WASHINGTON — As 1986 draws to a close and our thoughts turn to what the future may hold, probably only a few of us have realized that we will be throwing parties in our bathrooms.
This is just one of the World Future Society's "Ten Most Thought-Provoking Forecasts" revealed in its "Outlook '87 Report."
"That is my own personal forecast, based on a review of what's been happening in the bathroom," said Edward Cornish, editor of The Futurist, the group's magazine. Cornish has carefully thought about the transformation of the American bathroom from the outdoor privy, to the indoor, utilitarian, white toilet-tub-and-basin, to the colorful, stylish and roomy lavatories of the present. To Cornish, the next step is obvious. Bathrooms as social centers.
"The bathtub in the more affluent home is getting larger, accommodating two people," Cornish said from his office just outside Washington. "And people are exercising and becoming more health conscious, filling their homes with rowing machines and Nautilus equipment.
"A lot of people don't like to go to a party and eat a lot and drink a lot. That's the old-fashioned way of entertaining. If you go to a party in the future, the hostess may say, 'Would you like to exercise and join us in the tub?' " This already has begun happening in California's "hot tub belt," Cornish pointed out.
The other forecasts put forth by the 25,000-member group included:
- Society's most dangerous prisoners will be sent to distant planets or to underwater prisons. Robots will serve as guards.
Robots already are being marketed as security guards, Cornish said. One such robot "is four feet tall, weighs 400 pounds and costs $30,000. These robots can track unauthorized intruders with infrared and ultrasonic sensors and an ammonia sniffer that will detect the odor given off by humans.
"Also the robot doesn't mind working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, doesn't take coffee breaks and doesn't go on strike."
New Legal Specialty
Yes but, like almost everyone else in the society, he does get sued. So. . . .
- Robots will generate a new legal specialty as lawyers fight over liability for damage that robots cause. Already, the report states, robots have killed or injured a number of human workers.
- The life span of cars will soon increase to almost a quarter of a century. The car's current average life span is only 7 1/2 years, but the figure will extend to 10 years by 1990 and to 22 years in 2000, the report said. (But, according to a forecast that didn't make the top 10 but was among a list of 100, there soon may be an airplane in every garage. No wonder cars will last. Nobody will be driving them.)
- The sharp increase in sexually transmissible diseases, especially AIDS, will alter our life styles. A period of new Victorianism will emerge. (Presumably this will not discourage partying in the bathroom. Perhaps they will be black-tie affairs.)
- By the end of the next century, a single city may have more than 100 million inhabitants. In other words, Mexico City, the most populous city in the Americas with more than 9 million people, might grow 10 times larger. Eventually there may be cities with more than a billion residents, many of them living underground.
- Changes in the working world, including widespread automation, could cause a shortfall of 50 million jobs in the United States by the year 2010. This could explain another of the 100 forecasts, which is that politicians will be besieged by a growing angry mass of Madmups--Middle Aged Downwardly Mobile Underemployed Professionals.
Too Many Doctors
- Some of those Madmups will undoubtedly be doctors, of whom, the Top Ten forecasts, there will be 100,000 too many in the 1990s.
- Mariculture, or ocean farming, may produce more food than agriculture.
- Twenty-five to 35% of all paid work in the United States will be done from people's homes by the turn of the century. People will communicate rather than commute.
Cornish said the futurists' forecasts are only meant to provoke thought and not meant as predictions. Futurists are not necessarily qualified to make such predictions because, as Cornish noted, one does not need any certain college degrees or other qualifications to consider himself a futurist in the first place.
"A futurist," Cornish said, "is quite simply anyone who has a serious interest in the long-term future."
Since the group has only been forecasting since 1984, "We don't have a track record," Cornish acknowledged. But he did say that futurists in general missed predicting both the computer revolution and the AIDS epidemic.
"Here and there, we're off base," he said.
Better stock up on bubble bath, just in case.