I've been having a very enjoyable time over the past week exploring this site: Tales of Future Past. It's a collection of images (and snarky comments) from obsolete visions of the future. Most are from the 25-year span between the two New York World's Fairs. Both fairs -- in 1939 and 1964 -- were full of nifty futuristic concepts. The 1939 fair was the ultimate flowering of the Art Deco future of shiny aluminum skyscrapers with Zeppelin mooring masts, bulbous streamlined cars, and great big machinery. The 1964 fair was the apex of New Frontier technical optimism based on plastics, big blinky-lights computers, and the power of the Atom.
The 1964 fair also represents an ending to the utopian idea of the Future as a place of abundance and ease. Ever since about 1970 visions of the future have been pessimistic, if not absolutely apocalyptic. The focus has been on overpopulation, pollution, shortages, oppression, and general unpleasantness.
And yet the grimmer view of the future is just as implausible and quaint as its overly-optimistic predecessor. Which brings me to the question I'd like to pose to readers: what is the future of The Future? What's our new "default version" of the Future, which will undoubtedly seem laughably naive in a couple of decades?
I suspect the ideas of Transhumanism are the best candidate for the next quaintly absurd future. Like past visions of mechanized or atomic futures, it focuses on possibilities and tends to gloss over the hard details and the possible downsides. Another, somewhat more grandiose quaintly absurd future are the ideas of really titanic engineering -- terraforming planets or remodeling stars.
Any other suggestions?