Predictions About The Future That Were Dead Wrong

As human beings, we are always looking forward to the future whether it’s a few hours from the current time or even hundreds of years. We like to make predictions about what the world will be like, especially since technology continues to evolve at such an exponential rate. Well, plenty of people from the past made their own predictions about what the future would behold. Some hit the nail on the head while others, let’s say, missed their mark. These are some past predictions that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Recorded Music Will Eliminate All Musical Skill

 John Philip Sousa in uniform
CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Back in 1906, composer John Philip Sousa published an article titled “The Menace of Mechanical Music.” In his writings, he stressed the dangers of people bringing machines into their homes to listen to music. He explained that fewer lutes were being produced “all because the automatic music devices are usurping their places.”

He predicted that if people had access to listen to music whenever without needing to study or understand the techniques, “it will be simply a question of time when the amateur disappears entirely.” Of course, today, it seems that recorded music has had the opposite effect.

All Women Would Be Six Feet Tall

Group of women
Geography Photos/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Geography Photos/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

In 1950, Associated Press writer Dorothy Roe claimed that by 2000, all women would be at least six feet tall. She came to this conclusion using what she considered to be scientific evidence.

Roe wrote, “Her proportions will be perfect, though Amazonian because science will have perfected a balanced ration of vitamins, proteins, and minerals that will produce the maximum bodily efficiency, the minimum of fat.” Although not all women are six feet tall — in fact, not even close — the average height has risen. So maybe she was partially right.

Telephones Would Never Be More Than A Toy

Alexander Graham Bell making the first telephone call
Historica Graphica Collection/Heritage Images/Getty Images
Historica Graphica Collection/Heritage Images/Getty Images

In 1976, William Orton, the president of the Western Union, described the newly emerging telephone as a toy. This was after Alexander Graham Bell offered to sell him the patent for $100,000, a deal he would later wish he had taken Bell up on.

An internal Western Union memo revealed Orton’s true thoughts on the phone when he reported, “The idea is idiotic on the face of it. Furthermore, why would any person want to use this ungainly and impractical device when he can send a messenger to the telegraph office and have a clear written message sent to any large city in the United States?” If only he could have seen an iPhone.

Cars Would Only Be Popular For A Short Time

Dog sitting in driver's seat
Vintage Images/Getty Images
Vintage Images/Getty Images

Back in 1903, the president of Michigan Savings Bank advised Henry Ford’s lawyer, Horace Rackham, that he better start saving his money if he was working with Ford. He told Rackham that “The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty—a fad.”

Although we all wish that this was the case and there were fewer cars on the road, it’s clear that’s not true. Cars completely transformed society and while it may have taken them some time to become the norm, they’re here to stay.

Everything Would Be Made of Steel

Men working in a steel foundry
Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

Thomas Edison may have invented the light bulb, but that doesn’t mean he was right about everything, especially when it came to the future. In 1911, he gave an interview with the Miami Metropolis where he discussed the booming steel industry.

He went on to predict that “The baby of the 21st century will be rocked in a steel cradle; his father will sit in a steel chair at a steel dining table, and his mother’s boudoir will be sumptuously equipped with steel furnishings.” While we do use a lot of steel, it’s certainly not to this extent.

Electricity Was Just A Fad

Edison with a light bulb
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Supposedly, when J.P. Morgan hired Thomas Edison to wire his mansion with electricity, his father, Junius Morgan, warned him that electricity was nothing more than a fad. J.P. Morgan ended up ignoring his father’s cautioning, and his home became the first residence in New York with electric lighting.

His father continued to advise him against electricity, especially when he was debating on investing in Edison. Luckily for Morgan, he continued not to listen to his father and heavily invested in electricity. This led him to eventually financing General Electric, which is still widely used today.

Washing The Whole House With A Hose

Housewife doing chores
Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

In 1950, the science editor of The New York Times, Waldemar Kaempffert, released a series of writings titled “The Miracles You’ll See in the Next Fifty Years.” One of these miracles he predicted involved house cleaning, in which he wrote the experiences of a future housewife he named “Jane Dobson.”

He wrote: “When Jane Dobson cleans house she simply turns the hose on everything. Why not? Furniture (upholstery included), rugs, draperies, unscratchable floors—all are made of synthetic fabric or waterproof plastic.” He then claimed a drain would collect the water and she would turn on hot air to dry everything off. We wish this was the case!

Injections That Would Give Us Extended Lives

Frederick Edwin Smith posing
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Even though this prediction is supposed to come true by 2030, it doesn’t look like we’re there quite yet. Prominent lawyer and friend of Winston Churchill, FE Smith, wrote in 1922 about the medical advances he foresaw in the future. He believed that medical injections would be available that would allow people to live to be upwards of 150 years.

However, he was concerned about the idea, stating, “How will youths of 20 be able to compete in the professions or business against vigorous men still in their prime at 120, with a century of experience on which to draw”?

Our Brains Won’t Be Able To Keep Up With The Speed Of Cars

Man driving car
SSPL/Getty Images
SSPL/Getty Images

In 1904, The New York Times reported on a debate between a brain specialist and a physician about the dangers of high-speed automobiles. One of the most significant arguments was that our brains wouldn’t be able to keep up with the speed of the car.

The report states, “It remains to be proved how fast the brain is capable of traveling […] If it cannot acquire an eight-mile per hour speed, then an auto running at the rate of 80 miles per hour is running without the guidance of the brain, and the many disastrous results are not to be marveled at.”

Smartphones Failing

Steve Jobs unveiling the iPhone
David Paul Morris/Getty Images
David Paul Morris/Getty Images

Before the explosion in popularity of smartphones, some people were skeptical about the idea of a personal phone doubling as a kind of computer. As late as 2007, the CEO of Microsoft, Steve Ballmer, proclaimed that There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance.”

Maybe that was just wishful thinking so Microsoft stayed relevant, or maybe he really believed it. Either way, he couldn’t have been further with the truth, seeing that smartphones, especially the iPhone, are some of the world’s best-selling products.

People Will Only Want To Shop At Stores

Women shopping
he Denver Post via Getty Images
he Denver Post via Getty Images

Time Magazine released a piece in 1966 titled “The Futurist,” which predicted what life would look like in the year 2000. One thing they predicted is that people will only shop at brick and mortar stores. It read, “Remote shopping, while entirely feasible, will flop—because women like to get out of the house, like to handle the merchandise, like to be able to change their minds.”

Of course, this was a failed prediction considering the success of websites such as Amazon, which the majority of people use on a regular basis. Some people don’t even go to the grocery store anymore, ordering their food online instead.

People Will Get Tired Of Televisions

Old television set
Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

In 1946, 20th Century Fox higher-up Darryl Zanuck claimed that “Television won’t be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.”

Whether he actually believed this is unclear, but surely he had this opinion because he was afraid that television would eventually become more popular than going to the theaters. Being an important man in the film industry, it’s not surprising that he would speak out against the new invention.

Everything Was Going To Collapse On January 1, 2000

Y2K drill at airport
DICKSON LEE/South China Morning Post via Getty Images
DICKSON LEE/South China Morning Post via Getty Images

Before the turn of the millennium, computers only recorded dates using the last two digits of every year. With the year 2000 around the corner, a lot of respected and trusted people began to fear that computers would think it was 1900 when the numbers turned to “00.”

Some experts believed that this would lead to a complete and total economic and social collapse, sparking mass hysteria. Known as Y2K, when the clock struck midnight, everything remained intact and believers breathed a sigh of relief.

A New Ice Age

Eiffel Tower in new ice age
Chris Hellier/Corbis via Getty Images
Chris Hellier/Corbis via Getty Images

In 1971, Dr. S.I. Rasool of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and Columbia University predicted a new ice age in the coming years.

It was reported in the Washington Post that Rasool stated, “In the next 50 years, the fine dust that man puts into the atmosphere by fossil fuel-burning could screen out so much sunlight that the average temperature could drop by six degrees […] which could trigger a new ice age.” Luckily, that wasn’t the case, but we can’t say we’re that much better off.

People Would Die From Asphyxiation On Trains

Train at Omaha station
Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

In 1800, Dr. Dionysys Larder, a professor if Natural Philosophy and Astronomy at the University College London, had his doubts about the future of human transportation by train. He claimed that “Rail travel at high speed is not possible, because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia.”

Although this might have made sense at the time, he would be shocked to know that we now have trains capable of going well over 200 miles per hour. On top of that, we even have airplanes.

The World Was Going To Starve To Death

Image of starving people collecting seaweed
Photo12/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Photo12/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

In a 1970 issue of Mademoiselle, the Nobel prize-winning physician and scientist Paul Ehrlich stressed his concerns that the human population would vastly outgrow food supply. “Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make,” he noted. “The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.”

Although this may eventually happen, he certainly jumped the gun on his prediction then. Thankfully, hundreds of millions haven’t died each year quite yet.

Air Pollution Will Be Catastrophic By 1985

Power plant emissions
Michel BARET/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Michel BARET/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

In January 1970, Life published an article claiming that “Scientists have solid experimental and theoretical evidence to support…the following predictions: In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution…by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching the earth by one half.”

Although air quality is certainly not the best it’s ever been, we urban dwellers are still able to wander the streets without the restriction of wearing gas masks. Our sunlight hasn’t been reduced significantly, either.

Rocket Mail Delivery

Rocket launching
Sovfoto/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Sovfoto/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

In 1959, the United States Postmaster General, Arthur Summerfield, had some interesting takes on the future of mail delivery. He was confident that mail would soon be delivered by rockets, stating, “Before man reaches the moon, your mail will be delivered within hours from New York to Australia by guided missiles. We stand on the threshold of rocket mail.”

Well, we made it to the moon in 1969, but we can’ think of the last time someone’s mail was delivered by a guided missile. Wouldn’t that be a sight!

Submarines Wouldn’t Work

First submarine
SSPL/Getty Images
SSPL/Getty Images

H.G. Wells, the renowned science fiction writer, may have had quite an imagination, but he was also a bit of a realist. With regards to the invention of the submarine, he thought the idea was ludicrous and was sure that it wasn’t feasible.

In 1901, he went so far as to say, “I must confess that my imagination refuses to see any sort of submarine doing anything but suffocating its crew and floundering at sea.” Little did he know that submarines would become instrumental pieces of equipment in the wars to come.

The Atomic Bomb Won’t Work

Hiroshima explosion
Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty images
Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty images

In 1945, Admiral D. Leahy, Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy during World War II, advised President Truman against the atomic bomb. Even after all of his years in the military and with the rank he had, he still didn’t believe that the bomb would actually work.

He warned: “This is the biggest fool thing we have ever done. The bomb will never go off, and I speak as an expert in explosives.” He must have had quite the surprise when the United States successfully dropped both of them on Japan.