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Entries in housework (19)

Wednesday
Aug172011

Super-Intelligent Ape Chauffeurs by the Year 2020

Planet of the Apes (1968) http://movieposterdb.com

Before it became a magazine, The Futurist was launched as a newsletter in 1967. The second issue was released in April of that year and is filled with some amazing predictions of yestermorrow. The "cover story," if you will, is by Glenn T. Seaborg (the dude who discovered plutonium in 1941) and is titled "Women and the Year 2000."

There's a lot to dissect in this piece, and I'm sure we'll look at it in its entirety soon, but I just wanted to share a small section titled "Intelligent Apes Become Chauffeurs." Yeah, you read that right. The RAND Corporation came out with a report that imagined we'd be breeding super-intelligent animals to perform manual labor by the year 2020. It certainly brings to mind this article from 1926 that thought future animals would have to continually justify their existence if they didn't want to become extinct.

Oh yeah, and those damn dirty apes.*

Intelligent Apes Become Chauffeurs

For housewives of the 21st century who prefer animate rather than mechanical domestic servants, there may be a choice other than the robot. About two years ago, the RAND Corporation came out with a Report on a Long Range Forescasting Study (by T. Gordon and Olaf Helmer) which forecasts future developments in a number of important areas. The RAND panel mentioned that by the year 2020 it may be possible to breed intelligent species of animals, such as apes, that will be capable of performing manual labor. During the 21st century, those houses that don't have a robot in the broom closet could have a live-in ape to do the cleaning and gardening chores. Also, the use of well-trained apes as family chauffeurs might decrease the number of automobile accidents.

 

*Note that Planet of the Apes didn't come out until 1968, a year after this prediction was published in The Futurist.

 

Saturday
Jul042009

Letters by 4th Graders to the Year 2000 (1976)

The July 4, 1976 Grand Prairie Daily News (Grand Prairie, TX) published letters written by 4th graders, addressed to people of the year 2000. Just as the newspaper did, I've left the spelling and grammatical errors. Because if we've learned anything at the Paleo-Future blog, it's that kids are stupid.

We'll begin by looking at letters by young Laurie Smith, Yolanda Tejeda, and R.C. Brown. These kids really hit all the major futurism topics of the 20th century: robot maids, moving sidewalks, flying cars, meal pills, push button everything, education through television, socialism, and candy. Lots of candy.

 

Dear Janice,

In the year 2000 I think that cars can fly in the air as fast as they want to without using gas. You can get whatever you want, including candy. Houses will be way up in the sky. You can have robots to do the housework for the mothers. Instead of walking, the the sidewalks will move for you.

Your friend,

Laurie Smith

 

Dear John,

In the year 2000 I think thay kids will be taught at home on their T.V. The army will be using lazor guns. Cars will be like spaceships and the strreetlights will be on long tall poles. Another means of transportation will be push buttons. Select where you want to go, push a button, step through a door, and you'll be where you wanted to be.

Food will be in tablet form, put on water on the tablet and your food will be on your plate.

Sincerely yours,

R.C. Brown

 

Dear Laurie,

I think in the year 2000 the earth will be much more polluted than it is.

I also think that we will have no more school, and cars can go as fast as they want without getting a ticket.

The government will pay every person as much as they want without them having to work. I also think we will be out of energy for stores or anything that uses fuel in the year 2000.

Sincerely,

Yolanda Tejeda

 

Previously on Paleo-Future:

 

Monday
Dec012008

Robot Christmas (1958)


Well Medicated recently compiled a number of paleo-futuristic images (mostly stolen from the always-excellent blog Modern Mechanix), including this one from the December, 1958 issue of Popular Electronics magazine. The robot family of the future sure is adorable, putting up their Christmas tree and all. If you recall, Parade magazine had a more terrifying depiction of the robo-dog of the future back in 1959.

If you love this style of robot, might I recommend the tremendous artwork of Eric Joyner? A delight for all robots, big and small.

A special thanks to BoingBoing and Jeremy for the heads up on this robo-family find.

Read more:
Santa's Reindeer Out of Work (1900)
Will robots make people obsolete? (1959)
Closer Than We Think! Robot Housemaid (1959)
Call a Serviceman (Chicago Tribune, 1959)
The Electronic Brain Made Beef Stew (1959)
Something must be wrong with its radar eye! (Chicago Tribune, 1959)
How Experts Think We'll Live in 2000 A.D. (1950)

Sunday
Jul202008

If I Had a Robot (1984)


My girlfriend Malorie sometimes tells the story of a robotics video she watched in 8th grade Science class. One particular robot in this video had a broken wheel and found itself unable to turn. (Or, more appropriately, the robotics team that was steering the hunk of metal found themselves unable to turn the robot.) Malorie started sobbing softly.

Try as it might the robot could not make its desired turn. Its little broken wheel jerked and jumped, but to no avail. Malorie then started crying uncontrollably, quietly pleading, "Why won't someone help that robot! All he wants to do is pick up the ball and put it in the middle so that he can get some points!"

This may be an extreme example, but it illustrates our ability to anthropomorphize robots. We've seen that humanity's vision of robot servants is even older than the term robot itself but the household humanoid robot is still a technology of the future. The latter may have as much to do with cultural roadblocks to human-wannabes than technological hurdles.

The introduction to the 1984 book If I Had a Robot: What to Expect from the Personal Robot speaks of this desire to see the artificial, mechanical man become "real" (provided they don't get out of hand). The book gives readers an imaginative peek at the personal robots just around the (1984) corner.

A selection from the first chapter of the book appears below.

Let us not shilly-shally in this matter; robots are interesting only insofar as they act like animals - nay, like people. The great romance of robotics is rooted in our longing for these artificial creatures to behave like natural creatures.

 

Our images are muddled, of course. We look on robots as forbidden fruit - the Golem, brought to life by the improper use of arcane knowledge. We fear them as we fear the Frankenstein monster . . . deliciously. At the same time, we like them, root for them, support them, hope they'll turn our brave, strong, good, and caring. It's hard to say now whether Isaac Asimov, writing the stories collected in I Robot in the faraway thirties and forties, was creating new concepts, or recording the chiefly unarticulated views and expectations of society at the time. But certainly, Asimov's magnificently crafted stories have largely determined the expectations of everybody in the Western World with respect to robots. With due respect to writers Capek, Williamson, Saberhagen, and the others. Asimov has dominated robotics thought for some decades now. How many of us have been waiting, waiting for those critters to start appearing among us?

And haven't we been lucky that Asimov is such an optimist! Logical purists may cavil at the Three Laws of Robotics, complaining, perhaps with reason, that the laws are inconsistent. That really doesn't matter. The robots in the stories are so likable - with an occasional rogue among them - that we want to deal with them directly, to get to know them, to be friends. All the automatic defenders and destroyers, are as nothing in our imagination, compared with Asimov's interesting creations, who try to make things work out for the better.

That's quite an accomplishment. Whether he created it all out of whole cloth or crystallized the latent hopes and dreams of people in general, Asimov has powerfully influenced popular thought on robotics - for the good, many of us think. Certainly the Star Wars robots are in the Asimov mold, determined by the life experience of George Lucas and his associates, who grew up in Asimov robot tradition.

And what about reality, if there is such a thing?


See also:
Will Robots Make People Obsolete? (1959)
We'll All Be Happy Then (1911)
Maid Without Tears (1978)
The Future of Personal Robots (1986)
Robo-Shop (1989)
Japanese Retail Robots (1986)
In a Cashless Future, Robots Will Cook (1996)
The Robot is a Terrible Creature (1922)
Our Dread of Robots (1932)

 

Tuesday
May202008

Will robots make people obsolete? (1959)


The January 4, 1959 issue of Parade magazine published a piece by Sid Ross titled, "Will Robots Make People Obsolete?"

The piece in its entirety appears below in all its dystopian glory. Who knew that Parade could be so dark? The piece claims that in the future "mankind's major struggle will be against boredom, with the suicide rate zooming as people lose the race."

The heaviness of the piece, along with the accompanying illustration, raise so many questions. Chief among them, why would a family of four gleefully jump into that menacing robot's mouth?


Secondly, why would Father be fed an entire pumpkin? For that matter, why is this evil machine feeding him at all?


Is Robo-Dog attacking Little Johnny for a reason? Maybe Johnny pulled Robo-Dog's metal tail one too many times. I'm willing to accept the possibility that Johnny deserves what's coming to him.


Lastly, despite the abject horror on Mother's face, the robot servant appears to be doing a damn fine job. Baby is happy and there's no indication that supper is burning. Granted, we have to assume that Mother was less-than-gingerly placed into that trash can by Mr. Octo-Eyes.


(UPDATE: I've been informed that the illustration for this piece was done by the incredible Jim Flora.)

Parade Magazine
January 4, 1959

All over the world and on the colonies in outer space, everyone is excited about the most popular event of the year. All human activity stops as people breathlessly await the outcome of the world's championship tiddlywinks contest.

 

In this world of the future mankind has little else to be excited about. For earth has been transformed into a "paradise" where incredibly clever robots take care of things. They do the farming, the factory work, run the trains, regulate traffic, enforce the law, cook the meals, clean the houses and distribute a vast wealth of goods and services to which every human being is entitled - merely by being alive.

Almost nothing familiar on earth today will survive in this robotized world of the future. For instance:

  • Only a privileged few will have the right to work at a job.
  • The dream of youngsters will not be to grow up rich and successful, but to be one of the favored few workers.
  • Juvenile delinquency will take the form of vandalism against robots.
  • Everyone wil aspire for some kind of "blue ribbon" for an amateur activity, hobby or sport - possibly an award for the best ship model built out of matchsticks or the most colorful rock garden in town.
  • Heroes and celebrities will be the persons who devise new parlor games.
Withering Family Life
  • Mankind's major struggle will be against boredom, with the suicide rate zooming as people lose the race.
  • Governments and family life will wither away. Public officials will be replaced by Board of Supervisors to "umpire" games, sports and recreation, and also administer competitive exams which would decide who could work at the few essential jobs left for human beings to do.
Fantastic? Certainly, by our everyday standards of progress. But every one of these dizzying pictures of life in the future could conceivably become real - when and if man creates robots to do his work for him.

 

Man's mastery of science and technology is advancing by tremendous leaps and bounds. One of his major goals ever since the caveman harnessed an ox to a primitive plow, has been to make something else replace human muscle power. The ultimate "something else" is the robot that acts and thinks like a man.

For the robot-powered society described here, Parade enlisted the fertile imagination and scientific knowledge of Isaac Asimov, an associate professor of bio-chemistry at the Boston University School of Medicine and a writer of science-fiction stories, including a series on robots.

Awful to Face

Wondrous as Asmiov's robotized world of the future may seem, the man who dreamed it up wants no part of it. Says Asimov, "I'll be glad that I will have long since been dead rather than face life in such a society!"

In the transportation systems of the future, electronically guided robots will be the bus and truck drivers. There may be robots that can repair TV sets, fix the plumbing, run IBM machines, act as traffic policemen, read galley proofs, serve as "information" attendants at railway stations.

"In theory," says Asimov, "there is no reason why any human job cannot be done by a machine if we can invent a robot brain as complex and as small as the human brain. Under such circumstances, there is no reason why a robot couldn't mentally be capable of doing anything a human can.

"But who will need man then? Man will die off of simple boredom and frustration." The reason, Asimov points out, is that comparatively few people can be usefully creative.

Consider the Joneses, who in a robotized world, have lost their usefulness:

Mr. and Mrs. Jones would have it easy. Their robot butler would awaken them gently, serve them breakfast in bed and wheel away and wash the dirty dishes. The robot valet and maid would choose the day's attire and dress them.

"Free" for the day, Mr. and Mrs. Jones must decide what to do. Mrs. Jones doesn't have the drudgery of housekeeping. Mr. Jones has no job to go to, since robots are doing nearly all the work. Of course, he could spend the day tinkering with his sailboat, although he knows a robot could tune u p the auxiliary engine more efficiently. Mrs. Jones may decide to work in the garden. Her robot could do this better, but she jealously guards this privilege.

Some people - the "aristocracy" in this strange robot society - would be entitled to work.


See also:
Closer Than We Think! Robot Housemaid (1959)
Monsanto House of the Future (1957-1967)
Monsanto House of the Future (1957)
Call a Serviceman (Chicago Tribune, 1959)
The Electronic Brain Made Beef Stew (1959)
Something must be wrong with its radar eye! (Chicago Tribune, 1959)
Frigidaire Kitchen of the Future (1957)
Monsanto House of the Future Brochure (1961)
How Experts Think We'll Live in 2000 A.D. (1950)

 

Monday
May052008

Newton the Household Robot (1989)


Ablestmage.com (via Waxy.org) points us to terrific video of a personal household robot named Newton. "He" was marketed by the company SynPet in 1989 with this VHS promotional video.

If you do nothing else, (in the short time we have here on Earth), at least skip ahead to minute 6:20 in the video. The Newton theme song just became the unofficial theme song of the Paleo-Future blog.

This is Newton. Technologically advanced, user-friendly, and practical. In future homes, personal robots will be commonplace. Newton, by SynPet, brings the future home to you.

 

[Cue awesome theme song]

You'll be amazed what he can do!
Meet Newton.
Where future and fun go together!
Meet Newton.
He'll be your friend forever! Whenever!
Meet Newton.
He'll be a part of your family!
Meet Newton.
He's a helping hand through technology!
He's a dream come true, bringing the future home to you! He's watching you!
Meet Newton.
Newton!


 

The still images above were stolen from Megadroid.com, which has more great photos of the Newton.

I've rambled about robot servants on more than a few occasions, but what do you think? Why haven't personal household robots such as these found a market?

See also:
Maid Without Tears (1978)
The Future of Personal Robots (1986)
Robo-Shop (1989)
Japanese Retail Robots (1986)
In a Cashless Future, Robots Will Cook (1996)

Thursday
Mar202008

Nirvana Draws Nearer (1959)

I'd like you to imagine a crazy, futuristic dystopia in which women (gasp) work outside the home. And I'm not talking about doing a little gardening on the weekends. I mean full-fledged, testosterone-driven, trouser-wrenching, tell Little Johnny I'll be late for his baseball game, kind of jobs.

What's that you ask, "But if women get jobs outside the home, who will sew on all the buttons?" Good question. Read on.

The August 17, 1959 San Antonio Light (San Antonio, TX) ran a column by Douglass Welch titled, "Nirvana Draws Nearer." The part of Welch's column pertaining to women appears below.

There is an industrial designer in Detroit named Montgomery Ferar (he should have stood in bed), who has taken a long look into the near future and thinks he knows what the American woman is going to be like. If he's right, she is going to be sitting on a silken pillow all day long, curling her hair, buffing her nails and thinking up ways to beguile a husband who won't need her any more.

Mr. Ferar says we are "squandering" our American woman today on "dull repetitive tasks in the home and office," and, although we are tempted to say that a little judicious squandering never hurt any woman, we won't. He says he is going to free the American woman from housework so she can devote her "perseverence, manual dexterity and meticulous attention to detail to creative ends." Mind you, he doesn't say she has brains; He thinks of her only as having certain mechanical skills.

We don't like the kind of woman he visualizes. We would be late almost every night coming home to such a woman. In the future, Mr. Ferar says, the kitchen will disappear. Our woman will be sitting at the family table dressed to the teeth like a sultry adventuress while robot, self-energized utensils whip up the family dinner and serve it. After dinner the dishes "will be loaded," presumably by the husband and children, into a "dining caddy" or combination dishwasher and storage cabinet, which will roll off into another room, washing the dishes on the way.

NO MORE CLEANING

The cleaning and dusting of a home will be made unnecessary by electronic filters built into the air conditioning system, and beds won't have to be made because there will be no sheets, blankets and pillowcases. Radiant ceiling panels will keep us warm by beddy-bye. And at the supermarket our woman will merely shout her orders into a machine which will collect and pack her purchases and thank her kindly.

Mr. Ferar thinks this will free the American woman for a career. It means no such thing. At best it means that instead of spending half her waking moments chasing her children and attending to them and keeping them out of danger she would only be freed to spend ALL her time doing that.

Come, Mr. Ferar, let's think this thing through. You still haven't found a way to sew on buttons and send suits out to the cleaner and do the family bookkeeping and wipe away tears.

See also:
Max Factor on the Woman of 2009 (1959)
Taller Women by Year 2000 (1949)
Closer Than We Think! Robot Housemaid (1959)
Monsanto House of the Future (1957-1967)
Women and the Year 2000 (1967)
After the War (1944)
Lives of Women to Improve (1923)
Feminine Beauty (New York Times, 1909)