Welcome to the Year 2051!

Front Page / Jul. 24, 2011 2:31pm EDT

By Kevin Paquet

Except for sticking balloons to a dog with static electricity, there is no pursuit so simultaneously fun and pointless as predicting the future.

Ever since the dawn of time, humanity has been waiting to see what's next. Call it a compulsion: An insatiable need to know now what happens later. This need has simultaneously driven all of our progress and prevented us from enjoying it.

Let's gaze into the future, you and I—40 years ahead, to the humid summer of the year 2051...

Randolph, 2051

Randolph will look familiar enough. Walk down Main Street—still paved with asphalt cracking under the unending assault of frost heaves—and you'll see a scene both canny and alien.

The old downtown block will be much as it is now, though Rite Aid, destroyed by a hovercraft crash in 2029, will have been replaced by a small park that stretches between the old block and the former post office, which is now a night club called Postal Thrust.

Walk down the sidewalk alongside robots and middle-aged people (born in the mini baby boom caused by the economic recovery of 2014). Automobiles the size and shape of Dumpsters are parked at the fueling station next to the park. The fuel is not gasoline but ionically charged acid for the cars' battery systems. They're having a special where, if you buy ten gallons, they give you an animated “window cling” powered by a built-in solar cell. The clings are all different kinds of cats; stick them near each other and the cat images will spit at each other.

The Randolph Union High School stands rebuilt on its current site after the old one was destroyed in a small but deadly robot uprising that was the unintentional byproduct of somebody's senior project. Ths year’s Class of '51 has donated a small granite bench. Inscribed on its side are the words "When we get where we're going, we won't be who we were."

Vermont, 2051

Trains have retaken the state after the fall of the age of gasoline. Two hypertrains pass through—one east to west, one north to south. The north to south one can take passengers from the Massachusetts border to Burlington in 55 minutes, although you don't get a very good view of the foliage.

Vermont has made good on its promise to turn to renewable energy sources, which has led to a ubiquity of solar panels and windmills designed to capture fickle resources. Exactly half of the state's citizens view this as progress, and the other half can't stand it.

The USA, 2051

Election season is approaching, and the cars are sporting what appear to be animated bumper stickers supporting presidential candidates. In fact the entire body of some cars function as a projection screen; the "stickers" are images manipulated from the cars' on-board hard drives.

For the first time this century, both the Democrats and the Republicans are sporting serious presidential contenders born after the millennium.

The leading Democratic candidate, Naomi Weiss, was born in 2003 and right now, in 2011, is eight years old. As you are reading this, she is chasing the family dog with a hose.

The Republican frontrunner is Miles Gordon, born in 2004. He is spending this moment in 2011 practicing the art of shuffling cards, but a third of them come out sideways each time anyway.

The United States of 2051 is prosperous, if not to the degree it was in the 1990s. The slow creep of monetary inflation has produced results that would be startling if taken in all at once: A 20 oz. can of Coca-Cola is now five dollars—as is a copy of The Herald, which is currently cheerfully running a reprint of this article in THEIR vacation issue.

Minimum wage is $40 an hour in Vermont. A movie ticket at the Playhouse (running a remake of the first "Harry Potter" film) is $35. People born around 1990 often comment on these numbers with stunned voices. Teenagers roll their eyes and go back to their social networks, which now contain no vowels in their names at all (i.e., Spnch) and allow people to monitor each other's in-shoe implants.

The rise of robotics have allowed the average human being to own a fabricating device that can make machined parts to digital specifications, allowing people to make entire machines from raw materials loaded into the top.

People here use these devices primarily to make sap buckets, lawn windmills, and animatronic flamingoes.

This, then, is a squinted glimpse into the future. It could be totally wrong. But then, couldn't it also be right? It's fun to guess the future for the same reason it's fun to imagine your vacation destination while you're still on the airplane. It's a long ride. Might as well make the most of it.

In Loving Memory

• Joe Biden, 47th Vice President; 1942 - 2028; C.O.D.: Walked into revolving door.

• George W. Bush, 43rd President. 1946 - 2032; Kickboxing accident.

• Bill Clinton, 42nd President. 1946 - 2048; Complications from 102nd birthday party.

• Hillary Clinton, 45th President. 1947 - 2030; Assimilated by the Borg.

• Steve Jobs, Apple Computer CEO. 1955 - 2023; Destroyed by Terminator sent back in time by John Connor to save humanity.

• Vladimir Putin, Russian President. 1952 - 2015; Sucked out plane window when gunfighting at 40,000 feet with James Bond.

J. K. Rowling, "Harry Potter" author. 1965 - 2035; Choked on genetically engineered dirigible plum.

• Sylvester Stallone, Perennial action hero. 1946-2044; Old age.

 

 

 

 

Return to top