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Entries in meal in a pill (14)

Thursday
Sep202007

Technology and Man's Future (1972)

The introduction to the book Technology and Man's Future has a tone appropriate for 1972. The words seem to offer a first glimpse into true disillusionment with early 20th century futurism. And yet, the book nurtures remnants of optimism; of hope that the future may hold some version, however imperfect, of that shiny, happy future.

Below is an excerpt from the introduction to the book.

I grew up believing in a technological future. The picture of tomorrow's world that I carried around in my head throughout childhood years corresponded, more or less, to that which one might have acquired from any number of science-fiction movies or from such monuments to technology as the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. It was characterized mainly by neatness and order, miles of gleaming chrome, millions of buttons to push, and endless gadgets to do all the work. All of our "old-fashioned" ways of doing things were, I believed, to be replaced by new, modern, better ones. Automated highways would take the place of conventional roads; one nourishment pill in the morning would save us consuming three meals during the day. In retrospect, what I find to be particularly interesting in this childhood image is the fact that the technological future always seemed to be an end in itself. When adults in my life spoke of it, they implied its inevitability - with some interest and some, but not much, enthusiasm. No one seemed to care very much for the prospect, but it was "progress," and only a fool would try to resist its tide.

 

Similar notions were apparently the main themes of the Century of Progress International Exposition held in Chicago in 1933. In the great world's fair tradition, this extravagant celebration aimed to demonstrate what technology was capable of doing for humanity. In the process, it brought out dramatically what one author has called "technology's triumph over man." Upon entering the Hall of Science, one was confronted by a large sculptural group featuring a life-sized man and woman, their "hands outstretched as if in fear or ignorance." Between this couple stood a giant angular robot almost twice their size, bending down, with a metallic arm "thrown reassuringly around each." The visitor to the fair need not have searched far for the meaning of this image. It could be found in the Exposition motto: SCIENCE FINDS - INDUSTRY APPLIES - MAN CONFORMS.

As I grew older, I naturally began to question my childhood vision, putting aside a fascination with gadgets to ask myself what was lacking in this future. Why, despite all good intentions, did this image of the future always come out looking more like Brave New World or 1984 than Utopia? What was the meaning of "progress" in these terms, if no one ever asked whether it serves to make people happier?


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

 

Wednesday
Sep052007

That 60's Food of the Future

The May 4, 2003 New York Times Magazine ran an interesting piece by Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma. An excerpt appears below. The piece can be read in its entirety at Michael Pollan's own site.

When I was a kid growing up in the early 60's, anybody could have told you exactly what the future of food was going to look like. We'd seen "The Jetsons," toured the 1964 World's Fair, tasted the culinary fruits (or at least fruit flavors) of the space program, and all signs pointed to a single outcome: the meal in a pill, washed down, perhaps, with next-generation Tang.

The general consensus seemed to be that "food"—a word that was already beginning to sound old-fashioned—was destined to break its surly bonds to Nature, float free of agriculture and hitch its future to Technology. If not literally served in a pill, the meal of the future would be fabricated "in the laboratory out of a wide variety of materials," as one contemporary food historian predicted, including not only algae and soybeans but also petrochemicals. Protein would be extracted directly from fuel oil and then "spun and woven into 'animal' muscle—long wrist-thick tubes of 'fillet steak.' "

See also:
Just Imagine (1930)
That Synthetic Food of the Future (Ogden Standard-Examiner, 1926)
Food of the Future (Indiana Progress, 1896)
Delicious Waste Liquids of the Future (1982)
1999 A.D. (1967)
Frigidaire Kitchen of the Future (1957)
The Jetsons "A Date With Jet Screamer" (1962)

Sunday
Jul152007

More Predictions of a 14-Year-Old (1901)

A few months ago we looked at the first part of fourteen-year-old Arthur Palm's predictions for the year 2001. Arthur was writing for his school newspaper, the Milwaukee Excelsior, in the year 1901.

According to the book Yesterday's Future little Arthur was probably influenced by this image from the January 12, 1901 Collier's Weekly.

Today we have the second half to Arthur Palm's 1901 piece.

You will see a tube stretched across the city called, "The United States Mail Tube," and a sign called, The Wireless Telephone Local and European. There will be saloons in the large buildings and in the window you will see the sign "Quick Lunch Compressed into Food Tablets." You may go to Europe in six hours by "The Submarine Line." The House-keepers will have an easy time; the dishes will be washed by electricity. In the year 2001, you will not see a single horse on Broadway, New York and only autos will be seen. In war the nations will have submarine torpedo boats which will destroy a whole fleet. In the year 2001, the locomotives will travel about 300 miles an hour, but I think it is not necessary because, before you know it, you will be killed by a locomotive. The people of the Earth will be in close communication with Mars by being shot off in great cannons. The cannon ball will be hollow to contain food and drink.

See also:
The Predictions of a 14-Year-Old (Milwaukee Excelsior, 1901)
Your Own Wireless Telephone (1910)
Collier's Illustrated Future of 2001 (1901)
600 Miles an Hour (1901)
Food of the Future (Indiana Progress, 1896)
That Synthetic Food of the Future (Ogden Standard-Examiner, 1926)
Postcards Show the Year 2000 (circa 1900)
What May Happen in the Next Hundred Years (Ladies Home Journal, 1900)
Mars and Beyond (1957)
Futuristic Air Travel (circa 1900)

Thursday
Jul052007

Just Imagine (1930)

The 1930 film Just Imagine depicts the futuristic world of 1980. With flying cars, food pills, and a totalitarian government the world is orderly but not much fun.

This scene depicts the meal of the future. The prohibition reference is particularly funny.

Many thanks to Amy Macnamara for this paleo-futuristic classic that hasn't yet been released on VHS or DVD.

See also:
That Synthetic Food of the Future (Ogden Standard-Examiner, 1926)
Food of the Future (Indiana Progress, 1896)

Tuesday
Jun052007

Article for MungBeing

I wrote an article for the online magazine MungBeing which appears in the new issue. An excerpt appears below. You can read the entire article here.


There is a genuine sense of sadness detectable when you talk with people about flying cars and meal pills. Oddly enough, most people don't want meals-in-a-pill, they simply want the fanciful. We long for the world where anything is possible. We exist in a rather unique age when most American's basic necessities are met. You and I have luxuries unseen in human history and yet we want more.

See also:
Postmodern Paleo-Future

Thursday
May032007

Food of the Future (Indiana Progress, 1896)

This article from the January 1, 1896 Indiana Progress (Indiana, Pennsylvania) describes the synthetic food of the future.

When the food of the future is once in vogue, the food dispensary, licensed by the government, will long since have supplanted the butcher shop and the grocery store. We'll breakfast and lunch and dine by prescription at a cost of 10 or 15 cents per day per capita. Doubtless our houses won't be heated and supplied with power from a Keely motor at a penny a day additional, but the chemical or artificial food of the future is already a moral certainty. For does not Flammarion describe it in "Omega," and has not Bertholot, its chief apostle, been elevated from the laboratory to the foreign office of France?

Given the formula for our food, says Berthelot, the father of the artificial food idea, and why not prescribe it from the chemist's? Surely the nitrogen and carbon of the beefsteak may not be as grateful to the palate if absorbed from a capsule or masticated in a tiny tablet, but the bones and the blood, the flesh and the sinews will be just as well supplied with their essential material, their own special foods, provided always the prescription is right in proportion, and, after all, the pleasures of the table have ages on end been absorbing too much of the time and inclination of man and woman. When the area of chemical food comes, we shall have done with symposia and supper parties, Welsh rabbits and golden bucks.

There are certain elementary food which a man can't do without. He must absorb, or eat and drink, if you please, carbon and nitrogen and calcium for his bones. Without going too much into dry detail, he must absorb or receive each day, to repair the waste of his tissues, calcium, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen and sodium. There are other trifling chemicals like phosphorous, which is an awful thing to burn oneself with, which the well fed man needs. But he could get along without it. He could get along without sodium, were it not for the fact that salt is chloride of sodium, and nobody can get along without salt. It isn't a simple, an element, but it is absolutely indispensable. When the era of the chemical food sets in, we'll all be in the habit of stopping morning and evening at our favorite dispensaries for a bracer of salt.

Adjusted for inflation, $.15 is about $3.50 in 2007 dollars.

See also:
That Synthetic Food of the Future (Ogden Standard-Examiner, 1926)

Wednesday
Apr182007

That Synthetic Food of the Future (Ogden Standard-Examiner, 1926)


This cartoon appeared on page 10 of the Ogden Standard-Examiner (Ogden City, Utah) on September 19, 1926. In a clear homage to Dilbert, the boss in panel three screams, "It's the second time this week you've taken four minutes for lunch!!" It seems like everyone's stealing from Scott Adams these days.

(Click on the cartoon to make it larger.)

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