Predictions of flying cars, ape chauffeurs fall short

Burt's Eye View

In the supposed words of the great philosopher Yogi Berra, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

That quote’s also been attributed to Mark Twain, Niels Bohr, Casey Stengel, Robert Storm Petersen and Samuel Goldwyn, among others.

With a past so unreliable, is it any wonder that our predictions refuse to be dragged into the future with us? This is why apes won’t be driving us to work tomorrow morning.

Yep. Global think tank RAND Corp. went out on a limb in 1994 to predict animal employees by the year 2020.

In “Scientist Speaks Out,” author Glenn T. Seaborg reported that thinkers swimming in the RAND tank projected, “Those houses that don’t have a robot in the broom closet could have a live-in ape to do the cleaning and gardening chores. Also, the use of well-trained apes as family chauffeurs might decrease the number of automobile accidents.”

Would those cars be of the flying variety? In 1962, the animated TV series “The Jetsons” foresaw a 21st century world of many robotic and technologic wonders, including briefcases that would unfold into flying cars.

Not that we should put faith in predictions made in 1962. That was the year that Decca Records rejected a fledgling musical act with: “We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.” So the Beatles took their guitars down Abbey Road to record at EMI.

Let’s turn our 2020 hindsight on some other predictions that should fill our new year.

* SO YOU WANT TO START AN EVOLUTION: In a 1911 lecture to the Royal College of Surgeons in England, surgeon Richard Clement Lucas predicted that humans’ “useless outer toes” will be used less and less, with homo sapiens evolving into a “one-toed race.”

None of my five piggies have gone to market.

* WHY STOP AT FLYING CARS?: In 1966, author and inventor Arthur C. Clarke predicted that by 2020, we’d be living in flying houses.

“The autonomous home could therefore move, or be moved, to anywhere on earth at the owner’s whim,” Clarke envisioned. “The time may come, therefore, when whole communities may migrate south in the winter or move to new lands whenever they feel the need for a change of scenery.”

Think of the time this will save packing for vacation.

* MY BEARD HIDES THE ANTENNA: In 1939, designer Gilbert Rhode wrote for Vogue magazine that “Man of the next century will revolt against shaving and wear a beautiful beard. … His hat will be an antenna snatching radio out of the ether. His socks — disposable. His suit, minus tie, collar, buttons. His belt will hold all his pocket ever did.”

I’m still waiting for my Batman utility belt, but how about if I use my smartphone instead of wearing an antenna hat?

* NOW I’VE SHORTENED MY A,B, C’s: In a 1900 Ladies’ Home Journal article, an engineer projected that by now, we’d have eliminated the redundant letters C, X and Q, and moved to phonetics-based spelling to condense words.

IDK, judging from the nearly indecipherable texts I receive, I must give props 2 this 1, IMHO. LOL. Thx.

• Hop into your flying car or house to visit Cole at burtseyeview@tribtoday.com, the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook or @BurtonWCole on Twitter.


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