The Alphaville Dictionary

To the Future, and Beyond!

“The Amazing Kreskin” used to keep late-night television audiences in stitches with his fearless predictions of the absurd future.  He always began with the windy declaration, “We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives.”  With all due respect for a great entertainer, we only spend our lives in the present, which is what the future turns into when we get there.  Modern man is absolutely entranced with the future, which is one of the explanations for the popularity of science fiction, but the word (from Latin futurum) means nothing more exciting than “what is to be” or “what is likely to be.”  Instead of being content to repeat Scarlett O’Hara’s optimistic but truthful “Tomorrow is another day,” we look forward to an infinitely improving set of future prospects, though experience should teach us that tomorrow is unlikely to be much better than today; indeed, it will probably be worse.

American advertising is studded with meaningless phrases like “the car of the future” and “the kitchen of the future.”  Since there is really no such thing as “the future,” such talk is pure shinola peddled to suckers on street corners in the expectation that they will be parted from their money more easily.  The mystical faith in the future has a name, and it is Progress,...

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