For years, people with (and without) an influence have shared their opinions and predictions about what life in the future would look like. Most were bizarrely spot on - even iPads were predicted! Wondering what these peculiar predictions could be? Let’s take a closer look at some of the craziest ones from the past. We’ll let you decide which ones they actually got right...
The Most Bizarre Predictions Made About the FuturePublished 4 weeks ago
The Titanic was said to be unsinkable, but sure enough, the state-of-the-art passenger liner, which was the largest ship in its day, was brought down by an iceberg on April 15, 1912. With over 1,500 people dead, it is among the deadliest maritime disasters ever to occur in peacetime.
Oddly enough, a very similar story was told in a novel published in 1898 called Futility, or The Wreck of the Titan. This book, written by Morgan Robertson, told the story of a similarly named ship called the Titan. The Titan was also supposedly unsinkable, and it was also brought down by an iceberg and lacked enough lifeboats for everyone. Robertson was prescient, and a Titanic scholar named Paul Heyer explained that "he was someone who wrote about maritime affairs. He was an experienced seaman, and he saw ships as getting very large and the possible danger that one of these behemoths would hit an iceberg."
In 1876, the telephone was patented by Alexander Graham Bell. It was still over half a century away from widespread adoption, and it wasn’t until 1915 that a coast-to-coast call was made in the U.S. Despite being in the early phases, Nikola Tesla stated in 1909 that "It will soon be possible to transmit wireless messages all over the world so simply that any individual can carry and operate his own apparatus."
This was a completely outrageous concept back then when the telephone was in its early days of use. He went on about cell phones in a 1926 interview, predicting their internet connectivity in ways that few could have even comprehended at the time, saying, "When wireless is perfectly applied the whole earth will be converted into a huge brain.”
Organ transplants were not being performed until the 20th century, with the first major operation being done in 1954, but the man who is considered to be “the father of modern chemistry” had the idea all the way back in 1660. This man, Robert Boyle, was making a “wish list” of the advances to science that he thought we would have in the future.
Among the things he envisioned were “perpetual light,” “the prolongation of life,” “the art of flying,” and many others for a total of 24. Nearly all of them came true, including “The Cure of Diseases at a distance or at least by Transplantation – transplantation and keyhole surgery.” There, of course, is still progress to be made, but it is stunning how ahead of his time Boyle was, especially with such an abstract concept as transplants at a time when organs were little understood.
If you watch Stanley Kubrick’s classic science fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey, you might be struck by a vision of the future where people use sleekly designed tablet computers. The devices are so similar to iPads that when Apple tried to block Samsung's Galaxy tablets from hitting the market in a patent dispute, Samsung claimed that Apple did not come up with the idea, citing the film as the originator of the concept.
The film was based on a book by Arthur C. Clarke, and it featured what were called newspads that could tap “into the ship's information circuit (to) scan the latest reports from Earth. The postage-stamp-size rectangle would expand until it neatly filled the screen. When [an astronaut] had finished, he would flash back to the complete page and select a new subject for detailed examination.” We may not be in space, but these devices are everywhere.
In 1888, a book called Looking Backward was published by Edward Bellamy. The book depicts a utopia and it was among the top-selling books of its day, instantly becoming hugely influential to intellectual movements, especially among socialists. In its utopian vision of the world, one thing that it predicted was the credit card.
In the book, citizens had a punch card "with which he procures at the public storehouses, found in every community, whatever he desires whenever he desires it. This arrangement, you will see, totally obviates the necessity for business transactions of any sort between individuals and consumers." Although it differs from how we use credit cards, the idea to have a card to pay for everything was not something people that many would have imagined at the time.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, Benjamin Franklin and Noah Webster were looking to revamp the English language spelling. In an attempt to simplify spelling, it would be based on sound alone. John Elfreth Watkins, Jr. then predicted that the letters C, X, and Q would be eliminated from the alphabet and replaced by S and K.
Andrew Carnegie even created the Simplified Spelling Board. This organization tried to make learning easier by (as you may have already guessed) simplifying spelling. While President Theodore Roosevelt tried to make changes, it’s safe to say that he did not succeed.
Going back a number of years, predictors believed that people would eventually tire of traditional watersports. Jean-Marc Côté was a French artist who, together with his contemporaries, illustrated the watersports that would replace sailing, surfing, and swimming. Between 1899 and 1910, they produced almost 100 illustrations of the year 2000.
Côté envisioned deep-sea divers riding giant seahorses, people traveling by whale and jockeys racing on the backs of enormous fish. With all these whimsical illustrations, we can’t help but feel like Côté and his contemporaries would be disappointed in how we choose to spend our free time.
Going back just one century, an article published in Lowa’s Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette predicted rain manipulation in the 21st century. This article was published in January 1910, saying that we would be able to make it rain on purpose. While it may sound strange saying it out loud, this prediction is somewhat true.
Today we perform a process called cloud seeding. During this process, clouds are injected with silver iodide. This causes water to collect around the cloud and form rain. Whether it is effective is a topic of debate but one thing is for sure, we’re far from where the prediction thought we would be.
The Moon has long been a fascination for humans, as its proximity makes it one of the most alluring objects in the sky. How many people actually imagined visiting it, though? While science fiction writers dreamed up scenarios where humans could travel in space and land on the moon, few got it more true to life than Jules Verne did in his 1865 classic From Earth to the Moon.
Over a century before the Apollo 11 mission, Verne nailed that feeling of weightlessness before anybody could have known how walking on the moon felt. He also got close regarding a number of details. For example, Apollo 11 launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Orlando, while in the book the launching point was in Tampa, Florida. His book also had three astronauts on the mission, just as in real life. While there was plenty that differed between his vision and reality, including the method of going to the moon via a manned projectile that launched from a cannon and that the astronauts did not even get to walk on the moon, it is very impressive how much he got right.
A rising trend on TikTok is influencers claiming they're from the time-travelers and predicting future occurrences, from alien invasions to Earth's imminent end. One TikTok creator called Eno claims he's from the year 2671 and is predicting an alien attack, with a savior known as "The Champion" transporting "8,000 people will be taken to another habitable planet on March 23, 2023".
"A very hostile alien species is coming to take back Earth, we will not win", Eno posted to his 350,000+ followers. The TikToker's predictions span beyond alien encounters, and include events like the largest solar flare in history in 2026, a Mars colony in 2025, and a wormhole opening near Mars in 2027. These claims have sparked discussions, with viewers debating their authenticity.
If there is a single piece of our modern world that sets us apart from previous eras, it is the internet. While many futuristic concepts that people imagined, such as the cell phone and the still not achieved flying car, are advanced versions of preexisting creations, the internet is its own thing entirely, and it is something that most people could never have begun to imagine.
One person who did imagine the internet was Mark Twain. He wrote a short story in 1898 titled "From the 'London Times' of 1904.” In this futuristic story, he had a device called the “telectroscope” which shared information around the world via the phone network. He detailed, with amazing accuracy, a future with "the daily doings of the globe… visible to everybody, and audibly discussable too, by witnesses separated by any number of leagues.`"
17 December 1903 saw the Wright brothers’ famous first flight. Since the earliest aircraft were taking off around this time, it’s no surprise that people predicted a future with air travel. They believed that by now, our primary mode of transport would be unusual flying machines.
It was approximately 10 years after the first flight before the first commercial flight took off. It carried one whole passenger from St. Petersburg to Tampa, Florida, and covered a mere 20 miles. This may seem like an insignificant distance to us, but to them, it was a glimpse at what was to come.
Inventor Nikola Tesla felt very strongly that caffeine was a harmful stimulant that was poisoning our systems. He predicted that by the 21st-century people would have surely realized its health impact and stopped drinking it. Then again, Tesla only needed two hours of sleep every night, without the help of coffee. So we guess that his prediction shouldn’t come as a surprise.
What should come as a surprise was his opinion about alcohol. He thought that alcohol would stick around, calling it the “elixir of life.” While he may have been right about it being a magical potion, we’re pretty sure that it doesn’t aid in prolonging life.
As the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s unfolded, many dreamed of the day when they would see a black president, and although it would not come for a number of decades, the seeds of opportunity were planted in that period. What nobody could have guessed, though, was a president named Obama.
One man came close, though. The writer John Brunner published a science fiction novel in 1969 called Stand on Zanzibar. Set in 2010, the writer envisioned a future that was more accurate than most. It featured satellite news, DVRs, legalized marijuana, and living with the threat of terrorism. The most remarkable coincidence, though, was that America had a “President Obomi” as its head of state!
In 1952, Robert A. Heinlein predicted that in the 21st-century people would be eating a lot less beef. This science fiction author believed that instead, we would get our protein from fish and yeast. In 1964 another popular science fiction author took Heinlein’s predictions a step further.
Isaac Asimov suggested that by 2014 the World’s Fair would feature an Algae Bar. He envisioned this bar having “mock-turkey” and “pseudosteak.” Asimov went on to suggest that these meals “won’t be bad at all.” While more and more people are choosing meat-like substances, they’re most certainly not made from algae. We suppose one could argue that he wasn’t far off.
In 1950, Valdemar Kaempffert spoke to Popular Mechanics about his predictions for the next generation. Kaempffert believed that hurricanes would no longer be a problem for us by the year 2000. How, you ask? Well, it’s quite simple really.
All we’d need to do is start a large oil fire in the ocean. The air around it would be drawn in and stop the hurricane in its tracks “somehow.” Unfortunately, his prediction never explained what would happen to our oil-filled ocean. Instead, he decided to leave Popular Mechanics with a new prediction. He believed that we would be able to avoid flight delays by diverting storms.
Dreams of being able to control the weather seemed to be popular throughout the 1900s. Theodore Hildebrand & Sohn, a German chocolate company, even hopped onto the trend and released a series of illustrated cards. Each card had on it their best predictions about what life in the 21st century would look like.
Imagine seeing a huge storm rolling in. Except, you’re not worried because you know that there’s a “good weather machine” that will just blow the storm away. While Theodore Hildebrand & Sohn should’ve been focusing on what they were good at (making chocolate, not predictions), The Boston Globe decided to get involved. It suggested that by now, we’d be able to generate a cool breeze whenever it got too hot outside.
Much like his predictions about caffeine and alcohol, Tesla had the wrong idea about what would be considered headline-worthy news. He predicted that 21st-century newspapers would headline scientific research and hypotheses. But where would crime or political controversies be, you ask? “In the back pages that nobody read.”
He predicted that our news headlines would focus on exciting discoveries and new possibilities. That the ugly parts of our world would be so insignificant that they could be pushed to the back pages. Can you even imagine a world like this? His positive attitude makes us wish it were true.
Unlike many of the other predictors, Isaac Asimov never believed that we’d be able to control the weather. But he did think that by the 21st century we’d have figured out how to avoid it. Asimov predicted that people would live underground and use advanced light technology to give it an outdoor feel. Instead of living on it, we would be using the earth’s surface for agriculture, pastures, and parks.
But his prediction didn’t end with vast underground cities. By the early 2000s, Asimov believed that people would be making waves and figuring out how to live underwater. He thought that the idea of living underwater would particularly appeal to the lovers of water sports.
It was John Elfreth Watkins, Jr. who, in 1900, predicted that our fruits and vegetables would be huge. In The Ladies Home Journal, he described the size of strawberries and blueberries as being “as large as apples.” Peas and beans he pictured being a similar size to beetroots. A few years went by and as the predictions got crazier, our fruits and vegetables got even larger.
In 1956, George Serviss predicted that by the year 2000, hydrogen bombs in the soil would create monster vegetables. Serviss spoke to the Independent Press-Telegram’s Magazine Southland about what exactly he pictured. According to him, the 21st century held 3-foot-long carrots, 4-foot-wide turnips, and basketball-sized tomatoes.
In 1914, H.G. Wells published the novel The World Set Free. The book speaks of an atomic bomb that in its place leaves "perished museums, cathedrals, palaces, libraries, galleries of masterpieces and a vast accumulation of human achievement whose charred remains lie buried, a legacy of curious material that only future generations may hope to examine."
This was over three decades before the actual atomic bombs went off. It was not until 1945 that the atomic bombs went off in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, on August 6 and 9 respectively. The aftermath of the bombs, with hundreds of thousands of deaths and the unspeakable horrors of living through it, was truly catastrophic, but it was not unexpected.
In 1930, a book called The World in 2030 A.D. was published by Frederick Edwin Smith. He was Britain’s former Lord Chancellor and Winston Churchill’s close friend. In this book, Smith describes a world where everyone had their own airplane, perfect for weekend trips with the family.
He described, “Skiing parties in Greenland will be made up in London clubs on Saturday mornings, and translated into action before the same evening.” Struggling to control greenhouse gasses as it is, imagine a world where we all had our own airplane!
Streaming has become the default way of watching a movie at home, and most people can hardly remember the days when Netflix was a company that used to send people movies through the mail. It seems inevitable that this is the path movies took, but if you had told people 30 years ago that you would watch movies over the internet, they may not even have known what the internet is.
One person who saw it coming was the famous film critic Roger Ebert. He gave an interview in 1987 where he discussed the future of the medium. "We will have high-definition, wide-screen television sets and a push-button dialing system to order the movie you want at the time you want it. You'll not go to a video store but instead, order a movie on demand and then pay for it. Videocassette tapes as we know them now will be obsolete both for showing prerecorded movies and for recording movies,” he said. The words “dialing system” date his prediction, but otherwise it is spot on.
The dream of personal airplanes for everyone was one of Smith’s more conservative predictions for the future. He also believed that by the 21st century, we would have watered the Sahara Desert. No need to reread that sentence, you have in fact read it correctly.
Smith thought that we would build a canal that would funnel water from the Mediterranean Sea to the Sahara Desert. With portions of the desert below sea level, it would create a “new Riviera.” He believed that this land would have a “fertile charm”, competing with Florida and Southern France beaches. Spoiler alert! None of this has happened yet.
The telephone was not the only major achievement of Alexander Graham Bell. The inventor also was an important figure in optical telecommunications, aeronautics, hydrofoils, and other fields, and his wide range of expertise led him to write a paper in 1917 where he predicted global warming.
As he wrote in the paper, we would “have a sort of greenhouse effect” from all of the fossil fuels being burnt. This would turn our planet into “a sort of hot-house,” and he questioned where we would go when we use up the planet’s supply of oil and coal. Among his ideas were to use solar power and to make fuel out of alcohol. Bell’s views on the planet’s ecological welfare did not spread much after he wrote it, but over a century later his ideas are as relevant as ever.
Smith despised the clothing of his time. How do we know? Well, he described them as being ridiculous, overly complicated, and unhygienic. He hoped that by 2030 we would have come to our senses and own only three, simple outfits. One would be for work, another for recreation, and the last for formal occasions.
The closest his prediction came to be true, is the three categories of clothes today. But, those living in industrialized nations most certainly own more than one pair of each, especially sweatpants (thanks pandemic)!
Smith hoped clothing would be simplified and Heinlein agreed, but maybe a little too much. The eager Heinlein thought that people in the future would see no need for clothing at all. In the future, he pictured people only covering up for strangers and old, conservative relatives. He also believed that psychiatrists would recommend nakedness around the house. How he thought that this would actually help improve our mental stability, we’re unsure. But thankfully, public nudity is still a no-no.
Luckily, there were some fashion critics who believed that women would still be wearing clothes in the 2000s. A film from British Pathé portrayed women of the 21st century wearing headlights and zip-on, zip-off garments. We agree that they were way off with what we consider to be fashionable, but at least they pictured us fully clothed.
Along with public nudity, Heinlein also predicted that there would no longer be state lines. He believed that by the 1990s, the United States would have passed a constitutional amendment to abolish them. State lines still exist and the District of Columbia is actually still trying to become one.
With a population of more than 40 million people, Asimov was sure that Boston, Washington, D.C., and the area in between would have merged to become one. While this hasn’t happened, in 2010 this corridor did hold about 50 million people.
Alec Guinness, best known today for playing Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars, was a well-known actor in the 1960s, having won an Oscar and been nominated for a few others by the time he was spotted at a restaurant by James Dean on September 23, 1965. Guinness was trying to get into a restaurant with a friend but it was full so they got turned away. As they were leaving, James Dean, the biggest young star of his day, ran out to Guinness and introduced himself, asking Guinness to join him.
As they were heading into the restaurant, Dean showed Guinness his new car, boasting that it could get up to 150 miles per hour. Guinness said that at that moment, "Some strange thing came over me." He went on to tell Dean, “Please do not get into that car, because if you do … by 10 o'clock at night next Thursday, you'll be dead." Sure enough, exactly one week later Dean got in a car accident that took his life.
After the first moving sidewalk debuted at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, people thought that they would be everywhere! Following The Columbian Movable Sidewalk Company, in 1900 the Paris Exposition Universelle featured a slightly shorter moving sidewalk. Despite a number of attempts to install them in major cities, the idea of using moving sidewalks everywhere ultimately failed. And it failed for a number of reasons.
Having moving sidewalks all over the city raised maintenance and weather concerns. But it also raised concerns about their efficiency. Moving sidewalks are designed to move slowly so that people can get on and off safely. But they actually move so slowly, that walking is faster. Jerry Seinfeld also pointed out that people who just stand on it for a free ride are not helping make its case.
In 1788, Benjamin Franklin believed that people in the future would live to be really old. Whatever age you’re thinking, try doubling or even tripling it! In a letter to Reverend John Lathrop, Franklin wrote about people living as long as the biblical patriarchs from the Book of Genesis.
To put this into perspective, Noah and his grandfather were said to have lived until they were 950 and 969 years old, respectively. While you spend time imagining what a 900-year-old person would look and feel like, here’s another absurd Heinlein prediction. He believed that the 21st century’s moon would have nursing homes on it, capable of slowing down the aging process.
There are few people today who can give us more reliable a look at where the world is headed than Bill Gates. He made a list of 15 predictions in 1999, and nearly all of them have come true. Among these predictions are online price comparison resources, smartphones, and online healthcare, which were all pretty reasonable to expect.
One thing he predicted that sounded more like a sci-fi concept was the idea of smart homes. "Constant video feeds of your house will become common, which inform you when somebody visits while you are not home." Sure enough, we are well past that being a novelty, and we have gone into a stage where we have integrated our home’s capabilities into our phones, being able to do tasks such as adjusting the temperature and answering the door.
Finally, Heinlein was able to come up with a theory that we could get on board with! He named his idea the “whirlwind.” The “whirlwind” was a machine that would work automatically and at regular intervals to remove dust from your home. But, just how strong and disruptive would this “whirlwind” be?
Surprisingly, Heinlein had an answer to that. He believed that the machine would be able to detect the radiation of heat at body temperature. If the machine detected any body temperature, it would postpone its duties until no heat was detected.
How messy would our texts be without autocorrect? We have come to depend on it so much that when it gets turned off our messages turn into total gibberish. However, despite its benefits, it is full of hilariously bad edits that make us scratch our heads. Of course, this was predicted in 1994 by the cultural institution that predicted nearly everything in our modern world: The Simpsons.
The episode in question featured an early version of a digital personal assistant from Apple called Newton. Kearney tells a bully to beat up Martin, but when “Beat up Martin” gets written down, Newton thinks it says “Eat up Martha.” This was referenced by Apple when its director of engineering for iOS applications said that they had this in mind when they were updating the iPhone’s software. "If you heard people talking and they used the words 'Eat up Martha,' it was basically a reference to the fact that we needed to nail the keyboard. We needed to make sure the text input works on this thing. Otherwise, 'Here comes the Eat up Marthas.'"
According to a 1950 Associated Press article, by the year 2000, we should’ve had our first man-made star in space. The article claimed that this star would orbit the earth 400 to 500 miles away and reflect sunlight. If you think about the fact that the moon is almost 24,000 miles from the earth, that may put things into perspective for you. But somewhere in the article, they describe the star as a spaceship.
This makes you wonder if the writer even knew what a star was! If you choose to believe that they were referring to a spaceship, then their prediction may be viewed as correct. It may be correct because the International Space Station orbits the earth from about 248 miles away.
James Earl Jones is the iconic deep voice of Darth Vader, but he did not play the actual physical character. The man in the costume was David Prowse. He probably never thought he’d get famous from playing a character whose face you cannot even see, but Star Wars was such an insane success that anyone and everyone who had anything to do with the film basically became a minor celebrity.
After the release of the first film, Prowse was constantly asked about the sequel. In 1978, he was speaking about it at a fan event, and he said that in the second film we will get to know that Darth Vader did not kill Luke’s father, but actually is Luke’s father. The most famous plot twist in history is now well known, but strangely enough, at the time Prowse spoke about it, it was unlikely that he would have known. George Lucas decided to keep the plot twist out of the script so that there was no chance of it leaking out. Prowse may have been deliberately misleading the audience, only to accidentally be telling the truth. Sadly, on November 28th, 2020 David Prowse passed away at the age of 85. May the force be with him in the next life.
The same Associated Press article pictured the 21st century having “four-dimensional” movie theaters. In these dome-shaped theaters, the action unfolded on the screen and all around you. If a character steps into the street on the screen, you better look behind you because a car may be coming!
While this experience seems more stressful than anything, virtual reality is moving in this immersive direction. But at the moment, our 3-D glasses used in theaters today don’t quite have the same effect.
At the turn of the 20th century, photography was still highly novel. Eastman released the Brownie in 1900, and it was the first camera on the market that was affordable to most people, costing only a single dollar, which adjusting for inflation comes to around $31. This was revolutionary, but in that same year, an engineer named John Elfreth Watkins had an idea that was even more revolutionary.
He gave a vision of the future that unfortunately, we don’t live in. His predictions that mosquitos and house flies would go extinct and that college would become free are still dreams. His craziest idea, though, is actually one we are living with. He predicted digital photography and was pretty accurate, writing that “photographs will reproduce all of nature's colors” and could be taken "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." He understood the internet and its relationship to photography when he foresaw cameras anywhere on the planet being “connected electrically with screens at opposite ends of circuits, thousands of miles at a span."
Vladimir Odoyevsky was a Russian prince who was a well-known philosopher, music critic, and writer. He was often dubbed the “Russian Hoffmann,” referring to Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann, as well as the “Russian Faust.” His life and career are noteworthy even if you don’t know that he came up with the idea of blogging all the way back in 1835.
It was then that he published the book Year 4338. This novel looked far ahead into the future to describe a world that has a lot in common with our own today. The internet was basically theorized by him when he described homes as "connected by means of magnetic telegraphs that allow people who live far from each other to communicate." These homes would have daily releases of journals that told readers "about the hosts' good or bad health, family news, different thoughts and comments, small inventions, [and] invitations to receptions.” It is amazing how a man living almost 200 years ago understood what a world with the internet is like.
The Chicago Cubs won their first World Series in 1907, and they won again in 1908. They did not win another world series for over 108 years, the longest drought in the history of the MLB. After a certain point, nearly all hope was lost, but in 1993 a teenager in California named Mike Lee believed in them.
Mike Lee was a senior at Mission Viejo High School that year, and under his photo in his yearbook was the following prophecy: “Chicago Cubs. 2016. World Champions. You heard it here first.” It really is a wild guess, especially when you consider it is so specific and pretty far away from the actual event. Sure enough, Mike’s premonition came true, and after the Cubs won, his friend Marcos Meza told the story to the public.
How did anybody even get around before GPS? This is one of those ideas that was so good that even before it came out we couldn’t help but imagine it. In 1993, Tom Selleck did the voiceover for a series of commercials for AT&T called "You Will," and the ads were full of futuristic technology. Some of it is comically out of date, such as a mother going to a video phone booth to tuck in her baby, when today’s smartphones can do much better.
However, a lot of the ideas in the idea have become pretty ordinary to us, including digital library research, electronic road tolls, tablet computers, and more. At one point, Selleck asks, “Have you ever crossed the country without stopping for directions?” and we see a GPS screen in the car. Six years later, GPS technology was declassified by President Clinton, and from that point on it became more and more accessible to the point where everybody has it on their phones.