In the mid-1950s, Americans held unbounded faith and optimism about the future and scientific advances. Articles in newspapers predicted all kinds of wonders, from flying cars to nuclear reactors powering every home.
Reality has proven quite different, and an Associated Press survey finds the future is seen through a gloomy glass by most Americans. The gloom is driven by the very technology that once was thought to be bringing the limitless future when seen through the rose-colored glasses of the middle 20th century.
Most Americans, 54 percent according to the survey, see America heading downhill by 2050, while just 23 percent think it will improve. Some 21 percent think life will be about the same.
Oddly enough, they may be the most sentient of the bunch.
We're not, after all, driving flying cars or flipping a little juice into the basement reactor to keep the house warm in the cold weather.
We have a different world than even five years ago thanks to the proliferation of personal communications devices and their interaction with one another and the Internet.
And, the survey finds that personal contentment has stayed at about the same percentage since the early 1970s, when the General Social Survey was first presented.
Back then, the issues involved the sexual revolution, women in the workplace, the Vietnam War, race riots, civil rights, and politics. The ensuing years since the first survey in 1972 have seen the fall of Richard Nixon, the rise and fall and perhaps the rise again of the Republican Revolution, wars in the Middle East, technological advances that render technological advances of just a few years before obsolete.
Most Americans, 54 percent, oddly enough the same percentage who sees the nation on a downhill slide toward 2050, think the country is worse than it was in 1972.
Nostalgia always favors the "good old days." Even the generation that grew poor in the Great Depression and fought World War II can be heard longing for "the good old days."
And fear of the future surely runs in many people. As technological changes rapidly change society, such as happened with the Industrial Revolution at the dawn of the 20th century and is happening in the early 21st century with the digital era, people worry about what the world will look like for their children and grandchildren.
The future often fails to seem bright, but it will come, despite politics, technology, economics and war.
Of that, there should be no worry.