Future World

Article excerpt

Forget those atomic-powered, sky-high-living Jetsons, life in the 21st Century may be one of Yankee frugality, Internet colleges and door-to-door salespeople

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WILLIAM HANNA and Joseph Barbera were wrong. Life for the typical middle-class family of the 21st century will be far different than it was on "The Jetsons." For one thing, George won't be commuting to work at a place like Spacely Space Sprockets Inc. in an atomic-powered bubble each day. More likely, George, a victim of corporate downsizing, will have become a self-employed engineering consultant working out of a modern, digital home office dominated by a videophone. George, wife Jane, daughter Judy and son Elroy will be an anomaly as well; the majority of Americans will have ceased living in nuclear, Ozzie-and-Harriet families years before. As for the Jetsons' digs in Skypad Apartments - raised and lowered on huge hydraulic lifts to avoid bad weather - a more likely scenario will be a home in the exurbs or beyond, possibly part of a rural "technotribal" community that pools and shares resources from child care and elder care to auto and dental care. Nor will a robot maid whisk Elroy off to school via pneumatic tube. When he does attend a formal education center, he'll probably get there by taking the interstate bikeway/hikeway system. Most of the time, though, he'll be home schooled the 21st century way - online, by interactive computer. At least that's what Gerald Celente, founder and director of the Trends Research Institute, forecasts in his latest book, "Trends 2000: How To Prepare for and Profit From the Changes of the 21st Century" (Warner Books, $24). Among his other predictions for day-to-day life: An emphasis on "clean" food that is free of additives, preservatives, pesticides and artificial hormones. We'll shop at healthmarts instead of grocery stores, carry out from tofu huts instead of Pizza Hut, and replace suburban front lawns with edible landscaping - from vegetable patches and herb gardens to berry bushes and orchards. The return of door-to-door salespeople offering everything from vitamin counseling and aroma therapy to software installation and ergonomic furnishings. Sabbaticals and family vacations taken at longevity centers - part spas, part universities - where the emphasis is on fresh air, clean water and learning to lead more physically, spiritually and emotionally healthy lives. Celente, 50, has been engaged in crystal ball-gazing since 1980, when he developed "Globalnomic" forecasting from his office in Rhinebeck, N.Y. A former government affairs director for a trade association, he traces his inspiration for trend tracking to a New Year's Eve date Jimmy Carter had with the Shah of Iran. "President Carter characterized the Shah as an island of stability in the Middle East . . . when all I'd been reading about was the country in turmoil, the secret police, the excesses of his dictatorial regime," says Celente. "So I started to think about the implications of this - the probability of a successful revolution and the price of oil and gold going up. And I started playing the commodities market." Celente struck it rich enough to quit his job in Chicago, moved to the Hudson River Valley and began earning a living by using current events to predict future trends. …