In 1988 the LA Times published a futurist edition in which we would travel to work in 2013 in smart cars. Robot maids with arms would clean houses. There would be robo-pets mimicking the charm of canines. Efficiency would rule the day. The city would mandate staggered shifts for businesses to ease traffic!
You could say it was a tad theoretical.
Among the things it didn’t predict:
Three million feral cats.
Sidewalk homeless encampments.
A vast brown service class.
Any service class at all.
The wealth effect.
A glorious reclamation of every pre-war building in the city.
Craptastic cheap Chinese consumer goods.
The million dollar bungalow teardown.
Cultural civil war.
Middle-class diaspora to Texas.
Social media influencers.
The rich calling the little people bigots.
The Times got much of the technology right: fiber optics, wallet-sized computers, streaming video; and placed it in the hands of a presumed to be a white middle-class family living in a ranch house in Granada Hills. What it failed to imagine is how technology would reshape the culture to a point where middle-class families no longer obtain purchase in Los Angeles. The Times guessed at coming of the iPhone. It didn’t imagine how the design and implementation of the iPhone and its applications would generate such vast wealth as to explode the class structure to the point where Granada Hills, like the rest of the Valley, became irrelevant to the grand design. The Times didn’t imagine the paper itself would be obsolete here, with but one reporter, commuting in.
The Timesian future of two hundred-story buildings and pneumatic tubes turns out to be Bento Box apartments peering down on ranch houses, with a light frosting of tagging.
Blade Runner was also going to be our 2019.
Air taxis? Clearly, no.
Massive electronic billboards, yes.
Clutter and cacophony. Check.
Ubiquitous street food.
The revival of 1940’s aesthetics.
Sexbots, almost here.
Corporations achieving power by providing a simulacrum of human companionship?
It’s worth noting Syd Mead provided the original sketches for the set design as well as for the Times piece. Blade Runner feels truer to where we are today downtown, even if it got ahead of itself with the technology and the apocalyptic weather.
Adding a layer of irony, Philp K. Dick toiled in semi-obscurity living in a tract home near sunny Disneyland, a neighborhood steadfastly untransformed by his prognostications to this day.
What was designed to be enclaves of detached homes with broad yards, fed by arterials, -the Valley 1.0- remains
exactly mostly that. Once built, the world is not easily re-engineered. You can install a fancy kitchen and an accessory dwelling unit behind the garage. You can squeeze ten people in a house built for four. You can make cars more gas efficient, you can structure ridesharing arrangements, but you can’t get people out of their cars. That’s not what we built.
Regression to the mean trumps master planning. Human nature resists perfection, thank goodness.