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Your Flying Car Awaits: Robot Butlers, Lunar Vacations, and Other Dead-Wrong Predictions of the Twentieth Century Paperback – December 8, 2009

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; 1 edition (December 8, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061724602
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061724602
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 4.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,685,198 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

There was a time when people thought future generations would be living in cities topped by geodesic domes, and that all babies would be born in mechanical incubators, probably after having their DNA selected for better intelligence or physical attractiveness. Milo explains why these and dozens of other predictions never came to fruition in a wide-ranging survey that covers everything from atomic energy (which some scientists predicted would never work out) to Puerto Rican statehood. Sometimes the wrong guesses even contradict themselves: airplanes would never work, conventional wisdom once ran; once they'd proven successful, people believed they'd be fast enough to cover the globe in mere hours. Milo's tone is amiably conversational, filled with casual asides such as the discovery that the electric car was also the flavor of the month more than one hundred years ago. He delves into the work of some famous visionaries, from Paul Ehrlich to Hal Lindsey but refrains from mocking even those who were completely off the mark. Readers will come away with a smattering of historical information in several scientific and cultural fields, but it's presented in such a way that they'll feel like experts. (Dec.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Given its title, you’d expect this book to be a light-hearted look at wacky predictions. But it isn’t, really. While some of the predictions he discusses are (with modern-day hindsight) wacky, Milo approaches his subject from a historical and scientific point of view, explaining how, at the time, some of these ideas didn’t sound so weird. “Knowledge pills,” for example, were proposed in the 1960s; they sound silly now, but, the author points out, the idea was based on research that indicated memories may be stored in specific proteins. Cars that drive themselves may seem like science fiction today, but in the 1930s, when car ownership was expanding exponentially, and many drivers were hopelessly incompetent, it seemed like a fine idea (and in the 1950s General Motors even floated the notion of a self-driving vehicle). Milo covers a lot of ground—a cure for the common cold, 3D TV, domed cities, the ability to regenerate body parts, and a lot more—but he resists the temptation to make fun of these things (or the people who thought them up). Readers expecting one of those “weren’t we a bunch of idiots?” books may be disappointed; on the other hand, those looking for a glimpse into the past, and a taste of what our future used to look like, will be delighted. --David Pitt

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Customer Reviews

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Reading this book reminded me of 40+ years of reading Popular Science magazine.
R. J. McCabe
The book is scholarly and detailed but has a lighthearted, witty tone that makes it a delight to read.
John D. Cofield
Unfortunately, Milo employs this kind of false explanation throughout the book.
Jerry Saperstein

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Lynn Harnett VINE VOICE on December 15, 2009
Format: Paperback
This breezy survey of over-enthusiastic predictions utilizes a certain number of cheap shots - the hyperbole of ad copy and the fanciful speculation every age indulges in - but many other ideas were seriously imagined at the time, even researched.

Some - like the electric car a century ago - were within reach until derailed by market forces or public inertia. An automated highway system was actually set up in 1997 as a demonstration project and proved it could handle twice as much traffic as the normal chaos. Safer too. Funding was cancelled, however. Too expensive.

Some predictions - the much-vaunted fleet of dirigibles - were vanquished by history or politics. After the fiery crash of the Hindenburg dirigible construction everywhere was abandoned - despite the fact that volatile hydrogen was only used in the Hindenburg because the US banned the sale of much-safer helium to Nazi Germany.

Other pipe dreams we simply haven't been able to achieve - the miracle of cold fusion, for one, a cure for the common cold. The paperless office and the five-day weekend.

Milo touches on dreams like the automated home, the underwater home, the global language, the personal helicopter, synthetic food and much, much more. Those of a certain age will remember and smile at many of these pipedreams - in some cases amazed at how close we've come. Younger readers will be amused at our delusions as they continue to assume technology can cure just about anything, given a little more time.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By M. A. Plus on January 5, 2010
Format: Paperback
I've lived long enough to remember reading and hearing about the kinds of futurology Milo discusses in his book. I've also wondered why the U.S., at least, has strayed so far from these visions of a radically different and arguably better society.

Apparently, according to Milo, a lot of those ideas would either not work in practice, like using nuclear explosives for mining and civil engineering; or they face harder challenges than we first thought, like a cure for aging; or else they run up against the fact that societies have homeostatic mechanisms which tend to suppress extremes from long term norms, like a lot of the lifestyle experimentation propagandized in the 1960's. Biological human nature plays a role in this conservatism as well. For example, I came of age in the allegedly swinging 1970's, yet I've never met anyone who acknowledged to me that he or she lived in a polyamorous household like the ones Robert Rimmer, Robert Heinlein and F.M. Esfandiary promoted in the 1960's and 1970's, though some of them engage in other kinds of sexual bohemianism.

Milo could have written a better book if he had looked to other countries for glimpses of what some now call the paleo-future. The French live in a version of it, with their pervasive use of nuclear power, bullet trains, universal health coverage and lengthy mandated vacations. And China shows signs of becoming another paleo-future country with its massive new infrastructure, a manned space program (while the U.S. cancels the Space Shuttle with no successor technology to put people in orbit) and efforts to solve problems in artificial intelligence and radical life extension which Western scientists have given up on or object to morally.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Thomas E. Davis TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 22, 2010
Format: Paperback
Paul Milo's "Your Flying Car Awaits: Robot Butlers, Lunar Vacations, and Other Dead-Wrong Predictions of the Twentieth Century," published in 2009, bears a good deal of thematic resemblance to a book that came out in 2007: "Where's My Jetpack? A Guide to the Amazing Science Fiction Future That Never Arrived" by Daniel H. Wilson. But the newer book is the superior one.

While Wilson focuses solely on over-optimistic technological prognostications, Milo tackles much broader themes and explores them in far greater depth. The former aims primarily for the funny bone, usually referring to popular movies and TV series, but the latter seriously considers the many reasons that experts anticipated such rapid changes, both positive and negative, and the reasons these expectations were so hard to fulfill. He quotes scientists, historians, politicians, business leaders, and other people whose opinions were once so respected. In addition to technology, he addresses medical, ecological, social, political, domestic, and international predictions, and concludes with a chapter on those that actually came true. Finally, "Flying Car" is a much more substantial book at over 300 unillustrated pages, whereas "Jetpack" has less than 200 pages, only 125 of which have any print on them, the rest being filled with cheesy cartoon clip-art. (It is amusing, though.
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