In 1978, 2000 looked like a dim-distant future of great mystery. Even at 22 years it seemed far enough away that huge strides could be made in our society, certainly in our technology. Sometimes the assessments of the future fall into two categories; optimistic and pessimistic. The optimistic ones see revolutionary changes sweeping aside all the old customs and creating an entirely new utopian life on the planet – the end result is a world that bears no resemblance to the one current being lived in – in this case, 1978. The pessimistic ones see all those promised advances, the technological leaps as stumbles into more of the same – and the world continues on its hopelessly inept course.
The truth lies somewhere in the middle – in this case (2019), some 41 years later – the world of 2019 has seen great technological strides – things we never conceived of in 1978, or even in 2000 are commonplace now. Communication, something that in 1978 was just at the beginning stages of making great progress is an entirely different entity now. There was however, no internet (well, not as we know it today, but there was a somewhat primitive form of it then) – no cell phones – no social media at all. In 1978 we were in the midst of a decade of energy crises – the concept of global warming was a distant concept, but we were more concerned over pollution at the time, not realizing the long-term affects or the degrees to which our environment would be at risk. We were however, preoccupied with the process of aging, even in 1978.
The optimists saw those as all things that could be accomplished through technology – that Science would be the savior of the planet, while the pessimists saw the destruction of our planet as inevitable because humans were just made that way and that, as a species, we were doomed no matter what we tried.
This program, Science In The Year 2000 was part of the Options series from National Public Radio in the 1970s and featured talks by Dr. Vera Kistiakowski of M.I.T. and Everett Mendelsohn of Harvard University.
It’s a fascinating listen, even if just to figure out which predictions turned out right and which have yet to materialize. Both Kistiakowski and Mendelsohn give strong arguments and listening to what was of prime importance in 1978 certainly gives some idea of who we were 41 years ago.
And in case you’ve forgotten, here’s an hour to get re-acquainted as it was broadcast on February 3, 1978.