Monday, June 8, 2009

The Future is Now - 1955

Have a look at the world of tomorrow, or perhaps what in some cases resembles the world of the present, in this RKO short subject “The Future is Now” (1955), narrated by Dwight Weist. Part One is above, and concludes on Part Two below.

Though we have the usual Buck Rogers brand of fascination with kitchen gadgetry and video phones, there is a remarkable quality about this one-reeler that is strikingly thoughtful and genuine. The future it foresees with nuclear medicine and video tape, in which “a program can be recorded and played back at any time, immediately, if desired without any laboratory processing,” became a part of our lives a generation ago, and in which we have already traveled beyond that future miracle to a then-unforetold digital world.

Much of course is lauded here about nuclear power in an era when it was hoped and expected that weaponry would give way to peacetime uses, “serving mankind” is the common quote repeated here, with no mention of the “cons” amid all the “pros”. Though we might smile at the depiction of the enormous computer called a “mechanical” genius, and squirm a bit when the demonstration of hitting a field of vegetables with gamma rays prefaced by the sign “Warning - lethal source in use,” we have to admit, some of this foretelling of future miracles, and future problems, is fascinating.

Solar power here is not treated as a science fiction toy, but taken quite seriously, as the narrator notes, “Some scientists consider the sun a much more important potential source of power than the atom.”

And we may note somewhat ruefully how the narrator acknowledges that the so-called “second industrial revolution” sparked by computer automation in factories is “controversial” because it will eliminate jobs.

Demonstrations of guided missiles, of a patient taking what looks like a Barium swallow in front of a fluoroscope, and the father taking home movies of his child with a video camera and playing them back on his TV all give us pause to remember that whatever good or not-so-good aspects of our present-day lives, we stand on the shoulders of people who were true visionaries more than 50 years ago.

The narrator comforts us that “nothing will ever replace creative intelligence.” Awash in a sea of “reality” shows on our color, digital, high definition TVs with remote controls and TiVo, one wonders where it went.

How interesting that this short film shown in movie theaters does not make too many predictions about the future of motion pictures.


Jonas Nordin said...

Truly fascinating! They were right about the solar power. It will be the next big thing I believe. Imagine the Sahara desert as an energy source filled with solar panels and wind power plants.

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

I hope so, Jonas. Not only a good thing for the planet, but hopefully the African continent would benefit from the wealth derived from such a project.

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