When episodes of the “The Jetsons” aired in 1962, I would watch a silly cartoon that predicted a future of flying cars, moving sidewalks, robotic maids, speaking watches, video phones, and a morning alarm that folded up a bed like a toaster, popping Mr. Jetson out perfectly dressed for work.
These sci-fi imagined gadgets, operating throughout the Jetson home, made their lives easier. Yet despite the onslaught of technology, the Jetson family worked to keep their ability to communicate and inspire each other through face-to-face settings as they adapted to rapid change.
Today we have a product called the Web—a single machine through which we connect to each other on around the globe. The Web is less than 5,000 days old, an infant mirroring who we are in the age of Knowledge. As technology evolves, how will we adapt in the 21st century? What will happen in the next 5,000 days? Will the Web propel us past the 1960’s predictions of the Jetson age? Is technology (or artificial intelligence) moving beyond the power of the human brain? And if so, what will be the results?
What’s coming is mysterious and messy. Significant change is ugly; it destroys something that was once vital and productive and calming. But change in the 21st-century is different from last century, arriving each day like tides on the beach. Google’s currently imagining a Jetson-inspired future of driverless cars; elevators racing into outer space; energy-producing wind grids built off of the Pacific and Atlantic coasts; refrigerators that connect to the Web, ordering groceries as food runs low; and fleets of robots to replace mundane jobs in homes and offices.