Why We’re Not the Jetsons

Have you ever wondered whatever happened to flying cars? Author Paul Milo has some ideas about failed technological predictions from the past.

Courtesy of publisher.

As the calendar inched toward January 1, 2000, Paul Milo wasn’t thinking about Y2K. He was pondering everything futurists had predicted we’d have in the 20th century that never came to be.

Those thoughts became Your Flying Car Awaits: Robot Butlers, Lunar Vacations, and Other Dead-Wrong Predictions of the Twentieth Century (Harper, $14.99).

“In the 1950s and 1960s, they were more optimistic,” says Milo, 40, of Newark. “They were convinced that America would get so rich that you wouldn’t need to work anymore. By the early 21st century, we were all supposed to be enjoying four-to-five-day weekends.”

Obviously, that didn’t happen—nor did commuter space vehicles, moon colonies, and re-growable limbs. Milo also examines items that could be made, but which are not realistic, like flying cars.

“It would require massive changes to infrastructure,” he says. “You’d have to train a lot more air-traffic people, and you’d have to change how people get their licenses.” Driving school isn’t going to be so simple when it’s conducted 1,000 feet in the air.

The research, conducted mainly at the Montclair State University and New York Public libraries, has Milo looking at today’s predictions in a skeptical light. “You can’t take a trend line and simply project it into the future and assume that’s where we’re going to wind up.”

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