George Jetson lived in a mansion that floated in the sky. He had a hot wife, two cool kids, a loveable dog, and a robot housekeeper. He drove a flying car across Orbit City to an office job at Spacely Space Sprockets where his workweek was typical of the era: one hour a day, two days a week. In 1962 when The Jetsons premiered the cartoon envisaged the 21st Century as a time when scientific advancements had made the economy so efficient that one bloke working a 2 hour work week could support a family and own most things.
In the real future (right now) efficient technologies have changed everything. But in unplanned ways. The US lost 5.6m manufacturing jobs between 2000 and 2010 and according to a study by the Center for Business and Economic Research, 85 per cent of those jobs losses can be attributable to technological changes in automation. The Boston Consulting Group has estimated that while a human welder earns $25 per hour the equivalent cost per hour for a robot is around $8. And the extra cost of maintaining a robotics system (installation, maintenance, and the operating cost) could be amortised in the first five years. Although there has been a steep decline in factory jobs, the manufacturing sector has become more productive and industrial output has been growing. In short, more stuff is being made by less people. The process is underway and irreversible. But unlike on The Jetsons people haven't started working less while getting paid the same. The efficiency dividends have instead been paid to companies rather than workers. The workers themselves have either started working not at all or all started working somewhere else.
In the future we might all be on the dole. Universal Basic Income (UBI) is a form of social security in which all citizens of a country receive an unconditional sum of money from the government, in addition to any income received from elsewhere. Switzerland considered introducing a UBI of 2,500 Swiss francs (US$2,578) per month this year but voters rejected it. President Obama has addressed the notion, 'Whether a universal income is the right model — is it gonna be accepted by a broad base of people? — that's a debate that we'll be having over the next 10 or 20 years.'
Every fictitious future-world has been proven false so far. In hindsight The Jetsons can be understood as a reflection of the time it was made. Hanna-Barbera took the every day concerns of a post-war Californian nuclear family and projected them into the future, in the same was as The Flintstones was a fantastic take on the distant past. It's impossible to accurately imagine the future. Artists try to reflect present day while it's the engineers who create the future by actually building things. And the most famous engineer in the world right now is Elon Musk. The billionaire genius sees UBI as natural. 'There is a pretty good chance we end up with a universal basic income, or something like that, due to automation. Yeah, I am not sure what else one would do. I think that is what would happen.'
If The Jetsons had of been more correct it might of made George not go into work at all. His boss, Cosmo Spacely, was always in a bad mood and shouting anyhow. Instead George would stay at home playing with Astro collecting money from the government. It only makes sense that in a futuristic utopia no one need work at all.