The Future's Not What It Used To Be

Charles Johnson -- the Rad Geek People's Daily guy, not the Little Green Footballs guy -- looks back at the predictions Ray Kurzweil made in 1999 about the lives we'd be living by the end of 2009. As you'd expect, Kurzweil got a lot wrong, but Johnson is making a point more interesting than the familiar mock-the-futurist game:

I think what's interesting [about] this is not so much what Kurzweil predicts which hasn't come to pass, but rather the number of things he failed to predict which have come to pass--and why the things he predicts coming to pass haven't come to pass. Sometimes it's because Kurzweil is too optimistic about technologies that never materialized, or which are still in their incipient stages at best. But a lot of the time, it's just that people found they have better things to do with their limited time and resources. So it turns out that a lot of people book travel reservations online now, but nobody books it by talking with some animated virtual customer service agent. Not because it would be impossible for clever folks to program that sort of thing, if they'd spent the last 10 years doing it. But rather, even if they did, who would want to waste time on that kind of goofy shit, when you just get the tickets through Kayak? Similarly, I'm sure that if folks had spent the last 10 years working on virtual reality games, or on establishing fancy new paperless Information Superhighway channels for great big established media companies to push their DRMed-up chosen publications, you probably would have seen something like what Kurzweil predicts. But instead of that, we have people who put their time into developing IndyMedia, Craigslist, blogging software, and Flickr, MySpace, and so on--tools which, technically speaking, are mostly dead-simple HTML over HTTP. The real awesomeness of the future--so far, at least--turns out to have not nearly so much to do with technical fireworks and the kinds of techno-conveniences that brute-force computational power can achieve, but rather with the new lifestyles, new patterns of autonomy, and the new forms of social relationships that relatively simple but increasingly pervasive technologies, have helped facilitate.

(Title stolen from a great song.)

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  • ||

    "The real awesomeness of the future--so far, at least--turns out to have not nearly so much to do with technical fireworks and the kinds of techno-conveniences that brute-force computational power can achieve, but rather with the new lifestyles, new patterns of autonomy, and the new forms of social relationships that relatively simple but increasingly pervasive technologies, have helped facilitate."

    It is the simple things that fill a need and are put in wide use that make a real difference in people's lives; canned food, clean water, later frozen food, affordable cars and so fourth. Cell phones, and the internet are just the canned food and TV dinners of our age.

  • ||

    Flying friggin' cars with zeppelin-based, fly-through shopping--is that too much to ask?

  • ||

    I want affordable space travel and cities on the moon and mars. Unless and until we find more space, we can't afford radical increases in lifespan.

  • ||

    It would be far, far easier and far, far cheaper to provide affordable desert travel and cities in the Sahara and Gobi, or affordable ice travel and cities in Antarctica, or affordable sea travel and cities in the oceans.

    There's a lot of space to be had on earth, especially when compared to the price of space in space.

  • ||

    But where will the green-skinned women come from then?

  • Marc||

    Chloroplasts engineered for human skin cells.

    Like in one of those Nancy Kress books I hated (Beggars and Choosers?)

  • robc||

    I liked "Beggers in Spain" (the orginal novella, not the novel) well enough, but not enough to ever pick up anything else she ever wrote.

  • Marc||

    Good decision. Everyone likeable or even interesting dies.

  • ||

    make-up is way cheaper...or just put her in green skintight cloths.

  • qwerty||

    True, there are places on Earth that are easier to colonize, but any colonies there would still face the meddling states of Earth. In space, we have the ability to create totally new societies. The most important result of European colinization of the New World wasn't more trade routes for Europe. It was the creation of America.

  • The Lakota||

    Bullshit.

  • ||

    Except that the New World had oxygen, water, and comparable temperatures to what the old world had, as well as a few foolish groups of natives who taught the colonists how to grow crops in the New World. A colony on Mars would be utterly dependent on supplies from Earth for centuries to come, with no friendly natives to help out.

  • Plate-O||

    No natives? Tell that to these guys. Just remember to offer them a large enough "bead".

  • MJ||

    And as Heinlein pointed out, we'd have the high ground.

  • The Man||

    I had something interesting to say about this, but it was flagged as spam, probably because I used the term "196-fuckin'-5." Now it's gone. Too bad.

  • The Man||

    Perhaps it was the reference to getting laid by earthican chicks with no morals on the trip to Mars.

  • Ice||

    Affordable air travel would be nice as well.
    You would think that after almost 100 years since commercial flight first started, that the common man would be able to afford to fly international, or the college student to be able to fly cross country for just 100 dollars, but that is not the case and prices just continue to rise.

  • ||

    tiny little weaponized black holes. That's what I want. We don't need more space John. We need a lot less people. Come on global warming negative feedback!

  • ||

    Neal Asher's Polity Universe. The Singun. Or, Singularity gun. Fires micro-black holes that evaporate after a few seconds with event horizons a few feet across.

  • ||

    *tears up patent application and shuffles off for a nap*

  • ||

    Hey, now. I was just telling you where to go to get one in case you ever ended up in a Harold Shea-type situation.

  • ||

    I'm still partial to the Lazy Gun, NutraSweet, which you have mentioned here before.

  • ||

    A weapon with a perverse sense of humor would be fun... as long as it liked you.

  • ||

    the new forms of social relationships that relatively simple but increasingly pervasive technologies

    Remember that "relatively simple" also means "cheap" (most of the time). Craigslist became massive because it was free. It was able to be free because it was dirt simple, and therefore cheap.

    Much, if not all, of the major social networking we have seen over the years has been free. People like interacting with other people, but they really like to do it for free.

  • kinnath||

    The winner of the race is rarely the best technology -- it is almost always the technology that is just good enough do the job and cheap enough for the mass market get their grubby hands on.

  • robc||

    just good enough do the job and cheap enough for the mass market get their grubby hands on

    Some of us define that as "best" and dont have the problem with the best not technology not winning.

    VHS was BETTER than Beta. Yes it was. For one thing, you could tape an entire football game.

  • kinnath||

    I spend lots of time arguing with junior engineers that good-enough, on-time, and on-budget is the holy grail of technology development.

  • ||

    No, it wasn't, Beta was a far superior format in terms of picture and audio, but does it really matter any more?

  • robc||

    Who the fuck cares are picture and audio if you cant fit an entire game on it?

    This is my point. BEST is defined by the consumer. If Beta had been better, it would have won. By definition, the winner is the best.

    Of course, it doesnt matter at all anymore, except as an example lesson for future competing technologies.

  • ||

    This is my point. BEST is defined by the consumer. If Beta had been better, it would have won. By definition, the winner is the best.

    Oh, I agree completely, but I don't think it was that simple. Sony wouldn't license the technology, while (Phillips?) threw VHS out there for everyone and their grandmother to produce. And yes, VHS had longer record time, but I used my Beta Hi-Fi for recording movies off of cable, since pre-recorded movies still cost $50+ at the time.

    Now, my problem is that my 80-hour DVR isn't enough to hold everything that I want to record (and I can't burn it off to DVD).

  • ||

    What do you have? I added a 500 gig external to my series 3 Tivo with great success.

  • ||

    I'm lazy. It's the Motorola unit that comes with Verizon FiOS.

  • zoltan||

    That's a lotta porn.

  • kinnath||

    The designers of Beta assumed the primary use of the video recorder was time-shifting of broadcast entertainment. They limited to the design to capture a one-hour drama.

    The designers of VHS envisioned an additional use which was viewing pre-recorded content. They limited the design to capture a two-hour movie.

    The first video recorders cost about a month's take-home pay for the average guy/gal on the street. It turns out the only people really willing to spend that kind of money for a video recorder had a interest in watching prerecorded content in the privacy of their own home.

    So pornography determined the winner of that battle.

    Interestingly enough, when the porn producers selected HD-DVD as the media of choice for distributing high-def porn, it had no impact at all on the fate of the Blu-Ray/HD-DVD war.

  • dfd||

    I would guess because by then most people got their porn over the internet.

  • kinnath||

    Yup, DVD sales may doing well, but they are being eclipsed by Internet delivery of content.

  • ||

    What dfd said, and also high-def porn is only a niche market anyway. Most people don't want to be able to count the number of blackheads on their favorite porn actress' face.

  • ||

    Most people don't want to be able to count the number of blackheads on their favorite porn actress' face ass.

    Fixed!

  • ||

    Most people don't want to be able to count the number of blackheads herpes sores on their favorite porn actress' face ass.

    Fixed!

  • Tonio||

    Er, no Kinnath. Sony, which controlled the Blu-Ray spec also initially controlled all the production facilities and refused to burn pr0n. That almost lost Sony the format war (echoes of Betamax), but putting a Blue-Ray player in the mighty PS/3 saved Sony from a second ignominious defeat.

  • kinnath||

    The porn industry picked HD-DVD because Sony told them to fuck off. Two years later, HD-DVD died.

    Losing the porn market to HD-DVD had no real impact on the format war.

    Sony won because they put Blu-Ray in the PS/3 and cultivated a new market. And porn consumers didn't give a rat's ass about wanting Hi-Def because free crap on the internet is more appealing that expensive Hi-Def content.

    The point was the porn determined the first format war, but was irrelevant to the second. My first post was accurate.

  • ||

    You are on the track of the lecture I always give students about photographic and video technologies. Everyone who promotes Betamax forgets about the physical limitations of tape time it had.

    And, unlike VHS, Betamax couldn't use thinner and thinner support film for the recording medium. The players chewed up anything but the thicker tape.

  • ||

    It is all just high tech CB radios. I don't think life has changed that much in ten years. It is not like we couldn't send an e-mail or use a land line to call anywhere in the world back then. Life really changed with the coming of the automobile or more still the coming of the train. Before the train, people still moved in the same way the Pharaohs moved. There was five thousand years between the invention of the sail boat and the wheel and the invention of the steam engine and the train. That must have been one hell of a change to live through.

  • EJ||

    Not ten years john but id definetally say 15-20... i cant imagine an office setting without the PC and internet. That combination has truely transfromed how we work and live.

  • ||

    yes and no. It is a hell of a lot more convenient than it once was, that is for sure. But I am not sure it is that radically different.

  • kinnath||

    The first electronic calculators arrived when I was in high school. A basic TI four-function calculator (add, subtract, multiply, divide) was a couple of hundred bucks (circa 1972). Slide-rule calculators where only a short time after that.

    There were raging arguments whether or not students should be allowed to use them in the classroom.

  • robc||

    The wrong side one. Although, any classroom that allowed a sliderule should, of course, allow a calculator.

  • robc||

    won not one. Typing hard today.

  • kinnath||

    I still straddle the fence on this one. It is vitally important to teach students how to solve problems; to approximate the answer in their heads; then to calculate the final answer.

    As an engineer, I know that tools, like calculators, can dramatically improve accuracy.

    However, they also produce mindless devotion to whatever answer pops out of the machine even when the answer the blatantly bogus.

  • East Anglia CRU ||

    YOU LIE!

  • ||

    There is a middle way -- allow calculators only for tasks that the student has already demonstrated the ability to do by hand.

    A student in calculus who has to go to the calculator to compute 3 x 7 is going to be totally screwed, I agree. But a linear algebra student who is forced to multiply matrices completely by hand is just wasting time on tedium that has little to do with the course they're taking.

  • Chad||

    I can't count the number of times that I saw that a student made a calculator mistake (such as hitting multiply instead of divide) and wound up with an answer that was off by many orders of magnitude...and just wrote it down, because that is what the calculator said. Then they come in and argue that they just made a "little" mistake, and deserve lots of credit, even though their answer was absurd and anyone who had half a clue what they were doing would know it.

    On the other hand, I DID give nearly full credit to the student who got an answer that was wildly off due to a small mistake, but then wrote "I know this is wrong, it should be around a few thousand.", which, of course, was correct.

  • TickleStick||

    "people still moved in the same way the Pharaohs moved"

    Sideways?

  • Zeb||

    I have to agree with John here. A lot of things have become easier and faster over the last 10-20 years, but it is nothing compared to the shift to rapid transportation and communication and mechanization that happened in the 19th and 20th centuries.
    The telephone was a major, life changing breakthrough, allowing people to instantly talk to people anywhere there are telephones. New networking and communications technology, while extremely useful and valuable, are really just embellishments on the telephone.

  • Thom||

    I don't know about that. Through the internet I can access a vast store of knowledge or answer almost any question. And I carry it around in my pocket. The massive transformation of our times is the easy and portable access that people have to a huge store of information.

  • Zeb||

    That is a big thing for sure. But does it really change the way we live, or does it just enable us to be better smart asses and waste time at work more effectively?
    I still don't think that it is world changing in the way that instant communication was.

  • Tonio||

    John, I think you're underestimating the influence of the automobile. There was a mini sexual revolution spurred by the Model-T. Trains offered no privacy and fixed destination. Running out of gas, unreliable autos and bad roads offered a perfect alibi for bringing your date home late. Plus, you were less likely to be recognized the further from home you were.

  • Committed Keynesian||

    I think what's interesting [about] this is not so much what Kurzweil predicts which hasn't come to pass, but rather the number of things he failed to predict which have come to pass--and why the things he predicts coming to pass haven't come to pass.

    MARKET FAILURE! IT'S ALL BECAUSE OF MARKET FAILURE!

  • ||

    I'm in on cheap, safe, and extensive manned spaceflight. Preferably with lots of colonies.

  • Fluffy||

    I think that what often happens is that futurists underestimate the utility of current ways of doing things, and therefore anticipate wholesale changes will take place - when the public sees no compelling reason to change.

    I think the classic example is video telephony. Futurists have insisted for decades that video telephony is about to happen. It never does. This is because futurists fail to realize that the phone, as it is, works pretty well, and there is no compelling reason for its basic functionality to be changed. And, since one great thing about phones is that they allow communication while maintaining distance and privacy [I can call you on the phone without showering, but if I had a video phone I would have to treat each phone call like an appointment or a lunch date], a video phone in many ways actually detracts from the phone experience. And so a million things have changed about the phone [texting, iphone apps, GPS, etc.] but the one thing that futurists insisted would happen to the phone did not occur.

  • kinnath||

    Yes and no. Video telephony has a very small marginal value for a person-to-person phone call to tell your wife you're running late on your way home from work.

    Video conferencing can allow people from all over the world to hold a three hour conference without wasting 20 hours of travel time and expense.

    Even when futurologist get the technology correct, they usually get the application of that technology wrong.

  • ||

    If they had both the technology and the application correct, they wouldn't be futurists, they would be super rich entrepreneurs. Mostly they are just geeks who don't understand much about how the world actually works and how most people actually behave.

  • Tonio||

    A surprisingly insighful statement from you John, now read your second sentence and consider, just for a moment, that it might apply to yourself.

  • zoltan||

  • The Man||

    Video conferencing works because everybody sits far enough from the screen and camera that it looks like they're looking at you and you're looking at them. The video phone, because of its close up nature, doesn't allow that. You can't make eye contact at the other end without looking at the camera at your end and away from the screen you're attempting to make eye contact with. It makes everybody look shifty and people don't use it.

  • MJ||

    Yes, my stepmother and aunts have gotten into a videophone internet site and when the person at the other end is noticeably not looking at "you"(his camera) because he is intent on "you" (your image on his screen) it is very disconcerting.

  • Tonio||

    Best app for video telephony cybersex.

  • Jesse Walker||

    Actually, with Skype, video telephony is finally catching on somewhat. I don't think it will ever displace video-free phoning, for the very reason you just laid out, but there are enough uses for it that make sense that people are starting to use it. (Especially since it's free...)

  • ||

    Using it regularly? I bet the numbers remain small. My immediate family members all have webcams and Skype and hardly ever use them. The value-added is relatively weak.

  • Rad Geek||

    Yeah. One of the notable subcategories of failed predictions, which, in the interest of brevity, I didn't really discuss at much length, are the number of things which Kurzweil predicts which actually are now feasible or already implemented, and which have in some sense broken through -- but as permanent niche products, which remain popular with a select class of people for a select few applications, and which pose no foreseeable threat of displacing anything or taking over the world like Kurzweil imagined they would. Reliable speech-to-text software is another example -- you can pick up Dragon NaturallySpeaking for a couple hundred dollars and it's good enough that a number of professional writers use it to do more or less all their writing. It's just that all of them happen to have carpal tunnel syndrome or severe motor disabilities. Just about everyone else still uses a keyboard, even on devices like iPhones that don't even have a physical keyboard (but do have a physical microphone, which could have been used for speech-recognition if anyone cared enough to insist on it).

    It's not that these technologies aren't available, or even that they are priced out of most people's reach; it's just that people have the technology now but most of us don't have much of a use for it as of yet. And there are, of course, drawbacks and trade-offs involved (you may love the idea of dictating your latest memo; but do you really want to hear all of your coworkers dictating theirs at the same time?), which futurists characteristically fail to take any account of.

  • Chad||

    And of course, most of the time, I don't WANT to be talking to my computer. I don't want my family or colleagues overhearing everything I type.

    Likewise, this is why I loathe video on the internet, except for, as you noted, a few niche applications.

  • anonymous||

    Of course, if subvocalization tech could be perfected and commercialized, it would be a whole different ballgame.

  • Kolohe||

    Skype is *hugely* popular among servicemembers overseas to keep in touch with the family back home.

  • ||

    The reason video telephony hasn't taken off is because studies have shown that phone porn works better without video. As is commonly understood, the phone sex worker does not look as good as she sounds. Nor are her trailer park surroundings conducive to the masturbatory experience.

    Without a porn or sex angle, no new technology takes off. None. Manned spaceflight still has no porn and, apparently, no sex. Failure. Fusion as an energy source? Nope, no porn or sex applications. Failure. The Segway isn't designed for sex. Failure. Flying cars lack automation, preventing even unreasonably safe sex. Failure. Artificial intelligence adds nothing to the demands of sex or porn. Failure. And so on.

  • ||

    I predict we'll have artificially intelligent porn within 10 years. Unfortunately, it will never be able to grasp just how warped some people are and well, it won't be that different from real life.

    "You want me to do WHAT? My last user never demanded that of me. And why don't you ever bring me flowers any longer? It just isn't like it was when you first installed me."

  • ||

    You hit on exactly why AI is totally useless to sex and porn. What possible use is intelligence in providing porn or sex to consumers? Robots don't need more than some relatively simple programming to perform.

  • ||

    "Hey baby? Wanna kill all humans?"

  • anonymous||

    Interactivity? Cutting labor costs? AIs can't say no?

    A sex sim doesn't have to be brilliant, just sufficiently reactive within a fairly limited context.

  • CaptainSmartass||

    And now we discover the real reason Skynet decided to wipe out humanity: one too many perverts tried to "interface" with it.

  • ||

    Fusion as an energy source? Nope, no porn or sex applications. Failure.

    Let me be the first to say: I really, really want to fuck on the roof of an artificial star.

    Get to it, fusionologists.

  • ||

    Well, that should help. Some student is reading your words and sees a awesome new market opening up. NSF funding can't be far away!

  • ||

    I do what I can, PL. For science.

  • Ska||

    Is that NSFW funding?

  • ||

    There's a reason the world's oldest profession is still going strong today despite the barriers.

  • ||

    Word, Fluffy. And I think that also has to do with the popularity of both email and texting. Both technologies are a further distance from the already marginal intimacy of a non-video phone call. The fire and forget it nature of texting and email is more useful for 90% of my interactions. There is a value in its brutal efficiency and dehumanizing aspect. Why have a conversation to say "I'm outside, come on out" when a simple "Here" via text accomplishes the same thing?

    Personally, I only talk on the phone when I absolutely have to, or if it would be the most efficient way to communicate an amount of knowledge. Except for endless discussion of where to eat with my sister-in-law on the weekend and my mother, the only person I choose to actually speak to is my friend Jon, and that's usually to talk about a video game or movie we saw, a dialogue hard to have in email or text form when using a iPhone.

  • ||

    Agreed. I often do not have time to take a phone call when it comes (so I don't); with emails/text, I can respond when I do have a moment. Very useful.

  • ||

    The funny thing about texting being treated as some newfangled invention is that it's far more akin to the technology the telephone replaced -- the telegraph -- than it is to the telephone itself. Progress isn't always a straight line, methinks.

  • Tonio||

    Epi and Tulpa: YES!

    I've been looking for a more elegant way of expressing Epi's concept for some time. I like texting because it's fire-and-forget and you don't get stuck in interminable conversations with chatty types.

    Time-shifting of the conversation, anyone?

  • ||

    The only downside is that ending text conversations with those types can be a bit awkward. You can't really get away with the "I have another call coming in" excuse.

  • ||

    Asynchronous communication.

  • ||

    "I think that what often happens is that futurists underestimate the utility of current ways of doing things, and therefore anticipate wholesale changes will take place - when the public sees no compelling reason to change."

    So you're saying that Obama is a futurist?

  • ||

    Wait...I thought we were all supposed to be dead or starving to death by now and roving gangs of everyone dressed up like extras from The Road Warrior. What went wrong?

  • ||

    PETA made buying full-body leather outfits much more difficult.

  • ||

    "There has been too much violence. Too much pain. But I have an honorable compromise. Just walk away. Give me your pump, the oil pleather, the gasoline naugahyde, and the whole compound, and I'll spare your lives. Just walk away and we'll give you a safe passageway in the wastelands. Just walk away and there will be an end to the horror."

  • ||

    I think he meant it. A philosopher-king, really.

  • ||

    Too many noble naugs have been sacrificed at the alter of comfortable seating. Naugs are noble creatures. Their hides should have never been used for car seats.

  • JD||

    FWIW, naugas shed their hydes naturally and harmlessly. So you can sit on them without remorse.

  • Fluffy||

    The Lord Humongous could have learned a lot from the current generation of statists.

    The problem with his offer was he demanded too much, and for it to work it required trust, which he could not possibly earn.

    Had he simply asked for a tax of a certain percentage of the gas - say, 38% of it, with deductions for equipment depreciation - and if they could pay that tax while staying behind the walls of their fortress in safety, they would probably have given it to him. And as soon as he collected that tax he could have called himself President Humongous.

    Then he could have driven his little army down the street until he came to some farms, and given them the same deal. He then just has to return once a year and get the tax.

    He does that long enough and over a great enough distance, and he becomes the Elder Statesman Humongous and eventually after he dies there's a Humongous Memorial where he sits on a big chair made of fasces and looks out over a reflecting pool.

    Instead he ends up roadkill.

    Study Obama, Lord Humongous. Study Andrew Jackson. Study FDR. Learn from their lessons.

  • ||

    The problem is that Wez would be the tax collector. His continual frustration at failing to understand marginal rates would drive him into a murderous tizzy and he'd kill all the settlers.

  • ||

    Fluffy, I don't like the folks you name any more than you do, but what you're describing is "tribute", which is a millennia-old concept. We can't blame 20th century rogues for everything.

  • Fluffy||

    That's true.

    Modern statists are better at treating the task as an unemotional exercise in sheep-shearing, however. Traditional demanders of tribute often made the same mistakes as Humongous, because taking it all and pillaging and making up a cool scary identity for yourself and giving yourself a title and everything is just too much fun for them to resist. Modern statists know that they need to refrain from being a Lord whose masked visage brings terror to the wasteland.

  • ||

    I happen to know that Lord Humongous was the former chairman of the Australian Libertarian Party.

    Apocalypses do strange things to people.

  • ||

    Wait...I thought we were all supposed to be dead or starving to death by now and roving gangs of everyone dressed up like extras from The Road Warrior. What went wrong?

    The got the wrong continent...Africa not Australia.

  • ¢||

    i cant imagine an office setting without the PC and internet.

    To fill the waste of our days, we talked to each other, or on the phone, while old people did crossword puzzles and frowned.

    So it was just like now, but we could smoke.

  • ||

    And drink heavily at lunch and return to the office to work some more!

  • CaptainSmartass||

    And drink heavily at lunch and return to the office to work some more sleep it off!

    FTFY.

  • ||

    When did that change? I really do remember a time when it was okay to have a glass or two of wine at lunch and return to the office happy.

    Today? If I go to an evening sporting event in a suite with coworkers and drink a beer with them, I feel like I'm breaking the rules.

    I honestly don't recall when or why that changed.

  • ||

    At least in Boston at sporting events beers are still de rigeur, even with co-workers, and especially with clients. Do you live in California or something?

  • ||

    The winner of the race is rarely the best technology -- it is almost always the technology that is just good enough do the job and cheap enough for the mass market get their grubby hands on.

    hier

  • kinnath||

    you betcha

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I predict by the end of 2019, technology will advance to the point that Reason commenters will be regularly enjoying "virtual conversations" in a convenient "nested" format, which will allow tangential and off-topic/sub-topic dialogue to be carried out without breaking the flow of the main discussion.

  • CaptainSmartass||

    And we'll still have people bitching out it, too.

  • kinnath||

    The one true socially-changing technology that came during my lifetime is central air-conditioning.

    The mass migration of people from the rust belt to the south and desert southwest could not have happened without central air (at least that's the hypothesis of some political observer whose name I have long forgotten).

  • Brett L||

    AC also destroyed the small Federal govt. DC was not built on a malarial swamp just because VA & MD were willing to give up the land.

  • Nipplemancer||

    see also: central florida. it was a pestilential swamp until AC and Disney.

  • ||

    I thought it was chosen because of its central location among the original 13 states. If they wanted to keep people away they should have chosen Detroit.

  • ||

    Disney never would have survived the winter in Detroit

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    And also I predict by the end of 2019 that The Free State Project will have set its sights on taking over one of the various moon bases which NASA and Richard Branson have built in competition with each other.

  • kinnath||

    No way NASA is getting anywhere. Someone else will need to come forward to challenge Branson.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I predict in 2019 a weeping President Beck will have replaced all cabinet positions with a system of unconfirmed czars, one of whom will be instructed, as his first act, to allocate public funds to bring the defunct Air America back into operation just so it can be required to air opposing, conservative viewpoints. And his administration will be vowing to remain in Yemen fighting the cyborg evil-doers until the job is done, while at the same time releasing a remastered version of his hit 1996 album Odelay, on vinyl only.

  • NeonCat||

    But will the dais for the state of the union addresses feature two turntables and a microphone?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    God bless you. (From the future!)

  • A.G. Pym||

    -->Brett L @2:41: According to Laurie Anderson, anyway, DC was sited there by the British because it was just over the official "Tropics" line that allowed the people stationed there te be paid at time-and-a-half rates.

  • ||

    DC didn't exist until after the British were kicked out. It was founded by the Americans.

  • robc||

    Ummm...Adams was the first president in DC, the British werent kicked out until Madison.

  • ||

    Really? Congress first held session in DC in Nov 1800, while Washington was still president.

  • ||

    Never mind. Washington left office in 1797.

  • dfd||

    Yes, it would have been unusual for Washington to still be president in 1800 considering he didn't live to see 1800. :)

  • RFD||

    Doesn't seem to slow Byrd down.

  • NeonCat||

    Zombie Washington in 2012!

  • dfd||

    robc, he's talking about the first time the British were kicked out of the United States - 1783. The site of DC was selected by the US in 1790 and the government moved there in 1800. In other words, the British had nothing to do with DC besides burning it over a decade later.

  • ||

    In other words, the British had nothing to do with DC besides burning it over a decade later.

    Too bad we didn't take the hint. I wonder if they would do it again, just for old time's sake?

  • MJ||

    But to get them to do it we might have to burn Toronto again.

  • ||

    Only if they start impressing our sailors and arming the Indians on our frontier...

  • ||

    Those silly Brits, burning their own city to the ground in 1812!

  • highnumber||

    According to Laurie Anderson?!

    Well, according to Yoko Ono, nothing is permanent.

  • Zeb||

    For weird music-like audio experiences, I will listen to Laurie Anderson. For American history, I tend to look elsewhere.

  • Brett L||

    No. I'm pretty sure the average number of days the US Congress is in session has nearly doubled since A/C was installed in the Capitol Offices. I couldn't find it on Snopes, so it may not be an urban legend.

  • Slippery Wax||

    If a device/invention/idea can be applied to better kill our enemies, or make our sex lives more fulfilling, it will expand in the next century.

    That is the only rule that matters

  • Slippery Wax||

    Decade I mean, but century works as well I suppose

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