Thursday, December 11, 2008

Have we lost our imagination?

I read an interesting article about Disney's "House of the Future" on today.  The original house, which was installed in Disneyland's Tomorrowland in 1957,  was actually called the "Monsanto House of the Future."  It was a futuristic imagining of domestic life, and featured such things as a an ultra-sonic pop-up dishwasher, touch-tone hands-free telephone, and a microwave oven.  The design of the building itself was also inventive, as it was shaped like a cross and brought light into each room.   You can view a great video of this house on You Tube, here is Part 1 and Part 2.  It was very Jetson-like and seems to have given great inspiration to Ikea.  It was also imaginative and forward-thinking.

The newest incarnation of the Disney "House of the Future" looks like a bad tract home in a housing development in Porter Ranch.  It is merely a model home with some gadgets thrown in for pizazz.  There is a great article in The Atlantic by P.J. O'Rourke that goes into more descriptive detail, entitled Future Schlock.  In his conclusion to this article he states, "We seemed to have entered a deeply unimaginative era."  

Is this true?  I think what has happened is that we used to imagine the future as always being better than what we had in the present.  I know that's what they foresaw in the 1950's when the original Disney house was built.  Now, the future doesn't seem so certain or so bright. However, this isn't an excuse to keep repeating the past, in elements of design or life.  I know we can do better than that.  This is the worst time to become complacent or reactionary.  My favorite definition of insanity is "repeating the same action over and over and expecting a different outcome."  Yet we all do this.  Are we all insane?  No, I don't think so.  But I do think we've lost our imagination, and that certainly has to change!

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