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25 years is never as far away as it seems.
March 16, 2013 9:46 PM   Subscribe

On April 3, 1988, the Los Angeles Times Magazine pub­lished a 25-year look ahead to 2013.
posted by SpacemanStix (55 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow, robot dogs, robot housekeepers, and mini entertainment units. Is the best we could do in 25 years seriously just one out of three?
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 10:17 PM on March 16, 2013


A Roomba qualifies as all three.
posted by aaronetc at 10:27 PM on March 16, 2013 [33 favorites]


Bill's concerned about the thinning ozone layer but IS USING HEAT IN LOS ANGELES IN APRIL. Bill. Come on, man.

Doesn't matter when the future is, cars are always about to be super-awesome and education is always about to be individualized and delivered via electronics.

(Also, wtf is an "electronic weight" that Alma is lifting at the beginning there?)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:27 PM on March 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


My prediction for 2038: We'll all communicate through our flying robo-Facebook accounts while zipping around in Twitter-tubes.
posted by chasing at 10:29 PM on March 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


We always think household robots will be coming any decade now, and we are always disappointed.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 10:32 PM on March 16, 2013


Not all misses, though. The navigation system in the car is dead on, and my neighborhood actually does have a Christa McAuliffe Elementary.
posted by zvs at 10:32 PM on March 16, 2013


Well they got the part about the commute right anyway.
posted by fshgrl at 10:41 PM on March 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


They were pretty close on population
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 10:42 PM on March 16, 2013


At least this article didn't promise us flying cars, although the Sid Mead illustration stopped just short of that. I remember the LA of 25 years ago, and it really didn't look that different from how it looks now.

I predict that in 25 years cars will still look pretty boring, they will still be bad for the environment, and the traffic in LA will still be unbelievably terrible. Los Angeles will probably still look much like it does today, and much like it did in 1988.

And we still won't have freaking robots.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 10:43 PM on March 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


In 25 years we'll be living in the gutted shells of cars amid skeletons of buildings. Platoons of survivalists will teach machete fighting to the children, and someone will always have to stand-to on the perimeter to warn of zombie attacks. We still have bottled water, though.

no wait....

See, melthegibson has this camel, and tinatheturner runs this caravansary in the desert...
posted by mule98J at 10:49 PM on March 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes, but did they know the Los Angeles Times would no longer have a Sunday Magazine in 2013? It was cut back from weekly to monthly in 2008 - and given its own website - but discontinued entirely after the June 2012 issue. Sadly so. It was the best newspaper Sunday Mag in my opinion (50% more interesting content than whatever the NYT published)
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:52 PM on March 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


One thing that seemed really dated was the idea of carrying around some kind of ID card with all your info. I remember that was a big idea back then, but of course now we all just have log ins and passwords and no need for a physical card to check in to a system anywhere. It seemed very dated.

That and the monorail.
posted by fshgrl at 10:55 PM on March 16, 2013


Those making shrewd guesses about 25 years into the future should go for "Pretty much like now, but with even more people".

Of course, that doesn't sell newspapers.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:05 PM on March 16, 2013


"just load the floppy with the enchilada program" is the best phrase I've heard all week.
posted by jeudi at 11:11 PM on March 16, 2013 [10 favorites]


Back at the Morrow home, Camille is awakened by Billy Rae, who brings her a banana and her vitamins—the same breakfast she's had for the past forty years.

After exercising to Jane Fonda's latest "Geriatric Workout" video, Camille asks her daughter-in-law if she can borrow the computer for a few minutes to clear up a banking problem.

When she sees the enchiladas on the floor, Camille punishes Billy Rae by sending him to a closet and locking the door.



You guys, I'm worried about Camille.
posted by roger ackroyd at 11:12 PM on March 16, 2013 [24 favorites]


Love the Syd Mead drawings, of course. Not entirely unrelated, but not related either entirely because I understand the drawings weren't commissioned for this piece, but the heavy emphasis on videophones really reminds me of Blade Runner and how that's one of the few technology fails in it (combined with the lack of mobile phones).
posted by immlass at 11:13 PM on March 16, 2013


There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white;

Robins will wear their feathery fire,
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn
Would scarcely know that we were gone."

posted by mr_roboto at 11:37 PM on March 16, 2013 [8 favorites]


Love the assumption that Alma will handle dinner for the guests Bill spontaneously invited, while juggling her own job, handling problems with the kid at school, and supervising the malfunctioning robotic housekeeper.

Almost instantly, a readout of the running food inventory kept by the fridge appears on Bill's computer screen. Seeing they're low on vegetable, salad materials and chicken, Bill tells the system to phone the market and have those items delivered.

But hey at least Bill remembered the FreshDirect!
posted by torticat at 11:54 PM on March 16, 2013 [7 favorites]


Billy Rae drops a load of dirty clothes into the smart washing machine, which measures out the correct amount of detergent and begins the cycle.

A "smart" washing machine but still not ultra-sonic. Future, you let me down.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 12:06 AM on March 17, 2013


Mr prediction for 2038:

It'll still look pretty much like the 1970s, but some electrical stuff will be even thinner.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 12:56 AM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


(Also, I just love that a newspaper couldn't get to the end of its first page of predictions without predicting we'd all be laser printing newspapers in our own houses. Dumbasses.)
posted by obiwanwasabi at 12:58 AM on March 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


For example, we may one day be able to drive around Los Angeles in a "sports-utility" vehicle...

Go on...

... that can go from being a two-seat sports car to a beach buggy -- thanks to a plug-in module

So close!
posted by Omission at 1:06 AM on March 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


Metafilter: acknowledges the commands with a burst of "Your Cheatin' Heart" and Alma turns away, satisfied.
posted by passerby at 1:07 AM on March 17, 2013


No Tassimo or Keurig? How could you not see those coming? I predict in 2038 we will have even more gimmicky and wasteful ways to make a mediocre cup of coffee.
posted by Brodiggitty at 3:25 AM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


No Tassimo or Keurig? How could you not see those coming? I predict in 2038 we will have even more gimmicky and wasteful ways to make a mediocre cup of coffee.

Set it for as hot as you can, and stick a single serve drip cone under it, with your preferred amount of whatever coffee you like, and it's not unusable as an electric kettle to heat the water.
posted by mikelieman at 5:03 AM on March 17, 2013


This makes me nostalgic for a time when predictions of the future were optimistic, with drawings of sleek skyscrapers and descriptions of robots and air cars. Modern predictions of the future focus instead of totalitarianism and scarcity and frightened households armed with more firepower than most African nations. The latter seems a lot more do-able than a highway filled with hovering Honda Civics, unfortunately.
posted by spoobnooble II: electric bugaboo at 5:10 AM on March 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


Will Los Angeles be better or worse than it is now. Lets ask some White Guys...
White Guys: WORSE!
Well there you have it nightmare future imminent unless you are for some reason not a white guy.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:46 AM on March 17, 2013


Metafilter: unless you are for some reason not a white guy.
posted by Blue_Villain at 6:20 AM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


SO MUCH CHROME!
posted by QueerAngel28 at 6:23 AM on March 17, 2013


I kind of feel an article like this is best read aloud with a group of people, Eye of Argon style, with the goal of the narrator not laughing.
posted by crapmatic at 6:25 AM on March 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's interesting how the focus is on robots and floppies/laser discs with info and no one saw the iPhone coming. Nowhere is the entirety of communication in your pocket.

Also fails to predict that rather than downloading the latest literature and exercise programs, we play Angry Birds. Seems to assume people get 25 years smarter. My prediction for 2038: Angry Birds 9,000 played on portable holograms.
posted by sonika at 6:26 AM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


As laughable as stuff like the "Electro-lane" and "exer-helmet" sound to us today, there really are a number of things this article got right, or at least half-right:posted by one more dead town's last parade at 7:02 AM on March 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


But the big thing that the article missed is that the default state of network connections changed from "down" to "up" around 2002 or 2003. That changes everything else.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 7:04 AM on March 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


A secret question hovers over us, a sense of disappointment, a broken promise we were given as children about what our adult world was supposed to be like. I am referring not to the standard false promises that children are always given (about how the world is fair, or how those who work hard shall be rewarded), but to a particular generational promise—given to those who were children in the fifties, sixties, seventies, or eighties—one that was never quite articulated as a promise but rather as a set of assumptions about what our adult world would be like. And since it was never quite promised, now that it has failed to come true, we’re left confused: indignant, but at the same time, embarrassed at our own indignation, ashamed we were ever so silly to believe our elders to begin with.

Where, in short, are the flying cars?


Of Flying Cars and the Declining Rate of Profit by David Graeber.
posted by knapah at 7:05 AM on March 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


One thing that seemed really dated was the idea of carrying around some kind of ID card with all your info. I remember that was a big idea back then, but of course now we all just have log ins and passwords and no need for a physical card to check in to a system anywhere.

Maybe this depends where you work? I work in a big university. I carry a prox card that lets me check books out of the library and gives me access to closed facilities -- since the card has my identifying information, it knows where I'm authorized to be and where I'm not. Presumably it's also storing information about where I am on campus.
posted by escabeche at 7:09 AM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I carry a prox card that lets me check books out of the library and gives me access to closed facilities

I think the article envisioned that information actually being stored on the card. Now, with our always-on network connections, the card is just a token, and the actual decision about whether you need to pay your library fines before checking out a book, or whether your prox actually should let you through this door, is made by a computer physically located somewhere else on campus.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 7:23 AM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Seemed to miss the divorce between data and physical storage media.
posted by ZeusHumms at 7:24 AM on March 17, 2013


Seemed to miss the divorce between data and physical storage media.

I was coming here to say that very thing. Every third or fourth paragraph we seem to hear about "a disc containing..." or "a card which holds..." CDs had become common only a few years before this as written and DVDs were still a decade off, and in 2013 both are already considered kind of archaic.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:36 AM on March 17, 2013


And I was musing on the fact that the sources quoted -- say, Daniel Garcia, president of the LA city planning commission -- probably would have been a little surprised to learn that when 2013 rolled around, their thoughts from 1988 could be hauled out and examined by millions of people at their home computers. Then I was trying to recollect the state of home computers in 1988. Our house had had one -- an Atari 800 -- since 1982, but my dad was the quintessential early adopter. I Googled "home computers 1988" and the very first hit was a PCWorld article from 2008 looking back twenty years (and mentioning that only about 15% of American homes had a computer at that point). Wonder of wonders, the first page of this article ends with:
Where do we go from here? Expect connected everything--from lights to washers to talking mirrors to fridges that make your grocery lists. Instead of a home computer, we'll have a computerized home. For a further look into the future, see "The Next 25 Years in Tech."
Dibs on the FPP in 2033.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:48 AM on March 17, 2013


My prediction for 2038 is that we will all party like it is January 1st 1970.
posted by autopilot at 8:08 AM on March 17, 2013 [10 favorites]


I love how of course when Bill burns a (heh) laser-disc of music for the Japanese executive, his bank account is debited for the correct licensing fee. Clearly someone consulted record-company execs on their preferred future...

Also, I love how so many futuristic visions of cars in the past seemed to ignore the problems of structural integrity in an accident for those fancy all-glass roof bubbles, as well as issues of ground clearance when the carapace comes down so low to the (shiny glass!) road surface.

Typographically speaking, I was happy to learn that I didn't imagine that people actually used that author attribution style where the byline at the end of a sidebar is right-aligned. We were still doing that at the mags I work on (meaning 90 percent of the time, I was fixing the attribution to be properly right-aligned) until a redesign this year put the attributions immediately after the last word of the paragraph. The old style has a sort of elegance to it—it's nice to have a hard ender at the right margin—but for some reason no one else seemed to grok how to make it work (gah! change the graf style to justify all lines and use a flush space before the attribution!).
posted by limeonaire at 8:44 AM on March 17, 2013


fshgrl: "of course now we all just have log ins and passwords and no need for a physical card to check in to a system anywhere. It seemed very dated."

It's possible that two factor authentication will take off at any time. It's so easy with smart phones and you don't have to carry anything most people aren't already carrying.

limeonaire: "I love how so many futuristic visions of cars in the past seemed to ignore the problems of structural integrity in an accident for those fancy all-glass roof bubbles"

No different than convertibles. Especially when paired with active roll over protection.
posted by Mitheral at 9:17 AM on March 17, 2013


I snickered at the idea that a "van that would handle like a Mark VII" would be desirable. I've driven a Mark VII and my wife's old Windstar would have left the Mark VII in the dust.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:39 AM on March 17, 2013


"Camille would rather talk to a teller face to face as she did in the old days, but...it costs $25 extra"

True that this is pretty close to how things are, but it's then followed up by:

"...Camille's account is automatically displayed on a computer screen when a teller picks up the call...within minutes, the matter is cleared up...."

Lol!
posted by young sister beacon at 10:06 AM on March 17, 2013


I'm never sure if I really miss optimistic utopian dreams. They can be pretty dehumanizing, because they're based on completely ignoring human nature, although that is often poignantly sweet.

The reason we don't have a shinier future is because our governments refused to fund it, refused to fund the education and infrastructure and research, mainly out of short-term political interest, sometimes out of a contempt for the idea of public resources that an undeserving person and/or ethnic minority might somehow be able to use. Hence, today, where "everything is amazing and nobody is happy." I am not pessimistic enough to believe in outright dystopia for everyone, but in the main, people will probably just allow things to limp on by, and our dreams will grow smaller and smaller until the eventual expansion of the sun.

Anyway! Who's for brunch?
posted by Countess Elena at 10:38 AM on March 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Next door in the study, the family's personalized home newspaper, featuring articles on the subjects that interest them, such as financial news and stories about their community, is being printed by laser-jet printer off the home computer"

Apart from the tree-killing, that sounds an awful lot like a certain recently cancelled product.
posted by kagredon at 1:17 PM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


My prediction for 2038 is that we will all party like it is January 1st 1970.

Dec 13, 1901? 2**31-1 overflows to -(2**31), not 0.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 3:35 PM on March 17, 2013


Hence, today, where "everything is amazing and nobody is happy."

Louis CK rules, but that bit has always bugged me a little. While we do have all sorts of amazing gadgets now, the fact is that a lot of times they just don't work, or they cause so many problems they're almost worse than nothing.

My cell phone is an amazing device, but it drops calls so often that most of the time I have to just give up on it. Most of my conversations on the damn thing consist of me and the other party yelling WHAT?! at each other. Airline travel can be an absolutely miserable ordeal, even if we are flying through the sky in an amazing contraption. Is it better than riding a covered wagon across the country for months? Sure. But after you go through all of the security theater and you're stuck on the runway for a couple of hours and you're seated next to some chatty racist with a stomach flu and there's some terrifying turbulence and your legs are cramped and ears hurt and then you're stuck on the runway again and the reward for it all is staggering out to deal with the world-famous horrors of LAX, the covered wagon really doesn't sound so bad.

Sometimes the future feels less like The Jetsons and more like it's being brought to us by the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:17 PM on March 17, 2013


Flying cars were always a pretty "how on earth would that work, really" idea, though, weren't they? It's odd that they became the gold standard of How the Future Will Be!!! for such a long time. People are unbelievably crappy at avoiding killing themselves and everyone else when moving through a two-dimensional space with nicely defined lanes and careful segregation of traffic by direction etc. Put all that up in the air, add in the destructive capacity of machines falling out of the skies in unpredictable ways etc., not to mention the ridiculous added power cost of flying over rolling and it's hard to imagine why, exactly that's anyone's idea of Utopia.
posted by yoink at 4:23 PM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I remember a particular grade school cafeteria conversation, probably right around '88, about what "THE FUTURE" would be like. Some random year, maybe 2005. Other than the internet and smartphones, we would've been greatly disappointed.

Modern video games would've been something back then, though. I see Youtube clips of old 8-bit games, and it seems like yesterday, and yet an eternity ago.

Still, the potential amount of change between 2013-2038 sounds a lot scarier than what 1988-2013 ended up having. It's hard to even mention some internet trend in a movie without it being dated by the time the movie comes out.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 5:18 PM on March 17, 2013


Our Ship Of The Imagination!: "Wow, robot dogs, robot housekeepers, and mini entertainment units. Is the best we could do in 25 years seriously just one out of three?"

You forgot Aibo so soon?
posted by IndigoRain at 7:43 PM on March 17, 2013


Dec 13, 1901? 2**31-1 overflows to -(2**31), not 0.

time_t is usually but not necessarily signed. QNX users will party like it's 1970, anyway.
posted by zvs at 8:12 PM on March 17, 2013


Doesn't that mean QNX won't overflow until 2106 then?
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 9:17 PM on March 17, 2013


One thing that seemed really dated was the idea of carrying around some kind of ID card with all your info. I remember that was a big idea back then, but of course now we all just have log ins and passwords and no need for a physical card to check in to a system anywhere. It seemed very dated.

Au contraire, with two-step authentication / LostPass in all "important" websites (and online bank transactions), I would argue that mobiles are fast becoming such an ID card for digital verification. Photo-ID's are only for human verification.
posted by the cydonian at 3:11 AM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Countess Elena: "I am not pessimistic enough to believe in outright dystopia for everyone, but in the main, people will probably just allow things to limp on by, and our dreams will grow smaller and smaller until the eventual expansion of the sun. "

So, a boot sort of gently pushing pushing on a human face, forever? The "forever" is where it falls apart for me. As Herb Stein put it, "If something cannot go on forever, it will stop." I'm very skeptical of any prediction that makes a straight line extrapolation, even if that straight line is a steady state.

I completely agree the governments of the past 30-odd years have sold us short, and that may well continue for a while. But humanity has been stuck in stagnation in the past-the Dark Ages weren't as bad as the common picture of them, but they were hardly a time of dynamic improvement in everyday life-and it has broken out and transitioned to stages of improvement.

Global climate change will pose enormous challenges, and may itself screw us pretty badly. That said, I don't believe that human nature itself dooms us to endless quasi-dsytopia. Sooner or later, something will change.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:34 PM on March 19, 2013


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