Will a person time travelling from hundred years ago be surprised on seeing the world that we inhabit in 2023? While the obvious answer would be an easy “Yes!” (because let’s face it, no 1920s-dweller can survive the lure of the infinite scroll on Instagram), they might not be as shocked as you might think.
Paul Fairie, a researcher and instructor at the University of Calgary, has unearthed newspaper clippings from 1923 where sociologists and scientists have shared their predictions of what the world would look like in 2023. The predictions cover subjects like population growth, life expectancy, beauty trends, travel, and healthcare.
“Since last summer I’ve been sharing themed collections of clippings on Twitter, and I thought it might be fun to look at what people were thinking about 2023, but 100 years ago,” said Fairie to NPR, “Digging through archives is a fun hobby—it’s weirdly relaxing to read about what people were thinking decades ago.”
A List of Predictions Made in 1923 About 2023— Paul Fairie (@paulisci) January 1, 2023
While there are some that are way off, like human life expectancy to be raised to 300 years, there are some that hit the nail right on its head. Take this one news report, for instance, which reads, “In reading a forecast of 2023 when many varieties of aircraft are flying thru the heavens, we do not begin the day by reading the world’s news, but by listening to it for the newspaper has gone out of business more than half a century before.”
Mathematician and engineer Charles Steinmetz predicted that humans would spend less time working, writing, “The time is coming when there will be no long drudgery and that people will toil not more than four hours a day, owing to the work of electricity.” It’s safe to say that Mr. Steinmetz would be in for major disappointment on this count, if he happens to find himself stranded in 2023.
American aviation pioneer Glenn Curtis had high hopes for radio replacing gasoline in the future. He wrote, “Gasoline as a motive power will have been replaced by radio, and that the skies will be filled with myriad craft sailing over well-defined routes.”
Another newspaper claimed that “watch-size radio telephones will keep everybody in communication with the ends of the Earth,” another prediction that hits very close to the reality we live in this day and age.
British scientist Archibald Low had the foresight to predict that “the war of 2023 will naturally be a wireless war”. While he was bang on the money with this prediction, he missed the mark with his hopes for telepathy in the future. A newspaper article wrote, “Professor Low concludes that it is quite possible that when civilisation has advanced another century, mental telepathy will exist in embryo, and will form a very useful method of communication.”
On beauty trends of 2023, the newspapers cautioned every one of the blurring boundaries between gender expression. They claimed that women in 2023 will be blackening their teeth and shaving their heads. While we can see edgy, shaved heads being on trend, there would have to be an exceptionally catchy Instagram or TikTok challenge that would make people blacken their teeth voluntarily! The newspaper article also predicted that men would start curling their hair and try on more “feminine styles”.
A writer predicted that 2023 would not have any beauty contests as the world will be filled with beautiful people. The basis of their theory came from the belief that doctors and scientists would have been able to eradicate major diseases in a hundred years and that humans would be healthier than ever.
Going through Fairie’s now-viral Twitter Thread is a sobering reminder of how far we have come and, at the same time, how little we have progressed when it comes to social structures and lifestyles. It also makes us wonder what the world would look like a hundred years from now. We don’t know about beauty pageants, but we sure would like to see more flying cars and floating houses!