15 Myths from the ‘60s That Were Later Debunked

Rob Leung

With the threat of the Cold War, huge technological advancements, and an obsession with space, the people of the 1960s had an impressive vision for the years ahead. We’ve compiled a list of 15 beliefs that were widely accepted in the 1960s but still haven’t become a reality.

Smoking Is Harmless

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Although links between smoking and cancer had been made, many people still believed it to be harmless. According to the National Library of Medicine, “a 1963 study found that awareness of science reporting had little impact on smoking behavior, as many smokers were prone to doubt the scientific claims or exhibit fatalistic attitudes about health risks.”

We’d Have Flying Cars by 2000

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1960s predictions of the future often included widespread use of flying vehicles, with sci-fi media envisioning cities adapted for air travel rather than road traffic. While flying cars are still being prototyped, technological and logistical challenges have prevented this vision from becoming a reality to date.

Computers Will Lead to a Paperless Society

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Early users of computers believed that digital innovations would totally eliminate the need for paper in society, with the ability to store and share information electronically. While the use of paper has significantly decreased in modern times, it’s still in use, and ironically, initial computer use actually led to an increase in paper consumption for printouts and documentation.

Overpopulation Will Cause Global Starvation by the 1980s

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Caused by the publication of books such as Paul R. Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb, people believed that agricultural production wouldn’t be able to keep up with the population increase. Smithsonian Magazine says, “Ehrlich’s book argued that many of the day’s most alarming events had a single, underlying cause: too many people, packed into too-tight spaces, taking too much from the earth.”

Space Colonies Would Be Common by the Late 20th Century

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In the era of the space race and moon landing, 1960s Americans believed that humans would establish colonies on the moon or Mars, and scientists were optimistic that space travel would become commonplace. While there have been advancements in space exploration, this vision remains unrealized.

Nuclear Power Would Provide Energy Too Cheap to Meter

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Scientists and politicians of the time promised citizens that nuclear energy would become so efficient and cost-effective that it would essentially be free. However, this became less and less likely, and the Ecologist says, “While we were being told it would make electricity ‘too cheap to meter,’ insiders knew it cost at least 50% more than conventional generation.”

The Common Cold Would Be Cured

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Advancements in medicine led the people of the 1960s to believe that a cure for the common cold was imminent. However, despite progress in medical science, the common cold, caused by numerous and ever-mutating viruses, has proven challenging to eradicate.

Humans Would Have Underwater Cities

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Somewhat of an obsession in the 1960s, people predicted that humans would be living in large underwater cities to make use of the extra space. While there are underwater labs and hotels, permanent underwater cities have not been developed due to technical, financial, and practical challenges.

TV Dinners Would Be the End of Cooking at Home

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The TV entered the family home in the 1960s, and with the rise of sitcoms came the TV dinner. This led people to believe that traditional home cooking would become obsolete and that people would move solely to meals that focused on convenience.

Atomic Gardens Would Revolutionize Agriculture

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Thought to be the future of agriculture, atomic gardening was expected to produce supercrops. According to Popular Science, “Before scientists learned how to modify genes, they induced mutations with radiation. It was a sincere effort to feed the world, and amaze home gardeners, by modifying plants to have desirable traits.”

Brainwashing Techniques Could Control Minds

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Rife with fears and myths about brainwashing being used by enemies as part of the Cold War, it was thought that psychological techniques could completely overwrite a person’s beliefs and behaviors. However, while influence and persuasion are possible, the concept of total mind control is far-fetched.

Gender Equality Would Be Achieved by the End of the 20th Century

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The progress of the feminist movement in the 1960s fostered optimism about future gender equality, and people expected most legal and social barriers would be dismantled within decades. While there has been significant progress, gender equality is still an ongoing fight today.

Weather Control Would Be Commonplace

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Research such as cloud seeding fueled beliefs that scientists would soon be able to fully control weather patterns in order to prevent natural disasters and benefit agriculture. This large-scale weather control remains beyond our capabilities today.

Jet Packs Would Be a Standard Mode of Transportation

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It was thought that these devices would become commonplace, offering individual flight capabilities. According to Life, a 1961 jet pack prototype captured the imaginations of the world; however, they say that in reality, it was being developed for use by the army rather than your average consumer, and the ability of the jet pack was less than impressive.

The Four-Day Workweek Would Become Standard

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Technological advancements led people to believe that the increase in productivity would reduce the need for long working weeks. As a result, the concept of a four-day workweek was popularized, suggesting a balance between work and leisure, something that is still debated today.