In 1900, an American civil engineer called John Elfreth Watkins made a number of predictions about what the world would be like in 2000. How did he do?
As is customary at the start of a new year, the media have been full of predictions about what may happen in the months ahead.
But a much longer forecast made in 1900 by a relatively unknown engineer has been recirculating in the past few days.
In December of that year, at the start of the 20th Century, John Elfreth Watkins wrote a piece published on page eight of an American women’s magazine, Ladies’ Home Journal, entitled What May Happen in the Next Hundred Years.
He began the article with the words: “These prophecies will seem strange, almost impossible,” explaining that he had consulted the country’s “greatest institutions of science and learning” for their opinions on 29 topics.
Tip: Fortean Times
The original article is here The Predictor Who Got It Right (Mostly)
Watkins was not psychic. As noted, he was making informed predictions after consulting others. So what did he get right? Things like fast trains (he worked for the railroad), larger population, humans taller on average, digital color photography, wireless telephones, ready-made meals, hothouse grown produce, television, among other things. But considering what he knew, these were not a really far stretch.
Modern day psychics ought to take a lesson… do your homework! Don’t prophecize crazy natural disasters that aren’t feasible (like oversized earthquakes or sudden giant volcanoes outside the plate boundaries) or really silly things like celebrities abducted by space aliens. It’s not that hard to guess about the future and be close. Just follow the trajectories and play the odds.