the future used to be so much nicer...
November 29, 2003 8:22 AM   Subscribe

"The newspapers of the twenty-first century will give a mere "stick" in the back pages to accounts of crime or political controversies, but will headline on the front pages the proclamation of a new scientific hypothesis."

From an interview with Nikolai Tesla in 1937 about the now near future...
posted by Aleph Yin (12 comments total)
Sadly, another of the grand ideas about the future which didn't/have not yet come to pass. Though after driving yesterday in three shopping centers I would really have preferred a flying car to this one.
posted by billsaysthis at 8:39 AM on November 29, 2003

Here are my predictions for the 22nd Century:

People will exist only in thought form, with plastic cubes being the physical recepticles of their spirit.

A new species of lizard will have evolved with human-like sentience, and be engaged in building a trans-dimensional portal "to the stars."

The sky will be mauve, rather than blue.
posted by Blue Stone at 8:46 AM on November 29, 2003

And unless mankind's attention is too violently diverted by external wars and internal revolutions, there is no reason why the electric millennium should not begin in a few decades.

Well that's a problem.
posted by JakeEXTREME at 8:54 AM on November 29, 2003

JakeX, props. Tesla interview 1937, Germany invading Poland 1939. Oops.
posted by billsaysthis at 9:26 AM on November 29, 2003

That man was a brilliant scientist - and a total idiot when it came to people skills.
posted by tiamat at 11:21 AM on November 29, 2003

He certainly failed to take into account people's voyeurism and thirst for schadenfreude.
posted by rushmc at 11:30 AM on November 29, 2003

He sounds like a nutcase.
posted by jmccorm at 1:11 PM on November 29, 2003

There are three ways by which the energy which determines human progress can be increased: First, we may increase the mass. This, in the case of humanity, would mean the improvement of living conditions, health, eugenics, etc. Second, we may reduce the frictional forces which impede progress, such as ignorance, insanity, and religious fanaticism. Third, we may multiply the energy of the human mass by enchaining the forces of the universe, like those of the sun, the ocean, the winds and tides.

you're right jmccorn, that is pretty wacky...
posted by Aleph Yin at 1:28 PM on November 29, 2003

Aleph Yin - Perhaps, but that vein of thought is still around. Look it up under "Cornucopianism", and you will find that many modern politicians still espouse variations on these themes.

I think this is actually a very simplified, reductionist view - of Tesla's - tied mostly to late 19th century physics. Some of it's elements - relating to eugenics - have been tied to the Holocaust. But Tesla is (in the above quote) mainly trying to apply the scientific tools available during his time to the ( very difficult) task of predicting mass human behavior.

The tools available to Tesla were absurdly inadequate to the task. So should he have given up in the attempt and - if so - should it have been before or after his introduction of AC current ?
posted by troutfishing at 11:29 PM on November 29, 2003

He sounds like a nutcase.

heh... that's my cue! Sure he was a nutcase - but so far beyond the average person in talents and accomplishments as to render use of the term, shall we say, inadequate. Tesla cast a long shadow across the 20th century, and all he got out of it was to have a bad metal band named after him! Besides alternating current, he gave us dozens of useful inventions, from the flourescent light to wireless communications - including some that have only recently become practical, like his bladeless turbine that is capable of developing such high RPMs that we've only just developed the alloys that can handle it. Stories of his workshop in Manhattan in the 1890s, where he entertained the cream of New York society, still sound "futuristic" today: wireless electric lights and massive pyrotechnic high voltage discharges, and of course his earthquake machine, a tuneable mechanical oscillator, with which he claimed to be able to demolish any building in the world in a few hours (and then put back in his pocket.)

Granted, he would also probably have been diagnosed with a severe obsessive-compulsive disorder, based on his admittedly extremely weird germ-phobias and all-around quirkiness. But let's not belittle one of the great Crackpots of the Twentieth Century (TM) by labelling him as a mere "nutcase".
posted by dinsdale at 11:00 AM on November 30, 2003

Or - for a nutcase, Tesla sure cranked out some world changing scientific inventions.
posted by troutfishing at 2:11 PM on November 30, 2003

His abiding love of pigeons will always mean he has a place of love in my heart.
posted by Dagobert at 1:15 AM on December 1, 2003

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