Forget flying cars. When scientists and sociologists in 1923 offered predictions for what life might look like in a hundred years, their visions were more along the lines of curly-haired men, four-hour workdays, 300-year-old people and “watch-size radio telephones.”
That’s according to Paul Fairie, a researcher and instructor at the University of Calgary who compiled newspaper clippings of various experts’ 2023 forecasts in a viral Twitter thread.
They include projections about population growth and life expectancy, trends in personal hygiene, advances in industries from travel to healthcare and even some meta-musings on the future of journalism itself.
“In reading a forecast of 2023 when many varieties of aircraft are flying thru the heavens, we do not begin the day by reading the world’s news, but by listening to it for the newspaper has gone out of business more than half a century before,” wrote one newspaper (which was neither identified nor entirely off-base).some predictions proved way more prescient than others (consider it a sliding scale between smartwatches and telepathy). Fairie says his big takeaway is “just to be modest about the certainty of predictions a century out.”
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned from putting this together,” he writes, “it’s that I have absolutely no idea what a century from now will be like.”Here’s a selection of the — understandably rose-tinted — 2023 predictions he found, and how they panned out.
One writer predicted the eradication of cancer, as well as tuberculosis, infantile paralysis (also known as polio), locomotor ataxia and leprosy.
Another went with the headline “Fewer Doctors and Present Diseases Unknown; All People Beautiful.”
“Beauty contests will be unnecessary as there will be so many beautiful people that it will be almost impossible to select winners,” they continued. “The same will apply to baby contests.”
One anthropologist, reportedly versed in masculine and feminine trends, declared “curls for men by 2023.” A similar prediction appeared in the Savannah News, which also forecast that women will “probably” be shaving their heads.
Archibald Low — the British scientist and author who invented an early version of TV and the first drone, among other things — wrote that “the war of 2023 will naturally be a wireless war,” thanks to “wireless telephony, sight, heat, power and writing.
“Professor Low concludes that it is quite possible that when civilisation has advanced another century, mental telepathy will exist in embryo, and will form a very useful method of communication.”
Low, an esteemed “futurologist” of his era, made many other — and more accurate — predictions about the 21st century.
They include the rise of smartphones and dictation, contemporary department stores, the internet and, arguably, British TV phenomenon Strictly Come Dancing.