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What was the future like 100 years ago?

What was the future like 100 years ago?


How different was the world in 1915 from today

This article comes from an edited transcript of remarks delivered by David Ewing Duncan on April 21, 2015. 

Let's go back to 1915 for a second and imagine we are holding a meeting like this asking what would the world be like in a hundred years. We actually know the answers now.  Will we be around in a hundred years to be able to know the answers then?  Well, we'll find out.

I went on Wikipedia looked up 1915 – of course that is an invention that no would have guessed in 1915, that we could go into a little box with a screen and pull out all this data.  World War I was raging at the time.  It was not the quick and easy war that people thought it was going to be when it started. This was a 20th century war. We had airplanes, submarines, zeppelins and terrible new weapons like gas warfare.  Actually, the field telephone was invented that year, which they used in warfare. War has a tendency to speed up technology sometimes. 

“In 1915 they had the basic outlines of what our world is like a hundred years later... with some notable exceptions."

In politics the US House yet again rejected women's suffrage. Birth of a Nation and The Tramp were in theaters.  We had film but we didn't have sound yet, and it was pretty clunky compared to what we have today.

No CGI, although Birth of a Nation for its day was kind of amazing with its special effects.

We had an agency that was created, or at least an advisory committee, that ended up being NASA later on. There was science fiction at the time that talked about going into space.  We of course had baseball which I love.  Babe Ruth had his first home run that year.

Einstein's general theory of relativity was formulated: and the millionth automobile was produced. And this is all just a way of saying that in 1915 they had the basic outlines of what our world is like a hundred years later with some notable exceptions. In fact they even had the Complete Idiots Guide to Beating Stress released that year. That seems like a very present day thing. 

The phrase OMG was invented that year, apparently used for the first time in a missive from a British admiral to Winston Churchill, the First Lord of the Admiralty. An EKG was used for the first time. So the one big omission of course on this list is medical technologies which were very, very primitive in 1915. People were dying of things like diabetes. Insulin was not really discovered and properly used until about ten years later. You could go on with that list.  Obviously no antibiotics, so infectious diseases raged. 

David Ewing Duncan is the curator and co-founder of Arc Fusion and an award-winning journalist and bestselling author.