In 1922, a Novelist Predicts What the World Will Look Like in 2022: Wireless Telephones, 8-Hour Flights to Europe & More




A century ago, the popular English novelist W.L. George sat down and put his mind to envisioning the world we live in today. That world has not, alas, turned out to be one in which his books are much read, but in his day a great many readers were moved by his social cause-driven fiction and reportage. One might compare him to Upton Sinclair, his contemporary on the other side of the Atlantic. In the Paris-born-and-raised George’s ancestral homeland, George Orwell described him as an author of what G.K. Chesterton called “good bad books,” singling out for praise his 1920 novel Caliban amid the “shoddy rubbish” of his wider oeuvre.

Still even authors of rubbish — and perhaps especially authors of rubbish — can sense the shape of things to come. For its edition of May 7, 1922, the New York Herald commissioned George to share that sense with their readers. In response he described a world in which “commercial flying will have become entirely commonplace,” reducing the separation of America and Europe to eight hours, and whose passenger steamers and railroads will have consequently fallen into obsolescence. “Wireless telegraphy and wireless telephones will have crushed the cable system,” resulting in generations who’ll never have seen “a wire outlined against the sky.”

That goes for the transmission of electricity as well, since George credits (a bit hastily, it seems) the possibility of wireless power systems of the kind researched by Nikola Tesla. In 2022, coal will take a distant backseat to the tides, the sun, and radium, and “it may also be that atomic energy will be harnessed.” As for the cinema, “the figures on the screen will not only move, but they will have their natural colors and speak with ordinary voices. Thus, the stage as we know it to-day may entirely disappear, which does not mean the doom of art, since the movie actress of 2022 will not only need to know how to smile but also how to talk.”

Other women, however, have proven just as capable as George had imagined: “All positions will be open to them and a great many women will have risen high. The year 2022 will probably see a large number of women in Congress, a great many on the judicial bench, many in civil service posts, and perhaps some in the President’s Cabinet.” Georges foresees the birth-control pill, but also the “pill lunch.” Unlike some reformers, he hesitates to declare the abolition of the family, but he does imagine the “majority of mankind” occupying modular homes in high-rise communal dwellings (“I have a vision of walls, furniture, and hangings made of more or less compressed papier-mâché”), all gathered in climate-controlled cities set under glass.

On the whole, in 2022, “the advancement of science will be amazing, but it will be nothing like so amazing as is the present day in relation to a hundred years ago.” Indeed, he suspects that a glimpse of our reality wouldn’t much surprise “the little girl who sells candies at Grand Central Station.” It could even be dull, what with complete settlement and development leaving “no more opportunity in America than there is in England to-day.” In 1922, George could write that “in fiction, America leads the world by sincerity, faith and fearlessness,” and believe that “in 2022 American literature will be a literature of culture. The battle will be over and the muzzle off. There will be no more things one can’t say, and things one can’t think.” Whatever the inspirations of his prophecy, they must not have told him about social media.

You can find a copy of George’s original article over at the Library of Congress.

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via Messy Nessy

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.


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Comments (71)
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  • Ibo says:

    Very interesting indeed. We need more people like George and foresee what futures may lay boyond our horizon. His statements are purely based and biased to his desires as well.

    Thank you for the post

  • Randall Gerber says:

    Feels like a fake to me.

  • Machelly says:

    City of Light: A Novel of Modern Paris (1912),

  • Lacey says:

    This is so great. I’ve got to read the entire thing. How did they correctly predict so many things to come?

  • Al says:

    A British novelist made predictions about Congress and the President? I don’t think so. This seems to me fake.

  • Josh says:

    I wish I had that news paper!!!

  • Dan says:

    If you naysayers took the time to click on the link to the original article IN THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS, you would know it is not fake.

    There’s a much simpler explanation…he’s a time traveler. :-D

  • Lanette McCoy says:

    The world would look like the Jetsons in the future. Robots as servants, maids, computerized stairs, life in space, driving little jet cars, computerized stoves, vending machines with meals, just press a button, and a meal will pop out..

  • Liana Dessaints says:

    I truly hope that this is not the end of the world 🙏 I worry for my family and grandchildren. Let’s pray 🙏 it’s not SATANS WAY OF ENDING ALL GOOD THINGS THROUGH Christ.GOD BLESS US 🙏

  • Joey Armstrong says:

    TODAY ROCK N ROLL DIED IN FEBRUARY 3,1959 of buddy holly big bopper richie valens and another person aboard the airplane that crashed all person’s who were on the plane had died GODBLESS rock n roll and RIP TO THE FOUR LEGENDS THAT WE WERE ROBBED OF BY TAKING TO SOON ! 63 years today that world announcement was made by fellow president of USA

  • OC says:

    Hi all,

    Just curious, we were curious how you’re all finding this post today. Is it from Google? Or somewhere else?

    Best regards,
    Open Culture

  • Jacqueline says:

    I think this is Audible on Google. Not sure how I was lucky enough to find this site but I have enjoyed reading this. Thank you. J

  • justin says:

    it was true I felt God writing that threw me never been more real I love everyone I just hope for what’s best

  • David says:

    Isn’t it amazing that because of Capitalism it actually took 100 years…

    So many Fortune 50 companies did everything in their power to prevent such progress. GM even Killed their Electric Car, refused to allow people to buy the and destroyed all the EV1’s they had made. Thankfully that mentality allowed Tesla to come into existence. GM stock = $53 and Tesla stock = $891. And Tesla never got Congress to pass laws preventing European cars from competing.

    It was Mr Tesla himself that wanted electricity sent through the air…

  • Jeremy V says:

    Got this from the Google news feed on my Pixel…what a fun read! Thanks for posting it!

  • Tami says:

    Thank you. People are so lazy these days. Always barking but not looking out the window to see why.

  • Tami says:

    Thanks so much for the interesting read. My favorite aunt was born 02/22/1922 so this jumped out to me. To think she lived thru all these changes.

  • Julia says:

    Google news feed.

  • Michelle says:

    This was an amazing read today! I’d like to know how people find this type of information. (?) I believe it is real. We have Malachy from The Bible predicting all of the future Popes until Earth changes. We have Nostradamus predictions still coming to us because humans have no idea how to be able to play nice with each other in the sandbox. We have Jules Vern with his writings and Tesla with all of his writings and experiments. Why not George? I may sound kooky but, I personally believe people are 100% able to do these things.

  • Mark says:

    And those stupid electric cars have a carbon footprint 2x bigger than a Hummer H2 thanks to the environmental destruction and transportation required to mine those rare metals used in the rechargeable batteries. Don’t be a sheep; do some research.

  • Marshall Lentini says:

    And yet the muzzle is on, and there is much one cannot say. So much for the future.

  • Mark says:

    I love the last bit that the author of this article added and cannot agree more. The censorship and false narrative imposed by today’s social media and media in general has completely undermined any progress we have made in free speech.

    Our medical professionals can’t even cure easily treatable diseases because big pharm has censored inexpensive and safe medicines so that they can shove untested, potentially unsafe new, expensive medicines down our throats.

  • Billy says:

    I found it using Google home page and found it very entertaining to see how insightful the author was . I really enjoyed it. Keep up the good work

  • Oinkee says:

    Perhaps …. because this newspaper is a fake. Maybe not

  • Marla says:

    There never was a time where one couldn’t “think “ a thing. We can always think whatever we want. The fluctuations over time, in what is allowed to be said, is where the sticky bit comes in.

  • Jessica says:

    Ssusremitty

  • Himmler says:

    Absolutely so fake you can clearly see the editing

  • Jeremy Westerfield says:

    The headline starts “In 1922, a Novelist Predicts”. It was a hundred years ago. I think it’s safe to use the past tense.

  • Jay Gatsby says:

    Woke rubbish

  • Red star says:

    Maybe it’s God bringing another flood. Maybe, this time it will be by making the planet too hot.

  • Red Star says:

    Maybe it’s punishment for not bing a good steward of the Earth.

  • Timothy says:

    I’d agree but to me we are way past all this, the top retired generals have all said in person that we have the technology to get ET home and back again.

  • Hmmmm says:

    This does not seem real. This looks like a fake article. If this is real, W.L. George is more accurate than Nostradamus. I’ll need to fact check this one.😉

  • David Norman says:

    See the new message from God. Ware not ending.we are eternal and came here to do things in God’s plan. Seek knowledge.

  • Timothy Ringwood says:

    Why would they lie?

  • Shaun Marston says:

    Electric vehicles are an amazing thing,but keep the facts in line that oil and coal are needed to make this possible. Someday, but not now we will be able to change the need for fossil fuels. Let’s all slow down and enjoy the transition of change in a controlled manner. Whether you are Right or Left let’s use common sense.

  • Dustin Allen West says:

    It’s not like he used magic, he simply took the past hundred years of advancements and followed them a hundred years in the future.
    I predict in the year 2122 that smart phones will be unbreakable and you won’t have to charge them because they will charge themselves from movement etc.
    Not only will we have had a woman president but also one of color.
    Transportation will no longer rely on fossil fuels and most of, if not all of it will be autonomous.
    I’m not trying to be negative to the story I’m more just replying to all the people that say it’s fake or that he is some kind of prophet.

  • TheeAudacity says:

    Just because you found it doesn’t mean that someone didn’t just create this in 2022 or 2018 for all we know.

  • Jack Owens says:

    Don’t make such rash statements without doing some level of investigation. Someone will always accept your implied challenge to make you look foolish; unnecessary.

  • Mark Seibold says:

    Dan, yes, I’ve got to read the entire article and look at the original newspaper print yet, but some of the comments obviously speak to the fact that many people don’t actually read articles, they just go to sites like this and read a few comments, and so quick to make their own. This must say something today about how the internet is misused.

  • Patty Davidson says:

    Google personal news feed

  • Pierre says:

    If you throw enough shit at a wall some of its bound to stick.

  • Jeremiah Brown says:

    “in 2022 American literature will be a literature of culture. The battle will be over and the muzzle off. There will be no more things one can’t say, and things one can’t think.”

    You said it didn’t tell him about social media? I believe social media is perfectly explained in this excerpt. Think about how social media has removed the muzzle and allowed everyone, under the cloak of anonymous courage, to truly be free to speak without fear of physical altercation or repercussions. Just my humble opinion.

  • Julius Omala says:

    I’m super thrilled with George’s predictions that almost everything is now happening. Of course more developed countries may say they reached that point before 2022 but this was for the underdeveloped countries to witness in process by process.
    Thank you George of A 100 years ago. And he only forgot to say that from 2022 on wards nobody else will be in position to predict the future by far 100years ahead. Because of life expectancy in the world today.

  • Imez says:

    Let talk the wind combines their made of mostly non recyclables some green energy is a myth

  • Jim leonard says:

    It came up on my homepage this morning.

  • Norz says:

    My grandmother was born in 1919, and she’s still alive today. I’m going to read her this old article and I can’t wait to see how she reacts! She doesn’t have the best short term memory, but her long term memory is better than mine, so she remembers what people in the 20s thought the future would bring.

  • Richard Graham says:

    Listen a tv show called Star trek showed us cell flip phones were already thought of and probably known about b4 we actually knew anything about it. So and microwave quick dishes ,so then when it comes to future knowledge of anything happening is too possible to be a reality, let’s stop acting like u ,yourself cant think of futuristic happenings it’s called using your mind, not your tounge ,to be absolutely better of this world is to know anything is possible and thanks for the comment section. Hey holla bk . LOVE NOT HATE BLESS UP 🙏🏽

  • Rosalyn says:

    Haha yeah bet you can get it on life magazine so who gives a fuck

  • Mattyp says:

    My thoughts exactly looks photoshopped

  • Kamanzi Julius says:

    Its amazing! I love the comparison of the author today to George’s predictions in 1922. Its talent to have the six sense not all mankind can predict things because others live on today and never mind of the future. What am sure of in 2122 all us above 20years shall exist no more and people will react to our predictions like we are doing today. People have different perspectives of the world and life.

  • Paul Hunter says:

    This article is fascinating. For a futurist to predict many of technological and social changes which have come to pass. Even the concept of cities under glass has come true in steel and glass skyscrapers of 1980 and 1990s. We don’t use paper machie, but there’s new trend of carbon fibers and laser printing. Did this man somehow travel briefly into future?

  • Ari says:

    Did anyone zoom in and read as much of the actual article where it says as for the horse it probably will no longer be bred in white countries. So racist

  • Robert Bruce says:

    Hi OC,

    It appeared on my Google feed.

    Thank you,

    Robert

  • Axt113 says:

    It’s in the library of congress, moron

  • Brenda Ann Niell says:

    Are you r related to sally Armstrong Downs Hunt of first Lady debute to wear makeup ?are you related to lee Owen’s

  • Scott E says:

    Then he predicted that a Republican presisent would lose and make a “fake” claim that he’d won. Amazing!

  • R md says:

    It might be better if he hadn’t guessed about it…. Did he guess that madness in greater and greater numbers would also come to pass?

  • Jeff says:

    Listen to Paul Harvey’s 1965 commentary “if I were the devil” on you tube sometime for an interesting prediction!

  • Roger Ritchey jr says:

    It’ll probably be illegal to be a white conservative in less than a hundred years but at least black people will feel like life is fair then but I doubt it.

  • Brenda Davidson says:

    Wasn’t the fourth person Cowboy Corpus, husband of Jean Sheppard.

  • Tempo says:

    To all the people either freaking out about the accuracy or disputing whether the paper is genuine, I would remind you that there is a hefty dose of survivorship bias in play.

    Essentially, we are only talking about W.L. George’s predictions because he ended up being mostly right when we expect him to be wrong, thus he is exceptional and interesting.
    We are not talking about the thousands of other people who tried predicting the future because they were wrong as we expect them to be and as such are unexceptional and uninteresting.

  • K.A.A. says:

    Agree!!

  • Franklin dd says:

    a Republican persistent?!?! god damn I sure am glad you’re a registered voter in my country….fml smh

  • George Wilson says:

    Great article.
    A question was asked, “How did you find this article?” I got the link in an email from Al Lowe. He sends out a daily joke but also interesting links.

  • Ebrahem Tohma says:

    Hi
    Ebrahem Tohma
    Lebanon

  • Akindele. J Olufemi says:

    I love it to move about culture

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