Monday, December 20, 2010

Predictions of 2011 from 1931

The New York Times piece, revisiting the predictions made of our time by prominent men from 1931, has been getting a lot of circulation. The predictions reminded me of a couple of quotations. This one, from Victorian historian Thomas Babington Macaulay in 1830, predicting 1930:

"If we were to prophesy that in the year 1930 a population of fifty millions, better fed, clad, and lodged than the English of our time, will cover these islands, that Sussex and Huntingdonshire will be wealthier than the wealthiest parts of the West Riding of Yorkshire now are, that cultivation, rich as that of a flower-garden, will be carried up to the very tops of Ben Nevis and Helvellyn, that machines constructed on principles yet undiscovered, will be in every house, that there will be no highways but railroads, no travelling but by steam, that our debt, vast as it seems to us, will appear to our great-grandchildren a trifling incumbrance, which might easily be paid off in a year or two, many people would think us insane."

And this observation from Hilaire Belloc:

"Pray note the following most interesting truth: People cannot imagine the future because they cannot but believe that experience has been exhausted. All fiction portraying the future fills it with contemporaries. For instance, very few such books portray a new religion, and when they do so, that religion has no flame in it. Yet when a novel phase comes, it proves to be as vital as it is new."