November 19, 2019

The Future According to the Past

“Smart homes, bountiful oceans and casual sexism: the future as envisaged from 1967
‘Yes, life will be richer, easier, healthier as space-age dreams come true.’

In 1967, the Ford Motor Company (then known as Philco-Ford) released the short film 1999 AD, which imagined daily life for a US family in the not-so-distant future. Screened today, the film is a fascinating and humbling glimpse at the ever-fraught business of predicting the future. As the viewer watches the Shore family – mother, father and young son – the film’s forecast of life at the turn of the 21st century stuns both with its prescience and its shortsightedness, all served up with a side of folksy, 1960s-style cheese. While many of the technological flourishes showcased – including instant communication, heaps of screen time and daily fitness tracking – ring true today, the film fails to imagine the broader cultural or environmental shifts to come. Particularly jarring is the relationship between the mother, a homemaker who dutifully prepares meals and takes on the majority of parenting duties, and her husband, a breadwinning astrophysicist who keeps a tight watch on his wife’s spending.

Also notable is the film’s sheen of techno-utopian optimism, in which future oceans aren’t polluted or threatened by rising temperatures, but teeming with a biodiverse array of creatures primed for the human plucking. Much more Leave It to Beaver than Black Mirror, the film exemplifies how, through the lens of capitalism, products and progress never exacerbate but gently whisk away problems, as well as the feedback loop of invention and commercial depiction through which corporations have helped to shape modern history.”

Read more

JJ Editor's Picks

"The top brass of China’s Communist Party (CCP) – its 370-strong Central Committee – recently emerged from the Fourth Plenum of the 2017 Party Congress. Such meetings, usually one a year, are key forums for policy discussion. At the previous..."

"Mayor Pete is having his moment — for the second time in the campaign. Surging to the head of the pack in a recent Iowa poll, and edging out Vice President Joe Biden in last quarter's money race, Buttigieg is staking his claim to being the..."

"careful reading of Walden; or, Life in the Woods makes it clear that Thoreau never intended his cabin to be a solitary hermitage, although fans and detractors alike often misunderstand this. It was more an author’s workshop than a fortress of..."

"In the fall of 2015, a rash of posters appeared around Copenhagen. One, in pink letters laid over an image of chicken eggs, asked, “Have you counted your eggs today?” A second — a blue-tinted close-up of human sperm — inquired, “Do they swim too..."

"While there’s plenty of disagreement about how the money should be used, almost everyone involved in public-policy debates agrees that it would be good if the federal government could collect more revenue without raising tax rates or reducing..."

"On a brisk November night, a solitary man wandered around the plaza outside the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts on the edge of downtown. He had just flown alone from New York to see his favorite comic, Louis C.K., and he had an extra..."

"Judaism has been described as many things: a culture, a people, a religion, a nationality, and more (including, according to answers given to the 2013 Pew survey of American Jews, a culinary disposition for bagels and smoked salmon or the..."

"US sex education is decades behind other countries. Right now, it isn’t even mandatory in every state. Add to that the awkwardness people feel about sex and bodies in general, top it with the idea of having to have these discussions in public..."