Back in 1931, during another period of economic malaise, The New York Times asked some big thinkers what the world will look in another 80 years. (That is, in 2011.) Some proved to be fairly prescient. Take, for example, William James Mayo (a founder of the Mayo Clinic) who said:
Contagious and infectious diseases have been largely overcome, and the average length of life of man has increased to fifty-eight years. The great causes of death in middle and later life are diseases of heart, blood vessels and kidneys, diseases of the nervous system, and cancer. The progress that is being made would suggest that within the measure of time for this forecast the average life time of civilized man would be raised to the biblical term of three-score and ten [read: 70 years of age].
That’s not a bad guess, seeing that most Westerners now have a life expectancy somewhere in the high 70s. But then, writing in the midst of the Great Depression, the industrialist Henry Ford made this prediction:
We shall go over our economic machine and redesign it, not for the purpose of making something different than what we have, but to make the present machine do what we have said it could do. After all, the only profit of life is life itself, and I believe that the coming eighty years will see us more successful in passing around the real profit of life. The newest thing in the world is the human being. And the greatest changes are to be looked for in him.
Has our economic machine really been redesigned? And has our economic system “passed around the real profit of life?” It’s hard to say an emphatic yes as we stumble into 2011. And I wouldn’t be surprised if Ford’s vision seems even more remote in 2012.
For more prophecies from 1931, please visit the Abnormal Use blog that unearthed this fine treasure…