Tyler at Marginal Revolution shares an amazing gem from Robert Sloss’s 1910 essay “The Wireless Century”, where he shares his prediction of a world in 2010 where everyone carries a ‘wireless telegraph’ which:
1. Serves as a telephone, the whole world over.
2. Either rings or vibrates in your pocket.
3. Can transmit any musical recording or performance with perfect clarity.
4. Can allow people to send each other photographs, across the entire world.
5. Can allow people to see the images of paintings, museums, etc. in distant locales.
6. No one will ever be alone again.
7. Can serve as a means of payment, connecting people to their bank accounts and enabling payments (Japan is ahead of us here).
8. Can connect people to all newspapers, although Sloss predicted that people would prefer that the device read the paper aloud to them (not so much the case).
9. Can transmit documents to “thin tubes of ink,” which will then print those documents in distant locales.
10. People will have a better sense of the poor, and of suffering, because they will have witnessed it through their device (not obviously true, at least not yet).
11. People will vote using their devices and this will empower democracy (nope).
12. Judicial testimonies will be performed over such devices, often from great distances.
13. People will order perfectly-fitting fashions from Paris (this guy should be in the Apps business)
14. Married couples will be much closer, and distance relationships will be closer and better.
15. Military targeting and military orders will become extremely precise.
Either Sloss was remarkably prescient or traveled back in time to profit from his knowledge of future events, only to get stuck in the past and treated as a crazy outcast, forced to right long-winded essays about the future to try and reconnect with his former life. Those are the only two logical explanations.