The last half of the 20th Century dawns with fantastic promises shining through dark clouds.
Amid war and rumors of war, new terrors grip the world, but hopes and dreams of the future prevail.
The year 2000 looms nearer in the accelerating pace of modern life than 1950 ever could have seemed at the beginning of this century.
If the past fortells the future and the present trends point the way, many millions of persons alive today will live to see peace, prosperity, health, longer life, more leisure and greater luxuries than ever were known.
A woman may be President!
These are some of the rewards envisaged for the year 2000 by Associated Press experts looking ahead.
Here is how they size up prospects:
WORLD AFFAIRS: Price of Peace
Students of history in the year 2000 will probably look back on the 20th century as the era of blood and money.
Blood because the earth will still be reeking from the third world war.
Money, representing the material resources of the western world, because it will have outweighed the unfulfilled promises of Russian imperialistic Communism in unifying the world, or at least will be on the way to that end.
More importanly, but bearing on both, will be the recognition that a new world unifying power - the United States - will have taken it splace in the center of international affairs: forging a new "empire," different from Britain's, different from Rome's, indeed not an empire at all in the old sense, but [nevertheless] a new core, a new catalytic force.
This central position of the United States will grow out of its already-demonstrated willingness to base its relations with other nations on a community of interest; out of its capabilities for lending aid to the underdeveloped out of its refusal to divide the world after World War II, into spheres of influence for the benefit of the great powers.
The Third World War - barring such a miracle as has never yet occurred in relations between countries so greatly at odds - will grow out of Russia's exactly opposite attempts to unify the world by force.
By the year 2000 some sort of world federation idea should have taken real form, with the United States, because of its commercial interest in the development of other lands, because of the blood it will have shed in their behalf, holding a lot of votes.
SCIENCE: A Man-Made Planet
The first man-made star will be circling around the earth by the year 2000.
This star's light will be like that of the moon, reflected sunshine. It will be visible before sunrise and after sunset. It will circle 400 to 500 miles away from earth, or possibly farther.
This little planet is likely to be the first of the space ships, because there are a lot of practical reasons for building it, regardless of the future of interplanetary travel. It will be the nose of a step-rocket, one which fires in sections, each part dropping off to fall back to earth, until the final piece attains the speed of seven miles a second. At that velocity the end piece will not fall back, but will become a satellite of earth.
Practical uses are numerous. One is a radar beacon. Another to reflect radio signals, for scientific study. Three of these small ships, high enough and evenly spaced around the earth might become relays to serve the entire world with television.
The first ship is unlikely to be manned. But it may get power enough from the sun's heat to drive electronic equipment indefinitely.
In 2000 we shall be able to fly around the world in a day. We shall be neighbors of everyone else on earth, to whom we wish to be neighborly.
The atomic age should be getting under way. Atomic power will become useful in those areas where coal and oil are expensive and where water power is not available.
ECONOMICS: New Living Standards
The nation's industrial and agricultural plant will be able to support 300 million persons 50 years from now - twice the present population. Land now unproductive will be made to yield. Science will steadily increase crop production per acre. Technological, industrial and economic advances will give the American people living standards eight times as high as now.
Dr. Harold G. Moulton, president of the Brookings Institution, in his book, "Controlling Factors in Economic Development," predicts that in the next century the nation's expenditure for food will be eight times what it is now.
The total expended each year for housing will be 16 times the present outlay; for apparel 20 times more; for health and education 30 times more, and for recreation and travel 33 times more.
Technical advances will be well distributed throughout the economy. For example, a housewife may use an electronic stove and prepare roast beef in less time than it takes to set the table.
Other economists agree with Dr. Moulton. The Twentieth Century Fund, looking ahead only 10 years, forsees an American population of 155 million (a conservative estimate) who, as consumers, will be spending 159 billion dollars annually into additional capital goods, for further expansion of the industrial plant.
WOMEN: For President!
The woman of the year 2000 will be an outsize Diana, anthropologists and beauty experts predict. She will be more than six feet tall, wear a size 11 shoe, have shoulders like a wrestler and muscles like a truck driver.
Chances are she will be doing a man’s job, and for this reason will dress to fit her role. Her hair will be cropped short, so as not to get in the way. She probably will wear the most functional clothes in the daytime, go frilly only after dark.
Slacks probably will be her usual workaday costume. These will be of synthetic fiber, treated to keep her warm in winter and cool in summer, admit the beneficial ultra-violet rays and keep out the burning ones. They will be light weight and equipped with pockets for food capsules, which she will eat instead of meat and potatoes.
Her proportions will be perfect, though Amazonian, because science will have perfected a balanced ration of vitamins, proteins and minerals that will produce the maximum bodily efficiency, the minimum of fat.
She will go in for all kinds of sports – probably will compete with men athletes in football, baseball, prizefighting and wrestling.
She’ll be in on all the high-level groups of finance, business and government.
She may even be president.
POPULATION: Growth Will Slow
The population of the United States, which rose from 76,000,000 in 1900 to 130,500,000 in 1950, may not double again in the next half century. U.S. Census Bureau experts doubt that it will reach 300,000,000 by the year 2000, but they are not hazarding predictions that far ahead.
Population may reach 200,000,000 before the end of the century and will keep on increasing well into the 21st century.
While population doubled in the last half century, it more than tripled in the previous 50 years between 1850 and 1900. Between 1800 and 1850, it had more than quadrupled.
Three shifts in U.S. population that have been tremendous in the past 10 years are expected to keep going strong. These are:
Movement of people from farms to town, migration from the center of the country to the border states, particularly the Pacific coast and the South, and the movement of city dwellers to the suburbs. These trends will be further stimulated by industrial production needed for the new, long-range defense program and by farm mechanization.
MEDICINE: A Longer Life Span
Medicine by the year 2000 will have advanced the length of life of women to an expectation of nearly 80 and of men to over 75.
The record will be better if the cause and cure of cancer is discovered. Cancer is a form of growth. It is part of metabolism. Concerning growth, nothing is now known. Metabolism is not such a complete mystery, but is complex. Most of the chronic diseases, except infections caused by germs and viruses, are based on metabolism gone wrong.
Growth, metabolism and cancer studies will make the first break into clearing another mystery, the causes of aging. After that is known it will be possible to control aging so that elderly persons will be healthy to nearly the end of their lives.
Hope is very good for restricting cancer’s attack before 50 more years, but not for eradicating it. For it now appears that cancer is not a single disease, but takes many forms.
The prevention of baldness depends on studies of growth, aging and death more than on any other now known factor.
Public health will improve, especially the knowledge of how air carries infections, like the common cold, from person to person. Before 2000, the air probably will be made as safe from disease-spreading as water and food were during the first half of this century.
Surgery, which has been the fastest-moving side of medical science, will by 2000, be able to repair bodies damaged by disease, by accidents or by heredity so that the “lame and the halt” will nearly disappear. Polio probably will be stopped well before 2000.
AIR WAR: New Terrors Ahead
Space will replace speed as air war’s big problem before the world rockets into the year 2000.
Distance between points should have disappeared as an element of military planning. Optimum speed up to the so-called “escape speed” of 25,000 miles an hour, at which a flying object would sail out of the earth’s gravitational pull, will be available. Space for maneuvering will be an important factor, and scientists will be striving for better control to permit use of top speeds.
Long-range military thinkers speak now in terms of some newer source of propulsion, still undefined except in such broad terms as simpler, cheaper, universally available, inexhaustible. It may be solar radiation, atmospheric decomposition or some new nuclear fission process.
Space platforms, sent out from earth, will end mid-century’s “iron curtain” era by bringing the entire globe under constant surveillance.
The 5,000-mile range intercontinental atmospheric missile will be in service long before 2000 A.D. There likely will be intercontinental ballistic missiles, capable of being shot out of the atmosphere and descending meteor-like on a target.
Guided missiles to seek targets in flight or on the ground will have been developed to extreme sensitivity. They will be launched from continuous patrol aircraft, able to stay aloft as long as ships stay at sea. Electronic eyes will eliminate errors in detection and identification.
An air attack of the next century will be as relatively unstoppable as today. Effectiveness of airborne weapons will have become such that the first problem will be survival of “round one” – the initial attack.
AVIATION: Foolproof Flying
Civil aviation in A.D. 2000 will be accepted by the public as readily as mid-century’s automobile and train.
Flight will have the precision of control found in ground vehicles and should be more independent of surface weather conditions. Piloting will be as simple as driving a shiftless car and ringed with safeguards to reduce human error. Safety will be greater in commercial air transportation than in any of today’s travel methods.
Atomic engines for large civil aircraft will do away with the problem of range and speed. Electronic airways and landing systems, combined with electronic eyes in the planes, superior cabin pressurization, new structural designs and materials and complete aircraft anti-icing will eliminate weather factors in schedules.
Cruising speed of 1,000 miles an hour or higher are probable of deluxe travel. Air mail and high priority cargo are likely to move much faster, traveling pilotless missiles controlled from ground stations.
New principles of lift and development of designs already begun will end mid-century’s struggle with giant airports. Combinations of rotating and fixed wings and conventional aircraft with high lift helicopters can eliminate long runways.
Detachable fuselages, interchangeable between types of aircraft, will provide door-to-door air freight service.
Combination automobile-planes will have been perfected.
Civilian scientists will have begun their study of the outer space and will be preparing for interplanetary explorations, using methods already understood in mid-century.
CONSTRUCTION: Push-Button Home
Current trends are already sketching blueprints of what will be called modern in homes, apartments and office buildings at the end of this century. Signs point to vertical cities and flying suburbs – little airport communities 100 miles and more from skyscraper clusters rising in the midst of acres of parks and playgrounds.
People will live in houses so automatic that push-buttons will be replaced by fingertip and even voice controls. Some people today can push a button to close a window – another to start coffee in the kitchen. Tomorrow such chores will be done by the warmth of your fingertip, as elevators are summoned now in some of the newest office buildings – or by a mere whisper in the intercom phone.
Rigid zoning in small towns will insure yards, gardens and trees for each house, where window walls will slip down in slots to merge outdoors with indoors in favorable weather. City dwellers will bask on individual balconies high above the treetops of parks surrounding elevator apartment houses. All homes will have temperatures maintained at constant comfortable levels the year-round for human efficiency. Heat will be tapped from the bowels of the earth and refrigeration will cool houses in the same process.
Skyscrapers will stage a comeback because of the demand for premium space afforded by light and airy tower floors. But few office buildings will exceed 50 stories or so – the economic height created by elevator and utilities cores.
Improved lightweight building materials will be readily prefabricated to make the construction or replacement of homes or skyscrapers almost as flexible as changes in partitions in existing office buildings.
Third dimensional color television will be so commonplace and so simplified at the dawn of the 21st century that a small device will project pictures on the living room wall so realistic they will seem to be alive. The room will automatically be filled with the aroma of the flower garden being shown on the screen.
Radio broadcasting will have disappeared, for no one will tune in a program that cannot be seen. Radio will long since have reverted to a strictly communications medium, using devices now unheard of and unthought of.
Wireless transmission of electric power, long a dream of the engineer, will have come into being. There will be no more power lines to break in storms. A simple small antenna on the roof will pick up the current for lighting a house.
The telephone will be transformed from wire to radio and will be equipped with the visuality of television. Who’s on the other end of the line will seldom be a mystery. Evey pedestrian will have his own walking telephone – an apparatus by a combination of the X-ray and television. Electronic appendectomies will be performed with an X-ray-TV camera, projection screen and electric “knives” – the latter actually being electrodes functioning without puncturing the skin.
MOVIES: Fourth Dimension Views
Some movie theaters of A.D. 2000 may be dome-shaped, with ceiling and walls arching together like the sky. These surfaces would be the “screen.” Most action would still be in front of you, as now. But some could be overhead, some at the sides, and some even on the wall behind. A little girl steps into a street in the action before you – and you turn around and look behind you to see if an auto is coming.
Three-dimensional photography is likely – the kind of pictures-with-depth that parlor stereoscopes used to offer. Almost all movies will be in color. People will still laugh and cry at the same things. Sex and westerns will still be with us.
Televisions influence will be tremendous. Industry leaders like Cecil B. DeMille and Dore Schary cautiously predict a “marriage” of films and TV. Some think television will kill only smaller theaters. But if there’s a system whereby viewers can be charged for parlor video pictures, others say, there’ll be no theaters left.
AGRICULTURE: A Golden Age
A golden age of agriculture – providing greater economic security for farmers and better eating for consumers – may become a major accomplishment of the last half of the 20th century.
Giving support to the possibility of attaining this goal is the remarkable progress made in agriculture during the first half of the century. At the start of the century it required the efforts of two-fifths of the nation’s population to supply the demand for farm products. Today – at the century’s half-way mark – it takes only one-fifth of the population.
What has made it possible has been largely the work of science – new and better farm machinery and biology.
Foreseeing a national population of 200,000,000 by the end of the century, these leaders predict less than one-tenth of the people will be needed to supply markets for farm products.
Through the extended use of better plants and animals, improved fertilizers, new growth regulators and more efficient machinery, it should be possible, leaders say, for farmers to produce future crop needs on much less land than today.
A major byproduct of the expected need for fewer farmers and for possible new scientific developments, leaders say, should be greater ability to stabilize agricultural production and supplies at levels which would provide and maintain greater security for those on the land.
POLITICS: Freedom Will Survive
How will this land of ours be governed in 50 years?
Much as today, perhaps – with two parties contending against each other and within themselves, with the people free to choose between them, with the winner pressured from all sides yet curbed and guided by a constitution little changed since George Washington’s day.
And yet it is easy to scare ourselves with other possibilities.
Some see us drifting toward the all-powerful state, lulled by the sweet sound of “security.” Some see a need to curb our freedom lest it be used to shield those who plot against us. And some fear our freedom will be hard to save if a general war should come.
A military dictatorship to restore the nation’s body, if not its soul from the ravages of atomic attack? Some sort of Fascism? Or, in the name of Socialism, some mild or strong control of what we do; directive here, big red “Thou-Shall-Not’s” there?
Some fear the worst. And yet:
We’ve feared the worst, while hoping for the best, ever since we have been a nation. We’ve come through wars and depression. And we’ve come through – free.
Today, almost alone among men, we have the strength – as we may need to prove – to hold the course we choose.
LABOR: A Short Work Week
There is every reason to believe that the steady growth of organized labor in the first half of 1950 will continue along the same trend in the second half of the century.
Labor developed to where it is today from practically nothing at the beginning of the 20th century. It’s still in the process of growth. The various elements and cliques making up the American economy – labor is just one of them – are learning more and more that the national security and well-being requires them to remain strong and work together.
So as labor comes closer to reaching maturity it is likely to win greater acceptance from other elements of American life. This in itself would tend to eliminate some of the great labor-management struggles and create a smoother-working American team.
From every indication labor is in politics to stay, probably playing an expanding role as the years progress. By the end of the century labor may have its own party, as is the case in several European countries.
It’s a good bet, too, that by the end of the century many government plans now avoided as forms of socialism will be accepted as commonplace. Who in 1900 thought that by mid-century there would be government-regulated pensions and a work week limited to 40 hours? A minimum wage, child labor curbs and unemployment compensation?
So tell your children not to be surprised if the year 2000 finds 35 or even a 20-hour work week fixed by law.
The piece was written by the following specialists of The Associated Press: J.M. Roberts, Jr., foreign affairs; Howard W. Blakeslee, science; Sam Dawson, economics; Dorothy Roe, women; Alexander George, population; James J. Strebig, aviation; David G. Bareuther, construction; C.E. Butterfield, television; Gene Handsaker, movies; Ovid A. Martin, agriculture; Ed Creagh, politics; Norman Walker, labor; David Taylor Marke, education.