From The New Yorker:
If you wanted to hear the future in late May, 1968, you might have gone to Abbey Road to hear the Beatles record a new song of John Lennon’s—something called “Revolution.” Or you could have gone to the decidedly less fab midtown Hilton in Manhattan, where a thousand “leaders and future leaders,” ranging from the economist John Kenneth Galbraith to the peace activist Arthur Waskow, were invited to a conference by the Foreign Policy Association. For its fiftieth anniversary, the F.P.A. scheduled a three-day gathering of experts, asking them to gaze fifty years ahead. An accompanying book shared the conference’s far-off title: “Toward the Year 2018.”
The timing was not auspicious. In America, cities were still cleaning up from riots after Martin Luther King, Jr.,’s assassination, in April, and protests were brewing for that summer’s Democratic National Convention. But perhaps the future was the only place left to escape from the present: more than eight hundred attendees arrived at the Hilton.
. . . .
Invitees were carefully split by the F.P.A. between over-thirty-fives and under-thirty-fives—but, less carefully, they didn’t pick any principal speakers from the under-thirty-fives. As their elders mused on a future of plastics and plasma jets, without mention of Vietnam and violence in the streets, there was muttering among the younger attendees. Representatives from Students for a Democratic Society demanded time at the mike and circulated a letter questioning whether the conference was for “discussion or brain washing.”
. . . .
If participants on either side emerged from the Hilton ballroom confident of what 2018 would look like, they soon found themselves disabused about predicting 1968. A week later, Bobby Kennedy was shot dead, and the prospect of grasping the present, let alone the future, seemed further away than ever. And that was about when “Toward the Year 2018” arrived in bookstores.
“more amazing than science fiction,” proclaims the cover, with jacket copy envisioning how “on a summer day in the year 2018, the three-dimensional television screen in your living room” flashes news of “anti-gravity belts,” “a man-made hurricane, launched at an enemy fleet, [that] devastates a neutral country,” and a “citizen’s pocket computer” that averts an air crash. “Will our children in 2018 still be wrestling,” it asks, “with racial problems, economic depressions, other Vietnams?”
. . . .
The Stanford wonk Charles Scarlott predicts, exactly incorrectly, that nuclear breeder reactors will move to the fore of U.S. energy production while natural gas fades. (He concedes that natural gas might make a comeback—through atom-bomb-powered fracking.) The M.I.T. professor Ithiel de Sola Pool foresees an era of outright control of economies by nations—“They will select their levels of employment, of industrialization, of increase in GNP”—and then, for good measure, predicts “a massive loosening of inhibitions on all human impulses save that toward violence.” From the influential meteorologist Thomas F. Malone, we get the intriguing forecast of “the suppression of lightning”—most likely, he figures, “by the late 1980s.”
. . . .
Oettinger is now the sole surviving “Toward the Year 2018” essayist to witness the era he predicted so well fifty years ago. For some attending the accompanying conference, the changes didn’t need nearly that long to unfold: Edwin Yoder saw the news profession digitize with a speed that rendered the most ambitious predictions quaint. “The huge press room at the G.O.P. convention in Kansas City in 1976 was a noisy din of typewriters,” he recalls now. “Four years later, it was eerily quiet, as if cushioned.”
Just as conspicuous, though, is what was missing altogether from the book. Not a single writer predicts the end of the Soviet Union—who in their right mind would have?
. . . .
“We can see it now,” one newspaper mused. “Sane people in the year 2018 will be yearning for a return to simpler times and the ‘good old days’ of the 1970s.”
Link to the rest at The New Yorker
PG suggests that items like the OP should be a source of humility for those living in today’s world.
In every era, large numbers of people believe that, unlike people of previous generations, their day’s consensus has finally understood what’s important and not important, true and untrue, what will work and not work.
Fifty years ago, in 1968 (part of the era included in the good old days of the 1970s), one of the driving forces for craziness on college campuses was the Vietnam War. It was certainly not the only craziness, but the war and the likelihood of students having to serve in the military amplified the intensity of the craziness.
For male college students, the military draft could be avoided so long as they were full-time students. Those who graduated from or dropped out of college in 1968 lost their student deferments shortly after graduation. More than a few, regardless of their opinion about the war, were required to become soldiers and obey the orders they received to shoot other people, accept the likelihood they would be shot at in return, blow up other people, burn other people, etc., etc.
About 10% of those who served in the military in Vietnam became casualties, either killed or (more likely) wounded so severely they could no longer perform military duties. In part because of the nature of the war, mental illness, either short-term or long-term, was also common. For these and other reasons, avoiding the draft was a frequent topic of male student conversations as graduation neared.
In 1968, PG suspects most men who would be subject to military service knew someone who had been severely wounded, permanently disabled or killed in Vietnam.
Some college students would enter the military voluntarily to have some control over what branch of the service they would be a part of and how they would serve – a man who joined in the enlisted ranks was at the bottom of military hierarchy but could be finished with his mandatory military service sooner than an officer who enlisted would be. However, serving as a draftee generally involved a shorter period of service than enlisting into the military.
The Army and Marines included most foot soldiers directly involved in ground combat. Most draftees served in the Army, almost always as enlisted men. Junior officers in the Army and Marines were more likely than others to be shot at by enemy soldiers because they were directly involved in leading soldiers in battle.
The Navy was a mixture of enlisted personnel serving on ships or in shore installations generally isolated from the fighting and pilot officers who could describe exactly what a surface-to-air or air-to-air missile looked like when it was fired at them and how they tried to avoid being killed by the missile. Plus, the “Brown-Water Navy” consisted of officers and seamen who were assigned to small boats that patrolled marshy areas with heavy vegetation. The men of the Brown-Water Navy were subject to frequent ambushes and intense firefights with enemy soldiers who were hiding only a few yards away.
The Air Force was generally regarded as the safest service in which to serve. Anyone but a pilot could be pretty certain that he would not come under direct enemy first. The Air Force was also the most difficult service in which to serve.
Returning from service was also very strange. In prior wars, a group of men would train together, serve together for the duration of the war and return together when the war was over. During the Vietnam war, when a draftee or enlistee finished his term of service, unless he elected to continue his military duties, he would often go home by himself. A few days earlier, he might have been on a dangerous patrol in the jungle and today, he was walking through the airport in San Francisco, trying to resolve the contradictions, still jumpy with his battle reflexes warning him of danger lurking around every corner.
After the Vietnam War was over, the military draft was eliminated and all members of the military, male and female, are volunteers today. The Afghan and other middle eastern wars have been fought solely by volunteer soldiers and, unlike earlier eras, the demographics of members of the military and those who are not not are no longer similar.
Male Privilege would not be a thing on college campuses until many years after 1968. Male students during that era would have found rich irony in the concept.
The OP does not include any mention of the likelihood of large-scale wars in the future in 2018, 50 years after 1968. PG suggests this is unrealistic.
Here is a timeline of wars that have involved a significant percentage of the US population in the fighting.
American Civil War – 1861-1865 – More US casualties than any other war – 646,000 US casualties (2.385% of US population)
World War One – 1914-1918 – WWI began 49 years after the end of the Civil War – 320,518 US casualties
World War Two – 1939-1945 – WWII began 25 years after the end of the WWI – 416,800 US casualties
Korean War – 1950-1953 – Korean War began 5 years after the end of WWII – 128,650 US casualties
Vietnam War – 1964-1975 – (11 year duration) Vietnam War began 11 years after the end of the Korean War – 211,454 US casualties
War in Afghanistan – 2001-present – (17 years and counting) Afghan war began 26 years after the end of the Vietnam War – 20,904 US casualties (to date)
Iraq War – 2003-present – (15 years and counting) Began two years after the beginning of the Afghan war – 36,710 US casualties (to date)
PG suggests the history of wars in which the US has been and is involved does not suggest a future in which all major problems will be solved and the world can focus its efforts and resources on the improvement of humanity.
While PG is generally optimistic about the future of the human race, he finds it interesting that most major predictions for the future of the type exemplified in the OP do not mention anything about the armed conflicts of the future as if such conflicts will not have any impact on future society.