I'm a faithful reader of Matt Novak's Paleo-Future blog. His "look into the future that never was" never disappoints, especially if you like laughing at foolish futurists (because you never lulled yourself into a prepubescent sleep with images of jet packs and flying cars, right?). I'm most fond of Novak's posts about children imagining the future. There's the 14-year-old from Milwaukee in 1901 who imagines a advertisement on the 199th floor of a 120-floor skyscraper in the year 2001 that reads: "Old People Restored to Youth by Electricity, While You Wait." And there's another 14-year-old from Milwaukee, also imagining 2001, who predicted that "The people of the Earth will be in close communication with Mars by being shot off in great cannons. The cannon ball will be hollow to contain food and drink."
My favorite might be Letters by 4th Graders to the Year 2000. "These kids really hit all the major futurism topics of the 20th century," Novak says in his setup, "robot maids, moving sidewalks, flying cars, meal pills, push button everything, education through television, socialism, and candy. Lots of candy." Here's the future these kids imagined:
In the year 2000 I think that cars can fly in the air as fast as they want to without using gas. You can get whatever you want, including candy. Houses will be way up in the sky. You can have robots to do the housework for the mothers. Instead of walking, the the sidewalks will move for you. Your friend, Laurie Smith
In the year 2000 I think thay kids will be taught at home on their TV. The army will be using lazor guns. Cars will be like spaceships and the strreetlights will be on long tall poles. Another means of transportation will be push buttons. Select where you want to go, push a button, step through a door, and you'll be where you wanted to be. Food will be in tablet form, put on water on the tablet and your food will be on your plate. Sincerely yours, R.C. Brown
I think in the year 2000 the earth will be much more polluted than it is. I also think that we will have no more school, and cars can go as fast as they want without getting a ticket. Sincerely, Yolanda Tejeda
Want more? We asked Novak all about Paleo-Future for the Utne Reader podcast.
Image by Bruce Mcall.