Friday, February 16, 2007

The Futurists of 1966 Looking Toward A.D. 2000

"Nearly all experts agree that bacterial and viral diseases will have been virtually wiped out. Probably arteriosclerotic heart disease will also have been eliminated. Cells have only a few secrets still hidden from probers, who are confident that before the year 2000 they will have found the secret that causes cancer. The most exciting, and to some the most frightening, prospect is the chemical and electrical treatment of the brain. Dr. David Krech, psychology professor at the University of California, believes that retarded infants will be diagnosed at birth, and chemical therapy will permit them to function as normal people. The memory loss accompanying senility will be eliminated."

The entire article from the February 25, 1966 issue of TIME can be read here.


David said...

"[T]he contents of libraries and other forms of information or education will be stored in a computer and will be instantly obtainable at home by dialing a code." It's a charmingly Edwardian phrase, but it does anticipate the interweb. Note the assumption of top-down dissemination of data from libraries and other authoritative sources. Also note the gag-worthy sexism throughout the article.

Anonymous said...

Hi. I found your blog though boingboing. I am completely fascinated by yesterday's visions of tomorrow and it's great that you are so actively blogging about this.

This article is a hoot. I love/am terrified by the line:

"a spouse will be able to pop down to the corner drugstore, buy some anti-grouch pills, and slip them into the coffee. Or a lackadaisical person could be dosed into a sense of ambition."

This is everything that's so comical (taking almost no other social factors into account) and horrifying (secretly drugging your spouse!) about futurism. Well-done, Time magazine!

"dosing myself into a sense of ambition"

Anonymous said...

Hi - I'm really liking your blog so far. Looking forward to more futures unearthed. Cheers.

Anonymous said...

"Gag-worthy sexism"? It's no small fact that the vast majority of the technology we enjoy today is due to males. If you want to whine about sexual reality, blame nature; blame our evolutionary history. It's a fact that men's brains are more specialized for scientific/analytic thinking.

Brian said...

Maybe by 2008 they will find proof that men's brains are more likely to define men's brains as scientifically proven to be better at this or that.

A.R.Yngve said...

"Eliminate bacterial disease by 2000" -- now that's a mouthful...

Didn't they know back in 1966 that bacteria can hibernate indefinitely in spore form, and thrive even in the most extreme environments (boiling water, deep underground etc.)??

Makes you wonder what hubristic statements made TODAY will seem silly in 2047...

Anonymous said...

What are the names of each of the 2 kingdoms on the opposite sides of the river? ;)

Anonymous said...

"It's no small fact that the vast majority of the technology we enjoy today is due to males"

Yeah, because it had nothing to do with women being discouraged from careers in science through gender stereotyping.....

"It's a fact that men's brains are more specialized for scientific/analytic thinking."

Sure it is.......

Anonymous said...

I find it amusing that the one prediction of what might be possible by 2000 that has actually come true, online shopping, is the one they predicted would be a flop.

Anonymous said...

They made some pretty good predictions.

"By A.D. 2000, the U.S. population will have risen to about 330 million, and nine out of ten Americans will be living in supercities or their suburbs. But cities, like industry, will tend to decentralize; with instant communications, it will no longer be necessary for business enterprises to cluster together. Futurist Marshall McLuhan even foresees the possibility that many people will stay at home, doing their work via countrywide telecommunication."

Thank God it's 300 mil and not 330.
And yeah, about 80% of everyone lives in cities or suburbs. And yeah, lots of people work at home over the internet.

"In Rand's Delphi study, 82 scientists agreed that a permanent lunar base will have been established long before A.D. 2000 and that men will have flown past Venus and landed on Mars."

Ha ha! Yeah. People back then never asked themselves WHY? Why would we want to invest all that money to do it? What's out there for us? Death, that's what.

"Rand experts visualize fish herded and raised in offshore pens as cattle are today. Huge fields of kelp and other kinds of seaweed will be tended by undersea "farmers"—frogmen who will live for months at a time in submerged bunkhouses. "

They didn't have fish farms in 1966? And yeah, underwater bunkhouses. Again, why?

"Even the gloomiest forecasts assume a world population of not more than twice the present size, or 6 billion by the year 2000."

It's good to know that we've met the gloomiest forecast!

"One of the more dramatic changes will be climate control. Tempo scientists estimate that the entire electrical energy needs of the U.S. could be supplied by a dozen nuclear generating stations spotted around the country, each with a capacity on the order of 60,000 megawatts"

Yeah, but how could coal companies make money that way?

"Medicine is in a similar state of exhilarated anticipation. Already widely discussed today, artificial organs—hearts, lungs, stomachs—will be commonly available by the year 2000."

Ha ha! As if!! Now we are talking about crap like that for 2050 (maybe). Again, the social and ethical concerns that people have always get in the way of such progress. Also, while we're all curing everyone's cancer, we'll have to make even 'gloomier' predictions about world population.

"Artificial arms and legs could be motorized and computerized, perhaps linked to the brain, so that the wearer will find his impulse translated into action."

They got one right!

"Medical men foresee fetuses grown outside the uterus (in case women want to be spared the burdens of pregnancy) and human tissues grown to specifications."

Again, they never thought that people would be revolted by such a prospect.

"In general, drug control of personality will be widely accepted well before the year 2000. "

Ha ha!! Yeah, all except for the War on Drugs!

"Biologists think that before the century is out, they will have succeeded in changing the "information" contained in DNA. If so, it will become possible eventually to control the shape—or color—of men to come."

Yes. Michael Jackson could have been born white.

As for shopping, the housewife should be able to switch on to the local supermarket on the video phone, examine grapefruit and price them, all without stirring from her living room.

And she'll need all the grapefruit she can get because her ass will be continental.

By 2000, the machines will be producing so much that everyone in the U.S. will, in effect, be independently wealthy. With Government benefits, even nonworking families will have, by one estimate, an annual income of $30,000-$40,000 (in 1966 dollars).

If only that were true. Wasn't this written in the height of the Cold War where anything like this was frowned upon? Why would those doctors want to do any research or surgery if they could just sit on their asses at home and get a govt check for $40,000. (In 2000, that would be $200,000.)

This is probably the most accurate prediction in the lot.

"There are some who gloomily expect a society run by a small elected elite, presiding over a mindless multitude kept happy by drugs and circuses, much as in Huxley's Brave New World."

And the most disturbing phrase of the whole article: