COCOONING
FUTURE LIFE-STYLE
 
California State University, Hayward
Fall 1995

Improving technology makes people change their life-style day by day.  Fifteen years ago, not many people used word processors to prepare documents.  In addition to the telephone, the Telex was the fastest interactive communication tool.  However Telex users not only had to learn that the abbreviation ADV was “Advise,” and Y was not “You” but “Year,” they also had to spend more time and money during every single transmission.  Thanks to the development of technology, user friendly software and machines were invented.  Today we can transmit sound and visual images efficiently without learning complicated commands or buying expensive bulky machines.

Many scientists and futurists have their own prediction about the future in 2015.  Faith Popcorn made “Cocooning” a prediction of a trend for the future in her book, “Popcorn Report1.”  Mrs. Popcorn defines Cocooning as “the impulse of to go inside when it just get too tough and scary outside.  To pull a shell of safety around yourself, so you’re not at the mercy of a mean, unpredictable – those harassment and assaults that run the gamut from rude waiters and noise pollution to crack-crime, recession, and AIDS.”  The word “Cocooning” soon entered the vocabulary in the world after its first appeared in the Paris Metro’s advertisements in 1991.  By February 1991, 18.3 million people were making money in home-based businesses.  Instead of saying that these people put a shell around themselves for safety,” I would argue that due to the advance of technology, people can accomplish most of their work inside of their home without going outside.  In my report, I will discuss Cocooning from a technological point of view.

Be a  Specialist

The development of computer technology makes lots of special skills accessible to most people.  Part of the work from present experts may be done by computer software.  For example, from our personal computers, we can get advice regarding our hair style, edit our 10th wedding anniversary video, or get suggestions about the medicines that we have taken while sick.  To get advice, we don’t need to waste time on a long line or pay high consulting fees.  Some software even provides the service that current specialists can not offer.  If we want to decorate a house, just try the “3-D Home Architect3.”  Designers can go inside a pre-designed house via a monitor and notice whether a 10-by-12 room looks a lot bigger than it feels.  The program won’t even let you structure a house that is impossible to build, like suspending an electrical outlet in thin air.

The traditional training for specialists is changing.  Self-learning software is popular in America.  People can pursue a college degree by just watching educational TV programs.  If we want to become an artist or a musician, our dream is easier to come true now.  “The Puppet Motel4” helps us to create our imaginary sound.  If we want to experience the life on the farm for our sociology class, just stay home and try the “Alpha Bonk Farm5.” It might be more fascinating than going to a farm personally.  Traditional chairs-and-black-board classrooms will be replaced by cozy sofas with interesting interactive computer programs.  Students won’t miss any class because they can choose the time and the place to study.  We have few chances to have boring teachers since most software is well designed. The tradition of one-course-one-teacher system may be replaced by having a lot of “Expert Systems” install in our personal computers too.
 

Shopping at Home

The experience of shopping at the “Virtual Reality Supermarket” at home in 2015 may be more fun than at the current supermarket.  Virtual Reality is a technology that makes it possible to synthesize a 3-dimensional, touchable, audible, visible, interactive world, through computer-generated images and sensations.

To enter this world, a person puts on some special gloves and goggles that connect to a computer called “Home Reality Engine1”.  Gloves receive and transmit data, (Nintendo has already licensed it for its home games); goggles situate people by sight and sound in the synthesized space.  Pointing a gloved finger transports you through space – grasping an “artificial object” in artificial space sends very real sensations back to you via the gloves.  Sounds like Star Trek?  But Virtual Reality technology exists right now.  NASA and the military have the most serious applications at the moment.

Through the Virtual Reality Supermarket, imagine yourself going off to a glorious summer roadside stand to buy tomatoes.  You can even squeeze them and actually feel whether they are ripe that day through your gloves.  See your butter and milk at the dairy, your bottled water at  its pure spring beginnings.  They can all be done in home.
The Wandering Cocoon

People want to feel comfortable like they are at home wherever they go.  We want a cocoon that travels with us.  So we can make our transportation process a mobile cocoon.  Car manufactures are making cars more pleasurable and livable.  The car phone, car fax, even a microwave oven in the glove compartment are built in cars.  The 91 Lexus has the option of a car phone that can automatically turn down the radio volume whenever we get or make a call.  Imagine personal planes in every driveway becoming a reality.  And what about the private van, bus, and train service as a Cocoon?
 

The Armored Cocoon

People want to feel safe.  Gun ownership among women jumped 53% between 1983 and 1986, to more than 12 million.  More and more devises are developed for people’s security needs.  Home security systems, anti-snooping devices, computer watchdog systems linked to private guards and emergency help keep the cocoon as a safe shelter. Massachusetts-based Millitech7 has developed a camera that scans electromagnetic radiation emitted by the human body.  It can detect weapons, plastic explosives and drugs hidden beneath multiple layers of clothing, without the potential dangers of X-rays.

Unwelcome guests can be rejected by the sensor in front of our door.  “The Technology Recognition Systems3” uses infrared images around the forehead and eyes, the patterns that won’t change by age or embarrassment, to file images even recognized visit is after 20 years.  We can also hire the “SR2 -- Security Robert System8” to be the guard in our home.  SR2 uses sonar to navigate by comparing the actual location with maps stored in its memory.  It can also detect flame, gas and smoke and is used by the U.S. Department of Energy, Los Angeles County Museum, and Glaxo Drugs.  Why not someday use it in our living room or storage room?
 

Self Adventure

The development of Interactive Three-Dimension Game and Virtual Reality let people have adventures in their home.  “The Dark Eyes9” CD-ROM is a first person perspective game which is based on the stories of Edgar Allan Poe.  The player can play the role of victim or killer.  If you don’t like murder, try Michael Crichton’s novel “Congo10.”  Scientists are working on the possibility of human being is making an interplanetary trip.  The journey was accomplished by the movie “Total Recall”.  Though we can not have a vacation on Mars now, at least we can plan ahead for our vacation at home.  Through the Hubble Space Telescope11, we can predict the weather of other planets.
 

Save our Society

The survival of the world is an issue of this and the next generation.  There are enough Time and Newsweek cover stories, enough TV specials and speeches for us to know our planet and its people are in dire trouble.  People are acting one by one to clean up their own acts.  Nearly one half of Americans have taken some kind of environmental consumer action in 1990:  54% stopped using aerosol sprays, 49% bought products made from recycled material, 34% reduced their use of paper towels, and 34% didn’t buy products because of environmental concerns.

The application of solar cars or solar planes is a continually goal and so as the new energy.  Sweden’s Stockholm Regional Council11 bought 5,000 tons of cheap red wine from Spain for 84 environmental friendly buses. The Department of Energy12 burns waste products, like peanut shells, sugar cane, for electrical power without carbon dioxide pollution.  In Minnesota, farmers convert alfalfa stems to lucrative energy too.  Other alternative-fuel sources, like undeliverable mail, cheese whey (environment-friendly ethanol) and pond scum (biodiesel for mass-transit systems) are in the works.

As what Mrs. Popcorn said, “What’s in the future?  I predict a new ethic of self sacrifice of the part of Americans.  If only one member of every family would dedicate himself/herself, not to the priesthood as in former eras, but to serve in the fields of education, health, the environment, social concerns.”
 
 

Bibliography

Books:
1.  Faith, Popcorn.  The Popcorn Report.  New York: Harper Business, 1992.
2.  Snider, Jim and Ziporyn, Terra.  Future Shop.  New York:  St. Martin’s Press, 1992.

Articles:

3.  Brad, Stone and Tanaka, Jennifer.  “Will the Sofa Fit There,” and “Who was That Scanned Man,” Newsweek, May 15, 1995.
4.  Rogers, Adams and Tanaks, Jennifer.  “A Surprise in Every Room,” Newsweek, April 24, 1995.
5.  Koehl, Carla and Tanaka, Jennifer.  “Spelling Down on the Farm,” Newsweek, March 20, 1995.
6.  Rogers, Adams and Tanaka, Jennifer.  “Vincent Van Robo,” “Electronic Memories,” and “When You Run Out of Sterno,” Newsweek, May 8, 1995.
7.  Croal, N’Gai and Tanaka, Jennifer.  “A new Way to Spot Weapons,” Newsweek, July 31, 1995.
8.  “Stop Thief! Or I’ll Beep!” Newsweek, June 5, 1995.
9.  Rogers, Adams and Tanaka, Jennifer.  “Keep the Lights On,” Newsweek, November 6, 1995.
10.  Hafner, Kate and Tanaka, Jennifer.  “Hollywood’s New Game,” Newsweek, May 29, 1995.
11.  Howard, Lucy and Koehl Carla.  “A Way to Get High (Mileage),” Newsweek, October 23, 1995.
12.  Koehl, Carla and Boven, Sarah Van.  “Trash Flash,” Newsweek, August 28, 1995.