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Saturday
Apr162011

Giant Babies of the Future (1937)

Many people in the 20th century assumed that the average citizen of the 21st century would be taller. However, a smaller (and for our purposes admittedly more entertaining) contingent assumed that advances in chemistry would breed hilariously super-sized babies. Having tipped the scales at ten pounds and ten ounces when I was born, it may be difficult to convince someone like my mother that this wasn't shockingly accurate; but we haven't quite reached Paul Bunyan proportions as a species just yet.

The article below from the November 21, 1937 issue of the San Antonio Light (San Antonio, TX) references the H.G. Wells novel The Food of the Gods. In the book, scientists create a chemical called "boomfood" which causes rats to expand to the size of ponies and makes people grow to be forty feet tall. The piece goes on to explain that Dr. Albert F. Blakeslee had created a new "elixir of growth" called colchicine which may bring about this super-sized world of the future. Of course, colchicine wasn't some magical elixir that would turn people to giants -- nor was it really even "created" by Dr. Blakeslee -- but it's certainly fun to think about what a world overrun with giant killer caterpillars might look like.

1937 Nov 21 San Antonio Light

Wednesday
Apr132011

Pet Horse of the Future (1905)

The dawn of the Automobile Age made a lot of people wonder what would come of the horse. In the year 1900 author John Elfreth Watkins even predicted the complete eradication of all animals, aside from the few that we might keep in zoos. Some thought a new era of machines would quickly make animal labor inferior and therefore animals would have to justify their existence, continuously proving their worth so that humans wouldn't just wipe them out as our own population swelled.

This cartoon by Albert Levering appeared in a 1905 issue of Life magazine and imagines the lap-dog sized horse of a thousand years hence. It seems the artist may have been on to something, as one way animals seem to prove their worth is through being overwhelmingly adorable. Squee, etc.

This cartoon can also be found in the book Predictions.


Thursday
Apr072011

Picnics on Mars in the Year 2012 (1962)

 

 

We've looked at a lot of the ways in which advertisers have positioned themselves as being in touch with "the future." The future's been used to advertise appliance stores, power companies, airlines, phone companies, aluminumTVs, beer and refrigerators, refrigerators, refrigerators; pretty much any consumer product or service you can think of.

By associating their brand with cutting edge design and glamour, advertisers are afforded the leniency of fantasy and fluff while still maintaining some level of respectability. The future is a perfect foil for conservative brands -- even something as boring as an insurance company -- to project fanciful ideas rooted in the long-term thinking expected of them.

The advertisement below is for the insurance company Michigan Mutual Liability and appeared in the September 12, 1962 Record-Eagle (Traverse City, MI). It predicts everything from picnics on Mars to oddly shaped money in 2012, significant for the insurance company as its centennial year.

HAVE A HAPPY TRIP! By 2012 AD, Mars may make a nice site for a family picnic, via your space craft, with a few stops for refreshments at space platforms along the way. Earth's Moon may be the site of our suburbs. Our Sun with an absolute surface temperature of 6000 degrees, is apt to be too warm for a pleasure trip. But Saturn, Jupiter, Uranus, Mercury and Venus may be more hospitable, and there are of course, trillions of other planets and suns beyond our Solar System to tempt the space traveler.

This month marks our 50th birthday. While it's fun to look back on our past half century, we think it's even more interesting to look ahead to our next one. And here's what we plan for the year 2012:

Whether "autos" are traveling on "space beams" to other planets, operating beneath oceans, on compressed air, or are radar controlled... we plan to be far ahead in anticipating our policyholders' insurance needs as we have been in the past. (For instance, we started providing auto insurance when horse drawn vehicles were still a relative commonplace. We pioneered in offering motorists discounts that grow larger each accident and claim free year. More recently, we introduced a pay-as-you-drive plan that lets motorists spread costs on a monthly basis.)

Entire communities may be enclosed beneath huge plastic domes providing community-wide air-conditioning in 2012. Or they may float in space... or be underground. Wherever they are, we plan to provide our homeowner policyholders with the greatest amount of financial protection practical, against personal liability, property damage, casualty losses... just as we do now. (We pioneered in combining four major homeowner insurance needs in a single package. And Now -- you can pay for your Homeowners Insurance, with us, on a monthly basis.)

The shape of money may change, but we'll pass on all savings, all economies, to our policyholders in the year 2012... just as we do today. (Michigan Mutual Liability Company, you see, is owned by its policyholders -- operated for their benefit, so they're entitled to the most complete insurance it's practical to provide... at the lowest cost consistent with sound management.)

We plan to continue our growth pattern, too... having already become one of the ten largest companies of our kind since we pioneered with Workmen's Compensation Insurance back in 1912.

Secure your future... Insure with Michigan Mutual

 

Wednesday
Apr062011

Tour the Birthplace of the Internet (Obscura Day 2011)

Do you live in Los Angeles? Join me April 9th at UCLA for Obscura Day! I'll be hosting an event with Brad Fidler and Leonard Kleinrock in the room where the first Internet message was sent in 1969! Reserve your tickets today!

Come be one of the very first to rediscover the room where the Internet was born. Almost forgotten in history and used for years as an unremarkable classroom at UCLA, it will reopen as a museum this July. Get there first and stand in the very spot that the first modem sent the first message ever, and see photos and documents from those first days of the Internet that have been lost to obscurity for decades.

Brad Fidler, director of the upcoming Kleinrock Internet Heritage Site and Archive (known colloquially by its room number, 3420 Boelter Hall), will introduce the history of this revolutionary site and the stories of the people who gave this room its significance. What was the first illegal use of the Internet? Why did everything always crash? Why did the graduate students give everything dirty acronyms, and draw horns on a machine called the Interface Message Processor, or, the (perhaps evil) IMP?

Leonard Kleinrock, the man who is credited with doing the math and running the simulations that made the early Internet possible – and still runs it today – will be on hand to answer questions and tell everyone the story about exactly what it was like to send the first message ever.

You’ll also be encouraged to think why some people think this site is irrelevant, and why others believe it might soon be the most famous place in Los Angeles.

Tuesday
Apr052011

Marriage 100 Years From Now (1933)

In the year 1933 physician Ira S. Wile made some wild predictions about what marriage would look like 100 years in the future. And although it's not yet 2033, we can still be thankful that his predictions for our world just 22 years from now were wildly off the mark.

Dr. Wile imagined a bureau of records under government control that would begin monitoring people the day they were born. He predicted that everything about a person would be recorded; from someone's physical and mental defects at birth to the subjective progress and imperfections of that person throughout their life. Then, when someone wished to be married, they would be assessed by bureaucrats and found a suitable mate based upon case cards that have been cross-indexed against members of the opposite sex. These assessments would be made based on class and desirable physical and mental traits. I don't know about you guys, but after reading the words "case cards" and "cross-indexed" I'm gonna have to take a long, cold shower. Reproduction by committee gets me so hot...

Just three years earlier the 1930 movie Just Imagine looked at this very same issue. Set in the high-tech dystopian world of 1980, the musical sci-fi film (yes, I said musical science fiction) follows the forbidden love of two people that the government's marriage tribunal won't allow to marry. At least in Wile's future it sounds like people can conceive their children the fun old-fashioned messy way rather than just popping two bits into a vending machine.

The entire article, published in the June 25, 1933 Oakland Tribune, appears below.

1933 June 25 Oakland Tribune

While it might be somehow easier -- though still repugnant -- to understand State controlled sexual reproduction and marriage in a pre-WWII era, we must remember that human eugenics didn't die with Nazism, as you can see in this clip from 1967.

 

Monday
Apr042011

Paleofuture Magazine (Issue 1: Food)

The first issue of Paleofuture Magazine is now available for purchase! The print version will set you back $11.99 and includes a free PDF download that looks great on your futuristic computing machine. Or you can download the PDF version alone for just $1.99.

Paleofuture Magazine's first issue is all about food, with 42 pages of articles, reviews, and rare images, most of which have never been seen before on the Paleofuture blog. Contributors include Bob SassoneJosh Calder, Ryan V. Lower, Fábio Fernandes, and Mike Frodsham. Order your copy today!

Sunday
Mar272011

Ebert's Art Film Revolution (1987)

OMNI magazine interviewed Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert about the future of movies for their June, 1987 issue. Ebert makes some bold and accurate predictions about how a revolution in the delivery and distribution of movies will open up the "art film" market, allowing people greater access to movies that may not make financial sense to screen in the theaters of smaller cities. An excerpt from the interview appears below.

OMNI: How will the fierce competition between television and the movies work out in the future?

EBERT: We will have high-definition, wide-screen television sets and a push-button dialing system to order the movie you want at the time you want it. You'll not go to a video store but instead order a movie on demand and then pay for it. Videocassette tapes as we know them now will be obsolete both for showing prerecorded movies and for recording movies. People will record films on 8mm and will play them back using laser-disk/CD technology.

I also am very, very excited by the fact that before long, alternative films will penetrate the entire country. Today seventy-five percent of the gross from a typical art film in America comes from as few as six --six-- different theaters in six different cities. Ninety percent of the American motion-picture marketplace never shows art films. With this revolution in delivery and distribution, anyone, in any size town or hamlet, will see the movies he or she wants to see. It will be the same as it's always been with books. You can be a hermit and still read any author you choose.

Later in the interview Ebert says that "by the year 2000 or so, a motion picture will cost as much money as it now costs to publish a book or make a phonograph album." Ebert was right, but it wasn't just film production and distribution costs that came down. With the rise of book self-publishing with sites like Lulu, the democratization of online music distribution with CD Baby, and the fact that I just can't keep up with the staggering volume of "puppy tries to roll over but can't OMG how adorable" videos, the internet really has fundamentally shaken up the media landscape.

 

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