Published in the Dayton Daily News - Sep 29, 1920. What stands out to me is that the author believed that entirely new forms of power would be in use in 2020... and while wind, solar, and nuclear do provide some power nowadays, the old forms of power (coal and gas) still dominate. So the author was too optimistic about the pace of change.
Wooden houses may not be known in 2020. The street cars, railroad cars, and other familiar methods of travel doubtless will have passed the way of history a century from this hour. Out of all the agencies which men use today electricity alone seems likely to survive. Many scientific men believe that coal and gas will have passed out of common use within the century.
Some one has suggested that the air and the water will furnish us our methods of heat and power in 2020. No one can doubt but that the flying machines of a new and important type, not known today, will be in general use a century removed.
Airplanes probably will be driven by electricity with storage batteries providing the power. Gasoline is not likely to be utilized in 2020. The fuel problem will be solved in a far different way than it is solved now. The air will provide an immense motive power for various things. The sun, doubtless, will be called upon to furnish the greater portion of the heat utilized by manking. Out of the waters on the face of the earth something will be developed for the benefit of the human family.
The automobile will be succeeded by something entirely different. Horses and cows may not be known.
Students of the human race have told us that the primitive man, like the primitive animal, was great in stature. The bones that the scientists have unearthed have verified this. Maybe human beings a century hence will become either much smaller of much larger than they are today. Everything will have changed.
A century past has given us an unlimited amount of great inventions, the sewing machine, electric irons, electric washing machines, airplanes, automobiles, radium and electricity. The next 100 years will see this process of enlargement carried on until it reaches even greater heights.
It may not be a cheerful picture to paint, but most of us will not be here to see the year 2020 roll around. But we can rest assured time will bring changes and improvements. This is a progressive earth and progress has marked each succeeding year since the beginning.
Unlikely as it may seem, there are researchers who claim to have discovered something better than sex. At McGill University in Canada, Psychologist James Olds used electrodes to locate specific “pleasure centers” in the brains of rats, and then allowed the animals, electrodes still in place, to stimulate themselves by pressing a lever. Given a choice, the rats preferred this new pleasure to food, water and sex. Some pressed the lever as many as 8,000 times an hour for more than a day, stopping only when they fainted from fatigue.
Such experiments lead Herman Kahn of the Hudson Institute to predict that by the year 2000, people will be able to wear chest consoles with ten levers wired to the brain’s pleasure centers. Fantasies Kahn: “Any two consenting adults might play their consoles together. Just imagine all the possible combinations: ‘Have you ever tried ten and five together?” couples would ask. Or, ‘How about one and one”’ But I don’t think you should play your own console; that would be depraved.”
Back in 1969, fashion designer Bonnie Cashin offered both a pessimistic and optimistic prediction for how people would be dressing in 2019. I'm guessing her illustration is supposed to show the optimistic one.
The pessimistic prediction:
If the very air we breathe continues to be poisoned... If the earth and sea food-yields are destroyed... If noise continues to batter the eardrums... If violence continues unabated... If the population continues to explode...
Then each of us may have to wear an environmental covering just to survive. This would be a kind of life-preserving incubator which we would be put into at birth, never to leave. This would serve as an individual habitat. There might be no private homes as we know them. Communities of people would be "stored" for sleeping in giant, multi-level containers, probably according to income level.
In this gear, perhaps called an "environmode," there would be an oxygen system, a speaker system and other devices to maintain bodily functions and self-protection. It would be made of some still-to-be-invented material which articulates with movements of the body. It would have to be close-fitting, but it might be very light and transparent. Underneath would be worn a second-skin garment. In this, the individual might be able to express some personal taste in the choice of color and texture.
The fashion market as we know it would become extinct. A market for new kinds of accessories would come into being, individuality being possible in headgear, oxygen bag, the kind of ray gun you carry and such.
New York Sunday News, Coloroto Magazine - Sep 7, 1969
The optimistic one:
If, by some lovely miracle, Washington would immediately relinquish its Model T political thinking and grant first priority to the survival of the human being... If the brilliant minds that put man on the moon are teamed with social scientists and architects on a crash program for the "scientific restructure of man on earth," by 2019 we will have triggered a renaissance that will see exploration beyond man's oldest, and newest, dreams...
The young will no longer need to look at the world through a rear-view mirror, dressing as Edwardians or gypsies or biblical characters to make their point. They will be too busy planning ahead. They will look at their bodies with pride, conducting themselves with grace.
The "in" four-letter words might be "work" and "give." And "love," in the most delightful sense. I see young people of a half century from now looking absolutely marvelous, because they reflect the great environment in which they will live. Fashion's role will be as an adjunct to the fully involved life, not a fad, not a relief from boredom or a comic relief. And not just big business.
The future look is clean, unencumbered, free and much more individual in the pure sense than fashion is today — almost, you might say, non-fashion. I see color a much greater dimension than it is now, the head-to-toe effect composed, somewhat, as a walking collage. People will be educated to this, and each person will, in a sense, be able to design himself. Cosmetics will play a large role, not so much as facial adornment but as body insulation or chemistry to protect from extreme cold or heat. This, along with actual weather control, will cancel out the need for heavy clothing and furs. Fabrics and substances yet unborn will employ technology to a creative extent that we have not yet seen. There will be more un-cut-up "dressmaking" techniques used, but the word dressmaker may well be almost extinct. The dart, the seam, the hem, the detail fittings will go into the Brooklyn Museum Design Laboratory archives, along with the obsolete government charts of sizes used in our clothing industry today. Everything will be sized small, medium and tall (not large, because obesity will be a sin). Practically all clothing will be laminated, fused, molded or knitted into shape without sewing. Another technique will be a return to simple draping and tieing — a concept still used in some "developing" countries.
I think, too, that the "layered" concept, which has long been an involvement of mine, will continue in new applications. For instance, six very thin layers of a new substances, each permeated with certain chemical coverings, could be peeled off or donned as the need requires, much like an onion. This is the concept, I think, from which space-travel clothing will evolve, and that evolution should come before 2019.
"The nightmare of traffic jams. On a street in New York City, the postal clerk George A. Compton, immobilized with his car in a traffic jam, after an exasperating wait went berserk. He got out of the car and took off his shoes and started to climb the river of cars, leaping easily from car to car."
"Will cities be like this? Here's how the problem of traffic in cities could be lightened, if not completely solved: tiny single-seater cars that occupy a small area."
Source: La Domenica del Corriere - December 16, 1962 (via ebay)
According to beauty experts in 1967, the women of 2017 would wake up in the morning and make themselves beautiful by applying a paste-on "Moon Maid Mask" that would "change the structure of a face from neckline to hairline."
Other 21st-century beauty enhancements would include:
Toss in the Wash Wigs: A second or two in the supersonic laundry of tomorrow and a girl will be freshly coiffed for jet going.
Instant Youth: Plastic surgery in the form of silicone or other type injections which do in a matter of minutes what now takes weeks of hospital treatment.
The instant youth prediction was fairly close to the mark.
Back in 1969, air-pollution researcher Alfred Hulstrunk had arrived at the pessimistic conclusion that pollution levels were getting so bad that within 10 to 15 years every man, woman, and child would need to wear a breathing helmet to survive outdoors. And within 20 years, he predicted, everyone would have to live in domed cities.
Part of the problem, Hulstrunk believed, was all the stuff that society produced, such as "plastic beer containers that can be burned instead of just discarded." When burned, the beer cans added to air pollution. He noted, "Aesthetically you improve your area so that you don't have beer cans along the road, but now you are breathing beer cans."
Therefore, Hulstrunk had prepared for the future by designing an air pollution survival suit "to prevent inhaling beer cans or any other matter."
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.