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Entries in futurist magazine (13)


Super-Intelligent Ape Chauffeurs by the Year 2020

Planet of the Apes (1968)

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.



Moon Settlement by 2007 (1985)

The February, 1985 issue of The Futurist magazine featured a piece about a permanent settlement on the moon by 2007.

NASA envisions the completion of a permanent settlement on the moon by the year 2007, the fiftieth anniversary of the space age. The final design of the base should be completed by the early 1990s, and construction might begin by the end of the decade.

The lunar base was the topic of a recent three-day conference in Washington, D.C., that brought together scientists, engineers, former astronauts, anthropologists, and lawyers to discuss the future of the space program.

The moon settlement would be the home of scientists and perhaps workers from private industry, NASA officials say. The base might be an international project, including Europeans, Japanese, and Soviets.

The shuttle now operates on a relatively steady schedule, ferrying aloft a variety of experiments as well as scientists. NASA is also moving forward on plans for a permanently manned space station, due for completion in the early 1990s. These two programs are major steps toward establishing the lunar base. The shuttle would fly material and personnel to low earth orbit, and transfer them to the space station, which would serve as a "halfway house" between earth and moon. Objects brought to the space station by the shuttle would transfer into another reusable craft for the trip into higher orbits and eventually to the moon.

The lunar base will probably be built mostly underground to protect the crew from cosmic radiation; unlike earth, the moon has no protective atmosphere to stop cosmic rays. The crew will number about one dozen; stays would vary between three months and one year, and the facility would be permanently staffed.

Transport will be expensive and supplies costly. A pound of water brought to the moon today would cost as much as a pound of gold on earth. Fortunately, the moon is rich in many elements. Most of the materials needed for the base are available on the moon itself; over half the moon, for example, is made up of oxygen. Titanium, silicon, and aluminum are also found in abundance. But hydrogen - an essential constituent of water - is missing. Unless water is locked away at the lunar poles in the form of ice, this important element will have to be supplied from earth in order for the crew to have water.

Previously on Paleo-Future:


Age Wars! The Coming Battle Between Young and Old (1986)

The article "Age Wars: The Coming Battle Between Young and Old" is from the January/February, 1986 issue of The Futurist magazine. Though the content isn't necessarily funny, the piece makes me laugh every time I look at it, thanks to the amazing picture that complements the headline so well.

1986 Jan-Feb Futurist "Age Wars" 1986 Jan-Feb Futurist "Age Wars" paleofuture Article about the "coming battle between young and old."

The piece is actually very thoughtful and raises a lot of interesting questions about the paleo-future which are relevant today. An excerpt appears below but you can read the entire piece above.

Americans have always been an exceptionally optimistic people - and never more so than now. In the late 1970s, it was fashionable to question whether the country had at last entered an "era of limits," but the rallying cry these days is "America is back!" Inflation is down, employment is up, the military is strong, and energy is plentiful. This is not the season to peddle unhappy thoughts about the future of America, much less to call for sacrifice.

Yet today's prosperity is being purchased at the eventual expense of today's younger citizens and those yet unborn. As a result, the early decades of the next century may well bring a war between the generations, as tomorrow's elderly attempt to compel the young to honor the compounding debts of the present era.

The United States is now using an almost endless variety of means to distribute wealth and opportunity away from future taxpayers. After more than two decades of declining expenditures for public works, the cost of repairing the nation's dilapidated bridges, roads, waterways, and other infrastructure is conservatively estimated at more than $1 trillion.

Previously on Paleo-Future:


Impacts of Robotic Sex (1997)

After reading Gizmodo's interview with a technosexual I thought it was as good a time as any to look at an article from the July-August, 1997 Futurist about sex with robots.

Joel C. Snell wrote a piece called, "Impacts of Robotic Sex," which describes many of the same reasons for wanting a robotic sex partner as Zoltan does in the Gizmodo article. Alimony, disease, and a sense of shifting cultural norms all lend themselves to a tone of inevitability in both pieces. The more tomorrow changes, the more it stays the same. The Futurist magazine article appears below in its entirety.

(The robot to the right is a painting my girlfriend, Malorie Shallcross, did for Valentine's Day.)

Robots that provide sexual companionship are likely to become common in the future. Prototype models have already been reported from Japan.


The future "sexbots" will have humanlike features and will be soft and pliant, like the latest dolls for children. Sexbots will contain vibrators to provided love talk.

Sexbots will be disease free; they won't judge one's sexual performance, and they won't say no. They will never have a headache or demand alimony.

They could certainly alter human relations. Here are a few potential impacts of sexbots:

Marriages may be destroyed by sexbots. A husband chooses sex with the sexbot, alienating his wife; the jealous wife destroys her sexbot rival and sues the manufacturer.

Individuals may change gender orientation. Heterosexual people may use a same-sex sexbot to experiment with homosexual relations. Or gay people might use other-sex sexbots to experiment with heterosexuality.

Robotic sex may become addictive. Sexbots would always be available and never say no, so addictions would be easy to feed. People may become obsessed by their ever faithful, ever pleasing sexbot lovers and rearrange their lives to accommodate their addictions. Eventually, support groups will likely form.

Technovirgins will emerge. An entire class of humans may emerge who not only will never have sex with other humans, but won't even desire it.

Robotic sex may become "better" than human sex. Like many other technologies that have replaced human endeavors, robots may surpass human technique; because they would be programmable, sexbots would meet each individual user's needs.

Would electronic and robotic sex reduce teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, abortions, pedophilia, and prostitution? The jury is still out on these implications. However, boundaries, barriers, and beliefs will be challenged.

See also:
Civilized Adultery (1970)
Headlines of the Near Future (1972)



The Future of Religion (1980)

For the October, 1980 issue of The Futurist Ted Peters, associate professor of systematic theology at the Pacific Lutheran Seminary (Berkeley, CA), wrote a piece titled, "The Future of Religion in a Post-Industrial Society." An excerpt appears below.

Western society is so pre-occupied with the consumption of goods and services that even religion may become just another commodity, like the packaged tour to an exotic island. If so, the world may lose a possible solution to its great crises.


What is to become of religion as our society moves further and further into the post-industrial period? Certain trends are fairly easy to identify. For example, an extension of Islamic influence due primarily to the sudden expansion of wealth in Muslim hands. But I would like to bypass trends of this type and focus on something else, namely, the potential interaction between religion and the current understanding of the human self which has developed during the now passing industrial period.

My thesis is that as our civilization becomes increasingly post-industrial, our preoccupation with consuming goods and services will most likely commoditize religion. There is now a strong trend - which I believe will continue - toward treating the moral and spiritual dimensions of life as commodities to be acquired and disposed of according to tastes and whims of shoppers in the religious marketplace.

Excessive consumption, however, whether it be consumption of material goods or spiritual values, is the root of the crisis we call the "world problematique." In addition, as long as the consumer mentality prevails, we will be condemned to a prostitution of the essential religious vision, a vision of the transcendent unity of all things which requires a sacrifice of the human ego. It is just such a vision, however, that holds the greatest promise for resolving the world problematique.

See also:
Headlines of the Near Future (1972)
Future Shock (1972)



The Future of Personal Robots (1986)

The May-June 1986 issue of The Futurist magazine ran an article titled, "The Future of Personal Robots." An excerpt appears below.

Robots can already be used to entertain young children. Their entertainment value for older children and adults, however, is for the most part limited to the intellectual challenge of programming them. But future robots will be complete home-entertainment centers, able to sing and dance and tell jokes, as well as control all your electronic entertainment equipment - TV, radio, stereo, computer games and telephone.

Like many paleo-futuristic images of robots, the article imagines the robot as a mechanical person, one of the least useful forms a robot can take for those living in 2007. Taken literally, it is difficult to image the robot that will, "sing and dance and tell jokes," being mass-produced anytime soon.

Also, do the people above live in a house with kitchen counters just two feet tall or is Omnibot one hell of a jumper?

See also:
Closer Than We Think! Robot Housemaid (1959)
Robot Farms (1982)
The Robot Rebellion (1982)
Japanese Retail Robots (1986)
Robots: The World of the Future (1979)
Living Room of the Future (1979)


The Electronic Newspaper (1978)

The April, 1978 issue of The Futurist magazine ran an incredibly forward-thinking piece about the future of newspapers.

If we think of a newspaper as being a printed object delivered to our homes, we may be talking about replacing newspaper with an electronic signal. But if we think (as I do) of newspapers as organizations which disseminate news and information by the most efficient methods available - then we are thinking in terms of applying a new technology to an existing institution.

The author, Kenneth Edwards, was writing about the emerging technology of Teletext in the UK. If the newspaper industry has had 30 years to think about this concept and decided that litigation is better than a new business model, it's tough to feel bad about their declining revenue.


See also:
Tablet Newspaper (1994)
Future Newspapers Written by Advertisers (1912)
Online Shopping (1967)