Friday, April 20, 2007

Long Bets

The Ladies Home Journal from December 1900 contained an article listing predictions for the year 2000. The author writes:
These prophecies will seem strange, almost impossible. Yet, they have come from the most learned and conservative minds in America. To the wisest and most careful men in our greatest institutions of science and learning I have gone, asking each in his turn to forecast for me what, in his opinion, will have been wrought in his own field of investigation before the dawn of 2001 - a century from now. These opinions I have carefully transcribed.
Some of the more remarkable themes:
  • Telecommunications: "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."
  • Spy satellites: "Balloons and flying machines will carry telescopes of one-hundred-mile vision with camera attachments, photographing an enemy within that radius. These photographs as distinct and large as if taken from across the street, will be lowered to the commanding officer in charge of troops below."
  • Genetically modified food: "peas as large as beets" and "strawberries as large as apples."
There were some exercises in wishful thinking, such as the view that we would all be athletic and fit in a hundred years:
Gymnastics will begin in the nursery, where toys and games will be designed to strengthen the muscles. Exercise will be compulsory in the schools. Every school, college and community will have a complete gymnasium. All cities will have public gymnasiums. A man or woman unable to walk ten miles at a stretch will be regarded as a weakling."
We'll try to get there in 2100. And my favorite, the somewhat mystifying prediction:
There will be No C, X or Q in our every-day alphabet. They will be abandoned because unnecessary.
The full article is available here.