Blast From The Past

Blast From The Past

To start the new year off right, I thought we might look at a list of humorous predictions made a century ago in 1923 about now, 2023. They range from the ridiculous to the almost-sublime–and possibly back to the ridiculous again.

For starters, I know you’ll be delighted to learn that there will be no more hard work by 2023. (Tell it to housewives. And coal miners.) According to newspaper clippings from that era, a gentleman named Metz, a well-known “electrical expert,” believed that the time was coming when there would be no drudgery, and that people would not toil for more than four hours a day due to the magic of electricity. He visualized an amazing transformation by 2023, when every city would be a “spotless town.”

The Minneapolis Journal quotes Glenn Curtis, an airplane expert, predicting that by 2023, gasoline as a motive power will have been replaced by radio.

There also will be fewer doctors–the AMA won’t be happy to hear that–but MDs will be less necessary since present (in 1923) diseases will have become utterly “extinct.”

All people will be beautiful! Is this due to a change in consciousness from the superficial to the profound? No! Beauty contests will be unnecessary because there will be so many beautiful people that it will be impossible to select winners (never mind what the definitions of beauty are predicted to be). The same thing will apply to baby contests. Personally, I would have hoped that by now, beauty contests for adults or babies would long be tasteless remnants of the past, and although they mostly are, they persist in their boring oppressiveness while hanging on by a thread.

Apparently, according to predictions, by 2023 the average life of a human being could be increased to 100 years. In individual cases it might be increased to 150, perhaps 200, or even 300 years.

The Savannah News predicted that women will blacken their teeth and shave their heads. (Wow, I definitely did not know that. I did not get that memo.) Moreover, an anthropologist predicted that men would be wearing curls, and yes, using curlers to obtain them. He based his statement on the trend of “masculine and feminine styles in 1923”; remember that U.S. women’s suffrage passed only in 1920, and this was the beginning of the Roaring Twenties.

By 2023, apparently the United States would have a population of 300 million people, which actually is not that far off; the U.S. Census Bureau projects the US population will have been 332,403,650 on Jan. 1, 2022. This represents a 0.21 percent increase in population or an additional 706,899 people since New Year’s Day 2021.

One Professor A.M. Low referred to an invention of his own–jets of water highly charged with electricity–which would render armies obsolete; I’m not at all sure how this will take place, by training the water on the army, like a fire hose? Or what? “The war of 2023,” he adds, “will naturally be a wireless war, for there is “no end to the possibilities of wonder.” (Notice that he assumes war will still be with us, not an outgrown “wonder”–though he can’t conceive of hydrogen or nuclear bombs, or of drones.) Professor Low also states that at the present time–1923, remember–he can, by a distance of little more than a yard, “connect” items without any connection at all. He was certainly onto something about wirelessness, even if Wi-Fi was beyond his reach. Then again, he also predicted that mental telepathy would become common.

By 2023, the predictions claim, there’ll be no mail between New York and San Francisco–but they couldn’t yet imagine the Internet and email, and the telephone was in its infancy. As for deliveries of packages, orders from Pittsburgh and London to merchants in Beijing, for instance (spelled Peking in 1923 newspapers) would require 1,000-mile-an-hour freighters to make deliveries of goods before sunset.

The private kitchen would disappear, the previous century’s pundits declared. Food will be seasoned and prepared by chemical formulas. These formulas will preserve the freshness of fruits and meats, rid them of indigestible qualities, and send them to the table ready to use. Instead of sauces that merely cozen the palate (cozen the palate!–they used such terms!), we shall have delectable blends of concentrated vitamins, calories, “ferments, and tissue tonics.”

And then there’s this:

* Flights from Chicago to Hamburg will take only 18 hours;
* Newspapers will have been out of business for 50 years
–which tragically is happening, especially with local papers–but not yet, not quite yet;
* Cancer will have been eradicated completely. Oh, would that this were the case, although we have come much closer to eradicating certain types of cancer and numerous other diseases, and this is a golden age for medicine.

I suppose I should retroactively add that according to United Nations and Global Gender Gap statistics, at the current rate, it will take U.S. women merely another 157 years (2023-onward) to achieve pay equity, and 136 years internationally. Piece of cake.

And last but hardly least, the prediction that:
* Watch-size radio telephones will keep everyone in communication with the ends of the earth.

Well, at least my trusty little Apple Watch–and most smart watches–can send and receive phone calls, texts, email, photographs, and Internet information; get weather reports, tell me what date and time it is (even in other countries), make sure I don’t need a defibrillator, monitor my exercise routine, check my EKG, share videos, detect falls, play music, set alarms, remind me of appointments, take dictation, and do lots of other things, all miraculously futuristic in 1923. And I’m privileged to have it.

Now if only I were as smart as my watch . . .