Is it cruel to have children when the world is so terrible? That's not a new question. And when a newspaper columnist in Michigan asked it in 1989, he came down on the side of no. The world of the future — the world of 2014, to be exact — was going to be just wonderful enough that having kids was a great idea. Was he right?
Small town columnist Barry Lake wrote about research he had done regarding the future (looking forward 25 years) in the August 2, 1989 Marshall Chronicle in Michigan. Lake's predictions read like the most optimist forecasts of the 1950s and 60s. Telecommuting? Check. Personal health monitors in every home? Check. 30-hour work week? Check.
Lake hung his hat on research done by Forecasting International, Inc., a research firm out of Connecticut that was perhaps a bit optimistic about the world of 2014.
From the Marshall Chronicle:
According to Forecasting International Inc., a firm that predicts world trends for major corporations, an average day in the year 2014 will begin by placing your hand on a disk that analyzes your vital signs. Instantly you will receive a message declaring your health status. Then you will walk into a bathing chamber resembling a shower. In a few seconds, you will be cleansed by ultrasound waves. Your sanitizer will remove bacteria, dandruff, body odor, athlete's foot, and even the film on your teeth. With your breakfast will be a pill that consumes the cholesterol and eliminates it. Half of the working class will travel to their jobs, some commuting 500 miles. The other half will remain at home and work as full salaried employees by way of two-way TV.
A workweek will average 25 to 30 hours in length. The need for service industries and transportation of goods will lead to less unemployment, even though computers will operate many factories. Education will increase to great levels and underdeveloped countries will seek to train their populace in extraordinary ways. Doctors will become so abundant that they will make house calls.
Yet, none of these things will dispel the problem of AIDS and drugs, the environment and a demeaning social system. Instead, the future of our children depends largely on choices and decisions. The choices hinge in the minds of tomorrow's youth.
Lake worried that rampant drug use, sex "outside of marriage," [read: premarital sex] and the AIDS crisis were all things that humanity would struggle with in the future. But he argues by the end of the column that all those awful things will be fixed if parents simply set a good example for their children.
Lake was actually prompted to ask the question from his friend Barney, who's mentioned in the article as being concerned about the upcoming decade of the 1990s and all the horrors that it would bring. Barney, it seems, was childless. Lake had two children already, and one can guess that these facts shaded each man's answer.
No doubt, people still ask this question today and will continue asking this question until the end of time. Does it make sense to have a kid in a world this shitty? Your answer probably depends at least partially on whether you've already brought kids into the world.
It'd be great to find Lake or his children today and ask them how they feel about the world of 2014. Or maybe Barney has an opinion. Is the world as great or as horrible as you predicted it might be? One suspects Lake might be a bit disappointed with our current state of affairs.
Image: August 25, 1934 Prize-winning twins at a baby show in Gorleston via Getty Images