3 hours answering telephones; 1 hour break time; 2 hours travel time; 2 hours home study time; 2 hours sleep. Rinse-and-repeat.
  • by jlowery (47102) on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @11:00PM (#22865674)
    where I can make $20 an hour laminating stuff.
  • by AHuxley (892839) on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @11:00PM (#22865678) Homepage Journal
    Reminds me of the skit by Harry Enfield about Life in 1990
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QdYDREry3do [youtube.com]
  • industrialization (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Dzimas (547818) on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @11:01PM (#22865682)
    It's interesting to note how this piece reflects the then-prevalent belief that technology would bring a Utopian age. No one stopped to think about the consequences of using thousands of ICBMs as transportation devices, or the industrial waste generated by wall-sized televisions and domed cities. Plastic was magical - we hadn't yet realized how toxic it could be, or how addicted we would become to it. Domed cities and millions of cars that travel 300 mph are the stuff of science fiction novels, but they'd be awful in practice - Just imagine how unbearably warn and clammy a dome would be under bright summer sun (or how quickly it would be discolored by dust storms and acid rain), or how poorly wildlife would coexist with a stream of automated bullet cars zipping along plastic roads. Somehow, we need to figure out how to do with less - much less - while figuring out how to tread less heavily on the earth. It might be an impossible task.
    • Re:industrialization (Score:5, Informative)

      by nguy (1207026) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @12:25AM (#22866148)
      No one stopped to think about the consequences of using thousands of ICBMs as transportation devices,

      Not a problem with hydrogen or nuclear powered rockets.

      or the industrial waste generated by wall-sized televisions and domed cities

      Wall-sized televisions using OLEDs don't generate a lot of waste. And city domes are recyclable.

      Plastic was magical - we hadn't yet realized how toxic it could be, or how addicted we would become to it.

      There's nothing inherently toxic about plastic.

      Just imagine how unbearably warn and clammy a dome would be under bright summer sun

      That depends on how the dome is constructed and how it is cooled.

      (or how quickly it would be discolored by dust storms and acid rain)

      Self-cleaning surfaces avoid those problems.

      or how poorly wildlife would coexist with a stream of automated bullet cars zipping along plastic roads

      Well, that's easy to deal with. The real issue is that going 300mph in air just isn't very efficient no matter what you do; therefore, a ground network of evacuated tunnels may be the real answer.

      Somehow, we need to figure out how to do with less - much less - while figuring out how to tread less heavily on the earth. It might be an impossible task.

      I don't share your limited view of the future. There is nothing inherently ecologically unsound about domed cities or wall-sized televisions or high speed transportation. We simply need to think about environmental impact before deploying a technology widely, but we also shouldn't be afraid to try out new ideas on a limited scale to get some idea of what works and what doesn't.
  • 2048 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sane? (179855) on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @11:06PM (#22865716)

    By 2048 the concept of a national currency will have devolved back into a token based economy founded on barter. Those few that survive will focus on securing the necessities of life. Whole regions will be uninhabited as global warming turns them progressively to desert.

    Personal transportation will be a thing of the past. What movement occurs will either be human powered or the preserve of the feudal lords. The only areas where an energy rich economy continues to exist will be those of the Middle East, at least those parts not a radioactive wasteland. Most oil will be vegetable oil, and with the collapse of intensive agriculture there won't be much of that.

    Many of the major cities will be going underwater as sea levels rise following the accelerating collapse of the Greenland glaciers and the lack of funding to support management measures. Diseases come in waves across the globe, each wave wiping out more than are born. There is a general malaise, a depression of opportunities lost. Most do not want to bring children into this world.

    • Re:2048 (Score:5, Funny)

      by Fastball (91927) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @01:59AM (#22866562) Journal
      Some of us were kept alive... to work... loading bodies. The disposal units ran night and day. We were that close to going out forever. But there was one man who taught us to fight, to storm the wire of the camps, to smash those metal motherfuckers into junk. He turned it around. He brought us back from the brink. His name is Connor. John Connor. Your son, Sarah, your unborn son.

      But seriously, at the risk of wasting a funny post, who modded the parent insightful? Why is it that dark, brooding fears about the future are considered so profound? I mean really, +5 Insightful?
    • Re:2048 (Score:4, Funny)

      by initialE (758110) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @04:31AM (#22867088)
      Many years ago this was a thriving, happy planet - people, cities, shops, a normal world. Except that on the high streets of these cities there were slightly more shoe shops than one might have thought necessary. And slowly, insidiously, the number of the shoe shops were increasing. It's a well-known economic phenomenon but tragic to see it in operation, for the more shoe shops there were, the more shoes they had to make and the worse and more unwearable they became. And the worse they were to wear, the more people had to buy to keep themselves shod, and the more the shops proliferated, until the whole economy of the place passed what I believe is termed the Shoe Event Horizon, and it became no longer economically possible to build anything other than shoe shops. Result - collapse, ruin and famine. Most of the population died out. Those few who had the right kind of genetic instability mutated into birds who cursed their feet, cursed the ground and vowed that no one should walk on it again.
      Credit to Douglas Adams [berkeley.edu]
  • by opencity (582224) on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @11:10PM (#22865746) Homepage
    Over the last 40 years the actual physical environment hasn't changed much. Imagine the difference between 1900 and 1940: automobiles, airplanes - or 1920 and 1960: Commercial trans Atlantic jet travel, satellites, H bombs, national highways. I can remember 1968. Since then we've gotten the ATM, cable TV, cell phones, personal computers but, except for the corporate mall-ing of the American highway, which was well underway by 1968 and didn't change the environment so much as stamp out local flavor, and saner environmental regulation, some lakes used to glow in the dark, this is still interstate rust belt America.

    In fact, someone waking up right now would find America in the middle of a colonial war, suburban sprawl graying the countryside. "A gallon of gas costs what?!? Hey, can I see your phone?" That is, unless they were in medicine or IT.

    (disclaimer: above memories are related to North America)
  • by Corngood (736783) on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @11:17PM (#22865772)
    He describes a world where the entire infrastructure has essentially been rebuilt in 40 years. I can't see how that would have seemed plausible even back then. That said, portions of it are impressively accurate.
    • by Squirmy McPhee (856939) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @01:28AM (#22866424)

      He describes a world where the entire infrastructure has essentially been rebuilt in 40 years. I can't see how that would have seemed plausible even back then.

      Well, 40 years prior to 1968 there were no interstates and the country had only a handful of major highways. Rural areas not only didn't have electricity, but many believed that rural electrification was impossible. Commercial aviation was virtually nonexistent. Commercial radio had existed for only a few years and television was still experimental, with the first commercially licensed television stations more than a decade away. Telephone service wasn't entirely novel, but telephones at home weren't the norm, either.

      So yes, I can see how in 1968 it would have seemed plausible to rebuild our entire infrastructure in the span of 40 years. I think part of the reason it seems implausible in hindsight is that over the past 40 years we simply haven't spent the massive sums on public works that we did from the 1930s to the 1960s. In fact, we went in quite the opposite direction in spending on our infrastructure, and now by at least one estimate we need to spend $3+ trillion just to keep what we have already built from falling apart (let alone improve or replace it).

  • by downix (84795) on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @11:17PM (#22865778) Homepage
    > two-passenger air-cushion car
    Didn't happen sadly
    > national traffic computer
    Read "GPS system"
    > morning paper /flat TV screen / Tapping a button changes the page.
    Your basic ebook
    > smooth plastic road
    Still concrete, altho progress has been made in using polymers in road construction
    > cities... covered by the new domes
    This one didn't happen
    > The traffic computer ... feeds/receives signals to and from all cars / keeps vehicles /apart.
    GM has prototypes that do just this. It's creepy to see them on the road.
    > attache case / draw the diagram with / infrared flashlight on what looks like a TV screen
    You basic tablet
    > The diagram is relayed to a similar screen in your associate's office, 200 mi. away.
    Have this
    > He jabs a button and a fixed copy of the sketch rolls out of the device.
    The printer
    > vehicle parks itself / municipal garage
    Again, GM has made leaps and bounds for this
    > Private cars are banned inside most city / Moving sidewalks and electrams carry the public
    Your basic Arcology idea, but not yet in practice.
    > With the U.S. population having soared to 350 million
    Close, only 270 million
    > transportation is among the most important factors keeping the economy running smoothly.
    Quite true, and also where we are starting to break apart
    > Giant transportation hubs / located /from 15 to 50 mi. outside all major urban centers.
    Some cities have done this, but not in the US to date
    > Tube trains, pushed through bores by compressed air
    This is ancient, but not in use
    > launching pad from which 200-passenger rockets
    Commercial rocketry is currently for the super-rich, and only a gimmick for now.
    > SST and hypersonic planes
    Concorde was retired a few years back
    > jumbo jets.
    The mainstay of transportation
    >Electrostatic precipitators clean the air
    Ionic Breeze anyone?
    >climatizers maintain the temperature and humidity at optimum levels.
    We have this in spades
    > Robots are available to do housework and other simple chores.
    Vacuuming is about all we have here with the Roomba
    > New materials for siding and interiors are self-cleaning and never peel, chip or crack.
    He got this one right
    > Dwellings / prefabricated modules / attached speedily
    Dead on here, most home construction now involves at least some prefabrication.
    > job that doesn't take more than a day.
    Didn't wind up this fast save for Extreme Home Makeover
    > Such modular homes easily can be expanded to accommodate a growing family.
    This sadly did not wind up the case.
    > A typical wedding present / a fully equipped bedroom, kitchen or living room module.
    Man, and all I got was 4 waffle irons....
    > determines in advance her menus / prepackaged meals / automatic food utility
    Didn't happen
    > microwave oven and is cooked or thawed.
    Did happen
    > disposable plastic plates / knives, forks and spoons / so inexpensive they can be discarded
    This very much happened.
    > The single most important item in 2008 households is the computer.
    100% bingo!
    > 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.
    We have not gotten to this point yet, however, it is appearing piecemail
    > 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.
    This is now almost a decade old
    > Not every family has its private computer.
    Now he called it short.
    • by Hucko (998827) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @12:11AM (#22866060)

      > The single most important item in 2008 households is the computer. 100% bingo!
      err... no, the TV is the altar at which worship occurs... except in a few odd bespectacled bearded male households...
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by glwtta (532858)
      > With the U.S. population having soared to 350 million
      Close, only 270 million


      It's actually over 300 million - there's been a lot of humping going on lately.

      Some of those are spot on, but I think you give him way too much credit for some really tenuous ones, where we basically have an inkling that it's possible, but don't even know if it's a good idea, never mind have it in wide adoption: GPS is a far cry from the fully automatic system he describes; there's some movement in the whole "remote lea
  • by invader_vim (1243902) on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @11:18PM (#22865788)

    ...the article maintains a phallocentric society, where men go to the office to work, and women stay home and coo-- I mean, oversee the cooking. While some of the technological advancements have certainly come to pass (and some pretty close if we look at them analogously), the social attitude of the article is firmly entrenched in the 1960s. Consider:

    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.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Merusdraconis (730732)
      It's like the Jetsons in article form.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by LihTox (754597)
      Question for the readership:
      This is an obvious, sometimes jarring feature in early science fiction too: the authors for the most part did not foresee the breakdown of traditional gender roles. People occasionally talk about predictions made by SF authors which came true; did anyone pre-1960 successfully predict the societal trend with men and women on an equal footing? (Not just individual women-- there were women professionals long before the 70's-- but women as a whole in the workforce.)
      • by Cadallin (863437) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @12:55AM (#22866284)
        Heinlein did. If you read "For Us, The Living" written in 1938 or so, all the female characters in the book have careers, including a medical doctor (treating a man no less, if you're familiar at all with medical attitudes in the 1930's it should be clear just how progressive that is). It also includes far more permissive sexuality than we have now, and also birth control is at least implied.

        I'm not saying he was a saint, but Heinlein was pretty consistent at asserting the intellectual equality of women in his writing.

  • by pipingguy (566974) * on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @11:23PM (#22865814) Homepage
    The second group that some people imagine may know the future are specialists of various kinds. They don't either. As a limiting case, I remind you there is a new kind of specialist occupation-I refuse to call it a discipline, or a field of study-called futurism. The notion here is that there is a way to study trends and know what the future holds. That would indeed be valuable, if it were possible. But it isn't possible. Futurists don't know any more about the future than you or I. Read their magazines from a couple of years ago and you'll see an endless parade of error.

    From http://www.crichton-official.com/speech-whyspeculate.html [crichton-official.com]
  • by mysidia (191772) on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @11:42PM (#22865916)

    One-click ordering described! Over 25 years before Amazon...

    When you see what you want, you press a number that signifies "buy," and the household computer takes over, places the order, notifies the store of the home address and subtracts the purchase price from your bank balance. Much of the family shopping is done this way. Instead of being jostled by crowds, shoppers electronically browse through the merchandise of any number of stores.

  • by Fantastic Lad (198284) on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @11:48PM (#22865948)
    For some reason people in the Fifties and Sixties imagining these future scenarios, often tended to see a very cooperative society where somehow greed and corruption and general selfishness had been left behind by history.


    We'd probably have more of that cool stuff if people could learn to get along a little better. But as it stands, they failed to mention that people today still lock their doors, have automatic car alarms, and that nine tenths of the world's population not only don't have flying cars, but live in mud huts while working for some cruddy manufacturing company for pennies a day. --With unexploded cluster bomb ordinance scattered outdoors.

    Neal Stephenson, were he born in the Forties, could have put a more realistic spin on this article. Too bad.

    I predict that by 2015 or thereabouts, and probably a bit sooner, the earth will be a meteor pock-marked hell dealing with super-fast glacial rebound where there really is no more paper money, and the only domed cities will have George W. Bush and/or Vladimir Putin living inside [guardian.co.uk] them. [viewzone.com]


    -FL

  • Mechanix Illustrated (Score:3, Informative)

    by leamanc (961376) on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @11:52PM (#22865966) Homepage Journal

    Back in 1968, Modern Mechanix mused what life would be like in 40 years.
    The name of the magazine was Mechanix Illustrated. Modern Mechanix is the site hosting the scan of the article.
  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @12:03AM (#22866014) Homepage

    The pace of change is slowing down. Look at four 50 year periods in history.

    1. 1808 In 1808, life was pretty much like it had been for the previous thousand years. Land travel was on foot or by horse; most people never went fifty miles from their birthplace in their entire life. Heating was from burning wood; lighting from candles. Everything was made by hand. But things were just starting to pick up steam, literally. The first locomotive was in 1804. The very first passenger train ran in 1807. Iron was rare, and steel rarer still.
    2. 1858 Railroads connected the major cities in Europe, England, and the US east of the Mississippi. Gas lighting had appeared in cities. Some ships were steam powered. Western Union had telegraphs up and running. Factories were coal burning and steam powered. Textiles were being manufactured by power looms and were much cheaper. Iron was plentiful; steel was still rare. The first oil well was a year in the future.
    3. 1908 Major cities had electricity. Telephones were available. All commercial shipping was steam powered. The first cars were running, and the first aircraft had flown. Big hydroelectric plants at Niagara Falls were running. Steel was widely available and cheap. The first skyscrapers had been built. An active oil industry was producing.
    4. 1958 Radio, TV, electronics, computers, and atomic power were all working. Transistor radios were available. Oil and natural gas were supplanting coal. Huge farm surpluses were a normal event in the US. The first satellites were in orbit. Large jet transports were flying. Good highway system pervasive. Vaccines for polio, tetanus, diphtheria, yellow fever. Antibiotics widely available. The problems of transportation, power, manufacturing, and agriculture had all been overcome, more than overcome, for the first time in history.
    5. 2008 Improvements over 1958, but few breakthroughs. No major new power sources. Energy costs up during this period, for the first time in 200 years. No major new form of transportation. No major improvement in space launch technology. Some progress in biotech but no major life extension. Much progress in electronics and computers.

    Progress is flatlining.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by thanatos_x (1086171)
      If the pace of growth is to continue, it will likely require AI of some sort. Excessively cheap energy would be a close substitute - we can do a lot of things we couldn't do in 1958, they just aren't energy efficient. Could we build an air/space plane to go Sydney to NYC in 3 hours? Probably, however there wouldn't be much of a point.

      Although that's an interesting take, I feel like we're on the verge for a number of advances. Genome sequencing has gone down in price from 300 million to 5,000 in under a deca
    • by superwiz (655733) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @01:25AM (#22866404) Journal

      2008 Improvements over 1958, but few breakthroughs. No major new power sources. Energy costs up during this period, for the first time in 200 years. No major new form of transportation. No major improvement in space launch technology. Some progress in biotech but no major life extension. Much progress in electronics and computers.
      Ha? Internet is more than a major breakthrough since 1958. It's a new human accomplishment.... breakthrough only tell us about the world accomplishments are things we manage to build. Scotland is already testing a wave-energy plant. That's a new source of energy. Wind generators produce almost no noise nowadays so they have become suitable for areas closer to cities. If you don't think bypass surgery is a life extension from 1958, they you don't realize that most men died from heart attacks that weren't even diagnosed. Not to mention that cancer survival rate is above 60% today (vs 0% in 1958). Energy cost is flat when measured in real money. Dollar just happens to lose its value. When pared to gold, energy costs are flat. Segway is a major breakthrough in short-range transportation. It just isn't legal in Manhattan, so it won't take off. Cell phones and navigation systems also come to mind. You are just depressed because there hasn't been much new while the chimp has been running the country. Well, as soon as the dollar collapses and the socialist institutions go bankrupt, the pace of innovation will speed up.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I dunno. I think we've done pretty well over the past 50 years. In 1958 there were no modem, integrated circuit, LCD displays, microprocessor, laser, barcode, scanning tunneling microscope, videogame . No personal computers, word processors, spreadsheet, email. No internet, Wi-Fi, GPS, cellphone. No Amazon, Yahoo, Google, Wikipedia, iTunes, Slashdot. No audi cassette, VHS tapes, CDs, DVDs, MP3s, HD-TV, iPod, iPhone. No space shuttle or hybrid cars either. No halogen lamps and no LED light bulbs. No fiber ti
    • by patio11 (857072) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @01:39AM (#22866482)
      * Life expectancy measured from birth for US males is up 10 years. For some other nations the gain has been more dramatic (typically the ones who got to the development party late).

      * You know those radios, TVs, electronics, and computers? Yeah, you don't have to be a middle-class white American to own them any more.

      * There are plenty of quality of life drugs (one of the reasons for constantly increasing health care costs is that our standard of care is constantly increasing). Acne, allergies, and decline in virility as a function of age are now essentially optional. Give us another decade or three and we'll add senility to the list.

      * No major new form of transportation, but passenger air travel has been greatly democratized. Most Slashdotters can get a roundtrip ticket to Japan for a week's wages. It used to cost more than a month's. Domestic air travel is now price competitive with *bus fares* in many instances. It now strictly dominates passenger rail service in the US.

      * Improvements in efficiency in banking, of all things, means that many, many more Americans have access to credit. No need to know the loan officer, no need to pass the "Is this man a responsible Christian gentleman?" test, no direct restriction based on income, even. This would have been a fairly radical notion in 1958. This has increased home ownership (*mostly* a good thing even with the current debacle which, it bears noting, is affecting less than a 10th of homes), made life much easier for many entrepeneurs, and greatly increased access to higher education. There are some downsides (folks going into debt to get plasma TVs), but the economist in me says "Well, they have a plasma TV now, and its clear they wanted it".

      * I talk 2 hours on the phone every week to my family, across the Pacific Ocean, and pay about $10 a month for the privilege. Adjusting for inflation, that would buy less than an hour of call time to the house next door. A person from 1958 would be shocked, shocked that many phone calls are free. (I predict that a person from 2018 will be shocked, shocked that many weren't back in the dark ages of 2008! Imagine, you still pay for something as prosaic as speaking to someone in Japan! Why, its just bits?!)

      * I can send a letter to anyone in the world, instantaneously, for free. If I actually want that letter to involve paper, I can send it now (2 PM) and have it arrive at 8 AM *just about anywhere on earth, without fail, tomorrow morning* for about two hours wages.

      * In 1958, cheap prepared food was not a reality for most people. It now is. (I almost can't remember the last time I cooked, which is a little weird at the moment but I don't think this will remain weird forever. My mother remembers people sewing.)

      * Most consumer products are so cheap that replacement is cheaper than repair. (TV shorts? Pants rip? Telephone on the fritz? Buy a new one.)

      * Your main health problems are caused by an overabundance of cheap food and a dearth of manual labor taxing you every day. These are, in terms of human history, "high class problems".
    • by able1234au (995975) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @01:53AM (#22866546)
      perhaps this should be marked funny, not insightful.

      No major improvements over 1958?

      >No major improvement in space launch technology
      In 1958 explorer was launched. Sputnik was a few months old. Today, we have ion powered ships going to Pluto, rovers on Mars, trips to asteroids. An (aging) shuttle. But 2008 is much different to 1958

      > Energy costs up during this period, for the first time in 200 years
      Energy (not just oil) is not prohibitively expensive. Perhaps that will kick in later on but for now i dont see anyone suffering from lack of energy. Uses of energy has exploded. Most electronic devices have standby mode that wastes energy even when not used.

      > Some progress in biotech but no major life extension
      Perhaps i am reading irony into this that you dont mean. I think life expectancy is much higher today than in 1958. We understand that smoking is bad for you, we are introducing new medicines, address some forms of cancer, breakthroughs in DNA research, etc. I hardly call that "some progress"

      > Much progress in electronics and computers
      I suspect that the first decade of this century will be known mainly for the explosion in Internet related use. The past 50 years saw dramatic changes in communications. In 1958 there were still telephone operators in use, today we see school children with cell phones. Also the next 50 years will see changes that might be hard to guess. Perhaps we will not need to use a cell phone as we will be permanently connected to the peopleweb (tm).
  • by moco (222985) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @01:42AM (#22866502)

    Medical examinations are a matter of sitting in a diagnostic chair for a minute or two, then receiving a full health report. Ultrasensitive microphones and electronic sensors in the chair's headrest, back and armrests pick up heartbeat, pulse, breathing rate, galvanic skin response, blood pressure, nerve reflexes and other medical signs. A computer attached to the chair digests these responses, compares them to the normal standard and prints out a full medical report.
    This one goes in your mouth, this goes in your ear, this goes in your butt... no wait, wait, THIS one goes in your mouth....

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