How will our era be misremembered 2000 years from now?

Inspired by the thread about what Hollywood and bad novels teach us about history, I wonder how our current world will be misremembered 2000 years from now. Even with the revolution in digitized data storage and retrieval, I’m sure that people won’t let the mundane truth stand in the way of a good story, and of course there’s who knows how much potential for falsification, propaganda, etc. Here’s a couple of suggestions to start out:

I’m sure it will be a trivia question to ask “when did a human being first travel to Luna?”, and very few people other than professional historians will remember a brief dead-end program sponsered by the ancient nation-state called the United States.

I actually had a dream once where in the far future someone is shown a Thompson Gun and they remark “Oh yeah, a ‘machine-gun’! Like the cowboys of the Old West used to use!”

I think it will be remembered as a golden age, sort of like Greece or Rome. They will look back on today (from their much more luxurious, developed and civilized age) and think ‘Thems were the days!’. They will probably do tons of What If’s concerning if one of them could only come back and show us how to build the damn fusion reactors, or harvest anti-matter in usable quantities, or whatever far out technology they have and we don’t, but if only we DID, we’d have gotten to where they were so much faster. They will probably have long discussions about how barbaric we were, and use their standards to judge our times through the hindsight of history.

I seriously doubt that, even if no country on earth ever leaves the planet again for a manned space flight to another moon or planet, that they will look on Apollo as a dead end program, nor do I believe for a moment that the US won’t go down in history as one of the great powers, similar to Rome or the British/French Empires (which will also be remembered). It will be a great achievement no matter what, and will be seen that way regardless. Hell, they might be digging up our architecture and trying to emulate it…which will be ironic, if they are excavating DC and go with a Greek theme.

There will be a hell of a lot more of our culture and information available to future generations, assuming the whole world doesn’t go tits up. Digital media will ensure that, if nothing else. They will know exactly what people like FDR and Obama look like, they will see our films (gods know what they will make of Star Wars), and even have access to a good chunk of our data…hell, some of the stuff from this message board might still be about in a data archive or digital warehouse, open and search-able on their version of the internet.


Much like ancient Rome we may be seen as decadent and immoral. Patrick Buchanan may be our Cato, Paul Johnson our Tacitus.

Probably something like this.

Clothing will be pretty badly misremembered. Like how they put everyone in kilts in Braveheart, a movie about our time made in the year 3000 CE might show us wearing circa 2300 CE clothes, backwards with the tags still on.

I’m sure the moon landing will be a “landmark event” forever unless human society completely collapses and we forget everything, just because it’s the first time that we set foot on a non-earth land. That’s a pretty big deal. I’m not sure how exactly it will be remembered, though. Will Neil Armstrong be a household name in any 4000 CE country? Maybe it will be like the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans - Most people are vaguely aware of it, a good amount can give a super-basic version of what happened and when, and a few people can give details like names, dates, and history.

I think it’d be kind of cool to see the year 4000 version of Mel Gibson make an Apocalypto style movie about the fall of the Soviet Union or something else happening in our era, using period languages and everything.

The way we remember Rome et al. is probably a pretty good analogy.

People can have a pretty good understanding of Roman history, but it’s very cursory, mostly concerning the transition from republic to empire and then a matter of what emperor replaced who and what battles were won and lost. The particulars of Roman life are not something even most amateur historians know much about; their diet, habits, ethics and way of dealing with relationships were in many ways wildly different from ours.

In 2000 years I suspect a lot of armchair historians will be able to tell you who Abraham Lincoln or Adolf Hitler or Mohandas Gandhi were; I doubt, though, than all but the most dedicated historians will know what life was like for people, or what your attitudes and ethics and outlook on life were. People will know that we didn’t have particle beam weapons and zero-point disintegrator rays, but they will make movies about World War II where the American soldiers at D-Day carry M-16s and get air support from Sopwith Camels and listen to hip-hop; 2000 years from now those things will all be perceived by most people as having happened at pretty much the same time.

As nami points out, clothing is one area they will get hopelessly wrong. Very, very few of today’s films and TV shows about the past get clothing right. William Wallace would no more have worn a kilt than he would have worn a Lakers jersey. In today’s movies clothing of the past is presented as being much more leathery, armor-y, and drab than it really was. (Usually; some shows get it right.)

Twinkies will be seen as survival rations given that they would still be edible. :smiley:

Eleanor Roosevelt will be esteemed as the first Reverend Mother, taking advantage of her marriage to a barbaric warrior king (who punctated his half century of rule with frequent animal combat in the amphitheatre, before a bear chewed his legs off).

Most people probably won’t realize that there was a fifty year (and counting) gap between landing on the moon, and real exploration and exploitation of outer space. I suspect that if Neil Armstrong is remembered, he’ll be conflated with a lot of other space-related “firsts.” People will think he was the first man on the moon, and the guy who colonized Mars.

That’s assuming that it doesn’t happen to Yuri Gagarin first, of course.

BTW: what I was thinking of when I mentioned the Apollo landings was that whenever we do start going back to the moon to stay, presumably in the next fifty years or less, is what most people will remember centuries later. Everyone remembers Lindberg, the first solo, non-stop flight across the Atlantic but only history buffs remember all the previous flights of varying qualifications. That’s why I said the Apollo landings might be a “trivia question”.

ETA: Miller beat me to it.

I think that the view on the subject from the guy at *The Perry Bible Fellowship *comic is required:


That will depend on what happens in future of course, but it is doubtful if the US could ever be seen as equivalent to the Roman or British Empires. Those were physical empires that lasted for centuries, and during their time they were undisputed masters of vast areas of the world and they were never seriously challenged militarily.

In contrast the US has only even been a world player for bit over 100 years. It has been a military and cultural power since WWI at best. Until WWII it was seriously challenged by both Germany and England militarily and numerous nations culturally. Since WWI it was seriously militarily challenged by the USSR until just 20 years ago. During a lot of that time it was surpassed by the USSR in terms of technology and military might and at any time during that period its enemies could have utterly destroyed it within hours. Culturally, the US has had a lot of influence since WWII, but the US has also *absorbed *a lot of other culture. With the other superpowers gone, the US has demonstrated no real might or influence, as the debacles in Korea and Iraq are demonstrating. And it seems highly likely that China, India and the EU will seriously challenge the US within the next 20 years.

Historically the US is in no way comparable to the British or Roman Empires. It is a very, very brief blip on the world stage, and even when it does appear it is only one of many superpowers for most of that time. If things continue the way they are then the US will only have been vaguely comparable to those empires for a few decades.

Really, the US is just a footnote to the chapter on the “Industrial Period”. It is not a major, prolonged player of our time period. For a scholar of the distant future, studying this “Industrial Period” as a scholar of today might study the Middle Ages, the US will scarcely rate a mention except as one of the numerous powers involved in the prolonged 20th century conflicts. The activities of Britain, Spain, France, China, Japan, Russia and the German states, in contrast, last for centuries and have major historical ramifications, including the very creation of the US.

It seems likely that it will be remembered, at best, as something like the Hittite empire, though even the Hittites managed a few centuries as a superpower. Perhaps a better comparison would be to the Vandals. A group that was ascendant for a few generations, a group that had significant impacts on the established cultures of the world, but whose influence faded rapidly and has been relegated to a footnote based on their effects on the Roman, Greek and Egyptian cultures. I suspect the US will be treated the same way. A brief flowering of a rebellious branch of the British empire that had an effect on the machinations of the Important Cultures at a turbulent time in history. IOW remembered for the influence it had on other, well-remembred, cultures.

And how many people can tell you when or where the Norse landed in the New World? Or when Iceland was settled or when Antarctica was discovered? Hell, outside of those countries, how many people could tell you when the first European set foot on Australia or New Zealand or where and when the first European settlements were? How many people can tell you when or who the first person in space was ( older people might be more likely to remember this, but ask someone under 30)? How many can tell you who was the first man to fly or where or how?

IOW we can’t remember important events like when we first set foot on uninhabited land or when “we” discovered and settled major landmasses or when we escaped the bonds of gravity. Those events genuinely are big deals. In contrast an experimental day trip to the moon was pretty much a PR exercise. It has no historical or scientific significance at all that I can see. It might seem like a big deal to you, but to a thousand years from now it will seem about as momentous as the settlement of New Zealand or the first balloon flight. People living on the moon might remember the founding of the first colony, but it’s doubtful that they will remember the the first time someone visited.

Heck, amongst younger people today the moon landing is seen as pretty damn passe. In fact I suspect that a majority of people under 25 today probably couldn’t tell you the year of the landing or much about it at all aside form Armstrong’s name. It wasn’t all that interesting or memorable to me, and I have an older sibling who can remember the event. I only memorised the date as a piece of trivia. As more time passes and things continue to fail to occur on the moon, the landing seems more and more like a Guinness World Record stunt, and about as monumental.

If current trends continue, then in 2000 years it will be much worse than that.

Consider how most people view life in 1011. For most of the population it is a weird pot-pourri of mounted knights in plate armour, stone castles, Elizabethan accents, nobles in tights, peasants in rag leggings and hooded caps, black plague, longbows and witch burnings. The idea that those things are dispersed across a period of hundreds of years is something that even the most educated people don’t seem to get. There is a near-universal perception of the Dark Ages/Middle-Ages/Early Reformation as being one big, uniform time period.

If that trend continues for the next 2, 000 years then we won’t just have soldiers at D-Day carry M-16s and getting air support from Sopwith Camels and listening to hip-hop. The US soldiers will be Negro slaves… carrying fusion guns… and getting air support from balloons… that are dropping nuclear bombs… onto the massed ranks of Spanish musketmen… who are huddled in their trenches on the Somme… while listening to Brittany Spears sing “Silent Night”… on their telegraph receivers.

Because that really is how most people view periods more than 1, 000 years in the past. Eras get names like “The Middle Ages” and “Classical Greece” and “Ancient Egypt” and people genuinely believe that everything associated with that period all existed simultaneously. Our “Industrial Age” is likely to wind up the same. Everything from the Napoleonic Wars to whatever event defines the end of this era is going to get mushed together in the public consciousness.

Except for the slaves part, let me be the first to say: AWESOME!!!

Obligatory XKCD link. :slight_smile:

I have got to draw this.

2000 years? The species will be lucky to be extant in 200 years.

There’s an episode of Futurama where the cast visit a “Historic” theme park called Past-O-Rama, in which Einstein and Hammurabi disco dance together in a hot air balloon, cowboys hunt Woolly Mammoths, the meaning of a “No Parking Due To Street Cleaning” sign is an unfathomable mystery, and the park attendants dress like extras from a Shakespearian play.

I’ve always thought it to be scarily prescient, actually.

Or from the second episode of the series: