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Entries in futurism (11)

Sunday
Aug302009

My First Thoughts on Paleo-Futurism (or how I learned to stop worrying and love Disney)

Me and Goofy (circa 1989)I've visited Walt Disney World about 20 times.

Now, for an elderly woman living in Orlando, Florida, this might seem like an appropriate number. But for a 26-year-old man who's lived his entire life in the Midwest, that number is fairly absurd. My parents got me hooked at a young age, and while my perspective on the Disney brand and favorite activities in Disney World have both drastically changed over the years, I keep going back.

It was in EPCOT Center that I first started thinking about paleo-futurism. By the mid-1990s, EPCOT was looking stale; a future frozen in the early 1980s. The park was almost a monument to a historical future, rather than a hopeful tomorrow, and even young children could sense this. Though an extreme comparison, it was somewhat like visiting Flushing Meadows to see the decaying remnants of New York's 1964 World's Fair.

EPCOT as a theme park sparked my interest in this concept -- a concept for which I didn't yet have a name -- but one ride in particular stands out as the most reflective, yet forward-thinking. Horizons was opened in 1983 and featured both a history of the future, represented by an animatronic Jules Verne, and the future as imagined in 1983. Disney and this ride have so invaded my thoughts that any time I smell oranges I still imagine the "farm of the future," as was briefly depicted during this ride.

Though the ride closed in 1999, I can still play through every scene of Horizons in my head. The ride stands out as an experience that introduced me to thinking about histories of the future, and got me to thinking about what futures survive in our collective imagination. Like movies forever lost to history because of negligence and poor archiving, I feel a special sense of loss that most will never get to experience this ride in person.

Oh well, at least Epcot still sells booze. Pour some out on the curb for Horizons. Or don't. That alcohol ain't cheap.

The clip below is from the 1991 souvenir video, A Day at EPCOT Center.

Previously on Paleo-Future:

Wednesday
Aug062008

The Future of Futurism

A June 29, 2006 Slate piece by Reihan Salam reflects on futurism and had some fascinating insights. An excerpt appears below.

Even so, it's not fair to say that all futurism is misguided. Just most of it. In his 1976 Time essay "Is There Any Future in Futurism?" Stefan Kanfer wrote that you could divide futurists into neo-Malthusians and Cornucopians. Neo-Malthusians are convinced that the world is going to hell. Some, like The Population Bomb's Paul Ehrlich, blamed population growth; others, like the Club of Rome, blamed economic growth. Either way, the prescription remained the same: You've got to change your evil ways, Earthlings.


Is Futurism Dead? (New York Times, 1982)
Progress to Counter Catastrophe Theory? (1975)
Going Backward into 2000 (1966)
The Population Bomb: Scenario 1 (1970)
The Population Bomb: Scenario 2 (1970)
The Population Bomb: Scenario 3 (1970)

 

Thursday
Jun142007

Futurism's Past Littered With Faulty Forecasts

John W. Schoen over at MSNBC recently wrote an interesting piece about paleo-futurism. An excerpt appears below but you can read the entire story here.

To make a bold prediction about the future, you have to think outside the box. But as the history of these predictions shows, when you try to stare too deeply into the future, it’s all too easy to end up way outside the ballpark.

History, in fact, is littered with Big Ideas that went nowhere. From the paperless office to teleportation; flying cars and undersea cities, predicting the future can be a perilous business. But that hasn’t stopped people from trying.

See also:
Is Futurism Dead? (New York Times, 1982)

Friday
Mar302007

Is Futurism Dead? (New York Times, 1982)

As a follow-up to yesterday's post about the postmodern paleo-future here's an excerpt from the March 14, 1982 New York Times article, "Now and Then, Congress Also Ponders the Future."

....activity in the field [of futurism] has slowed to the point of stopping. "Actually, [futurism] died somewhere in the 1970's," said Michael Marien, the editor of "Futures Survey," a monthly abstract published by the World Future Society. "Nobody announced its death, but it happened." Mr. Marien, who has been monitoring futures literature for the past dozen years, said the flood of books on trends and forecasts is down to a trickle.

If you have a TimeSelect subscription you can read the entire article here.

See also:
Postmodern Paleo-Future

Friday
Feb232007

Donald Duck's "Modern Inventions" (1937)

Disney's 1937 animated short film, "Modern Inventions," opens with Donald Duck entering a Museum of Modern Marvels. Emphasizing automation and robots, the short has a lot in common with the Fleischer Brother's, "All's Fair at the Fair," which we looked at earlier in the week.

The museum is full of wonderfully ridiculous inventions from the future such as the pneumatic pencil sharpener, peanut sheller, robotic nurse maid, old razor blade mangler, robotic hitch-hiker's aid, potato peeler, the hydraulic potato peeler, mechanical bottle opener, and the automatic bundle wrapper.

You can watch a clip of "Modern Inventions" here and you can find the short on the DVD set Walt Disney Treasures - The Chronological Donald, Volume 1 (1934-1941).

Wednesday
Feb212007

Jet Pack Video (1966)

A friend of mine contends that jet packs were the Segways of the 20th century. They promised to change the way that people traveled but were really just a novelty. I must confess that I find Segways fun, (no matter how nerdy I might look), and would love to try a jet pack if given the chance.

On second thought, I might let Buck Rogers have all the fun for now.

Sunday
Feb182007

Machines! Machines! (New York Times, 1927)

I recently found a New York Times article with the headline, "Machines, Machines! The Futurist's Cry!" from December 11, 1927.

The article quotes Signor Azari as saying, "[In the future] ....our food will have to be mainly synthetic and artificial - machine-made. The cities of the future will contain no useless garbage of trees and flowers or loathsome promiscuity of animals, but geometrical buildings in glass and armed cement. Above all, there will be machines, machines, machines!"

It is difficult to imagine the world of 1927, when there was considerable awe in witnessing simple tasks being performed by machines. The technology we take for granted in 2007 were the magical fantasies of 1927.

The article contends, "'Open Sesame' used to be a term belonging to magic: The masters of a machine age are robbing the fairy tale of its ancient glamour. Once it took a magician of considerable ability to lure obedience from things inanimate."

There seemed to be a very real fear that people's jobs were at stake:
"Machines....machines...machines. Two and two into the Ark of the modern world they come: Monsters that almost of themselves turn out the product of a great factory....."

Yet, there was an odd sense of optimism that machines could help the average worker:
"...by means of cunning mechanisms of many sorts we are everywhere freeing men's hands from the bondage of labor; causing to straighten the backs that are bent in toil."

If you have a TimesSelect subscription you can read the entire article.