As if to reinforce the point made in my earlier post by Philip Tetlock about the unreliability of predictions, here's a magazine front page from twenty-five years ago I just stumbled across on Twitter.

I love this image because it reflects so many elements of the way the future is often depicted in popular culture. First, it is completely of its time. My guess is that anyone familiar with the design language of the late 20th century would be able to date this image pretty accurately to the late 80s, just as you can see the late '60s in the costumes and sets of the original Star Trek series. This reinforces something I think I have said before on The Interpreter: that predictions may be unreliable guides to the future, but they tell us a lot about the people making them and the times they are living through.

Another common feature of 'the future' is how clean it is, removed of all grit, dirt and (presumably) vice. There are exceptions, of course, and not just in the dystopias depicted in films like Blade Runner and the Alien series but even the original Star Wars trilogy, which was all about the forgotten outposts of the universe where criminals and outcasts gathered, and where robots sometimes didn't work until you banged them with a wrench. But in LA 2013, everything seems to work perfectly.

Then there's the inhuman scale of the place. Does anyone walk? How do they get from one of those glass towers to another? And what has happened to the economy in LA 2013, given that every (levitating?) car seems to have been built in around the same year? This reflects another feature common to such depictions of the future: they attempt to abolish the embarrassing imperfections of the past, such as the old bombs that actually clog our roads.