Have you ever made or participated in a time capsule? A lockbox stored away somewhere secret, only to be unearthed in the far future where we can look back on the included items and remember times passed. They could be filled with photos, trinkets, pop culture references, or even letters addressing our future selves, asking what has changed and what came to be.
Comparing the present to the past is a wonderful way to gain insight into our society and its values. What we once considered important now no longer matters, and things our ancestors could never even have dreamed of now exist in our daily lives. A Twitter thread recently went viral for sparking thoughts like this, showing off predictions about life in 2023 from newspapers in 1923.
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Blast From The Past
The turn of the new year often comes with a fair amount of reminiscing on the past. We think about the year we just went through, all that's changed, and establish our desires for the months ahead.
One man on Twitter certainly looked at the past when we entered 2023, but a lot further back than most people would.
Paul Fairie runs a Twitter account where he posts interesting finds from old newspapers. He recently put together a thread of predictions about what life in 2023 would be like from papers dated to 1923, 100 years in the past. Here are a few of the predictions he included, from the accurate to the astonishing.
We All Live To Be Centuries Old
Starting with a lofty prediction, apparently some scientists believed that we would all be living until 300 years old on average in the year 2023. Currently, the average American life expectancy is just over 77 years, so not quite where they were hoping it would be.
That being said, it is a rather large improvement from the 1923 life expectancy, which was approximately 57—meaning we've gained 20 years of life in 100 years.
While it's extremely unlikely that humans will ever be able to reach the age of 300 just thanks to the natural decline of the body as we age, more and more people are living closer to 100 thanks to advancements in medical care.
Peculiar Beauty Trends
Beauty and fashion trends of the future have always been popular topics for predictions so people can stay ahead of the curve. Every year, we see lists of upcoming style trends to look out for, and what experts believe will be 'in' one season over another.
A century ago, it seems people thought the trend-setters of today would be women with shaved heads. While this didn't happen directly, there certainly are more women with shorter hair now than there were in that day and age.
Oh, and they thought women would be making their teeth black, presumably through some cosmetic paint or stain. That one didn't make the cut, obviously.
For Men, Too
This prediction is mentioned both here and in the prior entry about women shaving their heads and sporting black teeth, and one that wound up being a kind of correct.
Curly hair has become extremely popular among young men, many of them even getting perms to accomplish the look. Often paired with short-cut sides rather than worn long, we have the first prediction featured here that actually has a degree of accuracy to it.
Beauty Will Be Everywhere
No matter the style trends, the people of the past believed that by now, everyone would be beautiful—so beautiful that there would be no need for beauty contests.
This one is fascinating. While there are still beauty contests, they weren't wrong in that beautiful people are everywhere now. Beyond the evolution of face shapes and styles over the decades, the introduction of social media means at any moment you have access to swaths of gorgeous folk who post themselves online. It's hard to scroll through Instagram without being stunned by shows of beauty in every other post.
There's also the rise in popularity of things like makeup, plastic surgery, even photo editing that make traditional 'beauty' more accessible.
Still, though, personal tastes in beauty are always subjective.
No More Newspapers
Even before the rise of online and television news publications, people were already predicting the death of print news.
This prediction specifically cites a formed radio broadcast as the format that would take over the written word, a broadcast that would be available in "varieties of aircraft" that "are flying thru [sic] the heavens." While they were probably imagining things like flying cars and trains, we really just have a lot of planes, and none are well known for their access to radio news while aboard.
At least obtaining news did become a lot faster and more on-demand than print, just not the way they expected.
Another prediction that wound up sort of right—though not how they originally thought it would—was the idea that kitchens would become obsolete in favor of purchasing fully prepared, ready to eat meals as our sole source of food.
"Tomorrow's food will be seasoned and prepared by chemical formulas, which will preserve the freshness of fruits and meats," isn't totally off the mark either considering the use of GMOs and other preservatives that help extend shelf life.
The entry then describes these foods as being sent "to the table ready to use." The concept of being delivered full, ready-to-eat meals also mimics the rise in food delivery services that are so commonplace in today's world.
We do still have kitchens, though.
The Wireless Age
In this entry, a professor by the name of A.M. Low says that "wireless telephone, sight, heat, power, and writing may all play important parts" in how we conduct war. He also says that a definitive War of 2023 "will naturally be a wireless war, for there is no end to the possibilities of this wonderful force."
To call a force "wonderful" only to describe how it would be used in war times certainly is questionable, but he also wasn't wrong in that these advancements in technology changed everything for everyone, so of course they benefited combat somehow.
More strangely, Low also said that "mental telepathy will exist in the embryo and will format very useful method of communication." It certainly would be useful, but we're very far from developing telepathy at birth (if that's even possible).
No More Gas Guzzling
This prediction could be stretched into something that resembles reality. Instead of having vehicles powered by radio waves, we do have vehicles powered by electricity. It's not exactly what they had pictured, but it is an alternative to gasoline that's only gaining popularity as electric cars become more and more accessible to the general public.
This was another person who believed our skies would be filled with aircraft traversing about, but no, as it stands, we are still entirely bound to the roads for casual, short travel in North America.
There are two surprisingly accurate predictions contained in this portion.
First is the idea that "Pittsburgh and London concerns will record, on talking films, orders from merchants ion Peking, and 1000-mile-an-hour freighters will make deliveries of goods before sunset." This certainly echos the vast, international purchasing and shipping system we know today. Anyone can order anything from all over the world and have it appear at their door. Maybe not by sunset though unless you have Amazon one-day delivery.
The second is that "watch-size radio telephones will keep everybody in communication with the ends of the earth." Mass digital communication has been in our lives for some time now, not only via computers and smartphones but by the literal watch-sized Apple watches and other similar products.
In Our Dreams
Finally, a prediction we all surely wish had happened in full! An 'electrical expert' believed that the people of the future would no longer need to work hard. Work days would max out at four hours long, with a ton of work being replaced by 'electricity'. Many jobs have indeed been replaced by automation, namely a lot of factory work and data-related positions, but we're nowhere near eradicating work as a concept.
He also noted that every city would be 'spotless' thanks to electricity. Waste management systems have come a long way, but I wouldn't say our cities are spotless.
Living Up To Expectations
There we have it, a retro look at what people 100 years ago thought today's society would be like. This sort of past insight is so fascinating, and really shows how far we've come as a society. We've met some of these expectations and exceeded them, while others we improved on so much that we laugh at the mere thought.
The predictions we make for the future also say a lot about where we are today, where our values lie, and what we want to see grow. Where do you think humans will be in another 100 years? What hopes do you have for your children and grandchildren as society continues to progress?
There comes a point where the future is out of our hands, and all we can do is have faith in younger generations that they'll make decisions to make the world a better place. It's natural to worry, but allow yourself that freedom of no responsibility, too. No need to worry about something you can't control.