The not so far, yet neither so near, past.
December 15, 2010 8:46 PM   Subscribe

A lawfirm perusing the New York Times archives has examined how physician W. J. Mayo, famed industrialist Henry Ford, anatomist and anthropologist Arthur Keith, physicist and Nobel laureate Arthur Compton, chemist Willis R. Whitney, physicist and Nobel laureate Robert Millikan, physicist and chemist Michael Pupin, and sociologist William F. Ogburn foresaw the year 2011 from the year 1931, with commentary.

Original articles are linked at the above blog, but are only available to subscribers.
posted by 1f2frfbf (13 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
IN 80 years I predict that there will be over 50 million registered MetaFilter users. There will be a significant 'favorites' inflation and there will be 100 moderators fighting against chatfilter and the Israel/Palestinian posts will still be going on. There will be no new questions for askme relationship filter, just folks doing research pointing out a previous thread. Oh, yes, you can eat that food pellet left on the counter for 5 years.
posted by AugustWest at 9:16 PM on December 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

What a fantastic opportunity to build out a fun infographic and great feature... if it weren't all locked behind a paywall. The blog itself includes some excerpts of some value, but I think it'd be great to diagram what people predicted the same things and who was how far off, etc.

Either way, rather insightful.
posted by disillusioned at 9:17 PM on December 15, 2010

Sad to note that Robert Millikan never predicted the millions (billions?) of man-hours that would be lost by Physics students and teachers attempting to recreate his %%*#&ing oil droplet experiment. If only he'd warned us about that...
posted by schmod at 9:22 PM on December 15, 2010 [5 favorites]

The role of government is bound to grow. Technicians and special interest groups will leave only a shell of democracy. The family cannot be destroyed but will be less stable in the early years of married life, divorce being greater than now. The lives of woman will be more like those of men, spent more outside the home.

This seems rather prescient.
posted by IvoShandor at 9:34 PM on December 15, 2010 [6 favorites]

The easy way to judge predictions about the future is that the predictions which indicate increasing wealth and technology being used for the betterment of society instead of for the betterment of the ruling class are false.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:44 PM on December 15, 2010 [6 favorites]

Wow. Ogburn's predictions were pretty remarkable (in certain aspects).
posted by brundlefly at 11:53 PM on December 15, 2010

With better communication national boundaries will gradually cease to have their present importance. Because of racial differences a world union cannot be expected within eighty years. The best adjustment that we can hope for to this certain change would seem to be the voluntary union of neighboring nations under a centralized government of continental size.

The author of the blog then disagrees without even mentioning the example of the European Union. Odd.
posted by imperium at 12:15 AM on December 16, 2010 [4 favorites]

Nice discovery! Thanks for sharing.
posted by dealing away at 12:43 AM on December 16, 2010

I noticed the strange ignorance of the EU too, to say nothing of NATO, the WTO, and other reasonably powerful multinational organizations and agreements. Mayo's quote was pretty accurate, and Millikan totally nailed both that the big scientific advances would come from biology and that quantitative techniques would more and more be brought to bear on social problems. Inasmuch as any of the quotes are wrong about anything other than details, it strikes me as being in the general belief that social justice would prevail as a national goal in the face of the philosophy of "fuck you, I've got mine." Considering that these predictions predate WWII, which brought huge changes to much of the world, I'm terribly impressed.
posted by Schismatic at 1:25 AM on December 16, 2010

I'm going to go ahead and predict that by 2091, we'll all be enslaved by aliens, or dead from a zombie apocalypse, whichever comes first.
I suppose the zombies could also be enslaved by aliens too.
posted by yeoz at 1:48 AM on December 16, 2010

"Technological progress, with its exponential law of increase, holds the key to the future."

Cool... You have to wonder about the level of direct influence that had on Gordon Moore (two years old at the time of this NYT piece), that 34 years later he would rephrase it into his namesake law about an entire branch of technology that didn't exist in 1934.
posted by pla at 3:30 AM on December 16, 2010

I'm going to go ahead and predict that by 2091, we'll all be enslaved by aliens, or dead from a zombie apocalypse, whichever comes first.
I suppose the zombies could also be enslaved by aliens too.

So close. So, so close.
posted by The Bellman at 7:39 AM on December 16, 2010

Before reading the post, I would have guessed that these would all be more instances of how forecasts of the future always turn out wildly off the mark, and more evidence of how hard it is to predict anything that far out.

There are examples of that, but given I already expected that, I'm actually surprised and very impressed how well a lot things could be foreseen.
posted by philipy at 9:48 AM on December 16, 2010

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