20 May 2008

Predictions for 2000 from 1900

Every now and then a news item about the oldest person in the world appears. Some years ago it was a French woman who was so old she remembered seeing Vincent Van Gogh as a young girl (she said he was gruff and irritable).

When I see these news items I think about all the extraordinary things that have happened in their lives. The rapid pace of change is an entirely new thing, after all; for 99% of human history, children lived the same short, miserable lives their parents and grandparents did. If someone from present day went back to 1900 and told them what would happen in the 20th century, I wonder how much they would believe.

What would we believe if someone came to us from 2100? What would we predict?

One thing is for sure: whatever we predict, we'll elicit raised eyebrows as well as a few laughs. Consider these predictions from 1900 for the year 2000. The highlights:


Nicaragua will ask for admission to our Union after the completion of the great canal. Mexico will be next...

The American will be taller by from one to two inches... He will live fifty years instead of thirty-five as at present – for he will reside in the suburbs. The city house will practically be no more... The trip from suburban home to office will require a few minutes only. A penny will pay the fare.

A man or woman unable to walk ten miles at a stretch will be regarded as a weakling.

There Will Be No Street Cars in Our Large Cities... underground or overhead streets will teem with capacious automobile passenger coaches and freight with cushioned wheels. Subways or trestles will be reserved for express trains. Cities, therefore, will be free from all noises.

Automobiles will be cheaper than horses are today... Automobiles will have been substituted for every horse vehicle now known. There will be... automobile hearses, automobile police patrols, automobile ambulances, automobile street sweepers.

Giant guns will shoot twenty-five miles or more, and will hurl anywhere within such a radius shells exploding and destroying whole cities... Fleets of air-ships, hiding themselves with dense, smoky mists, thrown off by themselves as they move, will float over cities, fortifications, camps or fleets. They will surprise foes below by hurling upon them deadly thunderbolts.

Photographs will be telegraphed from any distance. If there be a battle in China a hundred years hence snapshots of its most striking events will be published in the newspapers an hour later...

Man will See Around the World. Persons and things of all kinds will be brought within focus of cameras connected electrically with screens at opposite ends of circuits, thousands of miles at a span.

Mosquitoes, house-flies and roaches will have been practically exterminated.

There will be No C, X or Q in our every-day alphabet. They will be abandoned because unnecessary. Spelling by sound will have been adopted, first by the newspapers. English will be a language of condensed words expressing condensed ideas, and will be more extensively spoken than any other. Russian will rank second.

A university education will be free to every man and woman. Several great national universities will have been established... Poor students will be given free board, free clothing and free books if ambitious and actually unable to meet their school and college expenses. Medical inspectors regularly visiting the public schools will furnish poor children free eyeglasses, free dentistry and free medical attention of every kind. The very poor will, when necessary, get free rides to and from school and free lunches between sessions. In vacation time poor children will be taken on trips to various parts of the world.

Wireless telephone and telegraph circuits will span the world. A husband in the middle of the Atlantic will be able to converse with his wife sitting in her boudoir in Chicago.

Hot or cold air will be turned on from spigots to regulate the temperature of a house... Rising early to build the furnace fire will be a task of the olden times.

Ready-cooked meals will be bought from establishments similar to our bakeries of today. They will purchase materials in tremendous wholesale quantities and sell the cooked foods at a price much lower than the cost of individual cooking...

Fast-flying refrigerators on land and sea will bring delicious fruits from the tropics and southern temperate zone within a few days. The farmers of South America, South Africa, Australia and the South Sea Islands, whose seasons are directly opposite to ours, will thus supply us in winter with fresh summer foods...

Microscopes will lay bare the vital organs, through the living flesh, of men and animals. The living body will to all medical purposes be transparent. Not only will it be possible for a physician to actually see a living, throbbing heart inside the chest, but he will be able to magnify and photograph any part of it. This work will be done with rays of invisible light.

There will be no wild animals except in menageries... Food animals will be bred to expend practically all of their life energy in producing meat, milk, wool and other by-products.

1 comment:

Queer Cincinnati said...

This is a great post. I love how much actually came true!!! Did they predict the interweb, albeit accidentally?

(PS -- You're being blogrolled! :-))