I had some mixed feelings about Hello from 2030, a Middle Grade (grades 3-7) non-fiction book by Jan Paul Schutten that over the course of about 200 pages speculates on what the future might hold for human culture — driverless cars, robots, living houses, a changing environment — as well as explains how such “futurology” predictions are made. On the one hand, it is full of interesting moments of speculation about future technology, has a quick pace, is clear and easy to follow. On the other hand, I found a few choices a bit puzzling.
For instance, one segment talks about cameras in your home that can send images of an “intruder” to your watch or phone — “if it’s a stranger, you can warn the police with one push of a button.” Maybe this is my simple naiveté, but it seemed a bit strange to me for a kids’ book to worry them about home break-ins.
My crankiness was also poked a bit when we got to the computer games that “will replace most toys. When you have to clean your room, chances are that you only have to put away some clothes.” I have to say, I found the image of a room barren of all but some clothing and a computer more than a little depressing. No plastic dinosaurs? No construction toys like Legos or K’Nect? No books or models or board games, etc.?
Along those lines, there were a few too many references to kids being bored or needing to be entertained at all times, as when the author considers a bathroom mirror that can act as a computer so you “can watch your favorite show while brushing your teeth”? Really? The two minutes spent brushing (if that for kids) is such a torture that the kid has to watch TV? The same tone occurs in the description of a space journey that “is very boring. So everyone on board is playing computer games and the television is on all day.” I suppose the idea that the people might interact, might learn something about their destination, might take some time to enjoy the spectacle of the stars or, gasp, have a little time alone with their thoughts for some introspection is too ghastly to consider.
OK, enough of old person complaining (when I went to school I had to walk uphill both ways . . . ). The language, as mentioned is clear and breezy, at times perhaps a little condescending or forced, and sometimes a bit flat (“a ton of other innovations”), but generally its clarity and tone are positives. The choices of what to discuss, save for a few exceptions, made a lot of sense and offered up some ripe territory for speculation — robots, advances in medicine, movement toward a more environmental culture. Sometimes the detail is a bit lacking, as when the author talks about the drastically lower costs of megabytes over the years without really explaining megabyte/gigabyte, which makes the trend analysis a bit confusing or a the least, not particularly enlightening.
The positives I’d say mostly outweigh the negatives, but I’d also say it’d be better to read with the child/teen so as to have larger discussions about the topics and to deal with some of the issues raised above.