It would seem that, for as long as humanity has existed, we’ve been wondering what the world will look like in the future. This has been especially true since the Industrial Revolution, when technology started to advance at an exponential rate.
With so much going on, it’s no surprise why people wondered what new and exciting advances would change their lives.
These 20 prints from late 19th- and early 20th-century artists show just how they imagined the world might look 100 years in the future. Now that we’re living in those times, how do you think their predictions compare?
1. Can you imagine how helpful it would be if we could teach children (or adults, for that matter) everything that they needed to know simply by grinding up a bunch of books? Sure, the internet pretty much grants us access to the entirety of human knowledge, but it can’t feed it all directly into our brains… yet.
2. It wasn’t that long ago that we were promised flying cars, but people living in the last century took it a step further by imagining flying taxis. It makes you wonder how exactly one would hail an aero-cab from the ground. Unfortunately, that’s a question for another day; it looks it’s still going to be a long time from now before our current cars leave the ground.
3. Speaking of flying cars, how about flying fugitives? Folks evidently thought that, in the future, police officers would be able to pursue criminals through the air. Of course, the bad guys would be airborne as well, so apparently it would be a relatively even playing field.
4. If police officers could have huge, functional, da Vinci-like wings, then so should firefighters. This might be a good idea for modern times. Buildings will probably be much taller in the future, so we should be prepared for any and all emergencies!
5. While farming has certainly become more technologically advanced in the past century, we haven’t quite gotten to the point yet where a single farmer can perform all of a farm’s operations from the comfort of his own porch!
6. Though we do have submarines, nothing could match the appeal of an underwater school bus powered by a tamed whale. Still, it would seem unfair to the whales to put them to work like that. Thankfully, actual technology has rendered them unnecessary for such a vehicle!
7. Apparently, the kids of the future would entertain themselves with a “croquet party” at the bottom of the ocean. How would the physics work for something like this? It just seems like more trouble than it’s worth, especially when you can, presumably, still play croquet on land.
8. The notion that entire towns could be transported from place to place through the power of an ordinary freight train certainly sounds helpful. That is, until you start wondering how they got the buildings on and off the trains in the first place.
9. While it might be cool to be able to “walk on water” like a certain famous Nazarene, it doesn’t seem like this illustrator thought things through. Not even a pair of wooden skis would keep those long skirts and slacks from getting soaked.
10. A roof over a whole city seems like a great idea for about a millisecond before you realize how disastrous it really is. Besides the fact that you literally need rain for a landscape to survive, this would be terribly impractical! Just guy an umbrella.
11. This machine concept would control the weather by “blowing” away the storm clouds. That’s not… how clouds work. Surely, people in the late 19th century already understood that weather was a natural and necessary part of life, right?
12. These fully-functional hair-cutting machines were going to put human barbers out of business! In a lot of ways, machines have already put many human jobs at risk, so they weren’t entirely off the mark. Still, the thought of a robot armed with a razor is terrifying.
13. The fight between a battleship and a battle blimp seems a bit one-sided, no? If nothing else, this really goes to show how promising zeppelin technology must have seemed before the Hindenburg disaster dashed everyone’s dreams.
14. It must be nice for this maid to be able to clean the house by remotely controlling this robot-esque scrubbing machine, but it almost looks unnecessary. What’s the point of this thing anyway? Is it basically just a Roomba?
15. The idea that people would be racing on eels by now is certainly entertaining, but it’s still pretty silly. It would certainly pose a logistical problem. After all, have you ever seen an eel? They’re so thin! How could you ride on them?
16. This artist really seemed to be preoccupied with the idea that humans would soon be spending a whole lot of time underwater. That said, the concept of fishing for seagulls is utterly bizarre. More like “fishing for people.” The worried expression on the fish’s face says it all.
17. There are those goofy airships again! It may seem silly, but apparently, many people really did think that this was the technology of the future. It certainly seems pleasant enough, although most modern folks would probably find it terrifying.
18. This one is just baffling. Why would humanity ever need railway ships? By the time this was painted, ordinary ships had already existed for thousands of years! Why would we need to go through the trouble of putting them on rails?
19. Similarly, the idea of moving sidewalks seem a bit needlessly complicated and unnecessary. Of course, many airports use this technology to great effect, but most humans are still walking around the city streets like we normally would without a problem!
20. Finally, we have at least one piece of technology that certainly came true in our time: video calls. Heck, we don’t even need to use needlessly complicated earpieces like these—although oversized, 1980s-style headphones are making a comeback.
Sure, some of these ideas may seem silly. Still, it’s important to remember how our own predictions of the future might look the same way a hundred years from now! Do you think by then we’ll finally have flying cars?
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