Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Life in 40 Years

I read this excellent article, written over forty years ago, about what life would be like in 2008:

It's amazingly accurate on so many different fronts, although it did manage to get a few things wrong. This has inspired me to try to make my own predictions for forty years out in the future. We all need to strive for something and hopefully predicting the future is a way to turn my optimism into something more tangible. With so many great trends I should be able extrapolate out enough things that a few will ultimately turn out to be correct. So, I'll follow in the same writing style:

It's 8am, Tuesday Nov. 18, 2048, and you are headed for an early morning business meeting. You hop out of your cave, waking to the rising sun to start your day. With the abundance of rules and regulations, most people find it easier to live in a cave, than to actually manage to live up to the strict building codes in 2048. Mostly by 2026, in general, the rules had became so complicated that few people without rule-interpretation PhDs were capable of understanding them, let alone their complex justifications. Cave real estate quickly became the hottest growing market, fear is looming that it will become regulated too, one day.

You quickly walk around the corner, giving your legs a brisk workout. You'd use a car, but most of them are still perpetually stuck in the great traffic jam of 2039, waiting for the courts to bring a resolution. It occurred quite randomly one day, when someone stopped in the middle lane and all of the cars backed up all of the way to South America. Since then, nobody's been able to move. If they could just solve the court case, they could start backing up a few feet to give way, but it is only at the beginning phase of the trial. The increase in legal requirements made being a lawyer the hottest job for quite a while, up until everyone realized that everyone else was now a lawyer and there wasn't anyone left over to make food, or farm, or take out the trash, or anything boring like that.

A lion attacks, so you bean it in the head with your trusty supply of old palm pilots, cell phones and RIMs, sending it fleeing in the direction it came. Species laws have tied everyone's hands, so only non-lethal means are acceptable defense for the ever increasing animal encounters. It's not like those devices would work anyways, most batteries are dead; the same laws that protected the animals also indirectly shutdown all of the power-plants. There hasn't been a working battery for at least a decade. Legal cases are pending.

You pass through an uncultivated field of various weird and indistinguishable plants. Although the species laws pushed everyone back to being vegetarian, the side effects of foolishly genetically altering crops made most things un-eatable, and many plants quite lethal. Corn is about the only thing editable, these days. That and medium sized rodents. Not unsuprisingly, corn dogs are now the hottest food source, just don't ask what is in them.

You throw a spear at a passing medium sized rodent. Being made form that unique material, wood has proven more malleable to work with than the uncut blobs of plastic or unrefined steel. With no available power or power tools, wood has certainly become more valuable, although there is a great demand to grind it up and make it into paper to fuel the rising legal tide.

You move on past your local tar pits, trying to avoid the poisonous odor as you go. Large piles of garbage have broken down, everywhere. With the great union walk-off of 2016 for trash-men still in progress -- now only slightly beating the world record for long-term union strikes recently held by the post office, until they went back to work three years ago -- the vast mounds of generated trash had nowhere to go, and no way to get there. Over thirty years of a strike initially produced some pretty high piles of trash, but as the underlying toxins ate through the concrete, ground, immobile subways and other subterranean structures, the hills shrank into rather compact, if only mildly contagious pits of black and bubbling goo. With so many pits, the options for trash disposal are quite a few. If you leave it alone, some problems will just solve themselves.

You catch up with your tribe, just in time to beat up the another one. OK, so, it wasn't really a business meeting, in so much as it was more of a normal territorial skirmish. It keeps everyone busy when it happens that a typical day is often spent idling away the time waiting for some non-protected species to get caught up in a net. Without electronic devices, entertainment like fashion shows and sporting events -- other than tossing lawyers to the lions -- have become quite rare indeed. One has to do something to occupy the mind, it's only a few more decades until they estimate that enough of the trials will be over to allow people to actually move a car or two.

Yep. The future, sounds like it will be quite fantastic. Although for some reason, I keep getting that sense of deja vous with some of my predictions. I can't place my finger on it, but it seems as if something is so similar about our direction, as it relates back to where we've been. What goes up, must come down? Whatever, as that old slightly famous song once chirped: the future is so bright we have to wear shades; at least until the plastic decays and we have to chuck them into one of those tar pits...


  1. funny, clever post. thanks. they say we typically overestimate how quickly change will occur - we think it will happen sooner that it does - but we also underestimate the impact change will have when it arrives...change is bigger than we expect. fasten your seatbelt...

  2. Hi Horatio,

    Thanks for the encouragement. Your right, most things take way long than we expect, and then the changes are way more significant than we realize. The web is a great example, it took forever, but it has changed the world in good and bad ways. We now get media reports from the darkest most secretive corners of the world, along with spam on how to enhance our sex lives. Lucky us.