Wednesday 17 January 2018

What, no jet packs? Life in 2013, as predicted in 1988

Will Dean

JET packs and meal pills never did take off, but some of one writer’s predictions from 1988 are spot on


The usual grump when looking back at old  predictions about the future is that a lot of the things promised back in previous decades are  nowhere near fruition. It’s the old “we were promised jet packs” cliché.



But reading a piece from 1988, in which the Los Angeles Times Magazine tries to predict a day in the life of a 2013 family, has the opposite effect. Some of its predictions have not only come true, they been overtaken by reality.


The article, written by Nicole Yorkin, who later went on to  become a screenwriter and  producer for television series  such as Battlestar Galactica and FlashForward, traces a day in the life of a fictitious family. It begins in the morning when their coffee maker turns itself on (tick) and ends with one of the family reading the collected Jackie Collins in bed on a laser disc (semi-tick). Meanwhile, the entire family’s data is stored on credit-card-sized computers called “smart cards” and films are watched on “ultra-thin, high-resolution video screens”.


Yorkin’s predictions for what cars will be like are almost dead-on, too: “Chief among these developments will be a central computer that will control a number of devices (tick); a sonar shield will automatically brake the car when it comes too close to another (tick)… Autos will come equipped with electronic navigation systems (tick).”


Some things aren’t quite so  accurate. Yorkin suggests that her futuristic family will be served by home robots. And that knowledge will be available to everyone via  “developments such as CD-ROM”. Bit two-thousand-and-late, that one. But it’s about as close a representation of 2013 as you’d imagine from the late Eighties. Especially compared with Blade Runner’s idea of the Los Angeles of 2019.


University of Southern California engineering professor Jerry Lockenour was sensible enough to stash Yorkin’s essay away when it was published and has been using it as a teaching aid to his graduate students. “In class we study emerging science and technology that can change the future,” he told the modern-day Los Angeles Times. “The magazine helps students see the relevance of the developments they are reading about in textbooks and professional journals.” As a result, The LA Times has dug up the article for its website, allowing  everyone to pick apart her ideas – read it here:

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