‘When the expectations of wireless experts are realized, everyone will have his own pocket telephone and may be called wherever he happens to be,’ one magazine predicted in 1908. Equally farsighted was a prediction made by Dr. Simon Flexner, the first director of the Rockefeller Institute. The same New Year’s Day that The World was conjuring gyroscopic trains, Dr. Flexner declared that human organ transplants would someday be common.
The point of such predictions was not necessarily that they were accurate but that people cared enough about the future to bother thinking about it. With that in mind, 10 knowledgeable New Yorkers, from the Nobel laureate Paul Nurse (Simon Flexner’s successor) to a 12-year-old girl named Kate, were asked to imagine the city a century from now.
Whether their visions turn out to be right or wrong, whether they are bleak or tongue-in-cheek, all are generous efforts to wonder about the lives of New Yorkers of 2108, as those New Yorkers of 1908 once wondered about ours.