Wednesday, May 7, 2014

More futures past -- Highway edition

The standard post to accompany this sort of clip either oohs and aahs over the more prophetic aspects or laughs at the less realistic, but I don't feel like either of those fits my reaction. What strikes me watching this is how fast-moving and, more importantly, ambitious people expected the future to be. This was particularly notable in the section describing road construction (living in LA no doubt contributes to my reaction).

When I look at the Post-War era, I almost always get this incredible sense of pent-up energy, as if the country couldn't wait to make up for all those years lost to the Depression and the War. People wanted to do big things. What's more, they wanted to do them as soon as possible and they were willing to pay whatever was required.

It would be interesting to try to attach some numbers to the attitudes, but just anecdotally it seems clear that when it comes to progress, we're now more tolerant of delay and less tolerant of cost. When an ambitious proposal (manned space exploration, hypersonic trains) does make the news, it almost invariably comes with a laughably low-balled cost, usually one or more orders of magnitude below reasonable.

We'd still like magic highways, just not enough to foot the bill.

Disney's Magic Highway - 1958

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