Future Society

Forecasts from the past: extreme free time that has not become reality

29 March 2019 | Written by La redazione

Often the thinkers of the past have left to posterity intuitions about our present: some incredibly precise, others completely wrong. Today, for the second appointment of this column, we tell you about one of those that, unfortunately, has not come true.


We are in 1966 and automation is on the horizon, along with many new challenges but, above all, opportunities. A group of editors of Time magazine, in an essay, is leaning over the effects of this revolution with a rather risky forecast: “By 2000, the machines will produce so much that everyone in the United States will be rich”. According to the article, in a time when work would no longer be necessary, the real problem will be the free time: how can we use it in a meaningful way?


Herman Kahn’s concern. Likewise, futurist Herman Kahn, one of the most important futurists of the second half of the twentieth century, worried about the development of “a pleasure-oriented society full of ‘wholesome degeneracy. “Many – he explains in his writings – will be satisfied, but many others will find that kind of life without meaning and purpose and they will look for something that satisfies them”.

A very different present. The year 2000 has passed for almost 20 years and the predicted situation seems to be very far from the current one. Automation has certainly revolutionized the world of work and production, but wealth has not been concentrated in the bank accounts of a few. According to data from the Oxfam report released at the beginning of the year, the richest 1% on the planet holds almost half of the total net aggregate wealth (47.2% to be precise), while 3.8 billion people, equal to the poorest half of the world’s inhabitants, can count on just 0.4 percent. For the near future? The technological revolution underway will profoundly change the world of work in the near future but the paradigm does not seem destined to change: wealth will remain in the hands of a few and those who lose their jobs for the introduction of new technologies will re-enter the market of work.

What about free time? Not only can we not afford to be permanently on vacation, but very often, we also work in our spare time. A research, in fact, claims that in France, Germany and the United Kingdom, over 20% of people work over the weekend, a figure that reaches almost 30% in the United States.

A rather different scenario than the one hypothesized by Kahn and the editors of Time. The Future Thinking exercise, in this case, did not offer a correct forecast and the automation brought us to a different “possible future” compared to the hypothesized one.

La redazione
La redazione

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