Tag Archives: prophecies

A Film From 1967 Predicted Our Technology Fairly Well

The video below was made by the Philco-Ford corporation in 1967. Philco was a battery company that, after about 40 years in business filed for bankruptcy and was bought by Ford in 1961. By then, it had branched out into computer systems so it made this film probably to drum up business for them. It’s a very interesting view of the future from the ’60s, especially since we know how it turned out, and even 20 years after.

Let’s go through each of the 32 predictions in the video and see how it stacked up to 1999, and also how we’re doing in 2017. To save you the suspense, counting things that at least somewhat came true, the score for 1999 was 50% (16 came true-ish), and 75% for 2017 (24 came true-ish). An F for its goal year, but a C+ for the current year, which is not bad at all for 50 years ago.

And interestingly, most of the mis-predictions weren’t so much because the technology still isn’t here by now (like flying cars, for example), but because the market just hasn’t wanted them, like modular housing. Given another couple of decades, we might be looking at just a couple more coming true due to technological advances.

1. Modular housing with hexagonal pods that can be attached together

1999: Mostly false

2017: Mostly false

Manufactured housing is certainly a common thing, but it’s not very popular. People buy it more out of necessity than desire. And it doesn’t usually quite work as described, with additions being easy. Usually anyway — some people do live in modular houses, and it’s becoming more widespread.

2. The age of 44 is “not so old”

1999: True

2017: True

In the 1960s, a 44 year old woman was way past middle age. Nowadays, 44 is usually very much considered not that old.

3. The father works for an effort to colonize Mars

1999: False

2017: True

There are currently a handful of serious efforts to colonize Mars, most notably SpaceX’s and NASA’s. That wasn’t the case in 1999.

4. He’s working on GMO foods

1999: Mostly true

2017: Mostly true

In the video, he’s working on a peach with a rind like a tangerine, and indeed genetically modified foods first sold in the mid-1990s. Nothing as crazy as that, and it’s gotten a lot of pushback, but GMO foods are certainly here and eaten by millions.

5. He’s got a “workbench with an electronic screen” that lets him see images for work

1999: True

2017: True

This was a big misstep the video took — not realizing that computer consoles would become multipurpose. In the video, the house is full of special purpose consoles and screens, like this one. But in reality of course, the dad could look at his work images on any computer screen, not just that specialized “workbench”.

6. They have a central home computer which is “secretary, librarian, banker, teacher, medical technician, bridge partner, and all-around servant” and “all pertinent information about this family: its records, its tastes and reference material, is stored in its memory banks, available instantly to every member of the family”

1999: Somewhat true

2017: Mostly true

Another big misstep here: failing the predict the Internet. In the video, the house computer stores and processes everything. The functionality is available now, especially thanks to smartphones, but the infrastructure is almost entirely offsite: the library, the bank, the courses, medical data, even a lot of games are all stored on a computer on the Internet. So all of it is instantly available to the family, but it’s not stored locally in the house, and it’s not all stored on the same computer — instead it’s disparate systems all over the globe.

The family computer in the video does communicate with other computers, as we see later, so the disconnect isn’t the Internet itself — instead it was probably that they didn’t foresee the data transmission speeds that we now have. At the transmission speeds of the 1960s, it would have to have been local to be instant.

7. The kid goes to school two mornings a week, but he’s home schooled by computer programs “which allow him to progress as rapidly as his awakened mind can absorb the audio-visual lessons”

1999: False

2017: False

Again, not a technological hurdle — all of this is very much doable today, and somewhat so even in 1999. But people don’t want their kids in the house with no friends all day. School, as it turned out, is as much a social institution as it is a learning one.

Also, it’s strange that he would only be going to school twice a week — they must’ve really slimmed down the curriculum.

8. He gets tired of learning and watched cartoons on another computer screen

1999: Somewhat true

2017: True

A kid would most likely not watch cartoons on a computer in 1999, but he could’ve pulled up a VHS tape on a TV in the living room. But now he can watch cartoons on any phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop.

9. The guys appear on a video screen from other rooms in the house asking mom for lunch

1999: False

2017: Mostly false

This was just not possible in 1999, but it’s very possible now. Few people have a computer monitor in the kitchen, but the mom could have a laptop open with Skype or FaceTime running. And of course, she’d have her phone. But this still doesn’t happen. Why? Because of another technology the video didn’t foresee: texting. The kid and dad would most likely text the mom in the kitchen rather than video conference with her.

10. The kid uses a blow dryer built-in to the vanity to dry his face

1999: False

2017: False

Another thing that’s very much possible, that no one wants. The hand dryers in public restrooms are slow and terrible enough that no one would want to bring that experience in their homes. Not to mention that it’s a lot more expensive to run, on top of being much, much slower than a hand towel.

11. The mom pulls up a pre-set lunch menu on the computer, looks at alternatives, makes a modification, then gets nutritional advice from the computer and prepares the meals with some button pushing in about a minute because “most food will be stored frozen in individual portions. The computer will keep a running inventory on all food stuffs, and suggest daily menus based on the nutritional needs of the family. When a meal has been selected, the various portions are fed automatically into the microwave oven, for a few seconds of thawing or warming.”

1999: Mostly false

2017: Somewhat true

This one’s interesting because the technological and social pieces are currently falling into place for this vision, and it may well be true in another 10 years:

  • Frozen food: yes, ubiquitous. Not the go-to thing for most people, but everyone has frozen meals in their freezer.
  • Computerized inventory of food stuffs: no, but it’s getting there. Smart fridges haven’t taken off yet, but that’s probably because no one’s figured out a good user interface yet. One of the things they do, however, is keep track of the food in it. If that data went someplace in the cloud, that service could absolutely suggest daily menus. The technology is there, and it’s compelling, but no one’s built something successful in the market yet.
  • Nutritional recommendations: yes. The amount of phone apps and websites that do this is astounding. But, it’s all based on manual input so far, which is a lot more annoying than the automated workflow in the video.
  • Fast cooking: they were right on the money with the microwave oven. In the 1960s, it was only available in commercial kitchens, but by the 1980s, it was everywhere, just as the video predicted.

12. “The house of 1999 will be virtually maintenance-free. A central atmospheric system will maintain constant year-round temperatures and control humidity, bacteria, pollen and dust.”

1999: Mostly true

2017: Mostly true

That’s a pretty accurate description of a central HVAC unit. Temperature being the main focus there, humidity control being a by-product, and bacteria, pollen, and dust being controlled with various levels of intake filters.

13. “Clothing of the non-disposable variety will be stored in cleaning closets, where a chemical vapor atmosphere, and an ultrasonic vibrator will remove dirt particles.”

1999: Somewhat true

2017: Somewhat true

They got the spirit right here, but not the specifics. Instead of using that vibrating smoke closet, we’ve achieved automated clothing cleaning with the washer/dryer combo. And while we don’t have disposable clothing per se, clothing is certainly cheap enough that it could be, and sometimes is, disposable.

14. “Fingertip shopping will be one of the many homemaker’s conveniences.”

1999: Mostly true

2017: True

Over the past 20 years, online shopping has become a staple of virtually every household, and especially recently when 2 day shipping has exploded in popularity.

15. There’s a “household monitor screen which maintains a watch on critical areas in the house, swimming pool, or yard.”

1999: False

2017: True

Many households have one or more inexpensive surveillance cameras installed.

16. “What the wife selects on her console, will be paid for by the husband on his counterpart console. All bills and transactions will be carried out electronically. A central bank computer will debit the family’s account the amount of purchases and credit the department store, for example, informing the family’s home computer at the same time.”

1999: Mostly false

2017: True

Online banking has really taken off in the past decade, to the point where you can do it all from your phone. Paying bills, credit cards, looking at budgets, etc is all done on the computer by most people.

17. “Father, at the touch of a button, receives an instantaneous printed copy of his budget, the amount of taxes he owes, the payments left on the car, and so forth. All documents and household records are available on the video screen for immediate reference.”

1999: True

2017: True

The household printer’s been around since the 1980s.

18. “Also at his disposal is an electronic correspondence machine, or a home post office, which allows for instant written communication between individuals anywhere in the world.”

1999: True

2017: True

I’m not sure why their home post office needed a pen as opposed to a keyboard, but this obviously came true by the early 1990s with e-mail, instant messaging and later, SMS. Again though, they predicted a special purpose machine, as opposed to this being just another function of a computer screen.

19. “To maintain these and hundreds of complex electronic circuits, a monitor checks all circuits every few seconds, and inserts a backup circuit if and when trouble develops, and alerts the communal service agency for replacement.”

1999: False

2017: False

This might sound like one of the strangest predictions to us, but that’s because the video again failed to predict a very important invention: the packet-switched network. Prior to it, circuits had to be physically connected to each other, so that current could go only where it was needed, because current was the information. So as it turned out, this maintenace nightmare was designed away by having everything be connected all the time, and making only the data go where it needs to.

20. “The home energy center, with it’s fuel cell, furnishes power, provides absolutely pure water, burns waste, and heats or cools the rooms.”

1999: False

2017: Mostly false

This might be true in another few decades, but the only piece of it available now is solar power with batteries that power the house and the HVAC systems. However, that’s not tied into water purification and sewage systems yet.

21. Photochromic windows

1999: False

2017: Mostly false

It’s not in wide use yet, but “smart glass” that can control the amount of light passing through it is available and becoming more and more popular.

22. Ocean farming

1999: False

2017: False

This is the one prediction that just doesn’t make sense. Why would anyone willingly grow food in the ocean? Hydroponic gardens, sure… but this is just a whole other level of crazy.

23. An electronic musical keyboard

1999: True

2017: True

Electronic synthesizers were already becoming a reality in the 1960s, and like the microwave, they became widely available in the 1980s.

24. Father “enters this home health center. He lies for, perhaps 15 seconds, on a kind of medical couch. His weight, temperature, pulse, respiration, blood pressure, and electrocardiogram are routinely recorded. At the same time, his body is scanned for any isolated temperature pockets that signal oncoming disease or localized infection. At the end of the examination period, the computer calculates the amount of exercise necessary to balance Mike’s food intake and maintain proper muscle tone.”

1999: False

2017: Somewhat true

This is another one that mostly exists in spirit. With wrist wearables like the FitBit and Apple Watch, along with smart scales and health apps, we have an ecosystem of gadgets that approximates much of this home health center. Blood pressure and ECGs aren’t yet common, but could be soon, and there’s no full body scanning gadget yet though.

25. “The computer now relays any important physical changes to a central community medical center, where Mike’s personal physician will be alerted for further diagnosis.”

1999: False

2017: Mostly false

We’re at a point where this is possible, but in practice not yet widely adopted. However, in theory, your Apple Watch and smart scale could certainly upload the data to your doctor.

26. Father video chats with a friend that lives far away, somewhere cold

1999: Mostly false

2017: True

Video chat in the late 1990s was terrible, but now it’s amazing and commonplace.

27. Father and his friend talk about easily jet-setting to California or Mexico for a round of golf

1999: Somewhat true

2017: Somewhat true

Air travel has gotten a lot cheaper and more convenient, with a lot more destinations, so that you can get basically anywhere in the world in 24 hours, and the most it’ll cost is the price of three iPhones. But, it’s generally expensive to go last minute, and inconvenient enough that you wouldn’t get on a plane for a round of golf.

28. Father checks the weather on his computer

1999: True

2017: True

This was, as predicted, one of the earliest services to be offered online.

29. Mother has a lot of free time, because there’s not much to do around the house, so she does pottery

1999: Somewhat true

2017: Somewhat true

We do have a lot more leisure time now than we did in the ’60s. However, few people use that time to improve themselves. Mostly, it’s spent watching TV or taking on new activities, such as helicopter parenting.

30. The kid plays chess on a real chess board that’s linked to the computer, which relays the moves to his dad, who’s somewhere else

1999: Mostly true

2017: Mostly true

The real chessboard is possible, but not something most people would care to invest in. The video failed to predict the electronic inputs we have, since there was no mouse or touch interface back then, so they likely couldn’t think of a nice way to play chess on a virtual board.

31. At a party, the dad plays, on a giant screen, a video he recorded the other night

1999: Mostly true

2017: True

This is a lot easier to do now with iPhones and AirPlay, and basically identical to the video, but even in the ’90s, one could plug their camcorder into a projection TV and show something they recorded to a group.

32. He agrees to make a 3-D copy for his friend

1999: Mostly false

2017: Mostly true

The 3-D fad is dying, but if it had kept going strong, this would be completely true. Cheap 3-D cameras are the missing piece here, and making a copy of the video would be trivial now. In 1999, home 3-D technology wasn’t a thing, and making a copy of a video tape wasn’t easy, but it was doable.

In the end, the video does a pretty good job of predicting the lifestyle of the early 21st century, but it misses key details because it didn’t predict much of the infrastructure that ended up making that lifestyle possible: general purpose computers, the fast, packet-switched Internet, smartphones, texting, and graphical computer inputs.

See also:

From YouTube, via Neatorama

Two Sitcoms Joked About Bruce Jenner Being A Woman Years Before He Came Out

This is dialog from a 2009 Family Guy episode (season 7, episode 14) called “We Love You, Conrad“:

Brian: Bruce Jenner is a man

Stewie: No, Brian. That’s what the press would have you believe, but he’s not. Bruce Jenner is a woman: an elegant, beautiful, Dutch woman.

 

And a decade before that, in 1996, Married… With Children showed the Bundys’ boyish-looking next door neighbor, Marcy, being mistaken for Bruce Jenner. This is from the 25th episode of season 10, “Torch Song Duet”:

See also:

via Uproxx and Happy Place

Nostradamus Predicted ‘Gangnam Style’ Would Reach A Billion YouTube Views On Mayan Doomsday

And by ‘Nostradamus’, I mean ‘the Internet’. Still, the fact that the prophecy came true is bizarre. About three weeks before the Mayan Doomsday of 21 December 2012, this image went viral:

 

It’s supposed to mean that the world would end when the Korean song ‘Gangnam Style‘ would get a billion views (1 followed by nine circles) on YouTube. Of course, the prophecy is a fake, just like many others, and Nostradamus never said anything of the sort. The strange thing is that it actually came true: on December 21st, ‘Gangnam Style‘ reached a billion views on YouTube — the first video to ever reach that milestone.

So either someone really prophesied it, maybe aided by some statistical forecasting, or the Internet population decided to make it come true by playing the video over and over in a concerted effort to reach a billion views on that date. In either case, it’s a very impressive feat.

See also:

Accidental Prophecies

Cracked has an article about insane coincidences that actually happened:

  • The Civil War started in Wilmer McLean‘s front yard and ended in his parlor: in 1861 the first cannonball shot of the war landed in his house in northern Virginia; a couple years later he moved 120 miles southwest, to central Virginia; by coincidence, in 1865 General Lee surrendered in McLean’s new house.
  • Ohio is the home state to the first aviators (the Wright brothers), the first American to orbit the Earth (John Glenn), the first person to set foot on the moon (Neil Armstrong), and 22 other astronauts — by far the most of any state.
  • The Battle of Midway in World War II was almost won by the Japanese until, by coincidence, American bombers from elsewhere arrived at the exact moment when all of the Japanese planes were refueling on the Japanese aircraft carriers. Within minutes, all three of them were destroyed along with all of their aircraft.
  • Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson — respectively, the 2nd and 3rd Presidents of the US — died on July 4th, 1826, exactly 50 years after they both signed the Declaration of Independence. The 5th President, James Monroe, also died on July 4th, in 1831. And the famous Civil War Battle of Gettysburg also ended on July 4th, in 1863.

Those are interesting coincidences, but the other two they mention are actually more like accidental prophecies.

The Cannibalism of Richard Parker

Edgar Allan Poe wrote a book called The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, which is a sea-faring story that inspired Moby Dick. In it there is a part where four sailors are stranded at sea without food and water, which eventually causes them to resort to killing and eating one of the characters, Richard Parker. The book was published in 1838, but guess what happened in real life forty-six years later, in 1884? Four sailors got stranded at sea without food and water, which eventually caused them to resort to killing and eating one of their numbers, a Richard Parker.

The real life story is interesting on its own, too: the four sailors were transporting a yacht called the Mignonette from England to Australia when it sank in the South Atlantic. After almost three weeks during which all they had to eat was a turtle and two cans of turnips, and during which Richard Parker became comatose and dying after falling ill from drinking sea water, they cut his jugular and ate him. Almost another week later, they were rescued by a German ship. Two of the three survivors were put on trial for murder; the third was not part of the killing, though he did eat a lot of Mr. Parker. After a famous trial full of legal errors, the two were found guilty and sentenced to death, but due to public opinion in favor of the defendants, their sentence was commuted to six months in prison by the secretary of the UK Home Office, who is kind of like the US Attorney General.

Richard Parker's tombstone

 

The Unsinkable Titan(ic)

Construction of the Titanic started in 1909 and the infamous sinking happened in 1912. But fourteen years earlier, in 1898, a book came out called Futility, or the Wreck of the Titan, which describes in amazing detail the sinking of a ship much like the Titanic:

  • In the book, the ship is called the Titan
  • The book describes the Titan as “unsinkable”; the media used the same word for the Titanic
  • The Titan was 800 ft long — the Titanic 883
  • The Titan displaced 75,000 tons — the Titanic 53,000
  • They both had a capacity of 3,000 people
  • They both carried less than half the number of lifeboats needed: 24 for the Titan, 20 for the Titanic
  • The Titan had 19 water-tight compartments — the Titanic, 16
  • The Titan could stay afloat with 9 flooded compartments — the Titanic, 4
  • They both hit an iceberg 400 miles from Newfoundland on an April night
  • They were both going too fast when they hit the iceberg: the Titan at 25 knots, the Titanic at 22.5
  • The Titan was carrying 2500 passengers — the Titanic, 2200
  • Both went down bow first

There are differences too: the Titan was sailing backwards from the Titanic, from the US to Britain; 710 people survived the Titanic, but only 13 survived the Titan; the Titanic took over two hours to sink, but the Titan sank within minutes; the Titan had sails to assist the engines, and the Titanic did not. Still, the similarities are astounding.

R.M.S. Titanic Embarking on Fatal Maiden Voyage

 

Perhaps prophets, like dinosaurs, didn’t go extinct, and instead they evolved into fiction writers. In any case, these two are way better prophets than Nostradamus.

From Cracked