Back to the Paleo Future

The delightful and fascinating blog Paleo-Future has some entertaining video clips up from a short film produced by AT&T in 1993, showing what the company thought the future of telecommunications would look like. The dramatization, titled “Connections: AT&T’s Vision of the Future,” features the story of a young woman about to get married, highlighting along the way all of the fantastic new technologies that people of the future (us, basically) would be using. Like most past visions of the future it was a bit off, in some rather amusing ways.

First, everyone uses two-way video phones. Exclusively. Futurists have been predicting this for decades, never quite realizing that very few people want either to have to look at or be viewed by everyone with whom they’re required to have a telephone conversation. As we know now, that’s what webcams are for. Also, everything in one’s home and office is (of course) computerized and operated by voice command, a la Star Trek. Characters in this film are constantly uttering staccato commands to unseen digital assistants like “begin message transmission,” “enlarge image 17.5%” and “order us two Cobb salads.”

Another recurring theme of late-20th century futurism, globalization, dominates the story. Every interaction more complicated than crossing the street seems to require the involvement of teleconferenced participants from at least three continents. The (American) central character begins the film by video phoning what appears to be some sort of Nepalese rug workshop to discuss her impending marriage to a Belgian physician. The writers then keep piling on the geographic diversity to the point of near absurdity. Golly gee – in the future, Korean prosthetic limb manufacturers who like to take fishing vacations in Mongolia will be keeping a watch on their virtual inbox to see video footage of one of their Americans clients playing in the world youth ice hockey tournament in Helsinki! It truly is a small world after all.

Rainbow coalition cliches aside, though, “Connections” is an interesting exercise in near-term futurism. And now: The Wedding Dress of the Future. And check out the shoulder pads on these two women: