The Future from the Past

Chart recorder spewing data.

Surprising Predictions from Past Decades

Our roving reporter Ryan Rocifero has been roving again, this time in a sort of time-travel exercise. He has spent nearly a fortnight scouring newspaper columns from the beginning of several decades in the first half of the 20th Century, looking for predictions of “what may come in future decades” from the points of view of the writers of those times. Many of them were surprisingly accurate predictions of what has come to pass already in our own era.

Rocifero found the following quotations in various English newspapers, whose identity has been denied so as to protect their anonymity. Moreover, the authors’ middle names are left out for the sake of propriety.

In 1920, Sir Jonathan Wallace wrote:

Sometime in the future, you will no longer be allowed to write by hand; almost all your work will be required to be typed on an advanced electronic typewriter, both for the sake of efficiency and because most people will have terrible handwriting.

In 1930, columnist Reginald Randolph wrote:

In coming decades, we know not exactly when, you will not be allowed to see most merchandise in person before you buy it. You will be forced to rely on the reputation of the seller and other people’s views of a given product, with perhaps a small photograph, to decide whether or not to purchase it.

The marketplace seems to be a recurring theme, as in 1940, the very next decade, a Mr. Landon Peaks wrote:

Not only will retailers be liberal in lending, but you will be compelled to pay for nearly everything by credit, which will no doubt require you to submit intimate personal information for background checks of various sorts before you can buy almost anything of value. Merchants may even have personal accounts by which to track your every purchase, from groceries and medicine to radios, televisions, and other electronic equipment. This will allow companies to assess exactly what you own at any given time, and to calculate your worth as a human being, potentially even blocking your account if you buy too much, or too little, depending on their particular goal. [Emphasis in original.]

Of course, government oversight was another subject of suspicion, er, speculation. In 1950, political reporter Tracy Patterson wrote:

The Government will have computational strategies to read all of your mail, due to its being almost entirely electronic by then, subject to inspection and manipulation by so-called “super-computers.”

As far as we can tell, all these writers are now deceased, perhaps victims of their own prophetic tendencies. Too smart for their own good, apparently.

And now, to you, Dear Readers, I ask: Have you any prophecies of your own? What do you think we might see in future decades? Death? Destruction? The End of the World? Or Flowers and Romance? You can leave your comments at the bottom of this page.


Add a Comment
  1. Granny Smith says:

    I predict that by 2020 we’ll all be wearing mohawk wigs. Even the grandmothers.

    1. Fascinating. I’ll be sure to tell my grandmother, in case she hasn’t got her wig yet.

  2. I would like to prophecy that The Flying News becomes the official news of every forthcoming Olympic Games, and of the United Nations.

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