January 23, 2013

The Word "Futurism"

Five years from now, we will talk on phones shaped like squirming tadpole men

For a moment there I misread that headline as "... we will talk about phones shaped like squirming tadpole men."

our Globelines handset

Futurism is a loaded word. I get that now, especially after getting mildly bombarded the moment I opened Wikipedia's comprehensive disambiguation page for the word "futurism." There's an art movement, a slightly unrelated social movement, a scientific line of thought, and the odd inevitable pretentiously-titled rock album. You'd imagine that any artist would love to corner the market on the use of the word "futurism." Or "future," for that matter.

Because we human beings think about the future a lot. And for a time we were even obsessed enough with the future to devote whole subgenres of speculative fiction to it.

The JetsonsOh, great... my Hanna-Barbera past again.

Futurists get a bad rap, if only due to the widespread belief of how impossible the future is to predict with any accuracy. As a result, they're often subject to a similar disdain as that reserved for people with an interest in UFOs, cryptids, or other branches of what we like to call fringe science.

J.J. Abrams' Fringe
Speaking of which.

Of course, that doesn't stop people from giving it their ol' college try anyway.

You don't have to be a scientist or sociologist to take a stab at what the future brings, though. Sometimes all you need to be is a little kid with a big imagination. (Gods, I sound like someone straight out of a Disney movie)

This page spread is an old (probably mid-eighties?) edition of Macmillan's Illustrated Almanac For Kids, one of several massive trivia repositories that kept my siblings and I company at home when we were little.

Kids Predict The Future, from Macmillan's Illustrated Almanac For Kids
I think the only prediction here that sounds remotely close to our present is the one about us staring at things and doing nothing. I have my doubts about the "It will be real nice" part though.

As expected, no speculation on the future would be complete without mention of robots.

Robot Maids? (Macmillan's Illustrated Almanac For Kids)

The same holds true for jetpacks. To date, I think the only contemporary jetpack prototype I'd ever seen that impressed me was the one flown by Yves Rossy on a recent episode of Top Gear.

I Want My Jetpack (Macmillan's Illustrated Almanac For Kids)

It must be nice to have childlike notions of what the future would be like. I can only wonder how today's kids will predict the next few hundred years. Will there be more iPads? More pollution? More outlandish fashion trends to give skinny jeans a run for their money?

Men Wearing Skirts? (Macmillan's Illustrated Almanac For Kids)
Also, note the "iron man" prediction.

(Note: I first started composing this in March 2011, so this post is sort of long overdue. Besides, quips about jetpacks and subversive gender norms are practically timeless.)

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