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This is what futurists in 1988 thought Los Angeles would look like today

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Los Angeles Times 2013
Los Angeles Times 2013

In 1988 the Los Angeles Times Magazine published "L.A. 2013: A Special Report." Written by Nicole Yorkin, the article takes a look at what daily life might look like for a typical Angeleno in the year 2013 — then 25 years away. It's a fascinating read both for what it gets correct as well as where it misses the mark. Futurists and experts in urban planning, technology, and architecture help paint a portrait of a world where "Smart House" wiring systems allow everything in a home to be run automatically, from heating systems to kitchen appliances. Toothpaste, the article predicts, will have been replaced in favor of a mouth rinse that performs the same function, while teleconferencing will be common in an effort to cut down on traffic — not too far from modern-day reality.

The fictional family at the heart of the article also has a friendly robot named Billy Rae that takes care of day-to-day chores — with a friendly southern accent — and costs only $5,000. Executives from Ford and General Motors discuss changes in cars, which they say will have more spacious interiors as engines and other components shrink in size, but the article predicts the efforts won't help commute times, which it describes as tripling by 2013.

It misses the mark on cloud computing

One area that is missed almost completely, however, is the revolution of cloud-based computing and storage. Almost all of the futuristic devices described in the piece — from an automated home gym to school desks with computer screens built right in — rely on some sort of physical storage device. One of the lone examples that doesn't hew to this paradigm is video on demand. However, the real 2013 has many more options in this realm than what's portrayed here (the fictional family has only 10 movies to choose from on their VOD service, and ordering a film requires a phone call to their cable company).

Futurist Syd Mead, known for Blade Runner and an assortment of other works, lends conceptual artwork he did for an unproduced television show called LA 15. It reveals a downtown Los Angeles of futuristic, sweeping lines, and while the landscape hasn't transformed to the degree he envisioned, the aesthetic does sync up nicely with buildings like the current Walt Disney Concert Hall. It's a fascinating read for anyone interested in where we are, where we thought we'd be, and where we have yet to go.