You know what’s really fun? Reading the predictions of past futurists, such as this Los Angeles Times Magazine article from April 3, 1988. This is what people writing when I was a baby thought the city I live in now would look like this year. Weird! Also, largely wrong.
The article, written by Nicole Yorkin with illustrations by Blade Runner conceptual artist Syd Mead, follows a day in the life of the Morrows, an affluent family living in the LA of 2013. They have a robot named Billy Rae who is supposedly an irreplaceable part of their family, but who actually seems more trouble than he’s worth.
The largest discrepancy between future vision and present reality is the absence of the Internet, which is actually kind of surprising, given that it was written in 1988. It’s kind of bemusing to read predictions that approach reality, then veer off in a more mundane direction. The family has a personalized newspaper printed–can you imagine?–every morning. Now we have Twitter. Sixth-grader Zach carries a 3″ x 5″ “smart card” with his educational history to school. Ha! 3″ x 5″ is positively clunky. Instead of online banking, they video chat with an actual teller. When they want to watch a movie, they call the cable company to see what’s available. They also failed to anticipate cell phones.
Because this is LA, the routes everyone takes throughout the day are specifically delineated, and traffic reports are noted for all the freeways, which are regrettably still congested. (“Coasting down Louise Avenue, he noses his car across Rinaldi, turns left at the stoplight and creeps onto the 118 Freeway East…”) To help alleviate this, telecommuting and staggered work hours are heavily utilized. Also, the Metro Rail of this version of LA 2013 is apparently much better than it is in present reality.
Oh, and they teleconference with holograms. But they have to wear special glasses, which makes it less cool. And the job title “human interface manager” exists.
They were actually way off on their population estimates, though: they say that Los Angeles (County, presumably) had 12.8 million people in 1986, and projected 18.3 million for 2013. In reality, the City of Los Angeles is home to 3.8 million people, and the County has fewer than 10 million. They also underestimated the growth of Hispanic and Asian-American populations.
It makes me wonder: which predictions of ours will be right, and which will be comically wrong?