Foretelling is a hard business, mostly because precognition isn’t a thing everyone has, and time machines are at a premium of infinity dollars. That hasn’t stopped people from penning their current thoughts as future ones, and it had no bearing on David Goodman Croly, a US journalist who, way back in 1888 inked his predictions in a compilation entitled “Glimpses of the Future”. What separates Croly from most is that he actually got a number of facts very, very right.
Greg Ross over at Futility Chest has kindly pulled out some of Croly’s more prescient declarations, a few of which I’ve highlighted below:
“The accumulation of wealth in a few hands, which is steadily going on, will unquestionably lead to a grave agitation which may have vital consequences on the future of the country. I am quite sure that the American of the twentieth century will not consent to live under a merely selfish plutocracy.”
“Marriage is no longer a religious rite even in Catholic countries, but a civil contract, and the logical result would seem to be a state of public opinion which would justify a change of partners whenever the contracting couple mutually agreed to separate.”
“If the aërostat should become as cheap for travellers as the sailing vessel, why may not man become migratory, like the birds, occupying the more mountainous regions and sea-coast in summer and more tropical climes in winter? Of course all this seems very wild, but we live in an age of scientific marvels, and the navigation of the air, if accomplished, would be the most momentous event of all the ages.”
“[In the novel of the future,] Robert Elsmere, Catherine Langham, and the other individuals, would all be reproduced pictorially. This would dispense with a great deal of description, and much of the verbiage could be cut out. Then the reader’s conception of the characters would necessarily be much more vivid. Nor is this all. Why should not a number of graphophones be made use of, giving the words of the various conversations in the tones they would naturally use? An author then would employ a number of men and women of various ages to personate his characters. They would be like the models of an artist.”
What makes these predictions particularly impressive — other than being over 100 years old — is that Croly does his best to be as descriptive as possible, using terminology of the time. Obviously, there are some generalisations, but they are far and few between.
The journalist himself wrote that we were to “judge” these back in 2000, but as you can see, 12 years has done little to dampen their accuracy.