Sudbury 2020 Sketch by Oryst Sawchuk
In the new year, watch for Sudbury 2020, A Vision for the Future. This special edition from Laurentian Publishing will present a look at where we’ve been, where we are, and where we are going.
The City of Greater Sudbury, born on Jan. 1, 2001, has a short history. The next 20 years will be interesting. We are talking to futurists and profiling young people with bright ideas. Our writers will attempt to provide a glimpse of Sudbury in 2040.
Sudbury 2020, A Vision for the Future is a challenging project. Predicting the future isn’t easy. Who but a Nostradamus could have predicted events of the last 120 years?
Futurists in the first part of the 20th century generally predicted a better world, the end of poverty and disease, and the use of technology to make lives easier and more enjoyable. People would be richer, healthier and live longer.
Looking ahead at the turn of the 20th century, Smithsonian curator and writer John Elfrith Watkins, Jr., wrote in 1900 an article titled, What May Happen in the Next Hundred Years for The Ladies’ Home Journal. He predicted technology would bring distant concerts and operas to private homes, and “persons and things of all kinds will be brought within focus of cameras connected electrically with screens at opposite ends of circuits, thousands of miles at a span.”
He also predicted that by 2020, “There will be no C, X, or Q in our everyday alphabet. They will be abandoned because unnecessary.” Instead, Watson wrote, people would be spelling mostly by sound and would communicate with “condensed words expressing condensed ideas.” That was his POV at the time. LOL!
In 1913, Gustav Bischoff, president of the American Meat Packers Association, warned North Americans’ diet would consist mostly of vegetables by 2020.
He predicted a shortage of meat and that “even the wealthiest people in 2020 would be forced into a life of vegetarianism.” Bischoff suggested the only way to save humanity would be for farmers to be educated about the necessity of raising more cattle.”
Popular Mechanics wrote in 1939 about the Electric Remote Controlled Home of the Future. “Manufacturers have come to look upon the design and distribution of home appliances as a long-term job of making electric homes. Today’s house is a series of separate centres of electrification. Tomorrow’s electric home will be built around the electric power supply and appliances. This future home will probably be equipped with a number of control centres, from any one of which the homemaker can give her commands to appliances at work in the kitchen and laundry. Electric ranges already are equipped with automatic controls for temperature and cooking time, but there is no practical reason why these operations together with the other appliances cannot be controlled remotely from any room in the house. Perhaps short-wave radio may be utilized for this purpose, as well as for answering the doorbell and receiving visitors by transmitting a greeting to them and unlocking the door.”
In 1950 American President Harry Truman offered his own predictions for 2000. “In international affairs, there will be world peace. The atom will be under international control. The United Nations will be a going concern and will have forces to preserve international law and order. World commerce will be regulated under the new International Trade Organization. Other nations will share America’s prosperity through an expanded Point Four Program of technical assistance to under-developed countries. Communism will be suppressed, not by force of arms, but by an appeal to the minds and hearts of men.”
In 1966, Time magazine predicted the end of work. By 2020, “machines will be producing so much that everyone in the United States would be independently wealthy.” The article assured readers, without even lifting a finger, the average non-working family could expect to earn an average salary of between $30,000 and $40,000 (about $307,000 in current US dollars).
In 1964 General Electric scientists predicted by 2020 TV-picture screens would be so thin that they can be hung like a painting on the wall.
In 1964 author Arthur C. Clarke wrote about wireless communications. “We can be in instant contact with each other, wherever we may be… It will be possible in that age, perhaps only 50 years from now, for a man to conduct his business from Tahiti or Bali just as well as he could from London.”
Thanks to wireless global communications, cities as business hubs will no longer be necessary. “Men will no longer commute; they will communicate. They will travel only for pleasure,” he said.
Bruce Mau, the internationally recognized innovator who grew up in Sudbury, is optimistic our world will be better tomorrow despite pessimistic forecasts. He told Walrus magazine in 2012 that “despite our collective despondency, we live in a time when more people are richer, healthier, better educated, more literate, and more productive.
“We live longer, travel more, and enjoy greater access to knowledge and freedom than at any other time in human history.
“We need to be reminded of our own potential. We have the power to make change on a global scale, to solve the problems we are facing today. We have the means to make the things we love more intelligent and more delightful. We have the imagination and the ability to invent new ways of sustainable living in advanced, courageous, and open societies. All we need is the optimism to realize it.”