"Future overwhelmed"

Starting with a discussion of Disney's Tomorrowland, Joel Garreau has a good piece in the Washington Post concerning how americans feel very little connection to the future anymore. Unlike the past, especially in the 50s (till the 80s), he describes how people are "future overwhelmed" using the term employed by Danny Hillis. According to Garreau, Disney's Tomorrowland seems to be a reassuring future aspiration as its "focus is on what doesn't change": ranging from intact nuclear family to "vigorous grandparents" and "the sound of crickets". Garreau examines why this is not the future we have in the research pipeline and what the disconnection between this representation of the future and current research says about us. Some excerpts:

"The '60s and '70s were not good to the original Disney vision of the future. The Vietnam War, the assassinations, the revolt against anything square, the idea that big corporate computers only served to mangle individuality and imagination, the civil rights movement, the environmental movement, the women's movement -- all challenged the notion that every day, in every way, things were getting better and better.

Even more profoundly, the 2,000-year-old idea of the inevitability of "progress" was taking holes beneath the waterline. As Robert Nisbet notes in "History of the Idea of Progress," across every ideology, people stopped believing one or more of the major premises that were its underpinnings -- that reason alone, and the scientific method, was inherently worthy of faith; that economic and technological flowering was unquestionably worthwhile; that Western civilization was noble and even superior to its alternatives. The theme of the Jimmy Carter years was "malaise." (...) The damage to the idea of a benevolent future, however, had been done. The punk rock Sex Pistols, in their anthem "God Save the Queen," sang: "No future for you no future for me/No future no future for you." (...) Sometimes it takes guts, trying to dazzle people with the current future. (...) "It's much harder to astound people today, " says Marty Sklar, the former principal creative executive of Walt Disney Imagineering, who in 2001 was named a "Disney Legend" for his work going all the way back to Walt's era in the '50s. "They see the speed of change all around them.""

And the best part is certainly these quotes from Danny Hillis:

""Americans feel very little connection to the future anymore," says Danny Hillis. (...) "It was very surprising to me, getting to the future, that nobody was all that interested. Things just started to happen so fast, we were overwhelmed. (...) "We are future overwhelmed. I don't think people try to imagine the year 2050 the way we imagined 2001 in 1960. Because they can't imagine it. Because technology is happening so fast, we can't extrapolate. And if they do, it's not a very positive thing to imagine. It's about a lot of the unwanted side effects catching up to us -- like global ecological disaster. The future views are kind of negative. "What I think it says is that we are nostalgic for a time when we believed in the future. People miss the future. There's a yearning for it. Disney does know what people want. People want to feel some connectedness to the future. The way Disney delivers that is to reach back in time a little bit to the past when they did feel connected. "It's a bit of a cop-out. There was a time when the future was streamlined jet cars. Rather than create a new sense of the future, they say, 'Ah, remember when we believed that the future was streamlined jet cars?' It's a feeling of connection to the future, rather than connection to the future."

Why do I blog this? still gathering stuff about failed and deflated futures for my project.