In the early 1960s, this confusion between science fact and science fiction dominated the public’s perception of technological innovation. Before they arrived at the New York World’s Fair, most visitors already knew the moral of the show: the machines on display were prototypes of better things to come. NASA’s spaceships would evolve into luxurious interplanetary passenger liners. General Electric’s fission reactors would become fusion plants providing almost limitless amounts of energy. Crucially, these fantasies of the future explained how new technologies would eventually benefit everyone. The promise of space travel for everyone justified spending enormous sums of money on sending a few astronauts into earth orbit. The prediction of electricity “too cheap to meter” showed that the massive investments in nuclear power were worthwhile. The present was the harbinger of the future – and the future fulfilled the promise of the present.
[excerpt from Richard Barbrook’s Imaginary Futures: From Thinking Machines to the Global Village]