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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:


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Reader Comments (13)

I found a couple of early 1900s "Future" illustrations from an old French Humor magazine. Would you like them?


February 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterScott

Most definitely. You can find my email on the "about me" page. Thanks!

February 22, 2010 | Registered CommenterMatt Novak

Well you could argue that with things like ABS, traction control, airbag sensors and the like "robots" (that is, cars' electronics) have made our lives safer at least in that respect. Certainly not to the degree envisioned here, I'll agree, but still representing an advance over 1980s technology.

"Hotel California". Cute.

February 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWutzke

Good one today!
This does make me stop and think: Why are we still using dirty old cash so much in 2010?
To be sure, debit, credit and gift cards are in wide use, and even poor people with no checking accounts use certain voucher cards, food "stamps," etc.
But you'd have thought that governments and merchants would have made a much bigger push toward a cashless society by now -- if for no other reason than all the savings (i.e. profits) they'd get from not having to print, acquire, store, handle, change, count, transport and deposit coin and currency.

February 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterImpudent Observer

I have the complete set of the Niel Ardley "world of tomorrow" books... you can probably find them on ebay or amazon, they have enough material for tons of posts!

February 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJason

"Why are we still using dirty old cash so much in 2010"

1) Cash is failsafe (no downtime).
2) Cash is flexible - can be used anywhere at any time.
3) Cash is user friendly (quick and easy to use).
4) Cash virtually has no associated infrastructure costs.
5) Cash grants anonymity.

March 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMe - Impudent Observer

How naive people were back then. Are there any articles about people back in the day predicting terrorism or identity theft? That would be eerie if there is.

May 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSomeone

i jsut love this kind of stuff :d great find

November 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLD

I'd also add to the list of "Me - Impudent Observer" the fact that cash is "physical". In other words, you can "see" your money.

Never mind the fact that it is fiat money - most people don't know or understand what the term "fiat currency" even means. They don't understand that those physical notes just represent a floating "real" value, and that value is held on books and in computers all over the world; there is a global currency - one just can "see" it physically. Any time you use a credit card or your debit card, you are technically accessing it and using "global credits" or whatever you want to call it.

People are so divorced from what "money" really is and represents; that it isn't real (and arguably never has been real!). They need the "real" that these fiat notes represent, though in and of themselves they only have the value of the paper and ink (that is to say "worthless" as real objects). Their only value is in the "real" money they represent (which we all agree and/or delude ourselves into believing "exists" - but in reality, it doesn't!).

We will probably switch to a "cashless society" at around the same time that the world drops the fiction of religion. Both exist on the concept of a (mostly) consensual delusion.

December 25, 2010 | Unregistered Commentercr0sh

Well i agree up to some extent that we are depending on machines for our daily life stuff and this dependency is getting more profound as we are progressing ahead.

February 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCash for Platinum

Yes, that time and that era witnessed a change never before seen: five world championships in 14 years.

Didn't know that children book World of Tomorrow: School, Work and Play predicted the rise of debit cards. This is interesting, will have to get some of these classic copies for the kids. cash gifting leads

July 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterClaud

It's interesting that so many of these articles--especially the ones from the 1980s and '90s when street crime was at its height and every movie and TV show about large cities made jokes and references about mugging--predict that street crime would stop when people stop carrying cash. In addition to the fact that people steal debit and credit cards and personal belongings, you can tell that these were all written by men because they assume that all violent street crime is theft-related. As a woman, when I walk down the street or get into my car in a parking lot at night alone, I'm scared, and it has nothing to do with any cash I might be carrying.

September 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterElaine

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