The science-fiction writers who flourished in the postwar era, like Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Heinlein, promised a glittering technological future. A lot of what they imagined has come true, from powerful pocket phones and a global library to synthetic foods and self-driving cars. “The Jetsons,” which premiered in 1962, depicted a futuristic life of extraordinary ease. George Jetson’s flying car folded into his briefcase, while his job at Spacely Space Sprockets consisted mostly of resting his feet on his desk while machines did the work.
The question for J. Storrs Hall is why some of those visions have materialized but others have not. Air travel remains a tedious business of driving to the airport, flying and then driving to the ultimate destination. Space travel languished for decades until a recent private-sector boom. And the way we generate, transmit and use energy remains antiquated.