Tomorrow Never Dies

What we can learn from the long, dubious history of predicting the future. (Hint: Don’t pull a Kaempffert.)

To mark Texas Monthly’s thirty-fifth anniversary, we turn to the future. On nearly every page in this issue you will find an attempt to fathom what life here will be like in five, ten, twenty, even forty years—what music we’ll listen to, where our energy and water will come from, who our leaders will be, where we’ll shop, what we’ll eat for dinner. A magazine is a microscope, magnifying the people and stories at hand; this month we have trained our lenses on the far horizon, on the big questions and on the small, and tried our best to tell you what we see.

We have done this despite the fact that of all journalistic endeavors, the one that presents the most hazards and offers the fewest rewards is a prediction of the future. Consider, for example, a 1950 Popular Mechanics story titled “Miracles You’ll See in the Next Fifty Years,” by the improbably named Waldemar Kaempffert. The author imagined a prototypical late-twentieth-century family, the Dobsons, living in a paradise of efficiency. “When Jane Dobson cleans house,” he wrote, “she simply turns the hose on everything.” Her husband, Joe, has been freed of the need to shave his beard by a Nair-like product—“It takes him less than a minute to apply the chemical, wipe it off with the bristles and wash his face in plain water.” Most importantly, the dinner dishes are a snap for Joe and Jane, since their soluble plates can be washed straight down the drain. As for the rest of the cleanup, “discarded paper table

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