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What Did These 1923 ‘Experts’ Get Right About 2023?

Photo Credit:  Fatih AktaÅ / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Fatih AktaÅ / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

At the start of each new year, experts and conspiracy theorists alike have speculated about what the future could look like 100 years from now. While flying cars never quite came to fruition, some space-age technology does exist today. In 1923, one newspaper published a variety of submitted predictions about what the world would look like in 2023 – and some are eerily accurate.

The crazy 1923 predictions going viral on Twitter

The year 1923 was when King Tut’s burial chamber was discovered, when Warner Brothers were established, and when the first ever issue of Time magazine was published. America was three years into Prohibition, and Vice President Calvin Coolidge became president overnight after the unexpected death of Warren G. Harding on August 2, 1923. In a time when massive social, political, and economic changes were underway, people were likely eager to speculate what the future could look like 100 years later.

Paul Fairie, a researcher at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada has gone viral on Twitter after he compiled newspaper clippings from various “experts” of 1923 with their predictions for 2023. The clippings range from hilarious to bizarre and even totally accurate. See for yourself which predictions came true and which ones will have to wait another century.

No more hard work

For most modern workers the eight-hour workday is a standard part of life, but it took centuries of protest and progress to establish the 40-hour workweek. The eight-hour day movement actually originated in 16th-century Spain but became more widespread once the Industrial Revolution began in the mid-18th century. The movement protested horrible working conditions, poor pay, and grueling work hours for countless workers in factories, sweatshops, and other labor industries.

The eight-hour workday wasn’t realized in the United States until 1937 when the Fair Labor Standards Act was first proposed as part of the New Deal, but American workers had been protesting unfair work hours as early as the 1790s. One 1923 “expert” predicted that by 2023 the workday will be “not more than four hours a day, owing to the work of electricity.”

While many people still work a traditional nine-to-five job five days a week in 2023, electricity and all of the gadgets it powers have definitely made our jobs more efficient and our lives easier, allowing for less demanding work and more leisure time.

Humans will live for 300 years

As of 2020, the life expectancy of the average American is 77.28 years – roughly 20 years higher than the life expectancy in 1923. Historically, life expectancy has increased year over year thanks to new medical advancements and a higher quality of life, but more recently researchers are noticing the average life expectancy dropping for the first time in decades. According to CDC, “life expectancy at birth in the United States declined nearly a year from 2020 to 2021… That decline – 77.0 to 76.1 years – took U.S. life expectancy at birth to its lowest level since 1996.”

As for the 1923 predictions, it’s highly unlikely humans will ever live as long as 300 years. However, more and more people will likely live to see 100 with the help of more advanced medical care and more information about staying healthy. Smoking, for example, was very popular in the 1920s but between 1965 and 2018 smoking rates dropped 68 percent. Studies also show that the average life expectancy for smokers is at least ten years shorter than for nonsmokers.

Curls for men, shaved heads for women…

According to one 1920s anthropologist, the men and women of today should look very different. When it comes to hair, “curls for men” will be all the rage while women will shave their heads and “blacken their teeth” – the “height of style in personal primping.” The trending hairstyle for men in the 1920s was a slicked-back, pompadour-style look – not a curl in sight. Today it is more common to see a handful of men and people of other (or no) genders with entirely different hairstyles. From buzzcuts to dreadlocks and the “man bun,” curls are just a small part of men’s hair trends in 2023.

Women “shaving their heads” is also technically right. Celebrities like Natalie Portman, Charlize Theron, Demi Moore, and Jada Pinkett-Smith have all sported the shaved head look with style. As for purposefully blackening your teeth, we hope that trend doesn’t happen any time soon.

But everyone will be beautiful

This hilarious prediction didn’t fully come true, but it could be argued that all people are already beautiful. Beauty contests like Miss Universe still continue well into 2023, and baby brand Gerber even announced its new Gerber Baby in 2022.

“Present diseases” from the 1920s have also been eradicated thanks to new medical advancements in vaccines. In 1916, a polio outbreak in New York killed more than 6,000 people but thanks to vaccines the same disease was eradicated in North America by 1999. Measles was another common disease that had a 30 percent death rate in the 1920s but a breakthrough vaccine introduced in the 1960s led to the eradication of the illness in America in 2000.

Flying around the world will be faster than ever before

This person predicted that commercial flights would be the future of travel – and not only have we achieved the 18-hour goal, but we have also reduced it by half! As of today, it takes roughly nine hours to fly from Chicago to Hamburg. The first commercial flight was in 1914, taking passengers from St. Petersburg to Tampa, Florida. By the 1920s, passenger planes were designed to carry around 20 people but were notoriously slow, flying at a speed of 100 miles per hour. Today, the average cruising speed of a commercial plane is 547 to 575 miles per hour and the longest nonstop commercial flight – from New York to Singapore – takes 18 hours and 50 minutes.

Radio will replace gasoline

Unfortunately, flying cars fueled by radio waves haven’t quite made it into real life yet, however, some prototype vehicles that run on radio frequencies have been designed. As for the “myriad craft sailing over well-defined routes,” both modern cars and commercial planes travel on roads and flight paths in a well-defined manner.

Populations will skyrocket

This prediction wasn’t far off! In 2021, the total population of the United States was 331.9 million people, an increase from 111.9 million in 1923. Another prediction guessed that Canada’s population would be 100 million, but it currently dwindles at 38.25 million. As for the use of “low” and “arid” lands, the distribution of the US population has changed.

A map from the 1920s showing population distribution reveals a huge population cluster throughout the East Coast down toward Florida and across the South into Texas and the Midwest while the West Coast remains mostly untouched. A different map from 2020 still has some vacant parts in Montana, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah but other states like California, Oregon, and Washington are all more densely populated.

Newspapers will be a thing of the past

Although they are still around, newspapers are considered to be a thing of the past thanks to the Internet, which offers a variety of news sources and stories at the touch of a button. In the 1920s, radio became a new way to listen to the news and other important events but print media like newspapers remained the dominant source of information for most Americans. As technology progressed, more people moved away from newspapers and chose paperless options that make it easier to find the stories that matter most.

The most exciting part of this prediction is the idea of listening to the news instead of reading it. Is this an early interpretation of a podcast? Many news outlets, from the New York Times to the BBC, offer daily podcast episodes that provide listeners with all the hard-hitting news they need in a condensed and easy-to-digest format.

Wireless warfare and in-utero telepathy

A professor predicted that entire calvaries will be “rendered obsolete” by a water-powered jet spray charged with electricity. He also guessed that the “war of 2023” would be wireless, an interesting insight if it is applied to the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine.

While the war effort is very real, a part of its politics takes place over social media and online news outlets. In late 2022, Russian leader Vladimir Putin even released a propaganda music video on YouTube, touting Russia’s nuclear capabilities.

The final prediction from the professor states that the citizens of 2023 will have the ability to communicate with “mental telepathy” even as an embryo in the womb, which Professor Low calls a “very useful method of communication.”

Did they predict the smartwatch?

This final 2023 prediction could be the eeriest and most accurate yet. It describes a world where the majority of merchandise is ordered on “talking films” from China and delivered in large “1,000-mile-an-hour freighters” that will deliver your order before sunset. While freighters that fast don’t exist yet, it does sound like a version of the online retail giant Amazon in which goods can be ordered and shipped to the customer from far-off places like China and delivered in record times. Whether it be from one of Amazon’s massive fulfillment centers or from an “Air Drone” – a type of flying drone that can deliver orders the same day they are placed.

The prediction also guesses that everybody will keep in communication through “watch size radio telephones” that can connect you to anyone on earth. Could the “radio telephone” be a cellphone, and the watch-sized component be similar to smartwatches like the Apple Watch? Both allow us to stay in touch with loved ones no matter the location.

More from us: Why Do We Count Down to the New Year?

Our only question is: what kind of predictions will humanity make about life in 3023?

Elisabeth Edwards

Elisabeth Edwards is a public historian and history content writer. After completing her Master’s in Public History at Western University in Ontario, Canada Elisabeth has shared her passion for history as a researcher, interpreter, and volunteer at local heritage organizations.

She also helps make history fun and accessible with her podcast The Digital Dust Podcast, which covers topics on everything from art history to grad school.

In her spare time, you can find her camping, hiking, and exploring new places. Elisabeth is especially thrilled to share a love of history with readers who enjoy learning something new every day!

The Digital Dust Podcast