Tomorrow’s World, Today

Archive on 4 is BBC Radio 4’s hour-long documentary on a Saturday evening, melding archival footage with contemporary commentary from the original participants. Tonight’s episode is on the Tomorrow’s World TV show, the UK’s flagship popular science programme of the late 1960s and into the 1970s. Every week Tomorrow’s World broadcast raw optimism about the future into the minds of more or less the entire nation. Tonight’s Tomorrow’s World, Today” is presented by James Burke who was one of the original presenters…

“Everyone knows the iconic TV series Tomorrow’s World — and many of us watched it as it made predictions about the future. Was it correct in its assumptions and predictions? On the programme’s 50th Anniversary, James Burke (Connections) — a reporter on the show from 1966-1972 — looks at how it dealt with the often huge changes that occurred in the time from when it was first broadcast, and assesses what it says about our ability to see what’s around the corner.”

One of the programme’s problems, which James Burke himself later tried to address in his Connections series, was that it was unable to address the potential for exponential causality, as technologies met and bred new hybrid technologies, which then interact with other technologies and wider demographic and social forces. Instead the Tomorrow’s World team generally presented each new development, gadget and scientific development as if it was hermetically sealed in its own little bubble.

Picture: James Burke seen with a particularly stylish “Apollo 11” logo for the BBC coverage of the Moon landings.