In 1968, Stanley Kubrick Makes Predictions for 2001: Humanity Will Conquer Old Age, Watch 3D TV & Learn German in 20 Minutes


Image by Moody Man, via Flickr Com­mons

1968. Rev­o­lu­tion was in the air and the future seemed bright. That year, Stan­ley Kubrick released his mas­ter­piece 2001: A Space Odyssey – a big-bud­get, exper­i­men­tal rumi­na­tion on the evo­lu­tion of mankind. The film was a huge box office hit when it came out; its mind-bend­ing meta­physics res­onat­ed with the culture’s new­found inter­est in chem­i­cal­ly altered states and in spir­i­tu­al­i­ty.

In the Sep­tem­ber issue from that year, Play­boy mag­a­zine pub­lished a lengthy inter­view with Kubrick. Even at a time when pub­lic fig­ures were sup­posed to sound like intel­lec­tu­als (boy, times have changed), Kubrick comes across as insane­ly well read. Dur­ing the course of the inter­view, he quotes from the likes of media crit­ic Mar­shall McLuhan, Win­ston Churchill, and 19th Cen­tu­ry poet Matthew Arnold along with a hand­ful of promi­nent aca­d­e­mics.

Kubrick is char­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly cagey about offer­ing any expla­na­tions of his enig­mat­ic movie but he does read­i­ly expound on philo­soph­i­cal ques­tions about God, the mean­ing of life (or lack there­of) and the pos­si­bil­i­ty of extrater­res­tri­al life. But per­haps the most inter­est­ing part of the 17-page inter­view is his vision of what 2001 might look like. It’s fas­ci­nat­ing to see what he got right, what might be right a bit fur­ther into the future, and what’s com­plete­ly wrong. Check them out below:

“With­in ten years, in fact, I believe that freez­ing of the dead will be a major indus­try in the Unit­ed States and through­out the world; I would rec­om­mend it as a field of invest­ment for imag­i­na­tive spec­u­la­tors.”

“Per­haps the great­est break­through we may have made by 2001 is the pos­si­bil­i­ty that man may be able to elim­i­nate old age.”

“I’m sure we’ll have sophis­ti­cat­ed 3‑D holo­graph­ic tele­vi­sion and films, and it’s pos­si­ble that com­plete­ly new forms of enter­tain­ment and edu­ca­tion will be devised.”

“You might have a machine that taps the brain and ush­ers you into a vivid dream expe­ri­ence in which you are the pro­tag­o­nist in a romance or an adven­ture. On a more seri­ous lev­el, a sim­i­lar machine could direct­ly pro­gram you with knowl­edge: in this way, you might, for exam­ple, eas­i­ly be able to learn flu­ent Ger­man in 20 min­utes.”

“I believe by 2001 we will have devised chem­i­cals with no adverse phys­i­cal, men­tal or genet­ic results that can give wings to the mind and enlarge per­cep­tion beyond its present evo­lu­tion­ary capacities…there should be fas­ci­nat­ing drugs avail­able by 2001; what use we make of them will be the cru­cial ques­tion.”

“The so-called sex­u­al rev­o­lu­tion, mid-wifed by the pill, will be extend­ed. Through drugs, or per­haps via the sharp­en­ing or even mechan­i­cal ampli­fi­ca­tion of latent ESP func­tions, it may be pos­si­ble for each part­ner to simul­ta­ne­ous­ly expe­ri­ence the sen­sa­tions of the oth­er; or we may even­tu­al­ly emerge into poly­mor­phous sex­u­al beings, with male and female com­po­nents blur­ring, merg­ing and inter­chang­ing. The poten­tial­i­ties for explor­ing new areas of sex­u­al expe­ri­ence are vir­tu­al­ly bound­less.”

“Look­ing into the dis­tant future, I sup­pose it’s not incon­ceiv­able that a semi­sen­tient robot-com­put­er sub­cul­ture could evolve that might one day decide it no longer need­ed man.”

For such a famous­ly pes­simistic film­mak­er, Kubrick’s vision of the future is remark­ably groovy – lots of sex, drugs and holo­graph­ic tele­vi­sion. He wasn’t, of course, the only one out there who thought about the future. You can see more bold pre­dic­tions below:

Isaac Asi­mov Pre­dicts in 1964 What the World Will Look Like Today — in 2014

Arthur C. Clarke Pre­dicts the Future in 1964 … And Kind of Nails It

Wal­ter Cronkite Imag­ines the Home of the 21st Cen­tu­ry … Back in 1967

The Inter­net Imag­ined in 1969

Mar­shall McLuhan Announces That The World is a Glob­al Vil­lage

Note: Note: An ear­li­er ver­sion of this post appeared on our site in Novem­ber 2014.

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow.

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