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Entries in victor cohn (5)

Wednesday
Sep232009

Victor Cohn (1919-2000)

The prophets of misery and robotism too often focus their sights on the cocktail party instead of the school. They describe the life of past generations in nostalgic terms, but do not really compare the lives of average housewives or factory workers today with the lives of their grandparents and with the drudgery, ignorance and poverty that characterized and blackened the past. -- Victor Cohn, 1956

Victor Cohn (undated photo)Victor Cohn was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota on August 14, 1919. He was raised in a lower-middle-class home, the son of Louis Cohn, a traveling salesman born in Chicago and Lillian Cohn, a housewife born in Minneapolis.

Cohn began his career as a journalist at the University of Minnesota's student newspaper, The Daily, where he served as editor from 1940-41. He developed a passion for writing impactful stories that connected emotionally, as well as technically (as he largely wrote about science and health) with readers.

Victor Cohn was an optimist. The kind of optimist who dared say the future had potential, that there was a chance everything could turn out alright. It is an attitude I admire, largely because it's an attitude I so rarely share. The problems facing the world today feel insurmountable in many ways.

According to his son, Jeffrey Cohn, his father's analysis of news about advances in medical science was tremendously insightful. Victor Cohn said that every story fit into one of two categories -- new hope or no hope.

In 1954 Cohn wrote a series of twelve syndicated articles for the Minneapolis Tribune titled 1999: Our Hopeful FutureThe series was expanded into a book in 1956 and follows the Future (with a capital "F") family; John Future, his wife Emily Future, and their children, Timothy, Peter, Susan and Billy Future. The Future family goes about their futuristic business in a world free of the technological obstacles which faced mankind in the primitive 1950s.

Pre-Jetsons and pre-Star Trek, the book serves as a kind of beautiful time capsule in which we imagine a distant and alien world. Disposable clothes, solar and nuclear-powered everything, TV-phones, lightning-fast transportation; the future was looking pretty sweet.

But Cohn was not an unreasonable man. His technologically optimistic book was a vision of hope for a better world, whatever form that took. While studying yesterday's visions of tomorrow it's easy to forget that people of the 20th century were not all wide-eyed rubes who believed the future was pre-destined to be shiny, happy and plastic. 

Such prophets who fail to balance good against bad too often would have us merely shrink from the tools that new decades always bring, and thereby acknowledge defeat in what is admittedly going to be a difficult struggle. A difficult struggle is man's typical state. Reject change, and we will be enslaved by it; others will accept the worst of it and dictate to us. Accept change, and we may control it. We need the voices of our more balanced critics if we are to remember to look inside ourselves, not just crow about our surface achievements. But we need the voices of optimists too if we are to see a vision ahead, if we are to see what we can accomplish. -- Victor Cohn, 1956

Thank you Victor Cohn, for reminding us that we must always be looking forward if we are to build a world where the "prophets of misery" are to be proved wrong.

Previously on Paleo-Future:

 

Monday
Mar232009

The Prophets of Misery and Robotism (1956)

Victor Cohn, in his 1956 book 1999: Our Hopeful Future, addresses those who romanticize the past and those with a general distaste for technology playing any positive role in humanity's future.

The prophets of misery and robotism too often focus their sights on the cocktail party instead of the school. They describe the life of past generations in nostalgic terms, but do not really compare the lives of average housewives or factory workers today with the lives of their grandparents and with the drudgery, ignorance and poverty that characterized and blackened the past.

Such prophets who fail to balance good against bad too often would have us merely shrink from the tools that new decades always bring, and thereby acknowledge defeat in what is admittedly going to be a difficult struggle. A difficult struggle is man's typical state. Reject change, and we will be enslaved by it; others will accept the worst of it and dictate to us. Accept change, and we may control it. We need the voices of our more balanced critics if we are to remember to look inside ourselves, not just crow about our surface achievements. But we need the voices of optimists too if we are to see a vision ahead, if we are to see what we can accomplish.

Previously on Paleo-Future:

Wednesday
Jun132007

Solar Power of 1999 (1956)

The fascinating book 1999: Our Hopeful Future by Victor Cohn explains in chapter nine how the world will harness the power of the sun. Below is an excerpt from chapter nine titled, "We Hitch Up the Sun."

The sun rose as usual on January 10, 1999, and went to work.

In a great, sun-drenched desert, a thousand acres of collector plates soaked up the sun's heat, intensified it and relayed it to boilers. This was the energy source for an electric power plant that operated a great sea-water purification works a few miles away. The sea water irrigated the desert.

In a field, winding rows of plastic-topped trenches soaked the sun's light into a deep green liquid that turned thicker almost as you watched. This was an algae farm using the sun's energy to grow food.

On millions of roof tops, glass collectors absorbed sun heat, to be stored in tanks. These were home-heating plants without other fuel. The world of 1999 had begun to tap the greatest energy source, the daily rays of the sun, and with this golden treasure was lighting cities and making deserts bloom, milking cows and baking sunshine cakes.

See also:
Solar Energy for Tomorrow's World (1980)
Delicious Waste Liquids of the Future (1982)
Sea City 2000 (1979)

Wednesday
Jun062007

Moving Sidewalks by Goodyear (1956)


As a follow-up to last week's post on the moving sidewalk of 1900, today we have an illustration published in 1956. The image below appears in the book 1999: Our Hopeful Future by Victor Cohn. It was produced by Goodyear and shows the (semi-realized) hopes for this paleo-futuristic technology.


See also:
Moving Sidewalk (1900)
I want an oil cream cone! (1954)
Postcards Show the Year 2000 (circa 1900)

Monday
Apr302007

I want an oil-cream cone! (1954)

In 1954 Victor Cohn wrote the book 1999: Our Hopeful Future. Cohn, a well respected science and medical journalist, reportedly interviewed scientists and engineers at MIT while researching for his book.

Pink snow covered the ground in 1999. Farmers sprinkled dye to absorb sunlight, speed melting and advance planting ... For lunch the Futures ate wood steak, planked and loved it - all except Billy, who bawled, "I want an oil-cream cone." ... "Where's Susan?" said John. "Oh here she comes." "Hi," said the teen-ager. "Gosh, I'm not very hungry tonight." The gang stopped at Joe's Fly-in for plankton-burgers.

Quoted from the book Bad Predictions by Laura Lee.