The Future That Never Happened


A large print of the above picture hangs on the wall of my office. (click image for larger view) It is an image of the world we are supposed to be living in right now—or so I was led to believe as a child in the early sixties. I notice some enterprising soul has opened an online store selling t-shirts which proclaim, “I want my flying car.”

I love these depictions of the future as it was envisioned in the 50s and 60s. Today they seem naive and quaint, but back then we believed them. They are a result of one of the most tempting and common logical fallacies: namely, taking a look at past trends and extrapolating them forward in a straight line in order to determine what the future will look like.

It’s the same kind of logic that had Malthusian leftists in the 60s and 70s predicting that the world would be overcrowded, starving and post-apocalyptic by now. And it is behind much of the nonsense coming out of  the mouths of Al Gore and friends today (but that’s another rant.)

Let’s examine some of the detail of this depiction. First there are the cars. . .


Apparently in this unrealized present, we have developed some sort of anti-gravity-field propulsion technology for our flying cars, and yet some poor schmoes still drive little golf carts powered by 1950s-era helicopter rotors. If such is your fate, you bravely force a smile and wave to your wealthy friend as he levitates away with his beautiful, late-model robotwife beside him.

You contemplate jumping but realize you’re way too close to the water for suicide and everyone would just think you had muffed one of your signature third-Martini “cannonballs.” Again.

“Well at least I have my manly short-shorts,” you muse as you notice that the Lucite safety wall only comes up to the middle of your thighs. “Here in the 21st Century you are either very tall or our local building safety codes are appallingly lax,” you say to yourself.


In this alternate future, the wise soccer moms apparently eschewed the migration to minivans then to SUVs then to crossovers and just stuck with the good old station wagon. In fact, these family trucksters will drive themselves and respond to voice commands and yet bear an astonishing resemblance to a ’58 Edsel.

Finally there are the clothes:


For men, the form-fitting, stretchy one-piece zip front with poke-someone’s-eye-out shoulder peaks is standard for casual days. Now picture the typical doughy American male with a protruding middle wearing one of these. Or to save time, picture me wearing it. I’ll now wait while you thank God this future didn’t materialize. . . Back? Let’s continue.

Notice the gentleman above instinctively attempting to put his hand in his pocket before realizing, “Oh yeah, we don’t have pockets here in the future. Don’t need ’em. Money is obsolete like on Star Trek and my flying car responds by voice-print analysis rendering keys superflous. Still, being able to grab a breath mint when a babe walks by would be nice. Dang.”

My youngest daughter asked me the other day if I thought we would ever have flying cars. I said, “Sure, honey. As soon as humans stop driving like imbeciles in two axes, we’ll allow everyone to jet around in all three.” She gave me that look I get a lot. “That would be a ‘no’ then,” she ventured.

“Don’t hold your breath, sweetie.”