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Entries in short work week (4)

Sunday
Jun262011

Leisure in 2006 A.D. (1906)

What's the biggest problem people thought we'd be facing in the 21st century? Mid-air jetpack collisions? Disobedient robot servants? No, the greatest problem of our futuristic world was supposed to be too much leisure time.

It was believed that a push-button future of automation would bring about a world of unprecedented convenience and leisure. The question was only how to pass the time.

Many imagined a leisure-centric society driven by wholesome degeneracy, jet-setting golfers and sixteen hour work weeks. The mundane nature of such a simple push-button future would even drive people to suicide!

In reality, the amount of time spent on purely enjoyable activities hasn't really changed much in the last hundred years. But to steal a line from one W. Elias Disney, if we can dream it, we can do it! Feel free to leave your comments below about how to push ourselves into such a wondrous dystopia of automated despair.

The March 26, 1906 New Zealand Star told the story of leisure one hundred years into the future, through the lens of a more efficient and time-saving bath. Onward into our freshly scrubbed dystopia!

Probably the speediest dresser of our own day does not consume less than a quarter of an hour over his morning tub and the operation of drying himself. A hundred years hence people will be so avid of every moment of life, life will be so full of busy delight, that time-saving inventions will be at a huge premium. It is not because we shall be hurried in nerve-shattering anxiety, but because we shall value at its true worth the refining and restful influence of leisure, that we shall be impatient of the minor tasks of every day. The bath of the next century will lave the body speedily with oxgenated water, delivered with a force that will render rubbing unnecessary, and beside it will stand the drying cupboard, lined with some quickly moving arrangement of soft brushes, and fed with highly dessiccated air, from which, almost in a moment, the bather will emerge, dried, and with a skin gently stimulated and perhaps electrified, to clothe himself quickly and pass down the lift to his breakfast, which he will eat to the accompaniment of the morning's news, read out for the benefit of the family, or whispered into his ears by a talking machine.

 

Wednesday
Nov042009

16-Hour Work Week by Year 2020 (1967)

The idea that advanced 21st century technology would lead to ridiculously short work weeks was incredibly popular in the 20th century. And why not? Improved efficiency meant we'd obviously be working less, right? Seems like common sense.

I don't need to tell you that things didn't quite work out as the futurists had hoped. You're probably working more hours than ever; that is, if you're lucky enough to have a job at all.

The article below ran in the November 26, 1967 Gastonia Gazette (Gastonia, NC). It assumes that people will be working significantly less and raises concerns that all this free time will lead to "boredom, idleness, immorality, and increased personal violence." The piece even proposes the possibility of a guaranteed wage.

Those who hunger for time off from work may take heart from the forecast of political scientist Sebastian de Grazia that the average work week, by the year 2000, will average 31 hours, and perhaps as few as 21. Twenty years later, on-the-job hours may have dwindled to 26, or even 16.

But what will people do with all that free time? The outlook may not be cheery.

As De Grazia sees it: "There is reason to fear, as some do, that free time, forced free time, will bring on the restless tick of boredom, idleness, immorality, and increased personal violence. If the cause is identified as automation and the preference for higher intelligence, nonautomated jobs may increase, but they will carry the stigma of stupidity. Men will prefer not to work rather than to accept them. Those who do accept will increasingly come to be a politically inferior class."

One possible solution: a separation of income from work; perhaps a guaranteed annual wage to provide "the wherewithal for a life of leisure for all those who think they have the temperament."

1967 Nov 26 Gastonia Gazette - Gastonia NC paleofuture

Previously on Paleo-Future:

 

Sunday
May172009

Predictions for 1993 (1893)

The March 25, 1893 Newark Daily Advocate (Newark, OH) ran predictions of what the world of 1993 would look like. Excerpts from each of the four journalists (George Alfred Townson, Kate Field, Nym Crinkle, and John Swinton) appear below. The entire article is embedded below, or you can read it here.

Substitute the word "blog" for "book" in the last prediction and it could have easily been written today.

  • Where will be our greatest city? In all probability Chicago. There will be wonderful cities in the west, none more beautiful and extensive than Salt Lake City; but unless all signs fail Chicago will take precedence.
  • So called temperance legislation is a temporary aberration of well meaning but narrow minded men and women with whom sentimentality supplants reason, and who actually thinks morals are an affair of legislation. One hundred years hence personal liberty will be more than a phrase. When it is a fact sumptuary laws will be as impossible as witch burning is now.
  • The encyclopedic man, who makes a show of knowing all things, will give way to the specialist, who makes an effort to know one thing and know it well.
  • They will have more leisure to think. The present rate of headlong material activity cannot be kept up for another hundred years.
  • While I am writing this the statesmen of the country are asking themselves if it is not time to make laws which shall restrict if they do not put a stop to immigration.
  • In 100 years Denver will be as big as New York and in the center of a vast population.
  • If the republic remains politically compact and doesn't fall apart at the Mississippi river, Canada will be either part of it or an independent sovereignty, and the northern shore of the Gulf of Mexico will be the Riviera of the western continent.
  • I guess that there will be great political and social changes in our country before the year 1993, and that these changes will be advantageous to the community at large. I guess that before the next century shall end the functions and powers of our government will be greatly enlarged; that railroads, telegraphs and many other things now held as private spoil will be public property; that law, medicine and theology will be more reasonable than they now are; that the inventions and discoveries will be greater than we have ever yet had, and that the welfare of mankind will be higher than it is in this age of confusion.
  • Every person of fairly good education and of restless mind writes a book. As a rule, it is a superficial book, but it swells the bulk and it indicated the cerebral unrest that is trying to express itself. We have arrived at a condition in which more books are printed than the world can read. This is true not only of books that are not worth reading, but it is true of the books that are. All this I take to be the result of an intellectual affranchisement that is new, and of a dissemination of knowledge instead of concentration of culture. Everybody wants to say something. But it is slowly growing upon the world that everybody has not got something to say. Therefore one may even at this moment detect the causes which will produce reaction. In 100 years there will not be so many books printed, but there will be more said. That seems to me to be inevitable.

1893 March 25 Newark Daily Advocate - Newark OH Pa Leo Future

Previously on Paleo-Future:

Friday
May252007

Henry Ford's Machine Men (1924)

The evening edition of the December 5, 1924 State Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska) ran a short article about Henry Ford's automated vision for the future. It was titled "Machine Men," and the author laments the hustle and bustle the automobile has produced. The author calls "pish-posh" on Mr. Henry Ford and his projections of life with less work.

The article is transcribed below in its entirety.

Where is Henry Ford going to land us? asks Arthur Train in The Forum. His ambition is to build and market a hundred million automobiles so that every child will have one. His "vision" is for a world where everything is done by machines. His perfect man would press a button by the side of his bed and find himself automatically clad, fed, exercised, amused, and put to bed again. Thirty minutes' work for each of us a day would be enough, he says, to keep civilization going. Pish-posh, Henry! Does anybody suppose you would stop until you'd eliminated the necessity for all work whatsoever? Of course you wouldn't! When you rearranged everything so that the human "robot" can sit on his front porch and talk to another "robot" friend a thousand miles away on his eye glass string, mow his farm in Mongolia and milk his reindeer in Nova Zembla by wireless, hear and see what is going on upon the other side of the world by looking at a shirt stud, transport himself thru the air on a broomstick, and kiss his wife and best girl by radio - will he be any better off? Before we had motors in New York I used to go down town in a rattling old surface car that took half an hour; but now in your cabriolet, even if you've reduced the price $590.65 F.O.B. Detroit, it takes an hour. Have I gained anything? Somehow I feel as if I'd lost a little of my liberty. I don't want a nickel-plated stomach or an oxydized liver. I don't want to sit in one place and be artificially respirated and exercised, in order to keep my blood in circulation. I like to work. I like to earn my bread by the sweat of my brow because it makes me hungry to do it that way. For if, Henry, everything is done for us, what eventually are we going to do?

See also:
Gigantic Robots to Fight Our Battles (Fresno Bee, 1934)
Robots: The World of the Future (1979)
The Mechanical Man of the Future (1928)
The Robot is a Terrible Creature (1922)