Op-Ed: Asimov’s vision of 2014 — How the world lost track of itself

Posted Jan 1, 2014 by Paul Wallis
If you’re a member of the “totally trashed” generations, X-Z, reading Isaac Asimov’s visions of 2014 will look like some other world. It is. It’s where the world should be now. He got a lot of the tech right, but got the culture wrong.
File photo: Home of the future.
File photo: Home of the future.
Flickr / andrewarchy (CC BY 2.0)
Asimov’s 1964 vision is actually a measure of the optimism of the times, despite the JFK assassination and major social upheavals which were just beginning. Asimov extrapolated from the World’s Fair of 1964, imagining the 2014 version:
Windows need be no more than an archaic touch, and even when present will be polarized to block out the harsh sunlight. The degree of opacity of the glass may even be made to alter automatically in accordance with the intensity of the light falling upon it.
There is an underground house at the fair which is a sign of the future. if its windows are not polarized, they can nevertheless alter the "scenery" by changes in lighting. Suburban houses underground, with easily controlled temperature, free from the vicissitudes of weather, with air cleaned and light controlled, should be fairly common. At the New York World's Fair of 2014, General Motors' "Futurama" may well display vistas of underground cities complete with light- forced vegetable gardens. The surface, G.M. will argue, will be given over to large-scale agriculture, grazing and parklands, with less space wasted on actual human occupancy.
Other ideas included:
• Pre-programmed meals
• Levitating cars
• 3D movies
• Video calls
• Giant TVs
• Conversations with the moon
• Underwater housing
• Yeast and algae farming replacing conventional agriculture
• Fewer routine jobs, replaced by technologies
• Chronic boredom, partly as a result of increased leisure.
Future visions were common in those days. Even politicians and media people understood that the future was in some way important, even if they didn’t know why or how.
It is now almost impossible to explain to Gens X-Z what a future is, let alone what it might be. Western culture, from a high point reaching to the stars, is now barely able to even grasp basic facts.
Moral of history so far: You can't build a future on lies.
Asimov didn’t predict:
1. A culture of blatant dishonesty and denial of obvious issues at all levels of government and administration
2. A corporate culture which cannot even be classified as a mediocre attempt at even the lowest, most debased levels of humanity
3. Rampant crime and corruption
4. An endlessly crashing social infrastructure
5. A media culture based on lack of talent at all levels
6. A society in which people are essentially unemployed or under-employed for up to 40-50 percent of its working life
7. The destruction of the middle class
8. A medical environment in which plagues and pandemics rage unchecked and ever-increasing prices
9. A culture of acceptance of poverty and much lower standards of living at much higher prices
10. The debasement of capital and social economics to a third rate form of Monopoly
11. The rise of two generations of vacuous, subhuman “thought leaders” who have yet to solve one single problem between them
12. The elevation of unimaginative, half-witted corporate nobodies to godlike status
13. A “paid to vote” culture replacing democracy
14. A pitiful, third rate, spineless “liberal” movement which does nothing so badly and so often
15. A trash-based conservative movement which simply agrees with everything it’s told to agree with
16. A hatred of ideas and people who have ideas pouring out of every decaying orifice of global media
17. A range of ancient clichés called conspiracies
18. Constant denigration of human rights as “a culture of entitlement”
19. A peak in the Peter Principle in which every moron on Earth has been raised to their level of incompetence simultaneously
20. A culture based on ignoring facts, criticism, and unaccountable to anyone or anything for its interminable catastrophic mistakes
21. A corrupt academic culture supporting cataclysmic lies and malpractices of all kinds across the entire bandwidth of academic studies
22. The rise of a pseudo- social elite based on public money (They’re trash- If that’s news to you, you haven’t been paying attention.)
23. Gutless, irrelevant arts
If you’re wondering why you and your kids don’t have a future, there’s a little shopping list for you. It’s a recipe for total failure on all levels. This is the polar opposite of a progressive, evolving society. It’s going back to the Middle Ages.
The fact is that Gens X and Y have no idea of a decent quality of life. They think living in a shabby overpriced cupboard and paying a fortune for everything is normal. They think risking your life to simply walk down the street is normal.
As for a future, even the idea of a future is routinely trashed in the peasant media. From Buzzfeed, that hotbed of inspirational recycling, comes a story of “visions of the future that never came to pass,” one of thousands you see regularly on all types of media.
From the progressive media, a version which is both nostalgic and equally “gosh, what ever happened to…?” including this interesting comment:
Why do the Jetsons remain the high bar of futurist thinking when it comes to the places we live in?
Well, why the hell is it? The Jetsons were designed to be the Flintstones of the future. Apparently that idea hasn’t managed to penetrate, 40 years after the Jetsons and Flintstones went off the air. Well, “thought leaders,” any ideas? Like even one?
The sheer cowardice of humanity in the face of these oppressive situations is a sight to see. Asimov must have been thinking of some other species, perhaps some sort of vertebrate.
This piddling, fecal society is an insult to any form of real humanity. It is no longer a society in any meaningful sense, even in theory. It’s a creeping, verbose, insane disease. It has to be destroyed.
You want a future?
Make one yourself, or join the other corpses in this jog to oblivion.