Brilliant People of the Past Terribly Wrong About the Future

As much as we want them to be right, people who try to predict the future are often hilariously wrong. The hoverboards Marty McFly encountered in Back to the Future Part II? That may have been “2015,” but don’t expect any sweet flying skateboards in four years. Hate to break it to you.

But for some reason smart people continue to flex their hubris and make predictions about what the world will be like in the distant future. NPR dug up a piece in The New York Times from 1931 in which the era’s geniuses were quizzed on what 2011 will be like. With that year looming perilously on the horizon, let’s take a look at what we may have in store — or would have in store if these “geniuses” weren’t totally off-base.

Sociologist William Ogburn:

Poverty will be eliminated and hunger as a driving force of revolution will not be a danger.


Scientist Michael Pupin:

One can safely prophesy that during the next eighty years this civilization will correct [wealth inequality] by creating an industrial democracy which will guarantee to the worker an equitable share in the wealth produced by his work.

Everybody gets rich! Sweet!

W.J. Mayo, the man who gave his name to the clinic:

Although we may desire to believe only what we can see, our emotions will predominate when crises beyond human understanding confront us, and some form of religion will continue to sustain people in time of stress.

Kind of accurate actually!

Then NPR, having not learned its lesson, asks for suggestions as to what 2091 will look like. Here’s our one response: For God’s sake, let there be hoverboards!

nfreeman [at] | @nfreeman1234

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Brilliant People of the Past Terribly Wrong About the Future