Have futurists taken leave of their census?
Super enhanced trans-humans with multiple partners, cohabiting in group houses with adjustable walls and rooms that expand and contract according to need. Telecommuting everywhere from work to the shops and even visiting the doctor. And rationing precious natural resources, especially water, to ensure there is enough to go around.
Welcome to life in the year 2080. Seventy years into the future where robotic humans share the earth with “natural” humans. Or at least that’s the predicted version. As seen through the imagined and collective eyes of a group of writers, social researchers, futurists and scientific types.
National Public Radio journalist Lincoln Weeks has compiled a list of potential. future census questions for the year 2080. The list includes things like, how much water allocation you have been assigned and what kind of robotic characteristics you’ve applied to enhance your natural human state.
Sounds kooky. But take a few big steps back into the past and you’ll soon find that in reality, anything is possible.
First some background on Weeks’ piece for NPR. Earlier this month the National Archives in the United States released data of the 1940 census on a website and the public went nuts for it. Mostly because they can actually look up information directly relating to their ancestors. According to USA Today, 22.5 million people accessed the website in the first three days it went live, causing the website to crash. You can find the data here.
Essentially pages and pages of scanned documents, the vintage census, is, as one punter writes “impossible to read”. But it’s inspired a fascinating collection of photo essays, including this virtual time machine by American Life magazine that is a total must-see for any history buff.
It’s not hard to understand the enthusiastic American public response to this historical information. The popularity of our own television shows like SBS’s Who Do You Think You Are and the endless advertisements for ancestry.com show just how passionate we are about tracing our roots. But as Weeks has discovered, chasing the past can gives us tremendous insight into the future.
Take Australia’s census, for example. Unlike the US we do not have public access to census data. Also, we didn’t have a census in 1940. In fact there was a big gap census gap of 14 years between 1933 and 1947, delayed by both the Depression and World War Two. But there is plenty of interesting background information that can give us some big hints, or indications, of where we’re headed.
Aaron Walker, spokesperson for the Australian Bureau of Statistics told The Punch a review of each census form is held by a variety of experts before every census, to ensure the questions reflect the changing nature of Australian society.
“Every five years the Census offers a snapshot of Australia as it is in that particular point in time. As Australia changes with time, so do the questions on the Census. For example from 1961 to 1971 we asked if households had a television set, where now we ask about internet connections,” Walker said.
The further back we go with the census, the easier it becomes to believe the hyper-real predictions for 2080 are not so fantastical after all.
Take the first Australian census of 1911. Women were classified in age groups as either:
- 0-14: immature
- 45 onwards: sterile.
It’s a shame the census takers of old won’t be around in the year in 2080 when we’re living with robo-dogs for pets and various bionic implants. Then they’d really know what sterile means.
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