Thanks to the wonder of modern-day technology, I was able to easily research and find the following comment from Time magazine, a prediction made in its Feb. 25, 1966, issue:
“By 2000, the machines will be producing so much that everyone in the U.S. will be independently wealthy. With government benefits, even nonworking families will have, by one estimate, an annual income of $30,000 to $40,000... How to use leisure meaningfully will be a major problem.”
I don’t think this came true in 2000. I’m certain it doesn’t hold true today. Heck, I thought we’d all have flying cars by now (but I’m glad we do not).
To officially break this down, we’ll start with the first segment of the prediction, the part that tells us that everyone in the U.S. will be independently wealthy.
These machines, I assume, are the technological advancements that continue to shove society further into the future on a daily basis. Machines so advanced that they will do our work for us. In a lot of cases that prediction is actually true.
Just in my line of work, the computer program does a lot for my stories that I take for granted, such as setting the type, style and font, spell-checking and saving documents for easier transition to other computer programs for page design.
The camera makes my job simple enough, in many cases, to just point and shoot. Photoshop makes me look like I actually know what I’m doing.
It wasn’t that long ago that Pioneer News reporters were still hovering over manual typewriters or developing film in the dark room.
Though the job is easier in regards to the process above, the conflict of this prediction is actually machines vs. leisure.
Some jobs are much easier to do now, but rather than having a great deal more leisure time, we now do more than one work task, for the simple reason that we can get more done due to the technological advancements.
Therefore, we have theoretically filled our leisure time meaningfully with more work.
I’m sure many of us are still being paid for just one job, although many of us are doing much more than a job would entail 40 years ago.
How is it that the technological improvements designed to make our lives easier now seem to leave us with no free time at all?
Of course, the prediction said ‘leisure meaningfully’, which I assume could mean getting more done. Can doing more work be meaningful leisure?
For me personally, leisure is that time between falling asleep at night and waking up in the morning. Figuring out how to implement that is not so much of an issue.
That’s not every day of course, nor does this apply for everybody, but where is all this extra leisure time I am supposed to experience?
What if you’re a parent, married or single? Where’s your leisure? From dusk to dawn your life and leisure depend upon the child’s schedule. That’s a large portion of the day.
A larger portion than in 1966, when children could get out of school for the day and go play somewhere until dinner or even bedtime, without fear.
Despite those fears, we live in an improved society that offers many opportunities for kids. What was once just spring baseball or softball, fall football and winter basketball is now year-round sports opportunity. Children get involved in soccer, tennis, golf, hockey, swimming and volleyball.
And that’s just sports. There are many school-related activities available today, numerous high school and middle school clubs and increased family nights at elementary schools.
Community organizations now feature more children and family-friendly events, such as the Bullitt County Public Libraries and Bernheim Forest.
Kids have their leisure time filled, and they also fill the parents’ leisure time by transporting them to and from the numerous leisure activities.
Meanwhile, time not filled with activity is filled via technology. Sometimes it’s hand-held computer games, sometimes home entertainment systems. Sometimes it’s communication devices.
Weaving one activity into another is now possible, and multiple communication technologies are now available to virtually everyone. It allows kids to hang with their friends 24 hours a day without even being with them.
The kids interact no matter where they are or what they are doing. It doesn’t matter where they are physically, communication dominates their atmosphere. It is especially noticeable during family events such as dinner.
So maybe the prediction is true in this sense: Our children have mastered filling free time with leisure, a kind that is meaningful at least to them.
Their parents’ generation will continue struggling to make ends meet, while simultaneously supplying activities and technologies for the children that are slowly killing their own leisure.
However, if you are of that generation, and you’ve read this because a Facebook friend recommended it, or tweeted it, then you can probably disregard it.
You’re likely filling your leisure time meaningfully. Possibly at the office, where you never seem to find enough time to finish your numerous job tasks.