FAST FORWARD TO 2045; FAX POLL

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After the smoke of World War II cleared, many people felt a high-tech, Disney-esque "World of Tomorrow" would be arriving any day now. Fifty years later, we don't exactly have two rockets in every garage, but with the Internet, who needs them?

An Advertising Age Fax Poll asked readers to forecast what life would be like a century after World War II's end, in 2045. That vision of the future isn't always pretty.

Readers predict our work lives may actually become more tolerable. We will enjoy shorter workdays, float around our virtual offices and work in flexible teams. Lifelong careers within one discipline will become obsolete.

Advertising agencies will merge into five marketing superstores, complemented by thousands of independent boutiques. The giant of the industry will be J. Ogilvy Ettinger Burnett, at least if Andrew Ettinger at Wells Rich Greene BDDP, New York, has anything to do with it.

Virtual reality will be the rage, but we will eventually get our fill. Next in line will be "integral reality," where consumers can sample products and events from their homes before buying.

As we drown in the flood of interactive data, we will seek solace in customized news. The Internet will be out. The telepathic net will be in.

TVs will merge with computers to become the heart of the household, but society will not be "The Jetsons." It will be populated with overweight couch potatoes watching talk shows on 5,000 channels.

The government will step into family life, requiring parents to obtain a license and demonstrate fiscal ability before having a child. To curb overpopulation, families will be limited to three offspring. Designer families will soon emerge, thanks to clones and gene splicing.

Researchers will discover the AIDS vaccine and a method to slow, but not stop aging. New kidneys and livers will grow from cloned DNA. The most unnerving predictions? Socialized medicine will make tongue depressors cost $50 and kidney transplants $10. And when the baby boomers' grandchildren refuse to fund medical care for anyone over age 75, civil war will break out.

Cynics say our culture and mores will crumble. The gap between the haves and the have-nots will increase, bringing more tension and violence. Charismatic leaders will find followers willing to commit unthinkable atrocities and people in general will have less tolerance for others.

Of course, there are a few optimists out there who say the world still has a chance. According to their crystal balls, we will go back to family values, be judged by the content of our characters and develop a global culture.

Who knows?

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