Editorial: all our festive futures

We don't usually do the special Christmas cover but it's been such an eventful and difficult year for the economy that many of our readers will welcome a break even more than usual.

Should it be Merry Christmas, Season's Greetings or the more American Happy Holiday Season? The majority of our readers will celebrate Christmas in some way, so we went with the traditional greeting on our cover but we know that it won't make sense in every country we mail to.

However it's really just an excuse to speculate - although we hope informed speculation based on today's trends, technologies and emerging science - about how our homes and our lives will change by Christmas 2020. If 1996 doesn't seem like very long ago, then 2020 isn't that far off either. Today's young teenagers won't remember life without the Internet.

In our cover feature on p18, professional futurologist Ian Pearson explains why you can look forward to sharing dreams, or how you will be able to filter out annoying in-laws on the big day. E&T's own editors have a think about their specialist areas of engineering and technology, and imagine how they will have changed our experience of Christmas day. Will you be manufacturing your own presents? How will the dinner be made? What will keep the lights on? And what will be on TV? Actually we know exactly what will be on telly - 'The Great Escape', a 'Doctor Who' special and a miserable 'Eastenders'. But it might be the first King's speech and the TV itself will look different. Entertainment schedules aside, predicting how the style and social aspects of our lives will change is even harder than predicting technological change.

You'll notice in our feature that something strange has happened to fashion in 2020. The world energy crisis has meant that the quality natural fabrics of the mid-20th century are back in fashion, along with the fashions and hairstyles to match. Well, that's the story my design department is sticking to, but it's as likely as anything else we might have come up with.

In 1999 I researched a 'back to the future' feature that looked at how people in the past thought we'd be living our lives in 2000. I was surprised by what science and invention they managed to get right. I found predictions of dictaphones, televisions, helicopters and nuclear power as long ago as 1900. But they'd also draw people in 2000 with Edwardian dresses, smoking jackets and with maids to do all the housework. In the 1970s they thought we'd all be wearing multicoloured space suits and technology would mean we hardly have to work anymore - what to do with all that extra leisure time? And yet many of these visions of the future underestimated the scale of the computer revolution, for example. My editors are probably wise to stick to technology predictions. And my designers would be wise to watch what they do to my picture here next year.

Have a good break everyone. E&T is taking a break too and we'll be back in mid January with our list of the 25 most influential engineers.

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