How the Future Looked in 1899 An essay in response to a newsweek article citing ninteenth century predictions of how the future will be

Essay by manogamezHigh School, 12th gradeA+, April 2004

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In the past century, humans have progressed through technology, medicine, and society. We have made flying machines, cars, lasers, rocket ships and things we could not even imagine a century ago. In fact, one hundred years ago people still only had a small idea of what was to come. Some imagined that we would have moving streets that would "whoosh people and stuff around". Others thought that poverty would be exterminated and the middle class would grow to a majority. Some even imagined that there would be only one "world state" that would control every aspect of our lives. However, not all of the predictions have been proven false.

In the early 1900's, some scholars predicted that society would advance far enough to be able to communicate over long distances with the touch of a button (or two). John Elfreth Watkins Jr. even said that there would be "strawberries the size of apples [and] peas the size of beets..."

(106). This has come true to some extent; we can now genetically engineer fruits to suit our needs, or even splice different genes and make new fruits.

However, the article does generalize too often. It states that "the visionaries predicted a benevolent bureaucracy on an unprecedented scale". Those "visionaries" were obviously American or European. During that particular time the industrial revolution was strong and provided a deep sense of optimism and "bigness". The rest of the world was not booming and becoming urbanized. I would imagine that in fact no one in un-industrialized places like imperial Africa was happy about the way life was headed.

Another fact that could explain why the "scholars" of the nineteenth century had such lofty ideas of the future is the period of Romanticism and transcendentalism that surrounded them. The philosophers were active then and made...