Saturday, June 4, 2011

Past, Present, Future

Have you ever wondered what the world will look like in the future? The end of our existence (12/21/12) is looming ever nearer, we are getting fatter and stupider at an exponential rate, and soon robots will probably enslave all of mankind. At least we can enjoy cheeseburgers and steaks in pill form! Yum yum, medicinutrition!

And for those of us born without the creativity gene, have you ever noticed just how much speculation there is in the media about what the future will be like? Let's review some examples.

1) The Jetsons
Genre: Television Cartoon
Created: 1962
Based on: 2062
Notes: Hanna-Barbera, the other-white-meat mastermind of cartoons for audiences of all ages, created The Jetsons as a counterpart to their hit cartoon The Flintstones, which was based on prehistoric times. The Jetsons was created to be the model of a futuristic utopia of elaborate robotic contraptions, aliens, holograms, and whimsical inventions, but nowadays, it is apparent that the styles and themes of those times are reflected in this version of the future. In the following picture, the most obvious detail is the style of clothes and hair depicted on Jane, the mother of the family. Her style is clearly based off of 60's fashion. Jane is also a stay-at-home mother, but as they are a somewhat well-off family, she does nothing but lounge around and visit the beauty parlour while the maid, Rosie the robot, cleans up after the family. Rosie's voice, while rather metallic, is loosely based off of a black woman, who in the United States at that time, would commonly make her living as a maid to a rich white family. Even the build of Rosie's plump form and maid's uniform give away the racist stereotype shown here. Perhaps not the most accurate depiction of the future. Plus, I really don't think we are so ready to give up our precious ground yet. Ending note: the fiftieth anniversary of this gem in popular culture lands in 2012! Spooooky.
The Jetson family (clockwise from upper left) — Rosie (robot), George, Jane, Judy, Elroy, and Astro the dog.

2) Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
Genre: Book (turned movie)
Created: 1948
Based on: 1984
Notes: We all read this famed novel in high school, and we all analyzed it until we were blue in the face, but I'm going to take a more simplistic approach. The novel outlies a dystopia in which we are all controlled by an overseeing 'big brother' who watches our every move and manipulates our minds with ceaseless propaganda spouted from every nook and cranny. No one has any real freedom, even though they are hypnotized to believe that they are free to do as they please. The protagonist, Winston Smith, is a civil servant responsible for perpetuating the Party's propaganda by revising historical records to render the Party omniscient and always correct, yet he is eventually pushed to the breaking point of seeking rebellion against the government, eventually leading to his arrest, torture, and reconversion.

I'll make a simply statement rather than going into the gory details as we all have so many times before. Just how similar to our present day is this novel? Don't answer quickly, think about it. No one accuses us of 'thoughtcrime' in this day and age...or do they?

3) En L'An 2000 by Villemard
Genre: Art (Postcards)
Created: 1910
Based on: 2000
Notes: Even postcards can predict the future, if they so choose. A little background information from BoingBoing:

The Bibliothèque nationale de France has a wonderful gallery of illustrations by Villemard from 1910 imagining what life would be like in the year 2000. It's part of a larger exhibition titled Utopia: The Quest for the Ideal Society in the Western World. BB's Paris liaison, Alex Boucherot, editor of Fluctuat, kindly provided a rough translation of the Villemard gallery description:
These labels, most probably intended to be found in food products, were presented on panels of a dozen little scenes. They illustrate the way our grandparents imagined the year 2000. The inventions meant to improve everyday life are seen side by side with more erudite or searchful vocations, but curiously the clothing fashion remains that of the Belle Epoque!
I hope they're not an idealized society today! It seems that the general opinion of fashion sense has not changed one bit. Let's have a gander.
But how does the boy cranking the wheel gain his knowledge?

Some sort of building on wheels? Looks like a clunkier version of a train to me.

Why haven't we invented these machines yet?

I don't think this will catch on. People just aren't comfortable
with machines grooming them, even in this technological age.

Some sort of motorized bicycle...yeah, we have those.

Look, Walter, flying machines!

I won't even touch on this one. Moving on.

So there you have it. Having read this blog post, you can now effectively predict the future. Congratulations! Don't use this power for evil, though, because after all, we may never learn how to make motorized roller skates or racist robotic nannies. Such a sad outlook on the world I have! Never you mind, of course we will. 


  1. interesting observations. i never actually read 1984 cause i used sparknotes for school or something. i should read it now

  2. I always wondered what is the backstory for the Jetsons. Why do they live on those long poles. Why is there an unpenetrable layer of clouds. What happened to the surface.

  3. The world is going to look just as boring as it is now in 2012. I doubt theres going to me any major advances.