With everyone looking back at the year that was, I thought it would be fun to delve a bit into the past to see what our expectations were of where we are today.
Before Cosmo was the modern girl’s bible, it was something of a literary journal published by WR Hearst. As an ardent collector of old magazines (until someone invents the Flux Capacitor, they are the best way to intimately connect with the past) I recently obtained an issue of Cosmopolitan from February 1929 and began the business of perusing the articles when this title jumped out and hit me on the head: “Save This for Your Children’s Children! It is a Forecast of What This World Will Be Like 100 Years From Now.”
Well hey now, I’m the target audience! In less than 48 hours we’ll be 20 years from the issue’s 100th anniversary so I figure, hey, close enough.
Written by the Earl of Birkenhead, a prominent English statesman, some of the predictions are wildly off the mark (i.e., painless childbirths) but for the most part the article is shockingly spot on–a sober and level headed look at what modern society would be like given the sociological trends of the 1920s.
Earl Birkenhead writes: “The child of 2029 looking back on 1929 will consider it as primitive and quaint as 1829 seems to the children of the present day. Our means of travel, our sources of wealth, our medicine and even our ideas will change drastically during the next century as they did in the course of the last.”
His key predictions?
- Babies will be produced by chemists in laboratories
- The entire institution of marriage will be changed
- We will all live to be 150
- No one will need to work more than two hours per day
- Agriculture will be abolished—except as a hobby—and all foodstuffs will be produced synthetically
- Man will have altered the geography and/or climate of the world
- Coal-mining will be an extinct industry
- Sitting in our homes we will see and hear events the world over
On that last bullet point, Birkenhead explains: “During the next hundred years, applied physics will certainly develop wireless telephony and television beyond our present most imaginative expectations. By 2029 it should be possible for any person sitting at home to be “present” at no matter what distant event. Steroscopic television in full natural colours and perfected wireless telephony will enable him to see and hear any event which is broadcast as effectively as if he stood beside the transmitting apparatus.”
Other predictions are more unfortunate. “The abolition of epidemic disease by 2029 is fairly certain, as is the discovery of such scourges as cancer and TB.”
If only he knew.