This charming little 1956 cartoon commissioned by the Automobile Manufacturers Association is interesting because it seems to have, at least according to some sources, lead to the development of the famous mid-century-future cartoon series the Jetsons six years later. The similarities are pretty striking, and the voice of George Jetson himself is even in this cartoon. Mostly, though, I’m interested in the cars here.
Well, maybe it’d be more accurate to say I’m interested in the reaction to the cars here, and the whole general sense technology and progress is portrayed. Well, here, watch it first so you know what the hell I’m going on about:
This thing is full of all of those hopeful mid-century tropes about the technological future. It takes place in the laser-jammed year 2000, and there’s a lot of predictions that came true in here—or at least are in the process of coming true, 17 years later: ubiquitous computing (albeit noisier, and with mechanical arms handing out cards instead of flat LCD displays), holographic/VR entertainment, autonomous vehicles, and so on.
There’s also a lot that didn’t seem to happen, like the 11-3 workday with a two-hour lunch break, or magazines employing some sort of olfactory-broadcasting equipment. Oh, and the meals-in-a-pill thing, which I’ve never understood the appeal of.
When it comes to the autonomous vehicles, it’s interesting that the need for car-to-car communication was noted, though here it’s still very human-driven instead of the constant, unheard data communication that’s likely to be part of our upcoming autonomous future.
It’s also worth noting that the tried-and-true method of threatening to backhand your kid has survived into this advanced future.
This little animation is focused on the history of cars and their associated comfort and safety devices, but I think it’s the unblinkingly optimistic view of the future that’s most notable here. Today, we imagine an autonomous-car-based future with a mix of anticipation, mistrust, and trepidation, for a variety of reasons.
Some of us just want to retain the right to drive our old, manual shitboxes, many others want the ease and safety of autonomy, but don’t trust the technology or the companies running it, while others are skittish about the loss of personal control and the increased amount of personal information that will be made available.
It’s interesting to get a little glimpse, again, of a time of more innocent trust in technological progress, for better or worse.