Thursday, January 24

Time Machine

Wake me when the War of the Worlds gets going. I mean to take nothing away from Mr. H.G. Wells but come on, the speed of travel hastened, cities got bigger, the rich got richer, the poor got poorer. Surely Herbert George was not the only man of his day to foresee these happenings. Still, if you've gotta sell books I suppose it can't hurt to call these forecasts remarkable:
About 80 percent of the dozens of predictions in Wells’s 1901 book, Anticipations, were at least partly right and 60 percent were “ex­tremely accurate,” writes Paul Crabtree, a retired federal analyst. Wells foresaw dramatic increases in the speed of travel, with most people transported in independent road vehicles and only heavy freight moving by rail. He recognized the future of the airplane, but relegated it to a footnote. He expected the size of cities to expand expon­entially until the New York metropolitan area encompassed 40 million people—it has 19 million residents today. He thought the “irresponsible” wealthy class would grow, as would a poor, uneducable under­class whom technology would render unemployable. He predicted the decline of mar­riage and an in­crease in childless unions. Ma­chines and technology would be­come the primary means of waging war, he wrote; military victories would be won “in the schools and colleges and univer­sities.” He foresaw English—“but perhaps French”—becoming the dominant world language. He recog­nized the globalization that is a hallmark of the world economy a century ­hence.

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