(Noted News) — An article from a February, 1966 issue of TIME Magazine suggests that we used to have much higher hopes for ourselves. Based on the forecasts of influential people from technology, engineering, health care, and other fields, the essay suggested that by the year 2000, the US would be a utopia.
The essay predicted that every person would be relatively rich and wouldn’t have to work; that even non-working households would bring in an income of $30,000 a year. Today that would be just under $250,000 a year.
The essay goes on to posit that the country would essentially be industrially independent, free of hunger, free of homelessness, free of disease, and the only major problem would be figuring out how to spend all the free time.
The essay also predicts technology that dwarfs anything we have today, including underground superhighways filled with hovercrafts as a solution to the problem of traffic.
“Planes carrying 1,000 passengers and flying just under the speed of sound will of course be old hat. The new thing will be transport by ballistic rocket, capable of reaching any place on earth in 40 minutes”
They also believed that we would have put astronauts on Mars and been able to fly past Venus.
“In Rand‘s Delphi study, 82 scientists agreed that a permanent lunar base will have been established long before A.D. 2000 and that men will have flown past Venus and landed on Mars.”
An especially exciting part of the prediction is the “frogmen” who will live on the ocean floor farming up all the protein-rich crops, solving our food supply problem.
“Huge fields of kelp and other kinds of seaweed will be tended by undersea “farmers”—frogmen who will live for months at a time in submerged bunkhouses. The protein-rich underseas crop will probably be ground up to produce a dull-tasting cereal that eventually, however, could be regenerated chemically to taste like anything from steak to bourbon. This will provide at least a partial answer to the doomsayers who worry about the prospect of starvation for a burgeoning world population.”
Most disabilities were supposed to be a thing of the past, with blind people being able to use a “pocket radar” to scan their surroundings and relay the information through vibration, almost like a portable sonar device. People who had lost limbs were all supposed to have computerized artificial limbs connected to the brain that they could use (and to be fair, great progress has actually been made with bionic limbs, but they’re not widely available yet).
Experts in the 60s believed that there would be so much wealth and so many machines doing everything for us, that only a small percentage of people would actually have to work, and the rest would be paid regardless as there “just won’t be enough work to go around.”
“Thus, society will seem idle, by present standards. According to one estimate, only 10% of the population will be working, and the rest will, in effect, have to be paid to be idle. This is not as radical a notion as it sounds. Even today, only 40% of the population works, not counting the labor performed by housewives or students.”
Sadly, these predictions are now more than two decades late, and all of these things seem mostly unattainable, so it’s hard to know if these experts were dead wrong, or if something unexpectedly changed in our society to alter the course of the future.
The essay notes that while their predictions might seem like a “naive form of hubris,” even the most conservative experts back then still had a sense of freedom and optimism for the future. Ironically, the article ostensibly dismissed the very thing that so many people are concerned about today:
“There are some who gloomily expect a society run by a small elected elite, presiding over a mindless multitude kept happy by drugs and circuses, much as in Huxley’s Brave New World. But most futurists believe that work will still be the only way to gain responsibility and power.”