Articles

What science will do to us

Factories will run themselves, we’ll work only two hours a day, nobody will be poor, and we’ll all live to be a hundred

FRED BODSWORTH October 15 1955
Articles

What science will do to us

Factories will run themselves, we’ll work only two hours a day, nobody will be poor, and we’ll all live to be a hundred

FRED BODSWORTH October 15 1955

What science will do to us

The years ahead

Factories will run themselves, we’ll work only two hours a day, nobody will be poor, and we’ll all live to be a hundred

FRED BODSWORTH

IN THE past fifty years technological change has heen greater than in all mankind’s previous history. Will the next fifty see progress equally dramatic and revolutionary?

"We have merely scratched the surface,” says Dr.

W. H. Watson, head of the physics department at the University of Toronto. Looking back fifty years from the year 2005 will be like looking back into medieval times from today. People aren’t extreme or imaginative enough when they try to foresee living conditions of the future.”

It is of course common knowledge that experts foresee widespread use of atom-generated electricity well before the year 2005; they see pushbutton factories that will practically run themselves, power derived from sunlight, planes that will carry passengers anywhere on earth in two hours or less. They predict that the simplification and mass production of helicopters w ill shift the traffic jam up in the air. Some doctors claim that in another fifty years most infectious diseases will have been conquered and people a hundred years old w ill be commonplace.

But developments like these are only the beginning. Technological change, startling though it is itself, will bring even more startling varieties of social and economic change. Increased production from automatic machines will reduce the work week to perhaps twenty hours—or failing that, the work year to six or eight months—within the next fifty years. Yet one man working twenty hours w ill be able to produce more than a worker produces in the forty-hour week of today. Since we have already reached a state in which by far the largest slice of the profits goes to the worker and the producer, wealth, which is fundamentally a measure of man’s ability to produce, w ill be greater. The very rich and the very poor will he fewer. Industry’s main problem will no longer be the maintenance of production levels—this will have become almost automatic; instead it w ill be the maintenance of purchasing power, and industry will have more incentive than ever to see that every worker gets a fair share of the wealth he helps produce.

Bertrand Russell, the British philosopher and mathematician, foresees most people living like kings on the work of "slave machines” instead of "slave labor.” "Perhaps an hour or two a day will represent the amount of human labor that will be necessary,” he says. "And whoever is willing to do this very small amount of work will have a right to his share of the national dividend.”

Dramatic changes in living will stem from the fact that man will have much more leisure, and this new freedom will result from scientific developments. What will they be and how will we use them?

First, what about power sources? Long before another fifty years pass the power picture will he dominated by atomic energy. We know that world uranium supplies already discovered are sufficient to provide about twentyfive times as much energy as all the coal, oil and gas reserves known—and we’ve been seriously looking for uranium for only ten years. Canada has begun work on a nuclear power plant at Chalk River, Ont., which should be in operation within three years. It is largely an experimental project, but according to Dr. W. B. Lewis, vicepresident in charge of research and development for the crown company Atomic Energy of Canada, we can expect to be using atomic power in Canada within ten years. The U. S. and Britain have several nuclear power plants under construction and a small one in New York state recently began producing power for public use. Electric power from all these initial experimental plants will he somewhat more expensive than that now produced in the costliest coalor oil-burning steamgenerating plants, and a great deal more expensive than hydro power, according to Dr. Lewis. But he adds, "Over the next few decades the price of atomic power should fall. It should become available in amounts limited only by the demand and practical rate of capital expenditure.”

But atomic energy may not be our only power source. "It is my opinion,” says Dr. R. L. Hearn, chairman of the Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario and a director of AtomicEnergy of Canada, "that nuclear power will in the future supplement our present resources hut not displace them.”

"it may replace coal and oil as fuel for generating electrical power,” says S. W. Fraser-Underhill, power-production consultant, "but hydro power may still be cheaper, for once you get up a power dam it practically runs itself. We won’t be letting our hydro dams disintegrate unused—not in fifty years anyway; maybe in a hundred.”

The biggest drawback at present to widespread use of atomic power is the great danger from leakage of radiation but in the next half century we may learn to protect ourselves. The welldressed citizen of the atomic age may wear a tiny Geiger counter on his arm like a wrist watch and if his wrist Geiger warns him that he is under dangerous radiation there may be antidotes he can take to combat the invisible poison. In the year 2005 immunization programs for children may include anti-radiation shots.

Because of the radiation danger and present size of a nuclear power plant, engineers cannot foresee atomic energy

ever being widely used in small private vehicles like cars or planes, but in larger units, such as ships and locomotives, atomic power for transportation will almost certainly be commonplace in 2005.

W. B. Lewis, of Atomic Energy of Canada, points out that the biggest promise of atomic power is the fact that plants can he set up and operated anywhere in the world, for once in operation they require very little haulage of fuel. It will then be possible to develop regions now backward because they lack sources of power. Vast irrigation schemes, now economically impossible, will appear and by 2005 desert areas like the southwestern U. S. and the Mediterranean fringes of the Sahara may be producing crops. Instead of hauling ores long distances for smelting, we will use atomic furnaces and smelters to process ores on the spot.

Dr. Farrington Daniels of the University of Wisconsin says we’ll be supplementing atomic power with energy derived from sunlight. The amount of solar energy that falls every day on an acre of tropical land is equivalent to what can be obtained from burning four tons of coal. This source of power has been known for decades but it has never been economically practical. It may soon be. The Bell Telephone laboratories in the U. S. recently perfected a solar battery that turns sunlight directly into electricity.

Small atomic plants may never become economic because the atom produces power in big lumps or not at all but small solar power units are more practical and manageable than big ones. For this reason, Daniels predicts that solar energy will be used in isolated areas where no other power is available and only small amounts are required. Bell Telephone is now experimenting with small solar batteries exposed on telephone poles, with the hope that they might replace the dieselpowered "boosters” now required for long-distance transmission through remote areas where there is no other power.

Will Machines Shop Too?

By 2005 coal will probably have entered a new era as a valuable source of chemical raw material and synthetic liquid fuels. It may be considered much too valuable to burn as a fuel itself.

We are not only assured of a good supply of economic energy with which to power the machines of fifty years from now hut we’ll have robot devices that will operate them as well. "Pushbutton factory” techniques are already being pioneered in a few industries but in 2005 these will be refined and automation— as self-operated machine production is called — will be commonplace.

Factories may have departed from tradition in another way. Many of them will no longer have to be housed in vast buildings; they will be outdoors. With human workers stationed at only a few strategic points, it may become unnecessary to erect an expensive roof over the whole plant. Machines and assembly lines will be boxed in but the only true buildings will be the control rooms where a few engineers scan their instruments and keep the automatic processes operating smoothly.

The electronic supermarket will merely display staples of merchandise and the housewife will shop by punching a card or checking off her needs with a pencil that writes with electricityconducting lead. At the end she will pass her card into an electronic gadget that will "read” the card and send her goods down chutes from a hidden warehouse located behind the machines.

'‘In uy all be driving flying it* out not atomic autos”

The private secretary will only be a nostalgic memory in 2005. Executives will dictate letters into an electronic stenographer which will punctuate and type them in a few seconds. Eventually, electronic engineers expect to perfect an automatic translator on which an operator will type a sentence in English and get it back in another language.

British physicist A. M. Low says electronic devices will do away with much government debate, for by means of computers and the much more efficient communications system of fifty years hence, governments will be able to call elections and go to the countiy on minor questions every few days.

Much shorter working hours may not be merely a possibility, they may become an urgent necessity to spread out employment and keep public buying power in balance with automatic production methods.

For one thing, there’ll be an increase in what experts like to call fancifully "adult education”—after-hours learning through study groups, university extension classes and correspondence courses. Formal higher education will become more widespread and, with automation, more essential for earning a livelihood. With machines taking over many laboring jobs, there will be a diminishing need for unskilled labor and an increasing demand for engineers and skilled technicians to construct and oversee the machines.

Just Two Hours to China

Sports will continue to occupy much of man’s leisure time. Electronic devices may replace human judges and umpires, eliminating all chance of human error. With easier travel and establishment of "world leagues,” spectator sports may become more popular. Boxing may disappear, at least in its modern brutal form,though it may linger on, like fencing, in a form in which no one gets seriously hurt. The blows could be registered by radar or by electric contacts beneath light clothing, points automatically recorded and the bout decided long before the loser sprawls unconscious in the ring.

With incomes up and travel costs down, more people will be able to spend leisure in world travel. Large passenger-carrying jet aircraft with speeds up to eight thousand miles an hour will probably be a reality by the turn of the next century. The longest "straightline” trip possible on earth—halfway around the world at the equator—will take two hours. To accomplish this speed the aircraft will have to fly twenty miles or so above the earth where atmospheric friction won’t cause melting of the fuselage. On "short” flights—such as from Montreal to London—speeds of about four thousand miles an hour may be the practical limit, because passengers will not be capable of standing the acceleration necessary to reach twice that speed in the space available between Canada

Human Nature

I pride myself on tolerance And strongly advocate it.

Intolerance annoys me so I just can’t tolerate it.

HAL CHADWICK

and England. Flights now requiring one hour may be cut to half that but probably no less.

The possibility of space travel, though, is still the future’s big enigma. Predictions of when man will first reach the moon range from twenty-five years hence to two hundred years.

For short trips, the helicopter will be the work horse of the air long before 2005, or perhaps we will have "convertiplanes” — combined planes and helicopters that, once in the air, fly like conventional planes. Businessmen will commute between homes and offices in helicopter buses. The air space over big cities will have "highways” and "intersections” to prevent aerial traffic jams and police in helicopters will patrol both surface highways and airways, directing traffic by loud-speakers, perhaps by traffic lights mounted in helicopters.

For private travel, the automobile will probably still be with us fifty years from now, though in a form quite different from today. The expensive car may be a "flying flivver,” a combination car and helicopter that will use streets or highways for short trips ¡ and take to the air for long ones. If someone comes up with a new type of efficient storage battery, cars may use | atomic power secondhand, in the form of electricity. But most engineers j believe this is very unlikely and they are predicting instead that future cars I will be powered with gas - turbine engines. The gas-turbine is an adaptation of the jet engine, but instead of the jet blast itself providing the propulsion, as in aircraft, the blast turns a turbine that powers the drive shaft and wheels. Several automotive companies are already experimenting with turbo-cars. These machines differ from modern cars as much as 1955 models differ from the Stanley Steamer. The engine itself is much smaller and lighter and will allow for considerably more passenger space without increasing the size of the car. It will use a cheaper kerosene-like fuel and give more miles to the gallon.

By 2005 we will be building cars that drive themselves. "You will be able to put your car out on the highway, turn on the automatic pilot, then go to sleep or read a book,” says W. D. Scholfield, manager of the electronic equipment department of Canadian General Electric. "There will be an anti-collision radar in the front to slow it down or stop it when an obstacle appears ahead. There will be a magnetic field down the centre of the highway and an electronic device coupled to automatic steering that will keep the car glued to that field.”

There are also tremendous advances coming in the communications field. The biggest of these will probably be the elimination of all wire from telephone transmission and the use of microwave beams. Microwaves are already being used for much longdistance telephone transmission but their main weakness is that they travel out in straight lines and won’t follow the curvature of the earth, which limits their range and makes frequent relay towers essential. This problem is already almost overcome, for electronic scientists are finding that microwave beams can be reflected or bounced off certain ionized layers of atmosphere high above the earth and get around the earth’s curve in this manner.

Thomas W. Eadie, president of the Bell Telephone Company of Canada, predicls •. ^ie. What the quality of by local tmuiian art and letters will be unnecessary a It will depend on two to any phone in” geniuses appear among

The instrument *i and literatur/nge. Eadiesays we may expect the "handsfree” telephone—a microphone in the ceiling that will pick up conversation from anywhere in the room. When the phone rings the housewife will answer it by pushing a button or waving her hand through an invisible light beam and then begin talking wherever she happens to be in the room.

"Telephones in fifty years will probably be equipped with video screens and persons carrying on telephone conversations will be able to see each other at the same time,” says Eadie who also sees endless possibilities in the trend toward miniature equipment. "We may even pet wristwatch radio telephones,” he says.

What will these revolutionary changes in power production, electronics and travel do to our cities and homes? Dr. E. G. Faludi, one of the continent’s foremost experts in town plannng, says the present exodus from cities to suburbs will increase with the coming of the mass-produced helicopter.

"Cities will thin out and spread out,” Faludi says, "for it will no longer be necessary for people to live close to their places of work. A new class of commuter will develop and residential sections will move out one hundred or two hundred miles. Montreal residents will fin out into the Laurentians; Toronto will spread out north to Lake Simcoe and Muskoka; Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver will have suburbs in the Rockies. Rich executives may commute daily to Canadian offices from homes in Florida, the West Indies, maybe even Europe.”

No More Dishwashing?

Cities may be free of smoke and soot, enclosed in vast plastic domes, with the interior air-conditioned so that there will be yea>*-long summer. Trams and buses will be replaced by moving sidewalks—actually a series of moving belts side by side with an "express” sidewalk in the centre moving at thirty to forty miles an hour and equipped with seats. Each 'adjoining belt could travel five miles an hour slower so that pedestrians could move safely from one to the other. Town planners such as Faludi foresee airconditioned streets for motor vehicles, enclosed like subways at a level below the pedestrians’ moving-sidewalk transit system.

We can look for atomic plants in cities for the production of heat for central heating. Urban dwellers will probably buy their heat from a public utility as they now buy water.

Many things that are now only laboratory curiosities will be standard equipment in the homes of 2005. Most of the dust and dirt will be magnetically screened out of the air by air-conditioners. Dishwashing? Chemical engineers claim that it won’t be much of a chore when the market is ready for a plastic plate that will dissolve in hot water and run down the drain.

Electronics promise revolutionary changes in the art of cooking. Food will be heated by powerful radio waves. Roasts or cakes baked in electronic ovens will maintain the same temperature throughout; it will be impossible to burn them on the outside while the centre remains undone. Ovens of this type could be equipped with electronic "eyes” sensitive to change in color and when the cake or roast developed the proper hue, indicating that it was done, the oven would automatically turn off.

Refrigerators will get much smaller

shop windows and wsed for freezing

pass. Stations only, not for storage,

ing, >physicists believe it may soon ^ecome possible to treat many foods with sterilizing atomic radiation that will permit them to retain their freshness for long periods at room temperature. Washing machines and laundry soap may become obsolete, for one of the exciting new uses that has been found for supersonic sound waves is "dry laundering”—the waves literally shake the dirt out of fabrics. TV sets will become smaller; the screens will be larger and hang on the «wall like a picture.

As life becomes more gadgetized and material possessions more plentiful, our present materialistic "let’s keep up with the Joneses” outlook will change. "Material things will be commonplace and no longer give their possessors a status in society,” says Dr. Stuart Jaffary, University of Toronto sociologist. "Human and spiritual values, a greater respect for human life, marriage and the family, will replace the material values predominant today.”

One effect of this is the probable introduction of legislation that will require prospective brides and grooms to at least subject themselves to some form of training for parenthood before marriage licenses are granted.

What advances will medicine make in the next fifty years? Speaking recently before the American Medical Association, Dr. L. H. McDaniel, head of the McDaniel Clinic in Tyronza. Ark., predicted the eradication of all human infectious diseases through vaccines, drugs and tests for early detection. "The common cold will be only a memory,” he said.

As for cancer, Dr. Arthur Kelly, secretary of the Canadian Medical Association, says, "Cancer might conceivably be as big a mystery fifty years from now as it is today, but this is highly unlikely. New clues to the cancer mystery are turning up constantly, and we should have the answer and a method of cancer control well before another fifty years.”

As life expectancy increases, so will stature, medical scientists say. Improved nutrition is growing bigger and bigger humans, and six-footers are much commoner today than fifty years ago. "In another fifty years,” Dr. Kelly suggests, "anyone under six feet may be looked upon as a runt.”

And on the subject of nutrition, a British authority recently predicted that we would solve the problem of how to feed the world’s growing population by raising whales in captivity like cattle. Cowboys responsible for the whale herds would ride atomic submarines.

It is a certainty that the prospect for material progress and prosperity never looked better. Yet, paradoxically, never before have so many people feared the future.

"Most of the trouble and uncertainty in the world today,” says Dr. Charles E. Hendry, director of the School of Social Work, University of Toronto, "is caused by the fact that technological acceleration has been so great and social acceleration so slow, but social change will come, and someday mankind will be able to enjoy his material wealth and luxuries without fears of unemployment, international distrust and war.”

Yet even then, with war and work abolished and death postponed, Utopia may still not have arrived. "Men and women will still struggle for happiness,” said Harry Bullis, philosopher and business leader of the midwestern U. S., in a recent forecast, "for happiness will continue to lie within themselves.” ★