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What The Jetsons Got So Right And Wrong About The Future Of Business


George Jetson in action. Credit: Hanna-Barbera

Sixty years before the animated series The Jetsons It finished its first and only season before it was cancelled. Only 24 episodes aired between September 1962 and March 1963. Despite this, the cartoon has made an enormous impact in popular culture, with countless reruns, reruns in the mid-1980s (51 episodes over two seasons) and a feature length. film in 1990.

Created by Los Angeles-based animation studio Hanna-Barbara as a futuristic version of the studio’s hit series The Flintstones, The Jetsons is the first animated series to receive a prime-time slot.

But while The Flintstones is set in a mythical stone age far thousands of years in the past, The Jetsons is set in the very near future – in the year 2062.

Like The Flintstones, the show was aimed mostly at kids, playing with ideas about the future for laughs. It’s not serious futurology. However, it is still an interesting cultural artifact, helping us to appreciate our present and anticipate the future.

The first episode aired just a few weeks after US President John F. Kennedy famous book “Moon letter’, promising to ‘go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard. ”

While this promise was motivated by fears that the Soviet Union would win the space raceThe future depicted is mostly optimistic. Technology heralds a better world.

Among the imagined alien technologies are flying cars, robot maids, video calls, smart watches, food printing, and space tourism. Some of this appears farsighted. But there are big blind spots. Those flying cars, for example, still need a driver.

There are three things its creators blatantly got wrong: women’s place in the workforce, how much we’ll work, and where we work.

Popular opinion about races

Like The Flintstones, The Jetsons revolve around A.J The nuclear family In industrial society in the middle of the twentieth century. There’s George (about 40), his wife Jane (about 33), their teenage daughter Judy (15), youngest son Elroy, a dog named Astro, and a robotic maid.

We can calculate that Jane was still in her teens when she became a mother. that it Head of a recycling company But it didn’t seem like much work. For the most part, she is the typical TV housewife.

This is now the norm in only a few communities. It seems unlikely that the trend will reverse in female labor force participation in the next 40 years.

Had the show been set a decade later, the influence of the women’s liberation movement and books such as Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch (published 1970) would likely have changed this vision of 2062.

In the 1990 movie, for example, Jane is an environmental activist. in The comic was relaunched in 2017 She is a scientist working on the International Space Station.

Jetsons address sequence.

work hours

One explanation for why Jane does not work is that George, the breadwinner, hardly ever has to work either.

He goes to work only two days a week, for one hour a day, as a “digital catalog operator”. This involves pressing buttons to maintain a super atomic computer called RUDI (short for “Universal Reference Numerical Indexer”).

George’s working hours reflected the optimism of the 1960s that the gains workers made in the first half of the 20th century—the 40-hour, five-day week becoming the norm by the 1950s—would continue into the second half of the century. Optimists hoped that the productivity gains from automation would mean “entertainment communityby the year 2000.

This has not been proven, with only marginal reductions in working hours for most people since.

As noted by the American economist and sociologist Juliet Shore in her book published in 1991 The Weary American: The Unexpected Decline in LeisureThe idea of ​​technology alone can reduce the failure to account for the economic system in which work is done. That is, capitalism is geared towards increasing consumption (and therefore profits). So the focus was on making more money as the key to happiness, and therefore working harder, not less.

We can see this even in the current four-day week movement, which promises to potentially reduce the 38-hour, five-day work week to 32 hours, four days, but only as long as the same productivity is maintained.

Experiments with this 100:80:100 model (100% pay, 80% hours, 100% productivity) have met with great success, but as work researcher Anthony Vail notes, there are still big questions about whether these findings are achievable. For application throughout the economy.

At this point, the prospect of a significant reduction in working hours for most people over the next 40 years seems questionable.

Distance working

Even though George only has to work two hours a week, he still has to go to an office (in Spacely Space Sprockets) to press his buttons.

This may reflect the fact that the Internet and personal computing revolution has yet to happen. It wasn’t until the 1970s that futurists began to get excited about the prospects of telecommuting.

More importantly, this is the way things were conceived – work was something carried out under the watchful supervision of management. It also created opportunities to play with familiar motifs that include George’s boss, the short-tempered Mr. Spacely, a character similar to Fred Flintstone’s boss, Mr. Slate, and Mr. Burns in The Simpsons.

Management resistance to remote work was strong until the COVID-19 pandemic forced a cultural shift.

There is no doubt that the future of where and how much we work will be affected by technology. But our perceptions and expectations of what can be achieved are just as important.

Introduction to the conversation

This article has been republished from Conversation Under Creative Commons Licence. Read the The original article.Conversation

the quote: What the Jetsons Got Right and So Wrong About the Future of Work (2023, April 6) Retrieved April 6, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-04-jetsons-wrong-future.html

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