This idea came to me while reading the comments in the most recent Girls With Slingshots webcomic.
I confess, I’m still trying to find the key to predicting the future. Even today’s so called psychics lack real skill. If I could learn how, I wouldn’t use it for personal gain (okay, maybe win a lottery or two), I’d use it in my writing.
While many writers and artists over the years have tried to depict what they think the future will hold, they almost always miss the mark. Sometimes, they’re so far off that the result is comical.
In 2001: A Space Odyssey, we had an international moon base and frequent travel between Earth and its satellite. It’s 2012 in the real world, and our feet are firmly planted on the ground. The Jetsons was set in 2062, and while we haven’t reached that date yet, I see no reason to believe that things will suddenly change in that direction in fifty years. (What happened to the land?)
Granted, many such examples are created for entertainment purposes. But this phenomenon is older than television. Take a look at these pictures of the year 2000, in France in 1889. Ladies’ Home Journal once ran an article that predicted what life would be like 100 years after its publication. (Sadly, I can’t find the date for that article. My guess would be 19th century.)
A common obstacle that comes in planning future settings, I have noticed, is that each depiction retains the style and fashions of the time period in which it was created. The worlds of The Jetsons and 2001 have a strong 60’s vibe. The scenes in Back to the Future have an 80s feel no matter what time the characters are exploring. The above images are unmistakably 19th century. We’re all well aware that fashion evolves, but seem to have trouble thinking of how design would evolve further.
TVTropes.com has names and more examples for this phenomenon, known as I Want My Jetpack and Zeerust. Be warned! That site is one of the most effective time-sinks ever. I don’t recommend clicking on the links unless you have an hour or so to spare, but at least you’ll be entertained.