An anonymous reader sends in a story at CNN about how our predictions for the future tend to be somewhat accurate (whether or not we can do a thing) yet often too optimistic (whether or not it's practical). Obvious example: jetpacks. Quoting: "Joseph Corn, co-author of 'Yesterday's Tomorrows: Past Visions of the American Future,' found an inflated optimism about technology's impact on the future as far back as the 19th century, when writers like Jules Verne were creating wondrous versions of the future. Even then, people had a misplaced faith in the power of inventions to make life easier, Corn says. For example, the typical 19th-century American city was crowded and smelly. The problem was horses. They created traffic jams, filled the streets with their droppings and, when they died, their carcasses. But around the turn of the 20th century, Americans were predicting that another miraculous invention would deliver them from the burden of the horse and hurried urban life — the automobile, Corn says. 'There were a lot of predictions associated with early automobiles,' Corn says. 'They would help eliminate congestion in the city and the messy, unsanitary streets of the city.' Corn says Americans' faith in the power of technology to reshape the future is due in part to their history. Americans have never accepted a radical political transformation that would change their future. They prefer technology, not radical politics, to propel social change."
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