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January 10, 2024

Energy Predictions for 2022 From 1922

In 1922, the popular English novelist Walter Lionel George (1882–1926) sat down and put his mind to envisioning what life would be like in 2022.

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.” Silicon Humanism reviewed some of them and clustered them around four categories:

1. The Disruptive. W.L. George envisioned radical changes that took place. His ability to think outside of the box while interpreting signals is very inspirational.

“The people of the year 2022 will probably never see a wire outlined against the sky: it is practically certain that wireless telegraphy and wireless telephones will have crushed the cable system long before the century is done.”

“I suspect that those wars to come will be made horrible beyond my conception by new poison gases, inextinguishable flames and lightproof smoke clouds. In those wars the airplane bomb will seem as out of date at is today the hatchet.”

“It is likely that by that time a great deal of power will be obtained from tides, from the sun, probably from radium and other forms of radial energy, while it may also be that atomic energy will be harnessed.”

2. The Invariable. In addition to thinking in terms of radical change, W.L. George also spent time focusing on what has not changed. It is a good reminder that tradition and heritage are an important component of our future. This is an element that is sometimes missing in speculative fiction or science-fiction: “what we will not renounce.”

“Many buildings now standing will be preserved. It is conceivable that the Capitol at Washington, many of the universities and churches will be standing a hundred years hence, and that they will, almost unaltered, be preserved by tradition.”

“Marriage will still exist much as it is today, for mankind has an inveterate taste for the institution, but divorce will probably be as easy everywhere as it is in Nevada.”

“It is conceivable, though not certain, that in 2022 a complete meal may be taken in the shape of four pills. This is not entirely visionary; I am convinced that corned beef hash and pumpkin pie will still exist.”

3. The Ongoing. W.L. George also made predictions about progress. And from his predictions, we can wonder how to project them one step further. How can we continue to draw the line from 1922 to 2022 to 2122. With two data points, what forecast can we make for next century?

“Naturally the work of the household, which is being reduced day by day, will in 2022 be a great deal lighter. I believe that most of the cleaning required today in a house will have been done away with.”

“It is practically certain that in 2022 nearly all women will have discarded the idea that they are primarily ‘makers of men.’ Most fit women will then be following an individual career. 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. But it is unlikely that women will have achieved equality with men.”

“Americans will be less enterprising and much more pleasure loving. They will have rebelled against long hours; the chances are that in 2022 few people will work more than seven hours a day, if as much. The effect of this, which I am sure sounds regrettable to many of my readers, will, in my opinion, be good.”

4. The Exponential. W.L. George made acute predictions about the growth and evolution of certain trends. However it seems that these predictions were based on more conservative growth factors than change actually happened, as if he were thinking in terms of “linear growth”, whereas what happened was closer to changes at an exponential scale.

“As regards the United States in particular, it is likely that the country will have come to a complete settlement, with a population of about 240,000,000. The idea of North and South, East and West will have almost disappeared.”

“I suspect that commercial flying will have become entirely commonplace. The passenger steamer will survive on the coasts, but it will have disappeared on the main routes, and will have been replaced by flying convoys, which should cover the distance between London and New York in about twelve hours. As I am anxious that the reader should not look upon me as a visionary, I would point out that in an airplane collision which happened recently a British passenger plane was traveling at 180 miles an hour, which speed would have brought it across the Atlantic in eighteen hours. It is therefore quite conceivable that America may become separated from Europe by only eight hours.”

English author W.L. George (1882-1926) was ahead of his time.

W.L. George was not only a visionary, he is also a great teacher for current foresight practitioners!


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