The 1970s was a tough decade for the United States. Widespread distrust in government, rising inflation, the oil crisis and disco were all wreaking havoc on the nation.
There was tremendous uncertainty about the future of the country. And yet, 1976 was the US Bicentennial; 200 years since the founding of the United States and Americans were reflecting on not only the last 200 years, but the next 100.
Throughout 1976, US newspapers would often publish predictions for the year 2076. Some of my favourite predictions come from average citizens. The kids of 1976 would often combine the most optimistic visions of the time (like Jetsons-eque homes) with the dominant Cold War fears of the era (like images of mushroom clouds destroying all life on Earth). I'll let you decide for yourself if the robot president of 2076 is an optimistic or pessimistic vision.
But some of the most decidedly pessimistic predictions for the future came from the most senior of American citizens. The July 4, 1976 edition of the Grand Prairie Daily News in Grand Prairie, Texas included predictions from elderly people who were asked to envision America in the year 2076. Some of those predictions are below.
The last prediction is for the year 2000, which really speaks to how dominant that number was in the minds of 20th century Americans — the big round number of the future. The predictions were all handwritten, and if I may say so they wouldn't sound very different from predictions you'd hear from some people in the year 2013.
To whom it may concern —
If you are reading this 100 years from now one of my predictions will not have come true. I believe that with every atomic weapon on this Earth there is sure to be some foolish individual to set at least one of them off. If this "idiot" succeeds in doing this, nuclear devastation is inevitable.
If we aren't all destroyed in this manner it is reasonably safe to say that Communism is the next of our troubles. At some point in the future of this country I believe a Communist takeover will befall us. In some cases that could be worst than total destruction.
This is a definitely pessimistic outlook, but who's to say it won't come true.
I'm fascinated by the next letter from a man named Andy: war, disease, flying cars and push button jobs all in one.
One hundred years from now people will be riding moving sidewalks and riding airborn vehicles. The street will be too crowded to get around in and people will be fighting to protect what property they do have. They will have no farm land left because the Earth will be crowded with houses and apartments. People will live on the ocean, in big houseboats. They will work hard to get enough to pay for things.
Most of the work will be pushing buttons. The Earth will have very much pollution and it will cause many diseases. There will be pills of all kinds to eat for their meals and to protect from diseases. Many wars will destroy more land and everyone will be afraid of the atomic bomb blowing up their country. There will be a TV telephone to see the one you are talking to, and the world will be one big mess.
In this next letter a woman named Anna really seems to be hedging her bets for the year 2076 — could be better, but could be much worse.
I think the world will be like 100 years from now maybe better but then maybe worse than the way it is now. I think that it's up to the people in this world to make it better. Cause the people make the world the way it is, and if they want to do and make it better they can try. I think alot of things can improve and make the things that aren't so good better, life for the people to live in. But then I feel the world is going to worse if people don't start improving.
Looking to the year 2000 was so common that it's likely the person who wrote this next letter wondered why anyone would bother to write about the year 2076. But whether it's the year 2000 or the year 2076, this letter certainly has the most outlandish of predictions: Martians living on Earth, and the threat of people from the lost continent of Atlantis attacking us!
In the year 2000 there may be Martians inhabiting the earth. All people will be adapted to other places. We might find another solar system.
People from the lost continent Atlantis may come and teach us new ways of life or again some sickness might have struck them and they may attack us.
If there are such people, and if they do attack us, we must be ready.
I know that we haven't seen Martians (or Communists) invade just yet, but just remember that we still have a few years before 2076.