Post-pandemic, what did people in 1921 predict would happen in 2021?

1918 Spanish influenza pandemic
Seattle policemen wearing protective gauze face masks during the influenza epidemic of 1918, which claimed millions of lives worldwide. Photo credit Time Life Pictures/National Archives/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images
By KYW Newsradio

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — What will life look like after the coronavirus pandemic? Crowded concert venues, vacations abroad, unparalleled maskless meals inside a restaurant.

Jason Feifer, editor-in-chief of Entrepreneur magazine, posed another question: What did the people of 1921 think 2021 would be like?

“I was really surprised to find that they were actually pretty spot on,” Feifer said of an era that just survived World War I and the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. “They were living through a moment of great technological leaps forward. They were at the dawn of the electricity age.”

Feifer sifted through newspapers from 1921, looking for mentions of “the year 2021.” Through his research for the magazine and his own podcast, “Pessimists Archive,” Feifer found that some predictions were spot-on. Some predicted the invention of thermostats, or the fact that cellars — modern-day garages — would one day hold cars.

People also romanticized life without technology.

As the telephone started to become a household item, some thought people wouldn’t want to see others in person anymore, Feifer found — similar to 21st-century behaviors and habits dictated by our smartphones.

While looking back at history and today, Feifer identified two “camps” of people.

“(There’s) the camp that is fearful and resistant of the innovation, and the camp that is excited about the innovation. And neither camp is perfect at predicting how the future may go because they are trapped in their own time period,” he explained.

Looking toward the future now, he encourages people to not fear change or new technology, because “it’s going to happen anyway.”

In 1907, for instance, people had a moral crisis, fearing young girls’ developing maternal instincts would be ruined — over teddy bears.

“It’s really instructive to look back and see what those kinds of conversations were like back then,” he said. “People were freaking out about stuff that now today seems so silly.”