The Prediction of Henry Adams

The historian Henry Adams, grandson of John Adams, wrote this around 1905, looking back over his life:

“Science now lay in a plane where scarcely one hundred or two hundred minds in the world could follow its mathematical processes; but bombs educate vigorously, and even wireless telegraphy and air-ships might require the reconstruction of society…. At the rate of progress since 1800, every American who lived into the year 2000 would know how to control unlimited power. He would think in complexities unimaginable to an earlier mind. He would deal with problems altogether beyond the range of earlier society. To him the 19th century would stand on the same plane as the 4th — equally childlike” (Chapter 34, The Education of Henry Adams).

It’s remarkable how the future always turns out to be stranger than we could imagine in some ways and not so different in other ways.

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