Connecting with the Visionaries of the Past and Celebrating the New Ones of Today

I've always been drawn to steampunk art. Long before I could ever name it (which, being the non-artist I am, wasn't until my wife tossed one my way), it caught my eye wherever I saw it. 

Steampunk prop by Molly Porkshanks Friedrich. Licensed under Creative Commons. 

Steampunk prop by Molly Porkshanks Friedrich. Licensed under Creative Commons

It's hard to not be drawn to something that offers such a profound connection to people from our society's past who have managed to have such a profound effect on our individual lives today. The best definition I've found for steampunk art describes it this way: if The Jetsons represents a 1960's vision of the future, steampunk art is a nod to the Victorian vision of it.  

Now Slate has published pictures of how 1800's artists imagined life in the year 2000, and they make that connection that much more real. 

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons. File is in public domain. 

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons. File is in public domain. 

Some of the drawings are outlandish, while others, like the spy in the helicopter, are a bit more telling. But you can't help but look at them and feel an immediate connection to the artists and the people of that time period. While futuristic visionaries existed before the Victorian era (think Leonardo da Vinci and his inventions), it was the late 1800s where society, as a whole, was starting to recognize that man had the capacity to do so much more with technology, both for purposes of good and evil.

The connection to these visionaries is tangible in the sense that it was their original imaginations that have had a profound impact on the technology we us today. Perhaps with few exceptions, everything we see before us today was imagined at some point by someone, and it was a golden period of science and technology in the late 1800s where society began to really lay out visions for better travel, better communications, better medicine and more.

We owe so much of what we have today to the people who never got to experience our technology for themselves, but were the first to dream it up.

Today, it's important to recognize that visionaries such as these didn't cease to exist after the Victorian era. They are still among us today. We find them in people such as Elon Musk, who's trying to make us less dependent upon fossil fuels. We find them in companies like Google trying to improve transportation through driverless cars. We find them in scientific communities all over the world making improvements to treatments of deadly diseases that use methods that would boggle the minds of even the best scientists from just a few decades ago.

While it can sometimes seem as if our world is bleak and that our society has peaked, it's important to continue to collectively envision a better future: one that says our best days are still ahead of us and lays out a new set of goals for technology, peace, prosperity, health and living standards for us all.

Because history shows us that it really is the imaginations of today that leads to the realities of tomorrow. 

What kind of world will we create next? 

Jason Griffin is a blogger & podcaster who writes about business, media, politics & life. Keep up with latest posts by liking on Facebookfollowing on Twitter, or subscribing with RSS.