Sunday, January 27, 2008


There's a lot of impulse these days to cast futurism as a hopeless exercise and mock self-styled futurists as pie-in-the-sky dreamers. This is invariably accompanied by sardonic references to flying cars, atomic kitchens and robot maids. Thing is, a lot of mid-century futurists weren't that far off, as the Paleo-Future blog regularly notes. And a few of them were almost reassuringly accurate. Consider this piece from 1950 predicting the year 2000, posted on Paleo-Future's sister blog Older Than Me. A few excerpts:
A new world unifying power - the United States - will have taken its place in the center of international affairs: forging a new "empire," different from Britain's, different from Rome's, indeed not an empire at all in the old sense, but a new core, a new catalytic force.
Rather prescient, no?
By the year 2000 some sort of world federation idea should have taken real form, with the United States, because of its commercial interest in the development of other lands, because of the blood it will have shed in their behalf, holding a lot of votes.
Or, as it happens, holding exactly as many as every tin-pot kleptocracy and failed state. Sigh.
The first man-made star will be circling around the earth by the year 2000.
Amazing that they failed to foresee that Sputnik was only 7 years away!
The nation's industrial and agricultural plant will be able to support 300 million persons 50 years from now - twice the present population.
U.S. population according to the 2000 Census? 281,421,906. Not bad.
Medicine by the year 2000 will have advanced the length of life of women to an expectation of nearly 80 and of men to over 75.

Some movie theaters of A.D. 2000 may be dome-shaped, with ceiling and walls arching together like the sky. These surfaces would be the “screen.”
I could keep quoting this forever. It's a pretty long article, and most of it is quotable. Read the whole thing, if you're into that sort of thing.

This sort of thing really feeds my internal struggle between my affinity for this sort of mid-century optimism about mankind's ability to craft a better future and my Dark Lutheran conviction that we must not put our hope in this world doomed to the flames. Not to mention my deep-seated distrust of any sort of optimism that approaches utopianism, realizing that no force has unleashed more horrors on humanity than the vain conceit that man can build a perfect world. So where should I find a middle ground? As terrible of a film as it was on so many levels, one line from The Day After Tomorrow sums up my understanding of a Christian's proper orientation to the future of this world: "save as many as you can". Our mission is not to "save the world", or endeavor for any grand solution to society's ills, political or otherwise, but rather to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned, and comfort the dying, never forgetting that this. world. will. burn.


elephantschild said...

I've been thinking about this for a few days and I think this is the reason I'm less worked up about the presidential election than one might otherwise expect.

I can enjoy the "game" of it all because I don't really expect that the "right" choice will usher in some sort of glorious utopia.

Why expect a dying world to act like anything other than a dying world?

Dark Lutheran, indeed!

Evan said...

Amen, sister.