February 12, 2013
In the early 1950s, many people speculated that the average American’s body would look dramatically different by the early 21st century. Some thought that the average woman of the year 2000 might be over six feet tall, incredibly athletic and just as strong as the average man. Others believed that modern conveniences like the automobile would have disastrous effects on the human body of the 21st century, creating a society of fat weaklings and scrawny depressives. You can place Earnest A. Hooton in the latter school of thought.
The January 1950 issue of Redbook magazine included the predictions of Hooton, a pioneering and often controversial anthropologist who advocated eugenics as a solution to many of America’s ills. As Hooton saw it, the progressive trends of the first half of the 20th century had only served to produce humans less fit for survival:
The human animal has undergone astonishing bodily changes during the last half century. The physical features of our population in 2000 A.D. can be predicted with grim assurance unless present trends are corrected by a science of man.
Changes in the physiques of Americans through more than fifty years are recorded in the gymnasium records of universities and colleges, in successive surveys of soldiers during two wars, of immigrants, delinquents and other elements of the population. Among the best data are those on Harvard sons and fathers and corresponding information from four Eastern women’s colleges.
Harvard sons are bigger than their fathers in twenty-seven of thirty measurements. Notably, they are more than one and one-third inches taller, more than ten pounds heavier, longer in the legs relative to trunk length, larger in breadths and girths of the torso and longer in the forearms and lower legs. Girls differ from their mothers similarly, but have much narrower hips. These bigger dimensions sound well until studies are made of individual body types from photographs as well as measurements. Then it appears that short, broad, muscular builds are decreasing, along with the stubby, strong but fat types. On the contrary, long, taper-legged, obese types of inferior structure are on the increase, and, above all, the tall, weak “stringbeans.” With increased stature, heads are getting narrower, faces longer and narrower, palates more pinched, teeth less regular, noses more razor-backed.
Hooton believed that criminals were biologically different than non-criminals, coming down firmly on the side of nature in the “nature versus nurture” debate. He also believed that things like body type were closely tied to one’s temperament. In this vein, artist Abner Dean produced an illustration (above) for the piece which showed off the humans of the future — the happy rotund man, the depressed skinny man, and the tall, slender and largely content woman of tomorrow.
Different body types are associated with distinct kinds of temperaments and well-defined physical and social aptitudes and disabilities. Broad, muscular men (usually short) tend to be aggressive, domineering, insensitive, practical and unimaginative, military and political but not intellectual and artistic leaders. Fat types are generally easy-going, kindly, “fond of the good things of life,” sociable, admirable in family relations, etc. The tall and skinny are commonly shy, nervous, repressed, emotionally unstable, intellectual and idealistic, but difficult in social relations.
The auto has made walking obsolete (witness the poorly muscled modern legs). Work requiring strenuous muscular exertion is no longer usual for growing youth and for most adults. Sports and physical education hardly compensate for the sedentary habits that have sapped the stamina of the masses in our nation.
Infant and juvenile mortality has decreased astoundingly through improved medical care and sanitation. The upsurge of the tall and skinny among adults is probably due in part to the preservation of elongate, fragile babies who now live to reproduce their kind. The proportion of the aged, too, has increased enormously, partly because of better medical care, but also because of easy living. So we have more of those too weak for work because of youth or age.
As Nicole Rafter notes in her 2004 paper on the biological tradition in American criminology, Hooton believed that financial aid to the poor was hindering the progress of the human race: “The welfare programs of the New Deal seemed to Hooton to coddle an already weak segment of the population that might better be allowed to die off; unwittingly, government policies were encouraging regressive trends in human evolution. Deeply disturbed by the apparent downward rush of civilization, Hooton predicted social, political and genetic doom.”
This description of Hooton is in line with his distaste for the “reckless breeding of the unfit” (terminology that largely fell out of fashion in academia after WWII).
There can be little doubt of the increase during the past fifty years of mental defectives, psychopaths, criminals, economic incompetents and the chronically diseased. We owe this to the intervention of charity, “welfare” and medical science, and to the reckless breeding of the unfit.
In 2000, apart from the horde of proliferating morons, the commonest type of normal male will be taller and more gangling than ever, with big feet, horse-faces and deformed dental arches. The typical women will be similar—probably less busty and buttocky than those of our generation. These spindly giants will be intelligent, not combative, full of humanitarianism, allergies and inhibitions—stewing in their own introspections. Probably they will be long-lived; the elongated shrivel and buckle, but hang on.
There will also be a strong minority of towering heavyweights—melon-shaped, with knock-kneed shanks, small hands and feet and sociable dispositions. Ultimately this type may lead, because it is philoprogenitive, if not overly prolific. The lean and hungry Cassii and Cassandras propagate briefly and parsimoniously, then separate and sulk in celibacy.
The stubby, bone-and-muscle Mr. Americas of today seem doomed to disappear or to be reduced to the ranks of institutionalized malefactors (judging from studies of present types of juvenile delinquents), instead of becoming dictators, they will be outlaws, since with attenuation of body-build the temperaments of the masses will probably change, so that idealism and intelligence will not be enslaved by brutishness.
Sex illusions will persist. Men will still think women beautiful; women will still regard men as brainy and virile; reproduction will go on. But a science of man could intervene to effect a real improvement of the human animal within the next half-century.
Hooton passed away just four years after publication of this article at the age of 66. He remained an advocate of eugenics until his death.
October 12, 2012
The February 26, 1977 edition of the Herald-Star in Steubenville, Ohio published dozens of predictions for the year 2000 made by the people of Steubenville, a working class town in eastern Ohio (and the birthplace of Dean Martin). Some of these letters came from local middle school kids 10-12 years old and they provide a fascinating snapshot of the era; unique in their ability to reflect the pessimism stirred by a down economy and shaken faith in government in a post-Watergate, post-Vietnam War era, while also laying bare the irrational optimism of youth.
Many of the predictions are clearly influenced by the energy crisis, with many kids predicting there will be tough times ahead without access to cheap energy. However, there’s also optimism about space exploration and more than one reference to women as astronauts. Even though Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space in 1963, the first American woman (Sally Ride, who died this past summer) wouldn’t become an astronaut until 1983 — a full six years after these kids were making their predictions.
Interestingly, for being middle schoolers these kids sure seem concerned about high taxes. All of these kids are now between 45 and 48 years old and if you happen to be one of them, I’d love to hear from you. How do you feel reading your predictions from the vantage point of “the future”? How do you feel about the years to come?
Some of the letters from the February 26, 1977 Herald-Star appear below:
New Great Depression
I think that by the year 2000 we will be in a great depression. People are saying that we are running out of fuel. People will be using machines to do everything. And machines run on fuel. If we run out of fuel we won’t be able to run the machines and people will be out of jobs. So we can save fuel. Everybody should try to save by turning their heat to 68 degrees.
Debbie Six, 12 (Harding School)
We’ll Find More Oil
My view of the future is that we will find more gas and oil. No one will be poor and we all will live in peace! Also in the future, I think they will find some mechanical device that could make kitchens, dining rooms and etc. You’d just push a button and WHAM!! An instant living room or WHAM!! an instant milkshake. And that’s my view of the future!
Emma Conforti, Age 11 (Harding School)
Robot Maids, Robot Teachers
In the year 2000, we will have all round buildings. We will have a robot teacher, a robot maid, and all workers will be robots, too. We will have a pocket computer that has everything you can name. We will even be able to push a button to get anything you want!
Marty Bohen, Age 10 (Harding School)
Electric Cars and Ladies on the Moon
The year 2000 might have everybody walking instead of riding in their cars because there might be a gas shortage by then, and the cars give out a lot of pollution. Or there might even be electric cars instead of gas cars. The year 2000 may send ladies to the moon to explore and look and see if there are people living on the moon. And when you work you will push buttons and robots will come out and do the work for you. And there will be lower prices and taxes, I hope.
Tim Villies, 10 (Harding School)
Cures For Every Sickness
In 2000 I will marry a doctor and maybe have kids. I would like my husband to be a doctor because he would be helping people and would still want to be close to my family. As for a job for me I would help the crippled boys and girls. I would still like to have my same friends. And the most important thing for there to be is no wars and killings. I hope they could find cures for every sickness. And everybody will care for each other.
Monica Katsaros, Age 10 (Harding School)
The Last Five Years Haven’t Been So Good
I think 2000 will be a good year. I hope so because the last five years haven’t been so good with people dying and getting shot and murdered. I will be a grown man by then and will be married. I’ll probably have kids. I hope it will be a good America.
Michael Beal, Age 10 (Harding School)
In the year 2000, I think there won’t be any crimes of any kind. Shorter school days and lower taxes. I hope there will be lower taxes and no crimes because I’ll be 33 years old and I am sick of crimes and high taxes. I hope woman can be astronauts. I also hope there won’t be any pollution. And I also hope there will be town in space, where people live in space capsules.
Lora Ziarko, Age 10 (Harding School)
Cars That Float On Air
I think the future will be better than it is now. The pollution problem will be solved and there will be cars that float on air. I will be 34 in the year 2000. I will have a good job designing modern houses with push-button controls for everything to make it easier on everyone.
You could push a button and a bed would unfold from the wall. Everything would run on solar energy so you wouldn’t have to worry about the fuel shortage. You wouldn’t have to go to school. It would be on TV and living would be much easier for everyone.
John Vecchione, Age 11 (Harding School)
Young People Unemployed
I think by the year 2000 we will be riding bikes or driving solar-energized cars. By then more younger people will be unemployed. The price of gas will go up and so will the price of coal, silver, gold and oil.
Pietro Sincropi, 10 (Harding School)
Living on Mars
I think it is going to be an all-new world. People are going to be able to live on the moon and on Mars. Man is going to have computers to do the work for him. It is going to be a computer run world.
Tracy McCoy, Age 12 (Harding School)
Most of the World Will Be The United States of America
In the year 2000 I will be 34 years old. And actually I don’t think kids will have to go to school, because I believe that families will have computers to educate students. That’s all for education. I also believe that most of the world will all be the United States of America. I also believe that business and industry will be up 75 per cent. And as for culture, the Model T will be an old artifact. And, if you have children or grandchildren, they’ll all be more interested in culture than ever.
Mike Metzger, Age 10 3/4 (Harding School)
I Hope By Then Things Will Get Better
I think that everything by the year 2000 will be different. I hope the violence will all be stopped. I hope that the computers don’t take over people’s jobs. I hope by then things will get better.
Mary Gallo, Age 12 (Harding School)
June 26, 2012
It’s hard to imagine a world before the ubiquitous security camera. In major cities around the world, it’s just expected that we’re all being photographed maybe dozens of times a day.
The CCTV camera has permeated popular culture and is an icon frequently used by artists who are concerned with the rise of the surveillance state. But its predominant image as the Orwellian eye in the sky wasn’t always a given. Just as people were experimenting with the potential uses of broadcast TV in the 1930s, so too were people envisioning different ways to utilize closed-circuit television in the 1950s.
And with the emergence of color television technologies in the early 1950s, the opportunities were even more expansive; CCTV might be used as a way to teach doctors-in-training or sell brightly colored dresses in a shop window while it’s modeled from inside the store.
The January 1951 issue of Radio-Electronics magazine explained how people of the future might put color CCTV to use. The battle over color broadcast TV that the article mentions was an early format war between three different companies looking for FCC approval. CBS had a field-sequential system, Color Television Incorporated (CTI) had a line-sequential system, and RCA had a dot-sequential system. In 1950, the CBS system was the front-runner but it was ultimately abandoned in 1953 and an improved version of the RCA system became the standard.
While the battle over color television broadcasting rages, another type of color television has been taking over without fanfare or opposition. The field being conquered peacefully is industrial closed-circuit television. Already established in monochrome, it is finding color a valuable adjunct.
The term “industrial television” has been interpreted to mean roughly all non-entertainment uses of the new medium, including its employment at fashion shows and in banks. In a number of applications, industrial television supervises operations too dangerous for human beings. It makes possible certain types of advertising displays and saves manpower in work requiring observation at a number of separate points.
Possibly the most publicized application of closed-circuit color television is televising surgical operations. Since internes can learn operating techniques only by watching skilled surgeons, making the operation visible to larger numbers is important.
The idea of a live model showing off a dress through CCTV seems interesting. I’m not aware of any department stores that actually did this. If you are, please let me know in the comments. I’m sure someone must’ve tried this.
It seems banks are always on the forefront of new security technologies. Just as the first practical use of microfilm was by a banker in 1925, this article imagined that new optics would allow for the quick and convenient transmission of signatures in order to verify the authenticity of a check.
Today, the use of TV cameras to investigate mining disasters is commonplace. In 2010, the 33 trapped Chilean miners were seen by a TV camera mounted on a probe sent below.
Another common use for cameras today, which was predicted in this 1951 article, is for the monitoring of traffic. Below, traffic tunnels of the future are looked after by a lone man (with apparently 24 monitors).
And then there’s the infrared camera of the future which will allow you to keep your possessions safe, even in the dark.
Lastly, there is the “staring at gauges” use of CCTV. The article includes a lot of these kinds of illustrations, but I’ve only included one example below. You get the idea…
January 6, 2012
The first known case of aircraft being used in police work was in 1919, when famed Canadian aviator Wilfrid Reid May flew a detective in pursuit of a dangerous fugitive from Edmonton to Edson (landing in a town street). In the decades since, law enforcement aviation units have utilized planes, helicopters, blimps and, most recently, unmanned aerial drones.
Notably absent from that list are heavily-armed flying gondolas. But that’s precisely the idea presented in the February, 1936 issue of Everyday Science and Mechanics. An article by editor Hugo Gernsback–considered by many to be the father of modern science fiction– predicted that, as long as police officers were stuck on terra firma, the mobsters always would have the edge:
The automobile, as a quick get-away instrument in crime, has assumed vast proportions during the past decade. Notorious gangsters and their henchmen are always using high-powered automobiles and, unfortunately, they are often able to outwit local police and state troopers after the crime has been engineered. Very frequently, the license number and a good description of the car is obtained by the police but, as a rule, so much time is lost in distributing such information from Police Headquarters that the criminals can make a clean getaway. Usually, the crime car is abandoned a little later, after the gangsters have changed to another.
Gernsback, who was a pioneer in the field of radio and helped to popularize the word “television” in the United States (he’s sometimes mistakenly credited with coining the word), couldn’t help but mention the advances short-wave radio had made in assisting police of the era. However, Gernsback acknowledged that more than just better communication would be needed to stop the gangsters of the future. Our noble author is also sure to mention that the gondola is “streamlined,” a popular design choice for the 1930s, when even humans were determined to be outfitted for the fast and aerodynamic future.
It is true that short-wave radio, in connection with police cars, has been able to decrease crime somewhat; but this is true mostly in large cities. Once the fleeing gangsters take to the rural highways, it is usually impossible for the police to overtake them.
A means is here proposed to enable the police to move quickly about, and apprehend, criminals, via airplane. A number of municipalities now have airplanes, and most of them are being equipped with police radio. But it is one thing to notify an airplane that a car is heading in a certain direction on the highway, and another to stop the car by airplane. The reason for this is that the modern airplane cannot come too close to the ground and, even if it did, it could do so for only a very brief space of time, measured in seconds. Suppose we have instead a police plane equipped with a separate gondola, which is streamlined, and which can be lowered from the plane by a steel cable. By means of the plane’s engines, the gondola can be lowered or raised quite rapidly, while the plane can fly from 300 to 400 feet above the ground. The gondola, which swings free, except as it is supported by the steel cable, can assume a partially independent motion of its own, because it has a rudder and elevators to steer it, like a glider. It can, therefore, independent of the airplane, veer to the right or the left, and even turn about in the opposite direction, should this be necessary. The mobility of the gondola is, therefore, greater than that of the plane.
November 30, 2011
George Gallup Jr., the son of Gallup Poll founder George Gallup died of liver cancer last week at the age of 81. Gallup Jr. wrote a book with William Proctor in 1984 titled Forecast 2000 that contained numerous predictions about the future of the United States. Gallup Jr., coming from a tradition of opinion polls, naturally hoped that there might be a methodical and scientific way to forecast future events. “In this book, my goal has been to minimize as far as possible idle speculation about the future and to substitute what I believe constitutes the most reliable and comprehensive predictive approach now available.”
The first chapter of the book focuses on war and terrorism. Gallup Jr. sets a scene in New York City in 1997 wherein terrorists — armed with a nuclear device — storm the Empire State Building’s observation deck. It’s interesting to see a scenario focused on nuclear terrorism which, in 1980, was a threat not often discussed by mainstream media outlets.
As we saw with the “panic-proof test” in a 1953 issue of Collier’s, New York is a popular target of fictional destruction. But why New York? Max Page notes in his book The City’s End: Two Centuries of Fantasies, Fears and Premonitions of New York’s Destruction, “To destroy New York is to strike symbolically at the heart of the United States. No city has been more often destroyed on paper, film, or canvas than New York’s.”
Gallup Jr., looking 13 years into the future, offers his take on the symbolic resonance of New York City:
It’s a warm, sunny spring afternoon. Office workers are just cleaning up cups and papers from their lunches in Central Park, Bryant Park, and other favorite outdoor spots.
But then the unusual big-city tranquility is shattered by news reports that begin to come through on portable radios scattered around the grassy patches. A terrorist group of some sort has take over the observation deck on top of the Empire State Building. The terrorists claim they have set up and armed a nuclear device. It’s quite a big bomb, they say — more powerful than those dropped on Hiroshima and Nagaski.
As pedestrians gather in steadily growing clusters around the available radios, more information pours in: The terrorists are connected with some extreme anti-Israel faction. They have chosen New York City as their target because it has a larger Jewish population than any other city in the world — and also because much Zionist activity is centered there.
Gallup Jr. goes on to explain the demands of his fictional terrorists:
Their demands are nothing short of staggering: a $1 billion extortion payment… freedom for scores of named terrorists in prisons around the world… a guarantee of the political division of Jerusalem and the establishment of a sizable chunk of Israeli territory as a Palestinian homeland… their group is to be given absolute control over the designated portion of Israel…
The demands go on and on, and they’re topped off by a seemingly impossible deadline: The requirements must all be met by high noon the following day. Otherwise, the device will be exploded, and all of Manhattan Island and much of the surrounding area will be seared to the ground. Moreover, radiation will make the land for hundreds of miles around the explosion site uninhabitable indefinitely.
It’s a bit chilling for readers who remember the attacks of September 11, 2001 to read Gallup Jr.’s predictions about how shock, panic and a sense of helplessness encompass the city:
As the news of this threat spreads around the city, the reactions are varied. Most people stand or sit around just listening to the news. Some think the whole thing must be another Orson Welles joke — a phony broadcast designed to simulate reality. After all, there have been many other such dramatic programs in the past, and this is certainly just another to draw in a wide listening audience.
Others accept it as a real event, but they’re sure the terrorists are bluffing about the bomb. Still others are optimistic for other reasons: For example, they’re certain that one of the government’s antiterrorist teams will either overpower the offenders or negotiate a settlement of some sort.
A number of people are too stunned to move. A few panic, and either break down in tears or start running to their apartments to gather their valuables together with the idea of getting out of the city.
As the day wears on and night falls on the city, it becomes apparent that the broadcasts are no joke. Growing numbers of people — many more than the commuter lines to upstate New York and New Jersey can handle — try to get out of the city. Huge traffic jams build up, and there seem to be an unusual number of auto breakdowns and flat tires — more terrorist activity? people wonder.
As the night wears on, the terrorists hold firm to their demands, and the sense of panic rises. What if they’re serious? What if they really plan to explode that bomb? Increasing numbers of usually relaxed citizens begin to decide that perhaps they’d better waste no more time getting out of the city. But many don’t have cars — a necessity in most cities, but not in Manhattan because of the extensive public transportation system. And those who do have cars find they can’t even get close to the tunnels and bridges that lead out of the city. The one exception is Long Island — but who wants to get stuck out there if a nuclear bomb goes off in Manhattan?
Daybreak reveals many strained, haggard faces on the city sidewalks and in the jammed-up autos on New York City thoroughfares. There seems to be no escape from this dilemma. One attempt to overpower the terrorists has failed, with several attack helicopters shot down.
In his final paragraphs painting the scene, Gallup Jr. decides the city’s ultimate fate:
Finally, high noon arrives. New Yorkers sit glued to their radios and TV sets, waiting with bated breath. The negotiations have broken off, but there’s still hope that the terrorists will make some sort of counteroffer. That’s the way this sort of game is played, and most people believe there has to be a solution. After all, what’s the point in a bunch of terrorists blowing up an entire city when they’re in a position to get something, even if it’s not everything they asked for?
The lull continues through four minutes after twelve, then five minutes. A growing number of listeners and viewers begin to relax. Something good must be happening.
Then, the blinding light flashes into every dim corner of the city, and the roar follows almost simultaneously. But no one has heard the roar because the searing heat has destroyed all life.