It turns out that posting on Internet forums with wild claims of inside knowledge about society's innermost workings and future events and actually being believed by tons of people isn't anything new. In November 2000, a user who eventually went by the name John Titor started posting to the Time Travel Institute forums, claiming to be a time traveler from 2036. Big deal -- probably everyone on the forum was claiming the same thing, right? Except tons of seemingly non-delusional people believed him, for reasons that are both understandable and ball-slappingly silly.
He posted detailed descriptions and images of his time machine and its user manual, for one thing. On the other hand, it did bear striking similarities to the time machine used in Back to the Future, and if anyone is going to accidentally stumble upon the realities of future technology, it's clearly not Zemeckis and friends.
We're all still bitter about the lack of hoverboards in 2015.
But he also had knowledge of certain features of the IBM 5100, which was critical to his mission in the year 1975, that hadn't been made public and which were confirmed by one of the engineers who designed it and apparently craved chaos.
He also had a message that resonated with a lot of people in 2000 and even 2020: "No one likes you in the future," he told those he encountered on his "stopover" in 2000. "This time period is looked at as being full of lazy, self-centered, civically ignorant sheep." The future, he said, "is centered on the family and then the community ... There is no large industrial complex creating masses of useless food and recreational items. Food and livestock is grown and sold locally. People spend much more time reading and talking together face to face. Religion is taken seriously, and everyone can multiply and divide in their heads." Basically, everything your cranky grandpa wants to hear.
As a result, Titor soon gained a small but enthusiastic band of followers who hung on his every word about the upcoming civil war that he insisted would begin in 2004 and end in 2015 with a nuclear war with Russia, killing three million people. (Rudely, he failed to warn us about the much more immediate threat of 9/11.) He sold books, went on national talk radio shows, and then just ... disappeared. His posts and publicity tour ended as abruptly as they began after about five months. His followers obviously assumed that he just went back to his own time, but then civil and nuclear wars failed to materialize. Then in 2009, Titor's Internet presence was tracked to a pair of brothers in present-day Florida.
That didn't dissuade his most loyal followers, who believe one of the brother's claims of being Titor's mother's lawyer and a family friend who Titor stayed with during his vacation in 2000 and argue that his predictions didn't come true exactly because he told us about them. Apparently, we have a long future of people who are capable of believing long-debunked predictions for decades to look forward to.
Manna, regrettably, has a Twitter.
Top image: Glenn Carstens-Peters/Unsplash