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Tuesday
Apr052011

Marriage 100 Years From Now (1933)

In the year 1933 physician Ira S. Wile made some wild predictions about what marriage would look like 100 years in the future. And although it's not yet 2033, we can still be thankful that his predictions for our world just 22 years from now were wildly off the mark.

Dr. Wile imagined a bureau of records under government control that would begin monitoring people the day they were born. He predicted that everything about a person would be recorded; from someone's physical and mental defects at birth to the subjective progress and imperfections of that person throughout their life. Then, when someone wished to be married, they would be assessed by bureaucrats and found a suitable mate based upon case cards that have been cross-indexed against members of the opposite sex. These assessments would be made based on class and desirable physical and mental traits. I don't know about you guys, but after reading the words "case cards" and "cross-indexed" I'm gonna have to take a long, cold shower. Reproduction by committee gets me so hot...

Just three years earlier the 1930 movie Just Imagine looked at this very same issue. Set in the high-tech dystopian world of 1980, the musical sci-fi film (yes, I said musical science fiction) follows the forbidden love of two people that the government's marriage tribunal won't allow to marry. At least in Wile's future it sounds like people can conceive their children the fun old-fashioned messy way rather than just popping two bits into a vending machine.

The entire article, published in the June 25, 1933 Oakland Tribune, appears below.

1933 June 25 Oakland Tribune

While it might be somehow easier -- though still repugnant -- to understand State controlled sexual reproduction and marriage in a pre-WWII era, we must remember that human eugenics didn't die with Nazism, as you can see in this clip from 1967.

 

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Reader Comments (7)

You call this prediction "wildly off the mark," but isn't the indexing and cross-referencing what eHarmony does?

April 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBrendan

There's plenty of laws on marriage and reproduction that could be termed "eugenics" that people take for granted in most societies today. In most cultures you aren't allowed to marry your siblings (despite that being quite common in ancient cultures, such as among the Ancient Egyptians). Plus in many places you can't marry your cousin, although that was common even in the 19th century (heck, even Charles Darwin did it, although later he began to wonder if that had something to do with the fact that several of his children died quite young).

April 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan Badger

Since I have just researched the eugenics movement for a paper, I found this very interesting. It shows what was going on at a popular level rather than the laws and theoretical writings. The fact that there was apparently anti-eugenics sci-fi is particularly important.

April 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlfred Kracher

There was pro-eugenics sci-fi, too, and it remained popular long after World War II.

The movie "Idiocracy" is arguably a recent example, repeating the premise of Cyril Kornbluth's famous short story "The Marching Morons"; both build on the (almost certainly false) assertion that the modern human environment does not select in favor of intelligence, and imagine a future world of ubiquitous genetic mental impairment.

April 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMatt McIrvin

@Brendan Good point. I guess what I was interpreting as wildly off the mark was the government's role in forcing you to marry someone based on their calculations. But yes, now I wish I had talked about online dating algorithms a little bit.

April 6, 2011 | Registered CommenterMatt Novak

The bit about a committee choosing marriage partners isn't much different than what has happened in numerious human cultures, arranged marriages, where family elders chose potential marriage partners.

April 6, 2011 | Unregistered Commentertim gueguen

It could have been possible if Hitler won the war.

April 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAxgryl

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