A Look at 2010, From 1972: Our Real Future Sucks


We’re living in 2010, the Year We Make Contact, but it doesn’t really seem like the “future.” But what did folks in 1972 think it would be like in 2010?

Predictions about the future are always a sticky business, because honestly, let’s face it: As rote and predictable as humans can be, we can also be surprisingly ingenious every now and then. There’s no way to tell what advancements will come in the future, and what advancements are just a flight of fancy – sure, we may not have flying cars or be living in colonies on the Moon, but how many people in the 60s or 70s could imagine that we’d be walking around with little handheld phone-devices that are exponentially more powerful than the giant mainframe computers of their day?

Some fiction deals with the problem by just making up dates that seem logical (like Star Trek), but then we run into the problem that there weren’t actually any Eugenics Wars in 1999, so that makes it hard to believe. If we make it to 2100 without the robot uprising, then we’ll know Mega Man‘s 20XX was a bunch of bullcrap, too. Others try to fudge dates, like the various Gundam metaseries that simply use different calendars: What’s U.C. 0079 in real time? Who cares!

But then there’s the speculative fiction that just tries to imagine what the future will be like in a given year. Now that we’re in Arthur C. Clarke’s 2010: The Year We Make Contact, one blogger on the Internet by the name of Daniel Sinker dug up a book he’d read in his childhood called 2010: Living in the Future, written in 1972.

So, what did author Geoffrey Hoyle get right about the future? Well, his hypothetical “vision desks” and the like for schoolwork are pretty similar to online videoconferencing – and methods that are actually used to teach kids with remote guest speakers – so that’s mostly on the money. As is the idea of telecommuting, and increased networks of public transportation. Some of his ideas, like the people who deliver groceries to you, actually exist in the form of individual services, and while his “series of tubes” is actually literal and not the Internet, at least he was more of a visionary than Senator Ted Stevens.

On the other hand, he got a lot wrong, too. Our actual future isn’t quite as ideal (3-day work weeks? Count me the hell in!), his visions of how we’d take showers and cook our food are hilariously overcomplicated, and it’s clear to see that this was written by someone who was very much in the mindset of “Give Peace a Chance.” Perhaps we’d all be better off living in Mr. Hoyle’s version of 2010. Then again, we’d all still have horrible ’70s fashion, so maybe we’re better off in that way.

What are some modern visions of our future that you think will be hilariously wrong? For one, we probably won’t be settling the Solar System in 2035 – sorry, NASA.

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