Futures Past

An excerpt from Salon’s review of Where’s My Jetpack

Sometimes it feels as if progress itself has actually slowed down, with
the 1960s as the climax of a 20th century surge of innovation, and the
decades that followed consisting of a weird mix of consolidation,
stagnation and rollback. Certainly change in the first half of the 20th
century seemed to manifest itself in the most dramatic and hubristic
manner. It was an era of massive feats of centralized planning and
public investment: huge dams; five-year plans of accelerated
industrialization; gigantic state-administered projects of rural
electrification, freeway construction and poverty banishment.

I kinda agree. In my previous role scouting and analysing emerging technologies for Orange, many of our team were startled firsthand by diminished expectations of social, scientific and technological progress across much of the management.

Where are the Apollo and Manhattan projects for this generation? The Cold War and WWII gave rise to great strides forward in transport, electronics and social security; the ‘War On Terror’ has given us the Roomba! Political leaders today speak of threats to human civilisation, but lack the courage to articulate bold world-changing programmes of progress, finding contentment in tinkering with tax codes and interest rates; leadership by spreadsheet and fear, rather than optimism and progress.

Coincidentally, today Wired is covering an exhibition on fictional movie architectures. If, like me, you’re fascinated with futurology, point your RSS reader at the Paleo-Future blog – a journal of ‘futures that never were’.


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