People love predicting the future and thinking about what life will be like hundreds of years from now. In the past, experts were right about mobile phones, the moon landing, organ transplants, and so on. Yet, there have been an equal number of predictions that didn’t come true at all.
Life in 2020 is not quite as futuristic as some people believed and hoped it would be. Families don’t have flying cars yet or eat solely freeze-dried food. Check out some interesting forecasts that didn’t quite hit the mark…
Jobs Would Be Obsolete, And Everyone Would Be Wealthy
This is one prediction we really, really wish would come true. Time magazine reported in 1966 that the future would be pretty great economically for nearly everyone in America. The essay “The Futurists” noted that by this time machines would be doing all the work and that “everyone in the U.S. will, in effect, be independently wealthy.”
While machines ARE doing a lot of our work these days, they are also taking jobs away from people, which means they’re earning LESS money. The article predicted people would earn an average salary of $30,000 to $40,000 (or about $300,000 if you adjust for inflation).
People Would Have Other People’s Teeth Embedded Into Their Mouths
Society has come up with some great lifesaving tools over the years including blood banks, which supply donated blood to those who desperately need it. So, why don’t we have the same process for teeth? Journalist Lester David predicted in a 1947 issue of Mechanix Illustrated that “tooth banks” would be commonplace by now.
He believed there would no longer be a need for dentures, dental bridges, or dental plates. Instead, men and women would “be able to have human teeth embedded inside their gums until the day they die.”
We’d Evolve Into A “One-Toed Race”
Back in 1911, a surgeon named Richard Clement Lucas had a pretty outlandish prediction about how the human body would evolve. He believed that 100 years into the future something interesting would happen with people’s feet. Specifically, he thought most of our toes would disappear.
During a lecture at the Royal College of Surgeons, Lucas noted that the human’s “useless outer toes” would no longer be necessary and, instead, humans “might become a one-toed race.” That hasn’t happened, but people like former Paralympic runners have worn special carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer prosthetics, which is kind of cool.
Every Family Would Have Its Own Personal Helicopter
While some companies have made some strides with flying cars, they are not even close to being a part of our every day lives. Tech giants such as Tesla are still working out the kinks on autonomous automobiles. Meanwhile, back in 1951 Popular Mechanics predicted that by now most people would have a helicopter at home.
The magazine imagined the helicopter would carry two people and would be small so that it could be parked on your lawn. People are annoyed by drones these days, so imagine what life would be like with personal helicopters flying around anywhere. No thank you.
Mail Would Be Delivered Via Rocket
This prediction is truly outrageous but is based on an actual event. In 1959, the U.S.S. Barbero sent 3,000 letters to political figures such as President Eisenhower via a rocket. Instead of a nuclear warhead, the missile contained mail containers and was directed to the Naval Auxiliary Air Station.
Postmaster General Arthur E. Summerfield was thrilled by the successful mission and believed mail delivery by rocket would become a common occurrence. He was excited that mail would be delivered from places such as New York to LA within hours. He did not, however, account for the invention of email.
Apes Would Clean Our Homes & Do Other Chores
Global think tank the RAND Corporation also had some grand ideas about the future. Specifically, it believed that animals would play a much bigger role in our day-to-day operations. In the book Scientists Speak Out, Glenn T. Seaborg explained that the corporation was confident that animals such as apes would be performing menial tasks for humans by 2020.
What kind of chores? Everything from cleaning the house to gardening and even driving the family car. We forgot to mention this prediction was made in 1994, which really isn’t that long ago. Well, the animals certainly haven’t jumped up to the challenge. Today, we rely on AI and robots to do some of our tasks instead. Thanks, Roomba.
Mental Telepathy And Teleportation Would Be Commonplace
There’s a man named Michael J. O’Farrell who founded The Mobile Institute and is a tech expert. You’d think tech experts would have some powerful insight about future innovations. Yet, sometimes they get things wrong. Very wrong. In 2014 (yes, only a few years ago), O’Farrell wrote in the book Shift 2020 that 2020 would be the beginning of the “nanomobility era.”
What does that mean exactly? Well, he predicted telepathy and teleportation would be present by 2020 and “commonplace” by 2040. Well, as of now no one is reading anyone’s mind or transporting to different places like they do on Star Trek.
Men Would Wear Antenna Hats
Product designer Gilbert Rhode opened up about his thoughts for the future in a 1939 issue of British Vogue. When discussing fashion in particular, he commented that people would no longer have a use for buttons, pockets, collars, or ties. He also said men would stop shaving. Then things got really weird.
He predicted men would wear antenna hats to receive radio signals, and his socks would be disposable. Well, a lot of people have smartphones practically adhered to their heads, so his ideas weren’t that far fetched.
People Would No Longer Have To Eat
There’s something to be said for enjoying a good meal with friends and family. Why would anyone want to give that up? Well, futurist and computer scientist Ray Kurzweil predicted in 2005 that eating would no longer be necessary. In his book The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, he discussed the proliferation of nanobots.
These nanobots would be responsible for removing waste and feeding our cells in our bloodstreams. Hence, this would eliminate people’s need to consume food. Sorry, but we’re not giving up pepperoni pizza.
We’d Only Have Plastic Furniture In Our Homes We’d Simply Hose Off To Clean
Science editor Waldemar Kaempffert worked for the New York Times from the 1920s until the 1950s, and his ideas about the 21st century were pretty interesting. He wrote an article for Popular Mechanics in 1950 called, “Miracles You’ll See in the Next 50 Years.” In it, he described a unique way of cleaning our homes.
He thought people would simply use a hose to clean our home interiors. But wouldn’t everything get sopping wet? Well, no. That’s because he imagined our furniture would be plastic or made of synthetics. The water would then drain down a hole in the center of the room. Plastic furniture sounds really comfortable, right?
People Would Eat Bricks Of Freeze-Dried Food And Candy Made Of Underwear
That’s not all Kaempffert predicted about the future. He also believed people would make meals out of frozen bricks of food. Gross! Kaempffert thought the art of cooking would eventually be phased out and only a few “diehards” would actually keep cooking things like chicken.
Instead, yummy deep-frozen partially baked cuts of meats would be on the menu. Sounds appetizing, right? Oh, but there’s more. He also imagined tablecloths and even old rayon underwear could be “converted into candy.” There are no words to how disgusting that would be.
People Would Seek Emotional Help From Robot Therapists
While AI has come a long way in the past few years, we can’t imagine asking Siri or Alexa to help us get through a break-up. Yet global trends expert Ariane Van de Ven commented in the book Shift 2020 that robots would play a bit part in our lives, even when it comes to mental health.
She predicted they would become our assistants, companions, and even therapists. There’s nothing less personal than asking a robot for advice, so we don’t expect this to happen anytime soon.
Women Would Evolve To Amazonian Proportions
Dorothy Roe, a writer for the Associated Press, believed back in 1950 that women would look quite a bit different today than they actually do. Specifically, she thought females would be six feet tall with size 11 shoes. They would “have shoulders like a wrestler and muscles like a truck driver.”
This prediction is rather puzzling, but Rae genuinely believed women would take on more Amazonian characteristics over the next half a century. How would this happen? Vitamins, minerals, and proteins, of course.
Nuclear-Powered Vacuum Cleaners Would Exist
The former president of Lewyt Vacuum Company had some grand ideas about the future of cleaning. In 1955, Alex Lewyt believed people would be using nuclear-powered vacuum cleaners by the 21st century. Of course, he had no way of predicting the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine.
We’re not sure why a nuclear-powered vacuum would be preferable to a traditional one. The best we have these days are self-cleaning vacuums and the Roomba, which really don’t make cleaning that much more enjoyable anyway.
People Would Live In Movable Houses And Relocate On A Whim
Author Arthur C. Clarke, who died in 2008, was a science fiction writer and futurist (he wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey). In the mid-60s he had some creative ideas about how people would be living in the 21st century. Specifically, he believed people would be able to relocate anywhere in the world because their homes would not be tethered to one spot.
While not exactly “flying” homes, they would be very mobile. In fact, he predicted entire communities would pack up and leave on a whim. Why? Maybe to find warmer weather in the winter or just for a “change of scenery.” Some people live in mobile homes, so his idea wasn’t too far off base.
Several Letters From The Alphabet Would Be Discontinued
This one’s a real doozy. Back in 1900, the curator of mechanical technology at the Smithsonian Institution talked to Ladies’ Home Journal about his predictions for the 21st century. He was not a linguist, yet John Elfreth Watkins Jr. had a pretty bold idea about how language would evolve by the 2020s.
He claimed “there will be no C, X, or Q in our everyday alphabet. They will be abandoned because unnecessary.” He thought people would express themselves using condensed words. Little did he know how popular emojis would become.
Thomas Edison Believed Everything You Can Imagine Would Be Made Out Of Steel
When you think of the world’s most ingenious inventors, Thomas Edison is on or near the top of the list. He did design the light bulb, after all. However, he wasn’t exactly spot on when it came to his thoughts about the future. In a 1911 interview with Miami Metropolis, Edison imagined that people would live in homes completely made out of and decorated in steel.
Even babies would be “rocked in a steel cradle.” He thought people would sit on steel chairs and homes would be furnished with steel couches and tables.
People Would Renounce Coffee And Tea Due To Their Poisonous Properties
As you know, people are addicted to coffee and tea in the 21st century. And despite its cancer-causing properties, many people refuse to give up tobacco and smoking. Yet, in 1937 inventor, engineer, and futurist Nikola Tesla predicted people would no longer be indulging in these vices by 2020.
He though imbibing in these stimulants would simply become unfashionable because they “poison the system with harmful ingredients.” Well, he was wrong. Starbucks is raking in the dough, and vaping is hugely popular with teens and adults. And don’t try to take tea away from a proper Englishman.
People Would Vote From The Comfort Of Home
You would think with all the technological advances we’ve experienced over the last couple of decades that this would be a no brainer. Yet, when politics are involved things are never easy. In a 1997 Wired article, Peter Schwartz and Peter Leyden wrote that by 2008 people would be voting electronically from their homes.
While it would be great to elect a new president from our couch, it hasn’t happened yet. E-voting is a great idea, yet it’s a slim possibility that it will occur anytime soon.
Humans Would Land On Mars
We’re almost there, but we’re not there yet. In 1997, Peter Schwartz and Peter Leyden of Wired magazine predicted that humans would land on Mars by 2020. They believed four astronauts would land on the distant planet, and their landing would be broadcast to billions of people on earth. Many nations would join together for the historic mission.
NASA thinks humans may be on Mars by 2030, but Elon Musk of SpaceX is hoping to land a team on the red planet by 2024. Our fingers are crossed, but realistically it could be decades before we see a human footprint on Mars.