The Steampunk motif in science fiction has been with us for quite a while, and lately has caught on as an aesthetic subculture full of cool DIY projects and modifications. But as real-world technology is evolving towards greater energy efficiency and more impressive design standards, we end up with things like this awesome-looking light bulb or high-speed, human powered vehicles that look like something designed by on overcaffeinated da Vinci.
As manufacturing technology also improves, we're also learning to build better products out of sustainable materials, such as wood and bamboo, and to reuse metals, which are not only more eco-friendly, but are often more pleasing to the eye than their plastic counterparts.
Rising fuel prices are not only spurring a minor boom in bicycling and train transportation but mean engineers are looking at new versions of old technologies, such as the Holy Grail of retrofuturism, airships!
Of course, there are negative possibilities too, and we may all be wearing goggles because we've completely toasted the atmosphere and our eyeballs are being fried by UV rays, and societal collapse might set us back a century or two technologically, leaving us at a 19th Century level. The growth in income disparity could also create a rigid caste system in the (theoretically) socially mobile Euro-American world.
But it's a lot more fun to imagine how we could reach a cool looking future by moving forward rather than how we might fall backwards.