Theoden wrote:Whenever I hear such things, I think of how in the 1950s and 1960s everyone thought we would be in flying cars by 2000.
Bill Gates is going senile and becoming irrelevant. The only thing I like about him is his charitable foundation.
Hawt wrote:I'm not sure I saw a reference to this in the previous thread.
Glaucon wrote:The people working the check-out at the supermarkets scan their products, these days. They don't need to type anything in. And in some places, they are being replaced by automatic scanning systems or systems in which the customers have to scan the stuff they buy themselves. Obviously, that is going to lead to less jobs for people working at check-outs.
Some robots can interact socially. Kismet, a robot at M.I.T's Artificial Intelligence Lab, recognizes human body language and voice inflection and responds appropriately. Kismet's creators are interested in how humans and babies interact, based only on tone of speech and visual cue. This low-level interaction could be the foundation of a human-like learning system.
There's no reason for any individual to have a personal computer in his home
~Ken Olsen, founder of legendary minicomputer company DEC
“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”
~IBM Chairman Thomas Watson, 1943
“Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.”
~Lord Kelvin, President of the Royal Society in 1895
“There is practically no chance communications space satellites will be used to provide better telephone, telegraph, television, or radio service inside the United States.”
~FCC Commissioner T. Craven in 1961
1. Digital colour photography
Watkins did not, of course, use the word "digital" or spell out precisely how digital cameras and computers would work, but he accurately predicted how people would come to use new photographic technology.
Grab from The Ladies' Journal
A scan of the original article can be found online
"Photographs will be telegraphed from any distance. If there be a battle in China a hundred years hence, snapshots of its most striking events will be published in the newspapers an hour later.... photographs will reproduce all of nature's colours."
This showed major foresight, says Mr Nilsson. When Watkins was making his predictions, it would have taken a week for a picture of something happening in China to make its way into Western papers.
People thought photography itself was a miracle, and colour photography was very experimental, he says.
"The idea of having cameras gathering information from opposite ends of the world and transmitting them - he wasn't just taking a present technology and then looking to the next step, it was far beyond what anyone was saying at the time."
Patrick Tucker from the World Future Society, based in Maryland in the US, thinks Watkins might even be hinting at a much bigger future breakthrough.
"'Photographs will be telegraphed' reads strikingly like how we access information from the web," says Mr Tucker.
2. The rising height of Americans
"Americans will be taller by from one to two inches."
Watkins had unerring accuracy here, says Mr Nilsson - the average American man in 1900 was about 66-67ins (1.68-1.70m) tall and by 2000, the average was 69ins (1.75m).
Continue reading the main story
How did Watkins do?
image of Patrick Tucker
World Future Society
Watkins' record as a forecaster, based on this small segment of his work, was less than perfect. But that doesn't mean he was a bad futurist. Although he died before the World Future Society was formed in 1966, we would have been honoured to consider him a member. We believe that talking about the future is the most important thing that people do, even though the future, by its nature, is unknowable. We invent the future through our actions and change it constantly. We can never know it fully but we can always be better prepared for what may occur. Watkins helped people begin this act of preparation and considered creation.
World Future Society
BBC experts predict big stories in 2012
Today, it's 69.5ins (1.76m) for men and 64ins (1.63m) for women.
3. Mobile phones
"Wireless telephone and telegraph circuits will span the world. A husband in the middle of the Atlantic will be able to converse with his wife sitting in her boudoir in Chicago. We will be able to telephone to China quite as readily as we now talk from New York to Brooklyn."
International phone calls were unheard of in Watkins' day. It was another 15 years before the first call was made, by Alexander Bell, even from one coast of the US to the other. The idea of wireless telephony was truly revolutionary.
4. Pre-prepared meals
"Ready-cooked meals will be bought from establishment similar to our bakeries of today."
The proliferation of ready meals in supermarkets and takeaway shops in High Streets suggests that Watkins was right, although he envisaged the meals would be delivered on plates which would be returned to the cooking establishments to be washed.
5. Slowing population growth
"There will probably be from 350,000,000 to 500,000,000 people in America [the US]."
The figure is too high, says Nilsson, but at least Watkins was guessing in the right direction. If the US population had grown by the same rate it did between 1800 and 1900, it would have exceeded 1 billion in 2000.
"Instead, it grew just 360%, reaching 280m at the start of the new century."
6. Hothouse vegetables
Winter will be turned into summer and night into day by the farmer, said Watkins, with electric wires under the soil and large gardens under glass.
"Vegetables will be bathed in powerful electric light, serving, like sunlight, to hasten their growth. Electric currents applied to the soil will make valuable plants to grow larger and faster, and will kill troublesome weeds. Rays of coloured light will hasten the growth of many plants. Electricity applied to garden seeds will make them sprout and develop unusually early."
Large gardens under glass were already a reality, says Philip Norman of the Garden Museum in London, but he was correct to predict the use of electricity. Although coloured lights and electric currents did not take off, they were probably experimented with.
Continue reading the main story
Who was J Elfreth Watkins?
Lived from 1852-1903
Was a railroad engineer until he suffered a "disabling" accident in 1873
After that, became a clerk for the Pennsylvania Railroad
In 1885, took a job as curator at the transport section of the US National Museum
Source: Smithsonian Institution Archives
"Electricity certainly features in plant propagation. But the earliest item we have is a 1953 booklet Electricity in Your Garden detailing electrically warmed frames, hotbeds and cloches and electrically heated greenhouses, issued by the British Electrical Development Association.
"We have a 1956 soil heater, used in soil to assist early germination of seeds in your greenhouse."
"Man will see around the world. Persons and things of all kinds will be brought within focus of cameras connected electrically with screens at opposite ends of circuits, thousands of miles at a span."
Watkins foresaw cameras and screens linked by electric circuits, a vision practically realised in the 20th Century by live international television and latterly by webcams.
Tweets praised Watkins' accuracy
"Huge forts on wheels will dash across open spaces at the speed of express trains of today."
Leonardo da Vinci had talked about this, says Nilsson, but Watkins was taking it further. There weren't many people that far-sighted.
9. Bigger fruit
"Strawberries as large as apples will be eaten by our great-great-grandchildren."
Lots of larger varieties of fruit have been developed in the past century, but Watkins was over-optimistic with regard to strawberries.
10. The Acela Express
"Trains will run two miles a minute normally. Express trains one hundred and fifty miles per hour."
Exactly 100 years after writing those words, to the very month, Amtrak's flagship high-speed rail line, the Acela Express, opened between Boston and Washington, DC. It reaches top speeds of 150mph, although the average speed is considerably less than that. High-speed rail in other parts of the world, even in 2000, was considerably faster.
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