Reverse Time Capsule

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Cindy Wagner

Cindy Wagner

With a bit of extra time to spend around home, I’ve been contemplating some of the everyday objects in my environment, mostly with decluttering in mind. Last year I had my grandmother’s Victorian rocker appraised. Despite being told it wasn’t worth keeping, I kept it anyway. Objects passed through generations have intrinsic value.

This is why we sometimes create time capsules: We take the objects that reflect life today to help explain ourselves to future generations.

But what if we did the opposite? Suppose we were able to send a time capsule from today back in time to our ancestors.

I know at least one object I’d send back in time to my grandmother and mother: a wide-toothed comb. Perhaps also an electric handheld hair dryer. When I was a child, my mother had to spend hours drying and combing out my very thick, very tangled hair, leaving her arms aching and me in tears. Now, every time I wash my hair and comb it out, with plentiful hair-care products and my trusty wide-toothed comb, I want to tell my 10-year-old self, “It gets better.”

My time capsule to the past might not change history for the better (science fiction dealing with time travel warns against such attempts), but it certainly would have made that time with my mom a little easier.

So here is your brain tickler: Imagine you could visit your grandparents (or great-grands) 100 years ago, and you want to bring them the gift of the future. Create a time capsule from today for yesterday.

What would you put in it to bring to the year 1920? What artifact(s) would you want your ancestors to have? Would you want the objects to warn them about the future? Inspire them? Make their lives easier? Direct them to a different path? What might the consequences be to your family, you, and the world?

Bonus discussion: What would you want your descendants to bring you back from the year 2120?

Send your ideas to me here at!

Reference: “A Chair Was There,” Hosaa’s Blog (June 26, 2019).

About the Author
Cindy Wagner is consulting editor for AAI Foresight Inc. and editor of Foresight Signals. She joined the editorial staff of the World Future Society’s Futurist magazine in 1981, serving as editor in chief from 2011 to 2014. (She still has the time capsule the WFS staff created for the new millennium.)


  • Sohail Inayatullah, Inaugural UNESCO Chair in Futures Studies (via LinkedIn): Small pox vaccination - public health policy manual on how to end the plague. My grand mother lost 5 siblings from smallpox. Great grand mother died from the plague at 19. On my father's side if send bags of rice as great grand mother died of starvation. (August 27, 2020)
  • Nico van Klaveren: I would like to send info on what happened in these hundred years. Maybe a solar energized iPad where they could see how fascism won and lost and more. Maybe they would be able to "change history"... And what would I like to receive from 2120 ?? The same to get us here now some ideas how we could "handle" the next decades. (September 8, 2020)
  • Peter Eder: To send back in time ... I would choose three biographies with the hope that in reading these my ancestors would not just have a peek into our times, but make them realize the challenges and struggles that lie ahead and the champions that arise to deal with and make sense of them. Biographies of the Dalai Lama, Saint Sister Teresa, and Nelson Mandela. And to receive from the future ... three selected biographies. (September 10, 2020)
  • Cindy Wagner (author): In addition to the wide-toothed comb mentioned in the piece, I'd try to send back some family photos to my grandmothers, who both died well before I was born. As for what I want sent back to me from 2120--for the benefit of our futurist community, how about some idea of how our current forecasts have turned out! (September 10, 2020)