Self claimed inventor Thomas Edison may have been the king of the patent industry, but the persecutor of Nikola Tesla managed to get his vision of the future completely wrong.
In 1911, the Miami Metropolis popped around and asked him what life would be like in 2011.
His answers showed that when it came down to it, Edison really did not have much imagination.
Edison’s reply, which was found by writers of Paleofuture.com is just plain silly.
Edison insisted that books would be printed on thin leaves of nickel, “so light to hold that the reader can enjoy a small library in a single volume.”
He worked out that a “a book two inches thick will contain forty thousand pages, the equivalent of a hundred volumes; six inches in aggregate thickness, it would suffice for all the contents of the Encyclopedia Britannica. And each volume would weigh less than a pound.”
Nickel? And how would you turn the pages of such a book? Other than its size, what advantage and how much would such an idea cost?
At the time, Edison had made a pound of the nickel leaves, which he claimed were more flexible than paper and ten times as durable, for less than five shillings. In a hundred years’ time the cost will probably be reduced to a tenth, he claimed.
Although we have better than that in a Kindle, it seems strange that Edison did not see a gadget doing the job, just a variant of existing technology.
He did correctly predict that the steam engine had had its day. He said that in the year 2011 such railway trains as survive will be driven at incredible speed by electricity generated by “hydraulic” wheels. He got the electricity bit right. But then he thought everything would be electrical anyway.
About the only thing he got perfect was saying that future travellers will fly through the air, swifter than any swallow, at a speed of two hundred miles an hour, in colossal machines, which will enable him to “breakfast in London, transact business in Paris and eat his luncheon in Cheapside”. Technically possible, but Edison did not foresee that countries would become so obsessed with security that for a person to do a flight like that he would have to spend nine hours being prodded by bored security guards and would miss his luncheon.
Edison claimed that the house of the next century will be furnished from basement to attic with steel, at a sixth of the present cost.
This steel would be so light that it will be as easy to move a sideboard as it is today to lift a drawing room chair.
Steel furnishings would be converted by cunning varnishes to the semblance of rosewood, or mahogany, or “any other wood her ladyship fancies”, Edison claimed.
Edison thought that modern scientists would discover the secret of transmuting metals and gold would be as common and as cheap as bars of iron or blocks of steel.
He thought there was no reason why our great liners should not be of solid gold from stem to stern; why we should not ride in golden taxicabs, or substituted gold for steel in our drawing room suites.
Well there is of course. Gold is a little too soft even if you could make lots of it.
All up, it is a pity that the US made Edison a saint rather than listening to a real genius like Nicola Tesla.