In 1956 for the 30th anniversary of Amazing Stories, editor Howard Browne asked a group of sixteen noted individuals to write about what they thought the world would be like in 2001, then still forty-four years in the future. "Since Amazing Stories holds a firm reputation as a sounding board for prophets of the future," they wrote, "the editors have asked a representative group. of public figures for predictions on what each believes the world will be like in 2001 A.D.You'll find their articles on the following pages. In only forty-five years you will be able to check on their accuracy!" We present their responses with the original illustrations by an uncredited artist, possibly Leo Summers.
The respondents were:
Sid Caesar, star of TV's #1 comedy show
Leo Cherne, executive director of The Research Institute of America
Lilly Dache, to fashion designer
John Cameron Swayze, TV #1 new anchor
Hubert J. Schiafly, chief electronics engineer for General Electric
Gen. Carlos Rornulo, Philippine delegate to the United Nations
Oliver J. Dragon, world-famous puppet
Herb Score, American-League All Star pitcher
Oliver Read, publisher Radio and Television News
William Steig, New Yorker cartoonist and creator of Shrek!
Philip Wylie, noted futurist
A. W. Zelomek, president International Statistical Bureau, Inc.
Salvador Dali, artist
Dr. N. Gonzalez, director of research at the Eagle Pencil Co.
Steve Allen, creator and first host of The Tonight Show
Dr. Robert Lindner, psychologist and author of The Fifty-Minute Hour
How well did they do at foreseeing the world we now live in? Read this and subsequent installments of this series reprinting their predictions.
In part one Salvidor Dali and Tonight Show's founder and first host, Steve Allen.
In part two comedian Sid Caesar, Research Institute of America director Leo Cherne, and cartoonist Willian Steig offer three very astute portraits of the world of 2001.
In 1956, Sid Caesar was the star of television's top rated comedy show and America's foremost comedian.
MY WIFE and I have just turned on the wall in our bubble to watch a six-day spectacular on television. I just got back from work in Saipan; and I must say the traffic over Hawaii was murder this morning. It was rocket to rocket all the way across the Pacific.
After dinner, our grandchildren are running down to Rio overnight in their jet — we keep all our planes in a three-jet garage under the bubble — to see a TV show which is auditioning new South American talent.
Crazy, you say ? Weird? Unreal ? Impossible ?
No such thing.
Well, look at what electronics hath wrought.
Here we are in the second half of the twentieth century and the entertainment world of today would make our grandparents think they were visiting outer space.
Fact is, television has moved so fast in the past decade that you can't lie about its progress fast enough to keep up with the truth. And here I am, going way out on a limb talking about 45 years from now.
Well, let's take a look at what's happened to entertainment in the past fifty years — and then look ahead. I can't remember back that far, but a half century ago it was real big if a family got to the theater three or four times a year. Each of these visits — to see Bernhardt, or Caruso, or Skinner — would give, the family enough to talk about for three or four months. The Bernhardts, the Ellen Terrys, the DeWolfe Hoppers and Otis Skinners were put on a pedestal by their faraway public and distantly admired; the worlds of the public and the entertainer were so far apart that they virtually never met. The theater and the opera were distinct luxuries, not immediately available as they became later.
Vaudeville helped bridge this gap between the entertainer and the public; as minstrels, chautauquas and other shows started traveling to places where legitimate programs and the opera had never been before. The pedestal became a little lower; entertainers were getting a little closer to the public.
But entertainment was still a luxury — and it continued to be even in the next several decades when the silent movie flashed across the national scene. The "flickers," throughout their career and continuing even into the present, were never able to break down the barrier. In their early days, they continued to be a family luxury; going to the silents was a ritual; and everyone in the family had their night for attending. The motion picture houses that displayed these pictures were built like palaces — many of them were even called "Palace." It was a privilege, not a right, to be able to go to one — and if you did, it was an event involving much preparation, many hours of an afternoon or evening, and days upon days of discussion afterwards.
But then it happened — the "music box," as the instrument known as radio was originally called. It changed the whole nature of entertainment; and although future historians will probably call radio just one step on the way to television it wrought enormous changes — changes which paved the way for the performer to walk into your living room and claim your time. The radio shortly became an appliance — like water, or the electric light, or the living room chair. It was a piece of furniture — not a palace like the old opera house or the movie theaters, or the places of vaudeville. It was there. You could touch it. You could even pay for it on time. Imagine.
But intimate as the new medium became, it still lacked one element. You couldn't see them. You could hear them, you could laugh with them, cry with them, applaud with their unseen audience. But they weren't quite there with you.
Even home movies — the forerunner of TV — were a rarity. For instance, it was a really big deal for the family who could switch off the lights and flick on the 16-millimeter machine to show hours of movies of salmon swimming upstream.
Then ten years ago, came television — and suddenly everyone was a millionaire. They could go to the movies seven times a week, laugh with the comedians every night, cry with the daytime heroines five days out of seven. The barriers were down. Entertainers, performers, suddenly became real people. No more aristocracy, heroes-on-a-pedestal. Now the comedian was a person you either liked or didn't. You saw him in your living room and either you invited him back the next week, or you didn't want him around anymore. Not only that, but you began to know him by his first name. When you saw him on the street you walked up to him, shook his hand and said, "Your show last night was a dog, George." But you knew he'd look in on you next week to give him another chance to make friends.
How does it look from here on out? Well, with the portable, the transistor set, and machines small enough to carry in a briefcase which can project a picture on the wall of a house, it looks pretty good. Fellows like me, who used to be called "stars" in the 1950's, will be called "pals" by 2000 — and in full, natural color.
After taking a quick peek at the past fifty years, what can we expect of the next? Well, for one thing, the pocket TV set will be so common people will take it for granted. With a tremendous increase in the number of leisure hours available to all of us by Year 2,000 entertainment will tend to become infinitely more important than it is now. There won't be a place, or kind of person on earth that every man will not have seen or listened to by the time he's old enough to understand what it's all about. Programs will be beamed to Earth from Space platforms on a regular basis, making intercontinental television as commonplace as the rocket. The wide, wide world will be the wider, wider universe and Einstein's theory of relativity will be understood by every schoolchild — because he will see it in action on his pocket TV set on the helicopter taking him to school.
The place of the entertainer in all this? Well, it won't be the same relationship as it once was — or even as it is today. The entertainer will be part of the chain of understanding, the interpreter to the public. He will be a friend whom everyone will know as intimately as he knows his own family.
It sounds fantastic — but I've designed my bubble and the family has ordered three jets for our new air-garage.
Cherne was then Executive Director of the Research Institute of America.
ONE of the most dramatic elements of the year 2001 will be the virtually free, if not entirely free, accessibility of power. I mean solar power. While atomic power will be in wide use, it will cost some money, and will therefore be essentially limited to those specific purposes in which it is especially desirable, such as ground transportation or flight.
Power sources constitute an essential element in all economies today. They have been a major factor in the development of Man's civilization and by and large a restricting factor. Power can be furnished by anything from a wooden plow and a pair of shoulders, to coal or oil or water. Think, then, of the significance of free power extracted from the sun.
In several thousands of years of Man's development, he has been chained to the necessity of laboring with his own physical energy for survival. Not until the last 150 years has his burden been even partially lessened. In most parts of the world Man is no freer today than he was a hundred thousand years ago. In the breaking of these chains lies a revolution — the change which occurs when the earth and nature and the machine and the sun will work for Man, instead of Man working for the earth.
One effect of breaking these chains of labor will be the reduction of the average American work week to 24 hours. The worker will spend six hours a day four days a week on the job. Three-fourths of his full day will be his own. It takes only a little knowledge of history to know how dramatic this effect will be, for this will be the first generation of Man that will be able to live at leisure — and remember, I am speaking of the average American.
Agriculture and its problems of surplus will be solved in the U.S. by chemistry with an assist from cheap or free solar power. The chemists will increasingly use greater amounts of farm produce as raw material for their infinite variety of substitutes, synthetics and wholly original materials and products which will be fashioned from them. The same will be true of coal — in fact, coal will become primarily a non-power industry.
Throughout the rest of the world, the time lag in technology, as it exists currently, will continue. In time, the differential in this area which exists between the U.S. and much of Africa and Asia may well be eliminated, and perhaps even our own technology exceeded. I doubt that this will happen in the next 45 years, but during that time the gap will narrow.
The famed New Yorker cartoonist and creator of Shrek should need no introduction.
MOST likely, by the year 2001 (perhaps I am being a bit impatient), the majority of people will no longer be the comic strip characters they are today; and "cartooning" (thank God!) will be almost a lost art. Laughter will be an expression more of joy than of ridicule. If things are laughed at, it will be because they deviate from the natural rather than, as today, because they deviate from established ways. Humanity will be on the way to realizing the kind of life we all dream of in adolescence (and give up dreaming of shortly thereafter) — a rational life lived in harmony with nature.
Visit us again for part three of this series.
And visit our website at FuturesPastEditions.com for classic pulp science fiction and fantasy novels and anthologies.
And visit our website at FuturesPastEditions.com for classic pulp science fiction and fantasy novels and anthologies.
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