Thursday, December 27, 2018

Jules Verne’s scientific predictions for 2889

Jules Verne
In a science fiction story published in English in the United States in 1889, entitled In the Twenty-Ninth Century and subtitled One Day of an American Journalist in 2889, Jules Verne made several scientific predictions that, according to him, would take almost a millennium to be put into practice. Let us look at a few of the most interesting:
         The average lifetime of the human population will have increased from 37 in 1889, to 68 in 2889. According to the UN, the average longevity in the world exceeded 68 years in the five-year period from 2005 to 2010, almost nine centuries before Verne’s forecast. Here, as elsewhere, he underestimated.
         The land and sea voyages of the nineteenth century will have been replaced in the XXIX by air travel, or intercontinental underwater pneumatic tubes. At present, little more than a century after Verne’s story, although air travel has achieved great primacy, land and sea travel continue to exist, and for distances less than a thousand kilometers make a successful competition to air travel. Intercontinental pneumatic tubes, on the other hand, are still science fiction, although there some recent steps in this direction.

         Technology will have taken giant steps thanks to the invention of methods for the use of inexhaustible energy sources, such as solar, geothermal, hydraulic or wind. Verne was not misguided, except that he believed it would take 900 years to arrive there. Although truth is, right now, 130 years after his prediction, this has not yet been fully achieved.
         Newspapers will no longer be published on paper, as subscribers will receive the news via phone. To put this into practice, Verne assumed there would be telephone booths everywhere, where customers could get in touch with the newspaper and hear the news of their interest. This prediction is not bad, as the press via mobile phone has become one of the most spectacular advances of our time.
         Verne does not just foresee the massive use of the telephone, but also predicts the telephoto, through which one can send, not just sounds, but also images, which allows the readers of newspapers to see photographs and moving images at the same time that they are listening to the news. Also, the owner of the Earth Herald newspaper can communicate with his wife, who has traveled to Paris from America to buy hats (:-). What we call a screen, Verne calls a telephotic mirror, but both things are obviously the same. For Verne, the ability to send images at a distance must wait almost a millennium before being discovered. Actually, it happened just a few years after his death.
The hidden side of the Moon
(photos by the DSCOVR satellite)
         In a millennium, we’ll have contacted extraterrestrial intelligences, the inhabitants of Mercury, Venus and Mars, although we won’t have managed to understand those who live on Jupiter. Verne says that in the XXIX century we won’t know yet if the Moon is inhabited, because its hidden side will not have been observed, and plans would be made to circumnavigate the Moon and discover what is on the other side. It is evident that Verne alludes here ironically to his own novel, Around the Moon, where he left that question open, but it did not occur to him that in less than a century we would be able to send space capsules to the farthest planets of the Solar system, let alone the Moon.
         Curiously enough, in this story Verne suggests a way to contain the proliferation of the Chinese: imposing a maximum birth rate on that country, similar to the one child rule that was applied at the end of the 20th century and ended as a failure.
         A somber and successful prediction by Verne is bacteriological warfare, although he argues that this so terrible that it will never be applied. Fortunately, until now, this prediction can be considered correct. Let us hope that it will remain so.
         There is a curious detail, or rather a small blunder by Verne: In the XXIX century people will dress by getting into a dressing machine and won’t need the help of a valet de chambre. He did not come up with a simpler solution, which has taken place much earlier than he suspected: that we would learn to dress ourselves, without the help of servants or machines.
         In addition to the amazing discoveries predicted by Verne in this story, we must mention those that, according to him, won’t have been solved in a millennium, among which it is worth mentioning three: a cure for the viral cold; human hibernation; and the immortality serum.
In my opinion, this story by Jules Verne should be considered as the most ambitious sci-fi work of this writer, who is rightly considered as one of the fathers of this literary genre.

The same post in Spanish
Thematic Thread on Literature and Cinema: Previous Next
Manuel Alfonseca

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