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24 November 2009

In 500 years, who from the 20th century will be remembered by the general population? [More:]
From the 15th century, we have Gutenberg, Joan of Arc and Vlad III Dracula. Perhaps Kings Louis and Henry VII, but how many people today know why they are remembered?
posted by jonmc 24 November | 20:49
Elvis is pretty high on my list as well, higher even than the Beatles.
posted by Ardiril 24 November | 20:52
I think it'll be like Futurama, Gandhi and Einstein in a balloon fighting Nazis. We can barely understand recent history, let alone the far past.
posted by The Whelk 24 November | 20:53
Well, Hitler, I would imagine. Just to get it out of the way.
posted by gaspode 24 November | 20:53
Abe Vigoda.

Actually, they won't need to remember him cos he'll still be alive.
posted by jonmc 24 November | 20:54
Hitler, I think, is possible. As for Ghandi, I think today's general population has mostly forgotten him already.
posted by Ardiril 24 November | 20:59
Einstein tops my list.

But now that we're archiving more and more, historical memory (barring the collapse of technological civilization) becomes a very different kind of thing. Maybe the way we think about history now (grand narratives with a few key players) is largely an artifact of pre-internet dissemination of knowledge, and the very notion of history will become increasingly fragmented and ephemeral, yet also personalized and always-at-our-fingertips.

That said, I guess there may still be a few almost-ubiquitous figures, even if they appear in different roles in different narratives. So I'd still pick Einstein as a good possibility. And, with any luck, Dramatic Hampster.
posted by treepour 24 November | 21:19
Er, Chipmunk, dammit, Chipmunk. (If I can't even get that right, I guess there's no hope we'll see his adorable face honored on currency, flags, etc., assuming those things still exist. Oh well, for a moment I had hope).
posted by treepour 24 November | 21:22
I for one can't wait for I LOVE THE 20TH CENTURY, beamed directly into my brain from the VH1 StatCenter with fun talking heads going on about flappers and Bakelite and nylon stockings and smoking.
posted by The Whelk 24 November | 21:24
posted by Obscure Reference 24 November | 21:35
Bill Gates.
posted by ColdChef 24 November | 21:38
Bob Dylan.
posted by flapjax at midnite 24 November | 21:49
With any luck, not too many people. Maybe just Kurt Vonnegut and Bea Arthur.
posted by ufez 24 November | 21:50
"the way we think about history now"

Not to mention the way we teach history, both now and in the future.
posted by Ardiril 24 November | 21:54
Martin Luther King Jr.
posted by desjardins 24 November | 22:12
Smoking. Definitely. The face of the 20th Century, whoever it was, was sucking on a cancer stick.
posted by crush-onastick 24 November | 22:16
the way we think about history now (grand narratives with a few key players) is largely an artifact of pre-internet dissemination of knowledge, and the very notion of history will become increasingly fragmented and ephemeral, yet also personalized and always-at-our-fingertips.

I think this shift already kind of occurred with the rise of social history since the 1960s and 70s. The historians I know work on projects that are micronarratives, with unfamous people and very granular data, such as fish landings in Gloucester from 1880-1895 and stuff like that.

The differences in the history of the future vs. the history of the past are more pronounced in the areas of collection and dissemination than in changed narrative structurs. Theory really has yet to touch the study of history, which has always been construed as the development of competing narratives and the amassing of evidence to support those narratives. Digital technology can really help catalog and store and tag and disseminate the various narratives, but it won't really change the game of doing history. The Center for History and New Media provides some good examples of that - like the Hurricane Digital History Project and others on this list.
posted by Miko 24 November | 22:24
Wally Cox, Charley Weaver and Paul Lynde from the original Hollywood Squares... lots of non-deteriorating filmstock of them in time capsules...
posted by oneswellfoop 24 November | 22:41
of course, now that we can record and access all aspects of history forever and ever, I think it'll be more that the 20th Century will always be going on somewhere, one big retrophilia craze with shiny new technology. If the recent 80s trend showed us anything it's that what's Remembered isn't exactly What was Popular. Sha Na Na basically created the 50s As We Know It with greasers and Teenagers when people at the time thought of the 50s as The Age Of Anxiety, and that Fantasy 50s was then grabbed on by people as a political totem, like the Middle Ages was used in the 19th century. Revisionism is constant, we cannot go forward, only move sideways, exploring different areas. Anything that can exist has existed, it's just about what's popular at the time. We already know what the future will look like, but there are so many competing narratives, that we don't know which one will be true.
posted by The Whelk 24 November | 22:52
If anything we risk being buried in historical information, unable to distinguish one from the other, everything an echo of something else - and that'll lead to the interesting new interpretations, Time not as an arrow but as big wobbly ball of time stuff. Model friend of mine expressed annoyance that "retro" means anything from 1880 to 1960, and I suspect it'll be the same way in The Future.
posted by The Whelk 24 November | 22:57
everything an echo of something else - and that'll lead to the interesting new interpretations, Time not as an arrow but as big wobbly ball of time stuff

aka pop will eat itself.
posted by Miko 24 November | 23:17
posted by The Whelk 24 November | 23:23
Eurocentric nonsense like Henry VIII won't matter anymore in 500 years. (was it William Gibson on whose blog I read a while ago something like "it always amuses me to hear American media talk about youth culture. They don't have any." of course he and I are overstating our point here just to point the issue out.)

Ufez you win.
posted by Firas 24 November | 23:28
and I suspect it'll be the same way in The Future.

I guarantee that will not be the case. I also guarantee that none of us speculating about this are right. That's why The Future is awesome. That said, I hope it'll be D Boon, John Fogerty, and Duke Ellington.
posted by BitterOldPunk 25 November | 00:42
Some crazy-ass Future Pop Star doing Robocovers of Ella Fitzgerald for slam-dancing upper class folks at charity balls as a show of Anicent American Culture.
posted by The Whelk 25 November | 00:48
Don't forget Francis Bacon!

If you think about it, the people famous from 500 years ago weren't always necessarily famous in the general population at that time, and many crucial moments/people are not widely recognized until history has spun out a fuller picture of actions and consequences.

But, going with one likely aspect of earth life 500 years hence, perhaps someone like Rachel Carson will be more widely recognized/revered?

Definitely Einstein, Elvis, Hitler, ... Mao Tse Tung, I would imagine. Nelson Mandela; Gandhi. Probably Bill Gates(?)

Hmmm. Interesting question.

posted by taz 25 November | 03:35
For reference: Wikipedia's Significant People of the 15th Century. Quite a lot of the political leaders seem to be pretty well known. Maybe:

Mahatma Gandhi
Albert Einstein
Chairman Mao
Henry Ford
Deng Xiaoping
Adolf Hitler
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Thomas Kinkade
Sergei Korolev
Norman Borlaug
posted by TheophileEscargot 25 November | 04:43
If there are still Turks, then they will remember Ataturk.
posted by Meatbomb 25 November | 04:58
posted by Obscure Reference 25 November | 08:02
I bet some Beatles songs will be remembered, but much more than the Beatles. They'll have reached a level of folk song by then.

Other than that, it'll really depend on who the "winners" are over the next 500 years.
posted by drezdn 25 November | 09:17
Great subject.

Well, who does the general population today remember from 1509? Other than Columbus, no one.

So, only the largest world shapers would be a safe bet. Which leaves us with... yeah, Hitler.

posted by Joe Beese 25 November | 12:24
Mickey Mouse (even though he won't yet be in public domain at that point)
posted by Marxchivist 25 November | 13:58
I would most definitely say Bill Gates. In 500 years he may still be remembered for his association with computers, and the initial attempts to integrate computers into daily life. Maybe not.

More significantly, I think there is a good chance that he will be remembered for the work of his foundation. By committing his resources to, and making possible the research that may soon eliminate diseases (malaria, African sleeping sickness, etc.) that profoundly impact the lives of literally millions of people each year, he will, by his commitment, change the face of humanity on the planet.

One might think of him as the Anti-Hitler. Perhaps equal, but opposite.
posted by Nick Jadlowe 25 November | 14:34
I think we may be being a bit pessimistic about the number of people that will be remembered. From the Wikipedia significant people of the 15th century quite a few of them are well known. Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, Johannes Gutenberg, Henry V, Joan of Arc, Mehmed II the Conqueror, Richard III, Vlad Dracula, Hieronymus Bosch, Botticelli, Holbein the Elder, Leonardo da Vinci, Sir Thomas Malory (of Le Morte d'Arthur), François Villon, Christopher Columbus, Vasco da Gama, Amerigo Vespucci...
posted by TheophileEscargot 25 November | 15:14
That is the same list I used, however many of them are not household names today.
posted by Ardiril 25 November | 15:59
Thomas Kinkade

Painter of Light? Of course we'll remember his masterworks forever!

posted by Miko 25 November | 16:40
Stephen Hawking
posted by lysdexic 25 November | 22:45
Heh, wondered when someone would pick up on Thomas Kinkade.

He's popular, he's accessible, and the artists who've endured are often the ones critically reviled in their own day...
posted by TheophileEscargot 26 November | 12:16
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