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Entries in matt novak (14)

Sunday
Apr052009

Utne Reader Podcast

I sat down with Jeff Steverns Guntzel and Bennett Gordon at the Utne Reader offices in Minneapolis to talk about the Paleo-Future blog. You can listen to the podcast here.

The year 2009 looked very different when seen from the 1950s. Nuclear powered cars roamed the streets and people feasted on meal pills for dinner. Matt Novak sifts through these past visions of the future and compiles them on his blog Paleo-Future.

For the latest episode of the UtneCast, senior editor Jeff Severns Guntzel and assistant web editor Bennett Gordon sit down with Novak to talk about what these paleo-futuristic visions mean to our culture, and what the future might look like. Other topics covered in the episode include the greatest hits of corporate jargon and a guide to war photography.

You can also read my guest-blogger piece at Utne, The Best Online Archives You've Probably Never Heard of.

Previously on Paleo-Future:

 

Sunday
Mar222009

The future of commuting took a left turn (2009)

Gordon Dickson wrote a piece in the February 15, 2009 issue of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram about the Paleo-Future blog:

In popular culture, paleofuture refers to the study of what people in the past thought we’d be doing today — flying in cars, eating entire meals in a pill, submitting to self-aware robots.

One clearinghouse for information on the subject, including news clips, movies and other material, is Paleo-future.com. It’s a blog that was started two years ago by Matt Novak of St. Paul, Minn.

In a phone interview last week, Novak, 25, said he was inspired by a childhood visit to Walt Disney’s Epcot Center. "As a kid, I remember thinking these visions of the future were already outdated," he said.

Even so, he was drawn to the optimistic view of many forecasters. "There seemed to be a sincerity there that we may not have anymore about visions of the future," he said.

Visitors to Paleo-future.com may be surprised to learn that futurists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries accurately predicted ready-cooked meals, cellphones, and even e-mail and online shopping.

A 1900 Ladies Home Journal article correctly forecast that "hot or cold air will be turned on by spigots to regulate the temperature of a house."

But the same article missed the mark on transportation, projecting that by 2000: "There will be no street cars in our large cities. All hurry traffic will be below or high above ground when brought within city limits. It will be confined to broad subways or tunnels . . . or to high trestles with moving sidewalk stairways leading to the top. Cities therefore will be free from all noises."

It was a common mistake. In dozens of articles, the conventional wisdom through the ’50s was that driving in the future would be a happy experience. Highways would be wide open and safe.

How could so many soothsayers be so wrong?

Novak, a marketing guy by trade, figures that prognosticators didn’t understand the consequences of building a car-dependent, oil-addicted society. It wasn’t clear to them that traffic could get so bad and that the cost of construction could rise so quickly that we couldn’t build our way out.

Novak’s own view of the future, at least as it applies to transportation, isn’t so cheery.

"I don’t make predictions, after being absorbed in this world where so many predictions were wrong," he said. "But I dare predict that until I die I will be driving a car or a vehicle operated by fossil fuels."

I tend to think Novak’s wrong. My hunch is that desperation will breed innovation and that a better way to commute will soon emerge and make the 21st century more like that fun, zippy place our ancestors dreamed about.

But I could be wrong.

Either way, if this column gets posted on apaleofutureblog and you’re reading this in 2049, feel free to post a comment below.

Previously on Paleo-Future:

 

Tuesday
Aug192008

The Inevitable Flying Car (USA Today)


You may have noticed a certain paleo-futurist quoted in yesterday's USA Today:

Matt Novak, however, remains unconvinced. The host of Paleofuture.com, a blog that looks at past predictions of the future, says flying cars look even further away these days.

 

"We had this sort of optimism in the '50s and '60s, a feeling that things were inevitable because of technology. And flying cars were on the short list," Novak says. "I don't think we're going to have freeways in the sky any time soon."


Read More:
What the future didn't bring
New Hampshire Public Radio (Jan, 2008)
Paleo-Future in the Wall Street Journal
Streamlined Cars of the Future

 

Sunday
Jul132008

The Reluctant Optimist

Yesterday's Green Bay Press-Gazette (Green Bay, WI) ran a short piece about the Paleo-Future blog:

"It's been quite a journey," he said. "When I first started the site, I thought I had maybe a month's worth of material, but I dug deeper and who knew how many different versions of the future had happened during the 20th Century?"

 

Novak has taken a few things from digging around in the past to find out what today should have looked like to people half a century, or more, ago.

"If there's anything I've learned, it's that no one can predict the future with any degree of certainty," he said.

"And it's given me optimism. Because no one knows the future with any certainty, it's freeing and kind of feeling like, 'That's good; the future's not determined, and we can do what we want with it and try to make it a better place.'"


See also:
What the future didn't bring
New Hampshire Public Radio (Jan, 2008)
Paleo-Future in the Wall Street Journal
Article for MungBeing
Sincerity and the Paleo-Future
Postmodern Paleo-Future
Streamlined Cars of the Future

 

Friday
Jul042008

Streamlined Cars of the Future


I was quoted today in the Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, Australia) for a piece about the past and future of cars. An excerpt appears below.

In the first quarter of the 20th century, the developed world began an obsession with outer space. Comic-strip storyboards of domed futuristic cities and multilayered transport systems fired imaginations - and not just amongst children.

 

Our automotive pioneers were also looking forward, working to propel the newborn car - the horseless carriage - to meet a vision. And, shape-wise, it looked bubbly.

"The globule-shaped modes of transportation come from a 1930s obsession with streamlining," says Matt Novak, the founder of past-future commentary site www.paleofuture.com. "Creating streamlined modes of transportation gave the perception of efficiency and the perception that you were a part of the future was important."


See also:
What the future didn't bring
New Hampshire Public Radio (Jan, 2008)
Paleo-Future in the Wall Street Journal
Article for MungBeing
Sincerity and the Paleo-Future
Postmodern Paleo-Future

 

Monday
May052008

What the future didn't bring


Paleo-Future readers in the Twin Cities may have noticed a certain blogger on the front page of today's St. Paul Pioneer Press. No, it wasn't my idea to pose, fake-blogging on my bed. We have a small apartment. The living room is filled with books and there's no place to sit. The photographer didn't have many options.

A couple friends of mine made a bet about how early in the piece Disney or EPCOT would be mentioned. Nic won. He guessed the sixth paragraph.

It was the fifth.

Matt Novak has seen a vision of the future. A lot of visions.

 

That's because in the past year or so, the 24-year-old St. Paul resident has turned himself into a sort of accidental expert on the paleo-future: depictions of the future from the past.

He collects and comments on yesterday's predictions of tomorrow on his blog, www.paleofuture.com, which has become a sort of online museum of a promised world of jet packs, meals in a pill and sex with robots.

Novak said the project, "a look into the future that never was," started in January 2007 when he was taking a writing class at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. One of the assignments was to create a blog.

He'd always been interested in the fantastic, strange or goofy predictions of the future, dating back to a childhood visit to Disney World: "In the 1980s, EPCOT was a thing that already looked dated." There also was his second-grade diorama in 1992 of what the world would look like eight years in the future: "Cars on magnetic tracks, all sort of crazy things like that; 2000 was such a magic number, the world would be so different."


See also:
New Hampshire Public Radio (Jan, 2008)
Paleo-Future in the Wall Street Journal
Article for MungBeing
Sincerity and the Paleo-Future
Postmodern Paleo-Future

 

Monday
Jan212008

New Hampshire Public Radio Interview (Jan, 2008)

You can listen to an interview I did with Virginia Prescott at New Hampshire Public Radio here.

See also:
Paleo-Future in the Wall Street Journal
Article for MungBeing
Sincerity and the Paleo-Future
Postmodern Paleo-Future

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