April 24, 2013
When I was in second grade I made a diorama of a city of the future. This was the early 1990s and the diorama was supposed to represent the year 2000—somehow still lightyears away for a young kid during the George H. W. Bush administration. My little diorama city had cars that ran on a magnetic track, some tall awkwardly-shaped buildings, and a way of recycling rainwater that supposedly (at least in my juvenile mind) was great for the environment.
Children of the 20th century (present bloggers excluded, perhaps) had some fascinating visions for the future. They tended to be pretty optimistic, but each generation betrays its own fears for the world of tomorrow. In the 1960s, kids imagined flying cars and jetpacks, tempered by fears around the Cold War. In the 1970s, kids expected their future to be filled with robot maids and vacations to Mars, but they also worried about violence, the price of gas and skyrocketing unemployment.
In this film from 1983 we hear from American kids about their visions for cities of the future. The kids have constructed and drawn cities that include peoplemovers run by computer, underground shops and even horse-drawn transportation. The end of this clip shows a kid who warns that humanity will be destroyed if we don’t find an alternative to gasoline soon—a fear that made a lot of sense to children of the 1970s and 1980s, but maybe less so to children of the 1960s or 1990s.
What did you envision the world of the future looking like when you were a kid? How do you think the time in which you grew up influenced your outlook?
Sign up for our free email newsletter and receive the best stories from Smithsonian.com each week.