It's so easy for us to look back at old predictions for the future and see them as quaint or overly optimistic. But when we take a closer look — when we stop to really process what's going on in these predictions — we often find that they weren't merely silly or naive. They were warning of the horrific, dystopian future to come.
Let's take an article from 1950 that appeared in Popular Mechanics, for example. Under the headline, "Miracles You'll See In The Next 50 Years," the article describes a futuristic world of high-tech wonders and innovative solutions to the world's problems. But dig a little deeper and you might start to notice warnings that were there all along.
Right off the bat, we're told that one day, we'll all be eating food made from sawdust. How imaginative! How efficient! But wait, sawdust? For human consumption? If we're being honest here, that doesn't sound very delicious, even if that guy's smile says otherwise.
As the article explains, people of the future wouldn't just be consuming products made from pulp, but also from used table linen and old rayon underwear. That's right. Used underwear will be converted into food for humans. The cracks in this futuristic world of wonder are beginning to show.
These products would be recycled through "chemical factories" which would even produce candy. Delicious, pre-soiled candy.
Cooking on a solar range sounds wonderful for the environment. But the detail that the article doesn't mention? The people of the future probably have no choice in the matter. Most other methods of cooking disappeared after The Event.
Solar cooking is simply the most technologically advanced way of preparing food that we have now. And it just makes sense, especially now that the sun never sets.
Shopping from the comfort of your own home sounds terrific! Until you realise the horrible truth behind the sales pitch. In the future, nobody can leave their homes thanks to the bands of cannibalistic marauders that stalk our major cities. The saleslady would be happy to show you that dress in another colour. But delivery times are currently running at 4-6 weeks on account of The Hunt season being just around the corner.
According to the article from 1950, modern science will invent a chemical solution to just wipe away whiskers. No more troublesome shaving with old-fashioned razors for you! Which is particularly helpful, now that The State has outlawed anything sharp. A straight razor may have not been much of a weapon against the State-issued machetes that the Overseers had during last year's Hunt, but it could've bought Cousin Seamus at least a few more minutes on Earth.
The good people of 1950 were promised that doing dishes would quickly become a thing of the past. But they weren't looking forward to a new washing machine of tomorrow. They were utilising new plastic technology that would allow for dishes to be melted under hot water. Just flip on the faucet, and your meal — plates and all — will rush down the drain.
But don't even think about fashioning those malleable, futuristic dishes into weapons. Even if the Overseers are preoccupied with The Hunt, they're still keeping an eye on everything through the picture-phone. They will know. They always know.
And finally, we come to the waterproof home of the future. No more dusty vacuum cleaners or musty mops! Just take out the hose and start spraying down everything in your home. Everything. The Hunt is over and there's nothing more to be done but wash. Wash it all away. Just keep washing. Keep washing.
Pictures: February 1950 issue of Popular Mechanics via the Modern Mechanix blog