Can You Do Better than "The Jetsons" with Wind Turbines?
If you've got a positive vision of the future--or the recent past--here's a chance to share it and win prizes.
Created using Stable Diffusion with the prompt “midcentury modern future city with flying cars and wind turbines.” In the 21st century, even people with no artistic talent, skills, or training can produce free illustrations.
This is a repost of the original challenge—and I’m extending the deadline to October 31.
I am a huge fan of Jim Pethokoukis and his Substack newsletter, “Faster, Please!” But I’ve spent too much time thinking about glamour to share his enthusiasm for 20th-century visual depictions of the glorious future. They leave out too much—glamour always does!—and those omissions have had some perverse consequences, particularly in urban planning. I don’t want to live in the world of The Jetsons for the same reasons I don’t want to live in 1965. Plus there’s more to progress than faster transportation and robot maids. Surely our images can do better, including more human-scale views rather than grand visions that abstract away individual experience.
Meanwhile over at another Substack newsletter I enjoy, Anton Howes writes about Victorian confidence, quoting an 1859 document arguing for a successor to the Great Exhibition of 1851 (known for the Crystal Palace). It describes the previous eight years:
Looking back for that period in England, we find that several new arts and industries have arisen, and old ones have been extended. Scarcely more than ten years have passed since the submarine telegraphs were unknown; the screw propeller applied to our steam-vessels; the glass-duty removed; the great improvements and advancement in the trade and products of the Staffordshire potteries effected; the manufacture of bricks left free to take such form as may be required; the excise duty on soap got rid of; photography and chromatic printing introduced and perfected as arts; gutta percha and many vegetable oils from our Colonies, such as the Bassia Latifolia and the Cahoun Palm, introduced as new raw materials in commerce; whilst the declared value of our exported manufactures has risen from £65,756,000 in 1851 to £122,155,000 in 1857. Add to the above the fact, that within ten years the resources of our Colonies have been largely developed, and the commercial world has acquired three additional emporia: two on the shores of the Pacific, and one on the great American Lakes, viz., San Francisco, Melbourne, and Chicago, none of which are even named in the edition of Mr M’Culloch’s Dictionary of Geography, published in 1849; also that China and Japan have now been opened to trade with England; and we cannot but come to the conclusion that ten years is a period fully sufficient to justify the Society of Arts in proposing to hold an Exhibition in 1861.
Anton comments: “The contrast to today is marked. It is striking that so many intellectuals — particularly in the UK, but also in the US and elsewhere — believe economic and technological stagnation to now be an unavoidable fact of life. Although I don’t subscribe to the view that we’ve been seeing stagnation, I do think we’re falling far short of our potential. It’s worth imagining what kind of Victorian-style paragraph we can write about our last eight years, and what we would hope to write about the next.”
So here’s are the challenges. You can pick one or try any combination.
Write an updated version of the Victorian paragraph, looking back at 2014.
Write a speculative version of the Victorian paragraph, looking back at today from 2030.
Come up with an inspiring illustration of a possible 2040.
I’ll publish a selection of the best here (you’ll retain rights, of course) as I receive them and will accept entries through October 31 (note the new deadline). I’ll then award the top two in each category a collection of what Jim would call “Up Wing” books. The judging process will depend on how many entries are received, and I reserve the right to award fewer than six prizes. Email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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