Watch an episode of “The Jetsons” and you will see the future, and the past. The idealized future has the human racing in the clouds, almost godlike with their technological breakthroughs and interstellar travel to the masses that can only see the stars as tiny pinpricks of light. Jane Jetson was a homemaker, living her life in leisure with her robot maid Rosie to do the work while she played the dutiful wife and mother. George Jetson worked nine hours a week “full-time,” Elroy studied space history and astrophysics at seven years old and Judy obsessed about boys and fashion. They pushed buttons to achieve what we never could, as if it were the simplest thing.
“The Jetsons” symbolizes all of what we still believe to be as that far-off definition of ‘the future’. The 1950s and early 1960s looked towards the future as they breathed after a long series of war, where everything could be just as perfect as they wanted their lives to be. They wanted ease of life, comfort and moral ideals, and so their idea of the future reflected that. George got to spend more time with his family and work less for more money, and Jane got to sit in leisure and attend to her family as a housewife, not having to worry about anything that a button press or robot maid could not fix. They had easy, ideal living. They were in the 1960s version of utopia.
In the 21st century, we don’t have cars that fly; we only have the most primitive hovercrafts. Our houses are not in the clouds, but with speed at which we’re advancing, perhaps the Jetson family had moved there to get away from the ruined earth they left behind. Rosie the maid was a product of artificial intelligence, a feat that we have not yet accomplished, but in the future she would still have been considered “the help,” as she only actually appeared in the original 1960s show twice.
We, as the new adults of this generation, take our new technologies in stride, as did our predecessors. The iPhone was only released in 2007, and already the fifth version is scheduled for our consumer pleasure later this year. That said, our technology still doesn’t measure up to the ‘future’ of “The Jetsons”.
The show idealized society as it was in the 1960s, only projecting their values into the year 2062 – only 51 years away from now. Our children will see this age and say, “Why don’t we have those things yet?”
What “The Jetsons” didn’t anticipate was new technology. While they had fully automated homes we have computers in our pockets. Our microprocessors advance at an almost alarming rate, and technology becomes obsolete in less than a year. We are developing technology that maps what you think about into actual images using MRI scanning; we can speak face-to-face with anyone on the globe; we can use bite-sized messages to relay information and to galvanize the people. We build computer programs that replicate neuron firings in the brain and we can hold thousands of books in a small device. We create human exoskeletons that can allow the paralyzed to walk again and try to find god particles.
Technology is never limited. Technology was fire, the wheel and agriculture. While we complain and say that what we want isn’t accessible because it hasn’t been invented yet, someone else will see that as a challenge. Just look around and see what we are accomplishing, what we are nearer to achieving. There are machines that perform surgeries that mimic human movement and physical ability and even ones that seem to be intelligent. We still aren’t at that stage where we can order our sentient machines to do things for us, but then again, would we want to be?
Right now we are running at a parallel to the Jetson utopia. We will strive and strive to have those things that they have, but our flying cars are instead medical technologies and our outdoor dog-walking treadmills were traded for societal advancements. While we hold our breath for the day that we can press a button and all of our problems will go away, we should be looking at the present and marveling at how futuristic it really is.