Sunday, October 19, 2008

Back to the Future

So I've finally gotten around to watching Mad Men, which presents life in the early 60s from a contemporary point of view. Uncomfortable racist and sexist scenes are predictable, but it's the small touches -- along with genuinely interesting plot lines -- that have sucked me in.

In one scene, a young child walks into the kitchen covered head to toe in a plastic bag. Of course, I immediately grabbed the couch cushions and expected the mother to yell, "Don't EVER put plastic over your head!" Instead, she bristles and tells the girl to go clean up her room. I'm waiting for the scene when kids pile into a station wagon without seat belts, and maybe the father throws a bag of McDonald's trash out the window.

Watching this retrospective has got me thinking about how our lives might be viewed if our grandchildren put together a similar series fifty years from now. What do we take for granted now that will seem absurd in 2060? Of course, it all depends on what happens between now and then, but I'll make my best guesses anyway.

Treatment of animals

Only a small percentage of people are concerned about how we treat cows and pigs and chickens to mass produce our meat and dairy. I would imagine that future generations will look at our mistreatment of animals in the same way we look back on separate water fountains for colored people.

Treatment of the environment

I imagine a scene where someone buys a new big-screen television and throws the old 36-inch television in the trash bin. Then a mother gets in one car, a father gets in another, and they both drive to the same place, with smoke belching from the exhaust pipes. There's a bumper sticker on one of the cars that says, "ECO FRIENDLY CAR" That's assuming, of course, that globally warmed people of the future still enjoy irony.


"Do you remember when people used to go to different places? You know, before the Holodeck was invented?"

Excessive political correctness

I imagine a scene in which a husband agrees to stay home with the children while his wife goes on a business trip. This will seem very funny to men and women of the future, when men return to spitting and grabbing their crotches and dominating, while women assume the role of domestic underlings. By the way, have fun in Boston, Wendy. Hurry home!

Got any other ideas?


  1. Neural implants will make communication with people and machines as natural as thought. My grown grandkids will laugh at keyboards, mice, and cell phones. They'll incredulously wonder how we survived without the broadband wireless network that covers the entire globe. However, the Luddites will vacation in Antarctica to escape being connected 24/7.

    I hope oil powers only a small percentage of the globe, but we've bucked this trend for so many decades I wonder. As long as it's cheap enough, the economics of oil have made it the energy mainstay. My grandkids will marvel that we feared nuclear. But high-efficiency solar will provide most of the world's energy.

    Disco will come back.

    The European Union will be the undisputed top super power (masters of bureaucracy), with China second and the USA third and India nipping at our heels. Entertainment will be the biggest US business and export (maybe it is already).

    Most forms of cancer, AIDS and other nasty diseases can be cured with gene therapy. (I really hope this comes true - I think it can happen.)

    Robots sports become more popular than human sports. Cheaper and no doping questions. The Toyota -vs- Honda championship will set a viewership record.

    World War III. Too depressing to think about. Can't we evolve faster?

  2. I think our kids will look back and laugh and laugh at the size of our homes. Our monuments to ourselves

    They will obviously look back and laugh at our non-fat diets, then our no-sugar diets, and then our no transfats diets, and then.....