See predictions for 2023 from 1923 newspapers : NPR

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The beginning of 2023 is the perfect time to revisit a century of pundits’ predictions about the world.

Yuri Cortez/AFP via Getty Images

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Yuri Cortez/AFP via Getty Images

The beginning of 2023 is the perfect time to revisit a century of pundits’ predictions about the world.

Yuri Cortez/AFP via Getty Images

Forget flying cars. When scientists and sociologists in 1923 offered predictions of what life might look like in a hundred years, their visions were more along the lines of men with curly hair, four-hour work days, 300 year old people and “radio-telephones as big as watches”. .”

That’s according to Paul Fairie, a researcher and professor at the University of Calgary who compiled newspaper clippings of various experts’ 2023 predictions into now-viral form. Twitter thread.

These include projections on population growth and life expectancy, trends in personal hygiene, advances in industries from travel to healthcare and even some meta-thoughts on the future of journalism. himself.

“In reading the forecast of 2023 when many varieties of aircraft are flying the skies, we do not start the day by reading the news of the world, but by listening to it because the newspaper ended in the business more than half a century ago,” he wrote one newspaper (which was neither identified nor completely off-base).

Fairie told NPR via email that he always likes to look at old newspapers, first for an elementary school project (on microfiche), then as a Ph.D. student and now in his spare time.

“Since last summer I’ve been sharing themed collections of clippings on Twitter, and I thought it might be fun to look at what people were thinking about 2023, but 100 years ago,” he wrote. “Digging through the archives is a fun hobby – it’s strangely relaxing to read about what people were thinking decades ago.”

He also thinks it’s revealing that many of these century-old predictions were about things that people were worried about at the time and are still a source of concern for some today.

For example, the prediction about men dying their hair seems to stem from “a general uneasiness about anything that challenges gender norms,” ​​while talk of a four-hour workday seems to be part of a larger conversation about the promise of automation.

Some predictions turned out to be much more prescient than others (think of it as a sliding scale between smartwatches and telepathy). Fairie says his big takeaway is “just being modest about the certainty of the forecast a century out.”

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned putting this together,” he writes, “it’s that I have absolutely no idea what it’s going to be like a century from now.”

Here’s a selection of the 2023 predictions — understandably rose-tinted — that he found, and how they came out.

Advances in health and beauty

Several seers described a world full of stronger and more beautiful people (although only one explicitly combined those two ideas).

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 title “Less Doctors and Unknown Present Diseases; All Nice People.”

“Beauty contests will be unnecessary as there will be so many beautiful people that it will be almost impossible to choose winners,” they continued. “The same will apply to baby contests.”

Some focused on the personal tendencies and style that formed the standard of beauty itself.

One an anthropologist, supposedly an expert in male and female trends, declared “curls for men until 2023.” A similar prediction was seen in the Savannah Newswhich also predicts that women will “probably” be shaving their heads.

“Also young women can pronounce it the height of style in personal primping to blacken their teeth,” she added. “Aren’t we going to be nice?”

Live longer and work smarter

Some newspapers predicted that the average person would live longer in 2023, although the exact amount varies depending on who you ask.

One said that the average life can reach 100 yearsalthough certain individuals can make it to 150 or even 200. Another quoted a scientist which put the average for 300 years.

“Quite a change,” reads the article. “We of today have been living that long about once a month.”

For context, the life expectancy of someone born in the United States fell last year to 76.4 years — the shortest it has been in nearly two decades.

In another optimistic view, a mathematician and electrical engineer Charles Steinmetz predicted that people will spend even less time working (“No more hard work by 2023!” that title blamed).

Steinmetz believes that “the time has come when there will be no long work and that people will work no more than four hours a day, because of the electrical work,” the paper stated, adding that in his vision “every city will be ‘a city without blemish.’ ”

And where exactly are all these people spending their lives (long and openly)?

Several publications have claimed that technological and industrial advances will make more parts of North America more habitable, and estimate the United States population of 300 million and Canada in 100 million in 2023.

Yes and no: The latest estimates from Worldometer put the US population at 335 million and Canada in more than 38 million.

Gizmos, gadgets and other innovations

Of course, there were also advances to dream about in science, technology, transportation, communication and other fields.

First, the products: One writer proposed that people will be wearing “kidney cosies,” which they compared to a teapot cozies for one’s internal organs. Another claimed that utensils and residences will be made mostly of “pulps and cement.”

Next, flying: Aviation pioneer Glenn Curtiss predicted that by 2023 “gasoline as a motive power will have been replaced by radio, and that the skies will be filled with a great number of craft sailing on well-defined routes,” that the Minneapolis Journal considered an “attractive prophecy.”

Elsewhere, the opening of a new “Polar airline” was praised for making it possible to fly from Chicago to Hamburg — via the North Pole — in just 18 hours (as opposed to approximately 13 hours most direct flights take today).

There was also considerable excitement about the prospect of wireless and paperless communications.

One writer envisioned a world in which Pittsburgh and London take orders “on talking films” from businessmen in Peking, and “1,000-mile-a-hour freighters” deliver the goods before sunset.

“Clock radio telephones will keep everyone in communication with the ends of the earth,” they added while hitting the nail on the head.

Archibald Low — the British scientist and author who invented an early version of TV and the first drone, among other things — he wrote that “the war of 2023 will naturally be a wireless war”, thanks to “wireless telephony, sight, heat, power and writing.”

He went a step further, according one newspaper account:

“Professor Low concludes that it is quite possible that when civilization has advanced another century, mental telepathy will exist in embryo, and 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.

These include the rise of smartphones and dictation, contemporary shops, the internet and, perhaps, the phenomenon of British television. Strictly Let’s Dance.

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