How 1920 Japan Viewed 2020

Imagining various scenarios can foster new ideas. A few weeks ago I came across a series of drawings from 1920 imagining Japan’s future society. It featured various social changes and some technological innovations.

Here is a small selection:

Video Phone

My first pick is the video phone. This is done. It took about 80 years to spread. 90–100 if you wanted it mobile.

Personal Vehicles

This one describes all sorts of vehicles. Note that by 1920, a city like New York had already made the switch from horses to cars (see the famous 1900 vs 1913 photos). Funny enough, in addition to a flying car (with foldable wings), there is also a scooter (we got those!). We don’t have the telescopic car.

Flying Hospital

“Effective to isolate tuberculosis patients.”

While TB is still around, it has gone from causing 1 in 4 deaths in Europe in the 1800’s, to affecting ‘only’ about 10 million people per year worldwide, and declining. There is a flying hospital since 1982, operated by a non-profit named Orbis, focused on eyesight.


Prosthetic limbs and even heads! We’re getting close. Surgical tools have made progress too.

Underground Networks

From subways to power lines. Funny enough, while Japan’s subway networks are very sophisticated, only 8% of Tokyo’s power lines are buried (vs 100% in London, Paris and many developed cities). Further, it seems Japanese don’t mind it.

Fresh Food Delivery

Fresh fish delivered by bike carts. Not exactly but close enough.

Bridge Connecting Japan and Korea

Not yet. Fukuoka to Busan is about 214km.

Building a Japan-Korea bridge would likely cost about US$100 billion. Maybe Apple will build one to speed up its supply chain?

Conclusion: We miss the most important

This series of predictions show how hard it is to predict technical breakthroughs, timeframes, and impact. At today’s pace, adaptability probably matters more than accuracy.

Partner @ SOSV — $700m VC fund for Deep Tech (biology, robotics, etc.) | Digital Naturalist | Keynote Speaker | Angel Investor

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