Saturday, October 17, 2015

Edward Bellamy's Incredible Crystal Ball

Marty McFly Day” is as good a day as any to look back at another time-travel entertainment—one that electrified our grandparents' grandparents.

Published at the height of the Gilded Age, Edward Bellamy's 1888 utopian novel Looking Backward became the Number 1 best-seller of its time.

It tells the story of a Boston Brahmin who time-travels to the year 2000 and discovers that life in the future is pretty comfortable:
  • War, waste, global warming, crime, unemployment, income inequality, gender differences, advertising and political parties have disappeared.
  • Everyone is at least bi-lingual. People speak a native language and the universal language.
  • The only form of money is the debit card. People use it to shop at vast warehouse clubs like Costco, but act with civility towards one another, because everyone's well educated. All purchases are delivered to shoppers' homes, via pneumatic tubes.
  • Employee engagement approaches 100% and job promotions are based solely on merit. People who refuse to work are imprisoned, and receive only bread and water.
  • People retire in comfort at age 45.
  • Housework is fully automated.
  • Congress meets only once every five years.
Bellamy sold more than a half million copies of Looking Backward. His blueprint for the year 2000 was so talked-about, over 160 "Bellamy Clubs" sprang up across the US.

Forty-seven years after the novel's appearance, Columbia University named it the most important book by a 19th century American.
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