Visionaries Imagine 2011 in 1931

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…

via @eugenephoto

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