What did you imagine the early 21st century would look like when you were a kid? Was it all flying cars and jetpacks? Daily trips to the moon and hoverboards back here on Earth? Or were you more enamoured with the darker sides of futurism? Perhaps Doomsday prophecies and the ravages of Future Shock were on your mind. Did you sit up nights worrying about acid rain and environmental degradation?
How we imagine the future says a lot about us both as individuals and as groups. And by studying past visions of the future we can not only gain new insights into history, but we might even learn something about where we’re heading today.
Matt Novak’s talk, “A Brief History of Tomorrow”, looks at the history of invention and imagination — from robot vacuum cleaners of the 1950s to visions of the internet before the internet even existed. He’ll trace the history of popular ideas about how we’d be living here in the year 2015, and debunk a few common historical myths along the way. No matter how talented our prognosticators, we often discover that the future is never exactly as anyone predicted. Which is precisely what makes studying it so much fun.
Matt Novak is the editor of Gizmodo’s Paleofuture blog, which looks at past visions of the future. He explores the history of our most optimistic dreams and our most pessimistic fears by looking at everything from flying cars and utopian communities to overpopulation and complete societal collapse. His work is inspired by his private collection of retro-futuristic artifacts, including hundreds of vintage tech magazines, space age lunchboxes, 1980s videophones, among hundreds of other pieces. Matt started the Paleofuture blog independently in 2007 and it was later acquired by Smithsonian magazine in 2011 and then by Gawker Media in 2013. He currently lives in Los Angeles, a city which has about four years until it’s set to achieve the utopia depicted in the 1982 documentary Blade Runner.