Sunday, February 10, 2008
Millennial Memories in Anticipation of Valentine's Day
It was just about 10 years ago that I started seeking year-2000-predictions for a library display. I only wanted prophecies from scientists, academics, and think tanks--respected intellectuals. I remembered prophecies made when I was a teenager: 3-day work weeks, colonies on the moon, robot servants. Some economists in the 60s had worried that an excess of free time would plague the 21st century. Frankly, I was pretty pissed off at the way things turned out. In the name of truth, justice, and the American Way, I needed to hold these prophets up to ridicule.
Most of the predicting happened in the 60s and 70s, after which it tapered off. But I did dig up one daring futurist who, from the standpoint of 1982, predicted that we would be able to marry robots by the year 2000. OK, you may ask, why would I want to marry a robot? You can just buy a vibrator. Why should a more sophisticated masturbation aid require matrimony? Well, Arthur Harkins (University of Minnesota) expected we'd have real artificial intelligence by now that would make robots a lot more interesting. They might even be smart enough to have their own preferences about whom they wanted to marry. But even without AI, "The great bulk of human relationships are formulated on a ritualistic basis, which is to say that most humans, in their relationships with wives or lovers, expect a kind of metronomic precision of expected behavior and expected responses to occur over time," he explained.* Ick.
O.K. I was not bitter about the failure of the robot-marriage prediction. My first thought was that if this guy was married when he gave the interview, his wife would've killed him.
I googled Arthur Harkins. He is still alive and still at the University of Minnesota.
*Computerworld, May 17, 1982 p.19