Opinion: Predicting what would happen in 2023 obviously was an inexact science in 1923

Opinion: Predicting what would happen in 2023 obviously was an inexact science in 1923

When readers of the Chattanooga Daily Times opened their morning paper on August 23, 1923, there was a headline above the fold that must have caught their attention:

“Sees a four-hour workday in the future”

If this newspaper published such a title today, it would certainly attract the attention of readers.

The source of the prediction was Dr. Charles Proteus Steinmetz, a German-born American engineer and electrical expert who – in an apparently reprinted New York Times article – envisioned 100 years by 2023 and a world he predicted as be transformed by electricity.

Certainly, in this general prediction, he was right. For electric power has brought light, heating and air conditioning, all sorts of time-saving gadgets and even cars to all parts of the world today.

Electricity, Steinmetz said, would allow people to work four hours and then “track [their] natural inclination” for the rest of the day. However, he said, people would not be idle non-producers.

“Leisure will be occupied with productive entertainment, satisfying the particular instincts of the individual,” he said.

If Steinmetz could see the lost hours today on TikTok, selfies and video games, he might have changed his mind about it.

He accurately predicted “the ever-increasing expansion of leisure and transportation” enabling “millions of people who now live in cities” to “spend most of their lives beyond the city in suburban areas or rural sections”.

Of course, today, with the proliferation of apartments and homes in downtown Chattanooga, you’d think most people want to return to the city.

However, Steinmetz didn’t quite understand the “proximity of idle ground space” to the suburbs, which led to millions of people “harvesting most, if not all, of the food for their families as a pleasurable occupation”.

Weekend farmers still have their place, but when you can buy crispy jalapeno chunks and chile-spiced pineapple (dried) at Trader Joe’s, who wants to take the time to mix all that useful manure with your soil to stimulate better growth?

Steinmetz’s suggestion that 2023 might see communication with Mars was also curious.

“[I]If the United States embarked on the project of connecting a means of communication with Mars with the same intensity and the same thoroughness with which we entered and prosecuted the war (World War I), “it is not all impossible that the plan would succeed.”

Using the new process of wireless (radio) telegraphy based on radio waves, Steinmetz thought “it would be a long process, no doubt, to carefully count, measure and record the messages we were receiving”, and find a key to decipher them. , but “could possibly be indications of an intelligence on Mars seeking to communicate with intelligence on that planet”.

Beyond simple communication, of course, the United States first flew Mars in 1964, first orbited it in 1971, first landed there in 1975, and first operated a rover in 1996.

And there’s this: When HuffPost asked celebrities in 2012 if they’d be willing to go to Mars, Kris Jenner of Kardashian parentage said yes. We don’t know if Mars is Kardashian’s home planet or if she would just like the occasional escape from all things Kardashian.

Alas, Steinmetz also felt that “cooperative human effort will be the solution to most of the difficulties that beset mankind.” Of course, he didn’t have to be known as the “Magician of Schenectady” to understand that. This had been the solution throughout the story before he was born, and would be in the century after his death the same year he predicted the future (although apparently not his own).

“The wars”, he said, “will continue until we learn that [cooperation] lesson in its final aspect. I seek more wars because people and systems continue to fight against each other rather than against each other.”

We are looking at you, Putin and Russia.

“We have not yet sufficiently grasped the philosophy of Christianity,” Steinmetz continued, “regardless of how many of us profess to be Christians.”

In this he said a mouthful. Today, here in the United States and abroad, many want to eradicate Christianity and all that goes with it. But many Christians would abandon their churches, their beliefs and their rules if everyone only adopted “the philosophy of Christianity”, embodied in the commandments of Jesus to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and all your mind” and “to love your neighbor as yourself.

Steinmetz, in summary, said, “We are on the threshold of an age greater in significance to the mass of humanity than even the hundred years through which we have passed, however miraculous the fruits of those years may seem to have summer. other period of recorded or unrecorded history has witnessed such a flowering of human ingenuity.”

Unsurprisingly, the next 100 years did the same. And it will probably be the same for the next 100 years.

So we’ll be looking for that four-hour workday anytime now.

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