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Sunday
Jun262011

Leisure in 2006 A.D. (1906)

What's the biggest problem people thought we'd be facing in the 21st century? Mid-air jetpack collisions? Disobedient robot servants? No, the greatest problem of our futuristic world was supposed to be too much leisure time.

It was believed that a push-button future of automation would bring about a world of unprecedented convenience and leisure. The question was only how to pass the time.

Many imagined a leisure-centric society driven by wholesome degeneracy, jet-setting golfers and sixteen hour work weeks. The mundane nature of such a simple push-button future would even drive people to suicide!

In reality, the amount of time spent on purely enjoyable activities hasn't really changed much in the last hundred years. But to steal a line from one W. Elias Disney, if we can dream it, we can do it! Feel free to leave your comments below about how to push ourselves into such a wondrous dystopia of automated despair.

The March 26, 1906 New Zealand Star told the story of leisure one hundred years into the future, through the lens of a more efficient and time-saving bath. Onward into our freshly scrubbed dystopia!

Probably the speediest dresser of our own day does not consume less than a quarter of an hour over his morning tub and the operation of drying himself. A hundred years hence people will be so avid of every moment of life, life will be so full of busy delight, that time-saving inventions will be at a huge premium. It is not because we shall be hurried in nerve-shattering anxiety, but because we shall value at its true worth the refining and restful influence of leisure, that we shall be impatient of the minor tasks of every day. The bath of the next century will lave the body speedily with oxgenated water, delivered with a force that will render rubbing unnecessary, and beside it will stand the drying cupboard, lined with some quickly moving arrangement of soft brushes, and fed with highly dessiccated air, from which, almost in a moment, the bather will emerge, dried, and with a skin gently stimulated and perhaps electrified, to clothe himself quickly and pass down the lift to his breakfast, which he will eat to the accompaniment of the morning's news, read out for the benefit of the family, or whispered into his ears by a talking machine.

 

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Reader Comments (5)

In the 1970s, one of my mother's enterprising friends, a professor at the local community college, got a National Endowment for the Humanities grant to help people cope with "the leisure crisis." My mother was hired under the grant to develop various cultural activities (going to plays etc.) for an unlikely group of retirees and Vietnam vets and a few random people who read about the program in the newspaper. Since the retirees were old white southerners and the vets were predominantly black and this was only a decade after the Civil Rights Act, there was some useful cultural exchange. (And I had the interesting experience of going with them to a racy production of Machiavelli's The Mandrake, which was quite shocking for the Bible belt.) But the leisure crisis never materialized.

July 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterVirginia Postrel

Excellent foresight. The world hasn't changed much? Maybe not for rich people, apart from iPhones and jets, average people have much much much more spare time than those hundred years ago.

There is one thing the writer forgot. People get used to their situations and forget in what wealth they live. They forget they can buy a massage shower extension for $15,- or hairdryer, they forget that elevators are everywhere, forget the talking machines, forget time in the office to check mail, facebook or make private calls, and they forget that people are actually paying bucks to go out camping just to experience a couple of days living 'without' modern luxury. Then they may joke about remarkable close predictions made 100 years ago.

1906? Primitive cars were in beta, planes did not exist, phone numbers had 1 digit and a police constable to put you through. Electricity wires were uncoated, radioactive beverage was for sale and your newborn kid had a fair chance of dying from a cold. That is, if you didn't die first and your kid wasn't confined to the street, cotton mills, factories or mines. Underpayed, 14 hours a day. The maps of the world looked completely different, older people in the street might have remembered being slaves.

What an accurate prediction for that time. Try a prediction yourself. Seriously, I love this website and 100 years from now it will be read. My prediction is that we really don't have a clue, but that ordinary life just goes on as it has been going on for centuries. We'll have fun with the kids, go to a park, listen to music, have an argument, enjoy a sunset, cook an egg and wonder what the future will bring.

July 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDutch Brink

Excellent foresight. The world hasn't changed much? Maybe not for rich people, apart from iPhones and jets, average people have much much much more spare time than those hundred years ago.

There is one thing the writer forgot. People get used to their situations and forget in what wealth they live. They forget they can buy a massage shower extension for $15,- or hairdryer, they forget that elevators are everywhere, forget the talking machines, forget time in the office to check mail, facebook or make private calls, and they forget that people are actually paying bucks to go out camping just to experience a couple of days living 'without' modern luxury. Then they may joke about remarkable close predictions made 100 years ago.

1906? Primitive cars were in beta, planes did not exist, phone numbers had 1 digit and a police constable to put you through. Electricity wires were uncoated, radioactive beverage was for sale and your newborn kid had a fair chance of dying from a cold. That is, if you didn't die first and your kid wasn't confined to the street, cotton mills, factories or mines. Underpayed, 14 hours a day. The maps of the world looked completely different, older people in the street might have remembered being slaves.

What an accurate prediction for that time. Try a prediction yourself. Seriously, I love this website and 100 years from now it will be read. My prediction is that we really don't have a clue, but that ordinary life just goes on as it has been going on for centuries. We'll have fun with the kids, go to a park, listen to music, have an argument, enjoy a sunset, cook an egg and wonder what the future will bring.-Burberry Leisure Shoes less

July 31, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjames

Old model cars are the roots of the modern cars today. So we need to treasure these cars since they are part of history and development of our culture.

August 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBrisbane Limo HIre

Cars will always be part of history whether they are brand new or old models.

October 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSamantha L.

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