If you grew up imagining that by 2022 you’d be flying your electric car back home to your solar-
powered house, you were probably quite disappointed to instead find yourself shelling out
heaps of cash to fill your tank at the local gas station. Did futurists from the past envision this
modern day problem or did they think we’d have moved onto something new completely? Let’s
look back at some previous predictions about energy from a century ago, some of which have
proven quite accurate, while others, thankfully, have not come to pass.
Would people still even use electricity in the 2020s?
In the early 20st century, the vast majority of people still lit their homes with candle light, but
stories about electricity in homes and even shopping markets were spreading fast. It was
exciting, it was wondrous, it was the iPhone of the day. When picturing the world of the 2020s,
futurists believed that the production and usage of electricity would still be at the very crux of
human progress, and in our present digital age, it is clear that they could not have been more
How would energy be produced?
English author W.L. George made a bold and surprisingly accurate claim in 1920, stating that he
not only foresaw a move away from fossil fuel-generated power, but towards power “obtained
from tides, from the sun, probably from radium and other forms of radial energy.”
Famed inventor Nikola Tesla said, “The universal utilization of water power and its long-
distance transmission will supply every household with cheap power.”
New York scientist Charles P. Steinmetz said, “I could imagine a great structure under glass of
magnifying power which could concentrate the sun’s rays.”
What would this energy be used for?
Famed visionary John Elfreth Watkins accurately predicted fantastic new machines like
snowmobiles (“automobile sleighs in the winter”) and live broadcasting, so that viewers could
see things like “the coronation of kings in Europe.” A journalist from the Knoxville Journal
imagined some different uses for home electricity, such as to “silence squalling babies” and to
zap drunken and disorderly husbands.
Energy Document Translations
A lot of people lament how slowly the move towards alternatives energy sources has been, but
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