The Cold War may have ended when the Berlin Wall fell, but the Orange Baboon in the White House seems set on bringing us closer to nuclear armageddon than at any time during the twentieth century. But what can you expect from a man with no morals and no brains? Once upon a time, however, the future was a bright and shining place, full of jetpacks and holidays on the Moon. Things will get better, they said; and so they have, but as William Gibson famously put it, it’s just not evenly distributed. And getting progressively unequal with each passing year as the oligarchs drive us into indentured servitude. I used to mock the cyberpunks for their simplistic corporatised futures, and I won’t say they were in any way prophetic, but sometimes the news these days does feel like it comes from one of their novels. (Now, of course, I just mock them for their misunderstanding of technology.)
To be honest, the future wasn’t evenly distributed back in those days either. I wanted this post to show how people saw their lives in their futures, but it’s a very one-sided view. The Golden Age of American Futurism was 1958 to 1963, but all the futures it imagined were 100% white. And women were usually shown in supporting roles – as wives and mothers, or computer programmers (in those days, it was considered equivalent to secretary). Not every picture below is from that Golden Age – the earliest is 1939, the latest from 1973; and there’s a Japanese piece of art and two from the USSR. For future posts, I plan to look further afield: even if the future is unevenly distributed, dreams of it should not be.