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Entries in neil ardley (13)

Friday
Aug192011

This future was made in a facility that also processes peanuts (1982)

I've never thought of my allergies as a big deal. Sure, my peanut allergy has caused an emergency room visit here and there, and my dad used to pick me up from sleepovers because of my emphysema-like wheezing around cats. No big thing, right? But a few years back it seemed about time I went to see an allergy specialist and get a comprehensive list of the things my body hates.

I found myself shirtless, laying on my stomach in the doctor's exam room with twenty pricks in my back (which isn't nearly as scandalous as it sounds). A constant tingle ran through my body, but all I could think about was how comically small the exam room table appeared under my enormous body. I am most certainly not allergic to pizza and beer.

To administer an allergy test a nurse needs to prick your back with an assortment of allergens. Different types of trees, animal dander, molds and grasses were all made to come into contact with my delicate, nature-hating skin. After the pricks, it's a waiting game to see if your torso turns into a red, puffy Braille haiku. 

About twenty minutes later the nurse knocked on the door. I couldn't see the expression on her face, given my vulnerable position facing the corner like the bad kid being punished. But her inflection said it all. 

"Oh myyy!" the nurse said in that heavy Minnesota accent most Minnesotans don't think they have. "Well," she said with a pause, "you're allergic to everything!"

"Everything?" I ask, worried less about the consequences of allergies and more about the cocky "told you so" attitude my girlfriend at the time was sure to have upon hearing the news.

"Well, maybe not the... yes, yes, you're allergic to grass too."

I kind of guessed that one. My parents love to tell the story of when I was a kid and had just started to crawl. My dad spent a summer building a deck behind our house and he was able to leave me relatively unsupervised, as long as I was surrounded by grass. Sitting on a pastel pink blanket, I was content as all get-out not to traverse that sea of green, spiky irritants laid out before me. I've always been confused when someone appears pleasant while barefoot. I guess that's why I sometimes empathize with the wide-eyed technological visions of the 1950s. Their promise was one of control, of harnessing nature rather than being one with it. Domed cities, meal pills --science will have the answers.

And science did have the answers in the 1982 kids book World of Tomorrow: Health and Medicine by Neil Ardley. Ardley's book is filled with predictions about the future of health care, with an emphasis on self-assessement via computer. If WebMD and the rise of home genetic testing kits count, I'd say that this was a pretty accurate vision of the future.

Well, at least it was more accurate than the people who imagined hospitals in space.

 

By checking the genetic codes of parents and by caring for unborn babies, the children of tomorrow should be born in perfect health. A long life is lkely to lie ahead of them. But to remain healthy, everyone will have to look after themselves. As now, this will mean taking exercise, keeping clean and behaving sensibly to avoid danger. However, the world of tomorrow will bring other ways in which you can help to prevent yourself from getting ill.

Many people fall ill because they have an allergy. Something they eat or drink disagrees with them, or perhaps something in the air upsets them. Tiny particles of pollen blown by the wind give some people hay fever, for example. Others cannot eat food made from flour or shellfish without feeling ill. Often these people suffer for years before they find out what is wrong.

In the future you will be able to go to the doctor or a health complex to prepare yourself for a healthy life. Machines will take samples such as blood, saliva, hair and body wastes. They will measure them to find out exactly how your body reacts to food and drink and to substances in air and water. Then a computer will take the measurements and work out which things are likely to cause problems for you. It will produce a personal list of things to do and to avoid if you want to stay healthy and feel alert and full of energy. It is certain, for example to insist that you should never smoke. It may even recommend certain rules for making the best of your memory and intelligence. Following a list of rules might seem to make life a lot less fun. However, it would probably be no more trouble than taking care when crossing the road, for example.

Tuesday
Apr262011

Government of the Future (1981)

Children of the 1980s were presented with two possible futures for government in the book World of Tomorrow: School, Work and Play. The first scenario is a nightmarish dystopia where governments track their citizens' every move and computers are curtailing freedoms across the globe. The second possible future is a utopia nearly achieving some form of direct democracy, brought on by the home computer and videophones, which enable citizens to become highly engaged in the political process.

It would appear that those of us living in "the future" wound up with a bit of both. Governments all over the world are certainly using technology to spy on their citizens -- though I would wager that Visa, Apple and Google know more about me than the U.S. government. But the evolution of tools like Twitter and YouTube has also provided your average citizen with easier ways to politically organize and educate.

Whatever your feelings on technology's role in government, I think we can all agree on one political truism... I'm right and those other guys are idiots.

Some people fear that computers will rule our lives in the future. They believe that information on everyone will be stored in computers, and that government officials will be able to find out anything about anyone at any time. It is possible that this will happen, and that some governments will use computers to limit people's freedom. However, it is just as possible that computers will make governments more open in the future, and allow people more say in the ways they are governed.

In a future where every home has a videophone computer system, everyone could take part in government. People could talk and air their views to others on special communication channels linking every home. These people would most likely be representatives of some kind -- of a political party, a union, an industry and so on.  But when the time comes to make a decision on any issue, everyone would be able to vote by instructing their computer. A central computer would instantly announce the result.

 This kind of government by the people is a possibility that the computer will bring. It could take place on any scale -- from village councils up to world government. In fact, it is more likely to happen in small communitites, as it would be difficult to reach effective national and international decisions, if millions of people always had to be asked to approve everything. Nevertheless, the computer will enable really important decisions to be put before the people and not decided by groups or politicians.

The computer could also affect the ways in which politicians will work. They could discuss the issues that affect the people they represent over public communication networks that would replace governemtn assemblies. In this way representatives could live among their electors and get to know them and their views much better.

 

Monday
Jan242011

Shopping in the Future (1981)

I'm often shocked at how accurate some 20th century predictions of online shopping were. However, these retail prognosticators frequently miss the mark by assuming that individual goods would need to be photographed or videotaped live for consumers. 

While I can kind of understand how this might make sense with fresh fruit, today we have sites like Amazon and Peapod where a generic photo of the product for sale is displayed. That being said, this prediction of online shopping from the 1981 book World of Tomorrow: School, Work and Play by Neil Ardley was pretty darn close to what we have today.

A store of the future is more like a warehouse than a shop of today. The robots serve people who call up the store on their home computers. This robot is showing a bunch of bananas to a video camera, which transmits a picture of the fruit to a customer. It places the purchases in a box which is then delivered to the customer's home.

Shopping is an activity that most of us have to do every day. While it's sometimes exciting -- if you want some new clothes or a new gadget, for example -- it's often tiresome. You have to trudge around a store, wait in line to pay for your purchases, and then perhaps carry a heavy load home only to find you've forgotten something.

Shopping should be much easier and more enjoyable in the future. Computers and robots will come to your aid and enable you to shop at the very best stores. You won't have to lift a finger, let alone a shopping basket. For shopping will be yet another service that the home videophone computer will be able to provide.

Instead of going out to the shops and stores in your town or city, you contact them through your videophone computer. You'll need to see what you're buying, even if you can't handle it, so the viewscreen of the videophone computer shows you the goods available. You then instruct the computer to order the goods you want and have them delivered to your house.

Your computer "talks" to the store's computer, which in turn orders robots in the store to collect the goods together and pass them to a delivery vehicle. Under the guidance of the computers, this brings them to your home.

In this way your home computer can make sure that your home is always supplied with all its essentials, for it automatically orders new supplies as soon as they are needed. It also instructs your bank to pay for the goods, so you do not need to part with any cash.

Using the computer for shopping is yet one more way in which the computer will make life easier in the future. It will save you time that you spend in a more useful or a more pleasant way. However, many people enjoy shopping, especially looking for unusual items. So, while the computer will do your everyday shopping, you may still go shopping yourself for something special. However, the computer will be able to help you greatly if you want to buy something really exciting -- a special present for a friend, for example. With your home computer, you can purchase virtually anything in the world, for it can contact stories anywhere -- on the other side of the globe if necessary.

 

Previously on Paleofuture:

 

Sunday
Feb212010

The Super-Safe World of 2002 (1981)

The 1981 children's book World of Tomorrow: School, Work and Play accurately predicted the rise of debit cards, but may have overstated how much safer we would be in the futuristic world of 2002. The phrase, "in tomorrow's world computers will be able to guard over us," might seem humorous, given our current fears about online identity theft and high tech hegemony.

But per usual, I tip my hat to the techno-utopian authors and illustrators of the 1980s who promised kids like myself a pretty incredible future. Well, I guess when those same authors and illustrators weren't making us soil our Underoos with tales of the coming robot uprising.

Computers and robots will certainly be able to make life easier for you in the future - by allowing you to work, learn and shop at home, for example. But they also improve your life in several other ways, and one of the most important is that they will make your life safer than it is today.

Even if you're lucky enough to have escaped harm, you probably know of someone who has had a car crash or been robbed. However, in tomorrow's world computers will be able to guard over us. Let's follow a day in the future and find out how.

Imagine that you want to go into a city from your country home to watch a sports event. You leave your car at the city parking lot and then complete your journey by autotaxi and beltways. All these transports are guided and controlled by computers so that you travel in perfect safety. But you have to pay for your autotaxi ride, the sports match and a meal afterwards. Nevertheless, you walk about confident that no one will try to rob you. How can you be so sure?

 The answer is simple: you do not carry any money on you and neither does anyone else. You pay for everything you buy with an identity card like a credit card. it has a magnetic strip containing your name and other personal information in the form of a magnetic code that the computers in the autotaxi, the stadium and the restaurant can read. They simply contact your bank's computer and ask it to pay them the sums of money due to them. This done instantly, and you can check how much money you have left in your back account at any time.

But someone might try to steal your card and use it to pay for anything they want. This would be now use, because you have to authorize every payment by giving the computer a secret code number or code word. Or the computer may check your thumbprint or voice to make sure that it is dealing with you and not someone pretending to be you.

Previously on Paleo-Future:

 

Thursday
Dec242009

DIY Media of the Future (1981)

What we now call user-generated content was predicted in the 1981 book Tomorrow's Home by Neil Ardley. I dare say that this is the most accurate prediction we've looked at in 2009 (provided we ignore that robot arm, offering up delicious Christmas treats before it slaughters the entire family in a bloody rampage). Enjoy!

The caption:

Christmas in the future is an exciting occasion. Here the children have been given a home music and video system that links into the home computer. They are eagerly trying it out. The eldest boy is using the video camera to record pictures of the family, which are showing on the computer viewscreen. However, someone else is playing with the computer controls and changing the images for fun. At the same time, another child is working at the music synthesizer, creating some music to go with the crazy pictures.

Main text:

Have you ever wanted to conduct a huge orchestra, or direct a film? Very few people now get to do these thrilling jobs. However, the techniques of microelectronics are beginning to invade music and the visual arts, making possible all kinds of new and mazing ways of creating music and images. As computers develop, these techniques will begin to enter the home. You'll have the glorious sounds of vast orchestras and the excitement of the movies at your fingertips.

Your orchestra will not be a real one, but an electronic one with sounds created by a synthesizer. On command, the synthesizer's computer will play the music with any sounds you want. Singing is easy too. You can speak the words into the computer, and out will come choirs using your words or maybe even the voice of a famous singer of your choice.

You can make a film electronically too, by using video cameras and recorders. You can record family events, holidays, the world of nature, and even make your own video films with actors.

However, the home computer video system of the future will enable you to make these shows into spectacular entertainments. The computer will be able to take the images you record and assemble and treat them in all kinds of ways to produce a whole range of special effects of your very own. And you will also be able to use the computer to produce unusual moving designs and patterns, rather like making video cartoons or electronic paintings that move. Then you can put your video shows together with your own electronic music, and create the most stunning experiences -- perhaps even a totally new art form of the future!

 

Previously on Paleo-Future:

 

Monday
Mar232009

Computer Criminals of the Future (1981)

The 1981 book School, Work and Play (World of Tomorrow) features this beautiful two-page spread. Apparently, thanks to computers, there's no crime in the future outside of the computerized variety. The "computer criminal" pictured really doesn't appear to be running very fast. Maybe they're playing a game of freeze-tag. Or maybe that policeman's gun has special settings the author didn't tell us about. I like to believe the former, but that's just me.

Computers will make the world of tomorrow a much safe place. They will do away with cash, so that you need no longer fear being attacked for your money. In addition, you need not worry that your home will be burgled or your car stolen. The computers in your home and car will guard them, allowing only yourself to enter or someone with your permission.

However, there is one kind of crime which may exist in the future - computer crime. Instead of mugging people in the streets or robbing houses, tomorrow's criminal may try to steal money from banks and other organizations using a computer. The computer criminal works from home, using his own computer to gain access to the memories of the computers used by the banks and companies. The criminal tries to interfere with the computers in order to get them to transfer money to his computer without the bank or company knowing that it has been robbed.

Computer crime like this in fact exists already. However, it is very difficult to carry out a successful robbery by computer. Many computers have secret codes to prevent anyone but their owners from operating them. As computers are used more and more, it is likely that computer crime will become increasingly difficult to carry out.

Nevertheless, a computer criminal may succeed now and then and the detectives of the future will have to be highly skilled computer operators. There will probably be police computer-fraud squads, specially trained to deal with computer crime. Here you can see a squad arriving at the home of a computer criminal and arresting him as he makes a dash for it. He is clutching a computer cassette that contains details of his computer crimes, and the police will need this as evidence to prove that he is guilty.

Previously on Paleo-Future:

 

Thursday
Feb072008

Home Entertainment of the Future (1981)


This image from the book Tomorrow's Home (World of Tomorrow) by Neil Ardley illustrates the home entertainment system of tomorrow.

This section's most interesting prediction may be that, "the magazines, books, records, tapes and television sets we now have will begin to disappear. But in their place the computer will offer us a greater range of entertainment."

The two page spread's text appears below in its entirety.

Look at this play of the future - a performance of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar by famous actors in your very own living room! Even more amazing, you play the title role yourself. The play has just reached the point where Caesar is killed.

 

All this could come about with developments in holographic video - a system that uses laser beams to produce images that have depth just as in real life. Once perfected, it will produce a show that takes place not on a screen but in real space - even around you. You could walk in and out of the action, and view it from any direction - the ultimate in realism. In this case, the computer that operates the system has been instructed to omit the role of Julius Caesar so as to allow you to take part. Although the images look so real, you could walk through them, so you suffer no harm from your killers' knives.

Such developments may lie far in the future, but there's no doubt that the computer is going to affect home entertainment soon. The magazines, books, records, tapes and television sets we now have will begin to disappear. But in their place the computer will offer us a greater range of entertainment.

The home computer will be linked to a radio dish on your roof. A satellite or radio mast feeds it with many television channels; on the viewscreen of the computer, you can sit and watch the news or sport in several other countries as well as your own. The radio dish or telephone wires also link your home to computer complexes that feed it with all kinds of recorded entertainment - films, television shows you have missed, video magazines and news. Music comes through the computer too, playing whatever you want and whenever with a quality far beyond today's records and tapes. If you want to read something on your own, a portable screen linked to the computer displays any story of your choice.


See also:
Movie Trends of the 21st Century (1982)
Living Room of the Future (1979)
Thinks We'll Do Our Reading on Screen (1923)
Learning in 1999 A.D. (1967)
Tomorrow's TV-Phone (1956)
Closer Than We Think: Headphone TV (1960)