"In the years since the new millennium, the world has seen such progress." So begins a noted Super Bowl commercial from 2000 that milked the Christopher Reeve sympathy/inspiration angle to show how well an investment firm can predict the future.
The commercial, for Nuveen Investments, which is still around, says rather general things about advancements in AIDS and cancer treatments, but some of its suggestions are more specific. For example, the opening shot shows that the New York of the future will have new skyscrapers. Yes. Sure. That was a pretty safe bet. Really, the more prescient thing would've been to mention the lack of certain skyscrapers. It's notable, however, that the Twin Towers are left out of the opening New York cityscape. Did Nuveen cause 9/11? Is it relevant that their name is an anagram of "uneven?" Because 9 and 11 are both numbers that are not even. Is Superman a terrorist? Just asking.
A shot of a train hints that there will be LCD screens on subways. Okay. I don't know much about other city's subway systems, but we don't really have that technology here in NYC. Actually, there's one at the Bedford stop on the L train. Most of the time it's off. When it's on, it shows a subway track and displays the words, "You are here." It's like getting a little dose of Eckhart Tolle with each turnstile rotation.
Next up, there's a shot of people gathered at a newsstand. Ah yes, newsstands. That one was wrong. Do people even go outside to buy things anymore? If you consider sites that aggregate information about current events to be "newsstands," then perhaps it's sort of partially right. As our idea of "news" changes, so do our feelings about where to go in order to take in all information out there about the state of the world. And what a world of information there is to take in! I like to process it all in from the back of my closet, curled in a ball while rocking back and forth. Or sometimes I read Gawker.
The worst prediction, however, was on the issue of Christopher Reeve. At the end of the commercial, we see him walking in order to give an award that has something to do with all the great successes the last ten years have seen when it comes to treating people with spinal cord injuries. Reeve died a mere four years after this commercial aired. Sadly, his demise was caused by a malady that continues to baffle even the best and brightest medical minds: bed sores. The hopeful nature of this ad makes the reason for his death seem all the more pathetic. Wherever he is, I like to think that he is indeed walking. Maybe he's even writing for The Daily Planet. Dot com.
Anna Jane Grossman will be with us for the next few weeks, documenting life in the early aughts, and how it differs from today. The author of Obsolete: An Encyclopedia of Once-Common Things Passing Us By (Abrams Image) and the creator of ObsoleteTheBook.com, she has also written for dozens of publications, including the New York Times, Salon.com, the Associated Press, Elle and the Huffington Post, as well as Gizmodo. She has a complicated relationship with technology, but she does have an eponymous website: AnnaJane.net. Follow her on Twitter at @AnnaJane.