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In the Year 2889

Jules Verne, with Michel Verne

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    Oh, my! This has to be one of the most prescient futuristic pieces I've ever read, with one major error. These "advanced" technologies and ideas didn't take a thousand years to come about. They took less than one hundred! That should be a scary eye-opener, because they have NOT turned out to be the wonderful inventions as purported in the story. Oh, my!! Again.
    Though considered to be written by Verne and his son, Michel, modern opinion is that it was mostly or perhaps totally written by the latter. It is still listed under his father, so therefore, it will go on my Jules Verne Index Page. It is a very short story, totaling only 14 pages on my Nook app. The Wikipedia page states that Michel based it on his father's ideas. Something unusual, however, is that it not only takes place in New York City, but the first publication was in English, February 1889, in the American magazine The Forum. The Wikipedia article lists twenty-one predictions which you can read by clicking the above link. I think there is a certain amount of interpretation that can be applied to them, because, owing to my area of expertise, I read different meanings into these inventions.
    Just a bit about Verne and his son, who was his only biological child. Michel was born in Paris in 1861 and died in 1925. He was a bit of a "wayward" child, as described by Wikipedia, and for this reason, his father sent him to a private rehabilitation facility for delinquent boys and young men, ages 6-21, called the Mettray Penal Colony, for six months when he was 15. It didn't help, and he continued to get into trouble, particularly in relationships with women, apparently. But later, the stressed relationship with his father became more congenial, and they collaborated on some works. He was a writer, editor, and in charge of publishing his father's last manuscripts. And now, heres a bit about the story, and my comments on the inventions.
    It begins with a short commentary on how marvelous life is.

How much fairer they would find our modern towns, with populations amounting sometimes to 10,000,000 souls; their streets 300 feet wide, their houses 1000 feet in height; with a temperature the same in all seasons; with their lines of aërial locomotion crossing the sky in every direction! . . . Think of the railroads of the olden time, and you will be able to appreciate the pneumatic tubes through which to-day one travels at the rate of 1000 miles an hour.

    OK, so we don't travel in pneumatic tubes, but we see them all the time when we pull into a bank. They have a number of other uses, too! And as far as population, 10,000,000 ain't nothin'! Check out the populations of these cities, with Tokyo topping the list at 39.1 million. With that many people, where would they find room for 300-foot wide streets? And as for tall houses . . . from Wikipedia, "The tallest residential building in the world is Central Park Tower in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. It was topped out at a height of 472.4 metres (1,550 ft.) in 2019."
    And as far as "a temperature the same in all seasons; lines of aërial locomotion crossing the sky." OMG!! Aerosol dispersions. Solar radiation management. CLIMATE ENGINEERING!!! EGAD!
    And here's something mentioned by Wikipedia, but apparently they didn't see it the way I do, again, because of my area of expertise.

Some of these absorb and condense the living force contained in the sun's rays; others, the electricity stored in our globe; others again, the energy coming from whatever source, as a waterfall, a stream, the winds, etc. He, too, it was that invented the transformer, a more wonderful contrivance still, which takes the living force from the accumulator, and, on the simple pressure of a button, gives it back to space in whatever form may be desired, whether as heat, light, electricity, or mechanical force, after having first obtained from it the work required.

    Solar panels? Hydro-power? Wind turbines? And YIKES!! HAARP, perhaps? Next, we go to an important person of the time, and observe his activities throughout the day.

Yes, all these wonders have been wrought by the accumulator and the transformer. And can we not to them also trace, indirectly, this latest wonder of all, the great "Earth Chronicle" building in 253d Avenue, which was dedicated the other day? If George Washington Smith, the founder of the Manhattan "Chronicle," should come back to life to-day, what would he think were he to be told that this palace of marble and gold belongs to his remote descendant, Fritz Napoleon Smith, who, after thirty generations have come and gone, is owner of the same newspaper which his ancestor established!

For George Washington Smith's newspaper has lived generation after generation, now passing out of the family, anon coming back to it. When, 200 years ago, the political center of the United States was transferred from Washington to Centropolis, the newspaper followed the government and assumed the name of Earth Chronicle. Unfortunately, it was unable to maintain itself at the high level of its name. Pressed on all sides by rival journals of a more modern type, it was continually in danger of collapse. Twenty years ago its subscription list contained but a few hundred thousand names, and then Mr. Fritz Napoleon Smith bought it for a mere trifle, and originated telephonic journalism.

    So, as I understand it, Centropolis was formerly NYC, and the Earth Chronicle is now beyond a mere "newspaper," but a huge communications network. OK, so that's old news here in 2023, eh? There, through modern "telephony," reporters, statesmen and scientists speak with subscribers, who also own a phonograph to record the news for when they're ready to listen. The internet? Podcasts. Webinars? Teleconferencing?
    Elsewhere, we hear that life expectancy has risen to 52 years; (Wikipedia says 68, but I don't know where that came from). Of course, before the Covid bioweapons were foisted on the public, people were living into their hundreds, but now . . . . Anyways, it is because all atmospheric micro-organism have been wiped out. HA! We're going in the opposite direction, aren't we? There are more toxic substances in the air we breathe than at any other point in the history of this planet, I am certain.
    On this day we are observing Mr. Smith. His wife is at their Paris mansion and he is in a foul mood. But they still are in the company of one another during meals (Skype?). The prepared meals come up through the floor, and when it is bath time, the bathtub appears, so a great many activities are available in a small space. Incidentally, the idea of the table with prepared food rising up through the floor was also used in Lord of the World.
    Smith then makes the rounds to his different divisions. In the astronomical department, they are communicating with other planets. "We have phototelegrams from Mercury, Venus, and Mars." (Faxes?) They have been unable to communicate with Jupiter to this point, or the moon.

"So, then, the moon is positively uninhabited?" asked Mr. Smith.

"At least," answered Cooley, "on the face which she presents to us. As for the opposite side, who knows?"

"Ah, the opposite side! You think, then," remarked Mr. Smith, musingly, "that if one could but—"

"Could what?"

"Why, turn the moon about-face."

"Ah, there's something in that," cried the two men at once. And indeed, so confident was their air, they seemed to have no doubt as to the possibility of success in such an undertaking.

    GASP!! It is reported that Tesla claimed we could split the Earth in half. Fortunately the criminally insane who now rule much of our planet have not yet particularly had a need to do that. OR to turn the moon "about-face." Yet. The thing is, what the Vernes envisioned in the next thousand years has now been going on for decades, at least much of it, particularly messing with the natural world, with absolutely devastating consequences to us here, that threatens us to very near term extinction at this point. I wonder if the Vernes ever considered that, because this story, though sort of cool, is actually glorifying total irresponsibility to the life support systems which every living being on this planet relies upon, and in that respect, this is NOT a cool story. And it becomes even more heinous. Below is a quote that describes nothing short of weather warfare or abusing the natural world for the sake of money. OH GOOD LORD!! NOOOOOO!

Then, the two men bowing to him, Mr. Smith passed into the next hall, an enormous gallery upward of 3200 feet in length, devoted to atmospheric advertising. Every one has noticed those enormous advertisements reflected from the clouds, so large that they may be seen by the populations of whole cities or even of entire countries. This, too, is one of Mr. Fritz Napoleon Smith's ideas, and in the Earth Chronicle building a thousand projectors are constantly engaged in displaying upon the clouds these mammoth advertisements.

    Here's another example of Capitalism at its most damned.

For Mr. Smith has obtained a lease of the great falls of Niagara. For ages the energy developed by the falls went unutilized. Smith, applying Jackson's invention, now collects this energy, and lets or sells it. His visit to the works took more time than he had anticipated. It was four o'clock when he returned home, just in time for the daily audience which he grants to callers.

    And this one? It suggests bioengineered human beings. Aaaaaargh!!!

"Well, sir, these also I will show to be composite. In a few months, a few weeks, I shall have succeeded in solving the problem. Indeed, it may take only a few days."

"And then?"

"Then, sir, I shall simply have determined the absolute. All I want is money enough to carry my research to a successful issue."

"Very well," said Mr. Smith. "And what will be the practical outcome of your discovery?"

"The practical outcome? Why, that we shall be able to produce easily all bodies whatever—stone, wood, metal, fibers—"

"And flesh and blood?" queried Mr. Smith, interrupting him. "Do you pretend that you expect to manufacture a human being out and out?"

    And here is the most atrocious of them all, well underway here in 2023, and threatening to turn the planet into another Venus, called Venus Syndrome and that is NOT sci-fi! Here's what one of his grant applicants proposes.

"As you are aware, sir," began applicant No. 3, "by the aid of our solar and terrestrial accumulators and transformers, we are able to make all the seasons the same. I propose to do something better still. Transform into heat a portion of the surplus energy at our disposal; send this heat to the poles; then the polar regions, relieved of their snow-cap, will become a vast territory available for man's use. What think you of the scheme?"

    I am sure when the Vernes wrote this piece, it was nothing but a fun-fantasy, but to us here in 2023, 134 years later, this stuff is real and much of it has been around for 50-75 years. Certainly the weather modification techniques have been. We see the dire consequences of people inventing things for the sake of inventing them with total disregard of the effects these inventions will have on everything on the planet of which we rely to sustain our lives. If only one of us could travel back in time and have whispered in their ears, "Beware what you imagine, for it may come true!"
    As with all Verne books, father and apparently son, too, whether you like them or not, they make you ponder deeply. Everyone on the planet at this stage of the game needs to spend a great deal of time pondering deeply the direction we are going with this attitude that we have a right do whatever we damn well please to the planet. Especially if it brings in money. That delusion is about to come crashing down. Highly recommended reading.

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