posted by David Adams on Thu 18th Oct 2007 13:57 UTC
IconRemember those great "home of the future" demonstrations from days past? If you're not old enough to remember them from world fairs, Disneyland, or movie newsreels, you've probably seen the cartoons parodying them: Robotic maids, self-cleaning kitchens, futuristic-looking plastic furniture, dehydrated food; everything white, round, and sparkling. Well, it's the future now, and it didn't exactly turn out the way they thought it would, but thanks to ubiquitous computer technology, today's home can have capabilities that futurists 50 years ago would never have imagined.

The home of the future as envisioned in the fifties and sixties is now an amusing mixture of ideas that would never really work mixed with design that's firmly stuck in the fifties and sixties. A home built right now won't look much like "the future," and, in fact, by outward appearances, it might look a lot like a home from the 1770s, 1850s or 1930s, but under the skin, it will be all 21st century. The real home of the future isn't a gleaming plastic and stainless steel sci-fi utopia filled with anthropomorphic robots, conveyor belts, and furniture popping out of the floor everywhere. It's a home that looks a lot like the homes we grew up in, but one that's been radically changed under the surface.

house.jpg

The world we live in is much different than the one our grandparents inhabited, and though the homes may look alike, the way they're built and used today reflect our changed reality, and at the root of virtually every change that our homes have undergone is the technological revolution. Technology has changed the materials we use to build with, the way we spend our time, the kind of work we do at home, and what we do for leisure.

The Modern World

The technological sea-change that's probably most affected our daily home lives is probably the one you'd think of last. Revolutions in telecommunications, logistics, and navigation have made the shipping industry dramatically more efficient, and this, mixed with political and economic changes, have fostered an era of massive global trade. A hundred, or even fifty years ago, most of the goods in your home, and certainly most of the materials used to build your home, would have been produced locally, usually using raw materials obtained locally. Nowadays, manufactured goods and raw materials will come from all over the world, and even the most mundane items, from the apples in your refrigerator to the wood in your floor may have come half way around the world.

In a very real way, the biggest technological change that affects our daily lives isn't the gadgets we use, but the fact that for virtually everything we buy, modern technology has enabled the global market to produce it and deliver it less expensively than ever before. Because of modern logistical software, GPS technology, and sophisticated automation, a gigantic cargo ship can travel from China to California with a crew no bigger than that of a racing yacht. Thanks to the internet, the design, marketing, manufacturing, support, and finance divisions of a multinational firm can collaborate on the creation of a new product and it can be manufactured cheaper than ever.

Because of this new era of globalization, not only does a child's teddy bear now cost fewer dollars than it did thirty years ago, but that same toy might now contain more processing power than the computers NASA used to put people on the moon in 1969. So let's talk about that computerized $5 child's teddy bear and the other technological wonders that make up the house of the future.

Table of contents
  1. 'The House of the Future, Page 1'
  2. 'The House of the Future, Page 2'
  3. 'The House of the Future, Page 3'
  4. 'The House of the Future, Page 4'
  5. 'The House of the Future, Page 5'
  6. 'The House of the Future, Page 6'
  7. 'The House of the Future, Page 7'
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