Robison: Predicting the future

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(HOST) Commentator Olin Robison has been thinking about how much the world has changed in recent years, and how it may change in the years ahead.

(ROBISON) I remember a long time ago visiting the World’s Fair when it was held – or staged – in Flushing Meadow – that part of New York near LaGuardia Airport where the remnants of the Fair remain.  I distinctly remember visiting the Pepsi Cola Exhibit.  There were dolls dressed in native costumes from around the world appearing to sing the catchy ditty, "It’s a small world after all."  I am told the Disney Company, which had developed the display for the Pepsi Cola Company, now has a version of this in each of their world amusement parks.  I remember thinking at the time that it was easily the most clever thing I had ever seen – I did not think it to be true, of course, but extremely clever nonetheless!  Well, dear friends, it has turned out to be true, after all.  No kidding.

All of us, I suspect, have been in circumstances where the guests are divided up and told to come up with descriptions of the world 50 or 100 years from now.  It is a ridiculous exercise, of course.  Who, for instance, 50 or 100 years ago, would have predicted the Internet?  The answer, of course, is no one.  It is fun, even so.  Which of us wouldn’t like to be able to see so far ahead?

We now look back a couple of hundred years and say, how could they not have known such and such?  This is always something that seems so obvious to us and yet was not understood at the time – such as the clear understanding we now have that hygiene has something to with infection or lack thereof.  I am confident that you get the point.

Scriptwriters of the world, please pay attention.  There is a good movie here.  The idea is of a person who can see into the future and knows something the rest of us don’t know and cannot see.  I would pay to see that one – wouldn’t you?

But, back to the present.  We now have the Internet and email, and a great many of us have become absolutely dependent on them.  Not long ago I even saw a guy operating his Blackberry in church.  When later I admonished him about it he claimed that he was in prayer.  "Right," I said, "and there were pigs flying around the church during the service."

It was certainly the case, way back then, that I was correct to think the Pepsi display clever but probably not true.  But no longer.  Communication is instantaneous.  Travel is quick.  Etc., etc.

But, even so, I do wonder just what it will be like in 100 years.  Will travel then be instantaneous the way email is now?

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