Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Futurecast from the futurepast

“Your food will cook in seconds instead of hours. Lamps will cut on and off automatically to fit the lighting needs in your rooms. Television ‘screens’ will hang on the walls.” These are predictions made in 1957 for America’s Independent Electric Light and Power Companies. Not bad. The main prediction, the one promised in the illustration  of cars driving themselves on freeways thanks to electricity  has not happened. Yet.

I enjoy looking at the future through the imaginations of people during a long-ago past. Just because it hasn’t turned out exactly as it did in the ad doesn’t mean some form of it won’t happen at some point. My favorite example of a prediction that came true in a form totally un-imagined at the time, is the picture-phone. For years we were promised we’d be able to see the person we were talking to on the telephone. The “examples” of this technology (2001: A Space Odyssey is a good one) showed a standard telephone with a video screen. That never really took off with consumers. But the Internet and cell phones did, and they make that sort of communication possible. When the Bell Telephone people imagined it many years ago they built on what technology already existed.

So it is with these finned behemoths motoring, driverless, on down some nearly empty freeway of the future. The artist built on what was known at the time. At the time the Interstate Highway System was still in the planning stages, with construction nearly a decade in the future.

A dirty fact not mentioned in this ad, which also predicts “twice as much electricity . . . in 1967,” is that most electric plants are fueled by coal. Yes, the prediction of more electricity has come true, but we have paid a very high price for it.

4 comments:

DEMiller said...

No wonder the freeway looks empty. Few people would be able to afford this. Most of us would be stuffed into busses and other public transportation if this prediction came true.

Postino said...

Dave, look how long it's taken for our society to even get electric cars introduced, much less accepted. And driverless cars just aren't going to happen anytime soon, if at all.

We're a long ways away from anything like what is in the ad, and I can see a lot of problems with it, too. All of a sudden there's a power outage and fifty cars crash into each other? Whoops.

DEMiller said...

We can't even run our air conditioners on hot days now, how could we run all cars electrically?

Postino said...

Dave, I'm just thinking of what happens to an electrical component of such a highway system if it goes bad, like a Christmas tree bulb going out. Instead of replacing a light bulb, the road would have to be dug up, and what then? The mind boggles at all the potential problems. Driverless cars on electrically controlled freeways will probably stay science fiction and not science fact.