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1968 Predictions on 2018

from The New Yorker

The 1968 Book That Tried to Predict the World of 2018

By Paul Collins

For every amusingly wrong prediction in “Toward the Year 2018,” a speculative book from 1968, there’s one unnervingly close to the mark. / Illustration by Robert Beatty

If you wanted to hear the future in late May, 1968, you might have gone to Abbey Road to hear the Beatles record a new song of John Lennon’s—something called “Revolution.” Or you could have gone to the decidedly less fab midtown Hilton in Manhattan, where a thousand “leaders and future leaders,” ranging from the economist John Kenneth Galbraith to the peace activist Arthur Waskow, were invited to a conference by the Foreign Policy Association. For its fiftieth anniversary, the F.P.A. scheduled a three-day gathering of experts, asking them to gaze fifty years ahead. An accompanying book shared the conference’s far-off title: “Toward the Year 2018.”

The timing was not auspicious. In America, cities were still cleaning up from riots after Martin Luther King, Jr.,’s assassination, in April, and protests were brewing for that summer’s Democratic National Convention. But perhaps the future was the only place left to escape from the present: more than eight hundred attendees arrived at the Hilton. “They met in the grand ballroom,” the reporter Edwin Yoder wrote at the time, “which is not so much futuristic as like a dimly remembered version of the 1920s small-town grand movie house.”

Invitees were carefully split by the F.P.A. between over-thirty-fives and under-thirty-fives—but, less carefully, they didn’t pick any principal speakers from the under-thirty-fives. As their elders mused on a future of plastics and plasma jets, without mention of Vietnam and violence in the streets, there was muttering among the younger attendees. Representatives from Students for a Democratic Society demanded time at the mike and circulated a letter questioning whether the conference was for “discussion or brain washing.” Waskow, today the rabbi of the Shalom Center in Philadelphia, was an S.D.S. alumnus attending the conference out of a sincere interest in the future—but he was skeptical of futurism. By 1968, he’d already been working for more than a decade on a never-finished epistolary sci-fi novel, “Notes from 1999.” “But,” Waskow explains, “I was interested in changing the world—not trying to predict the future, but to create the future.”

[ click to continue reading at The New Yorker ]

Posted on January 1, 2018 by Editor

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