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There's a scifi story that is often brought up when discussing how poor people are at predicting the future. There's supposedly a scifi story from the 1890's-1910's era about a mystery set in the 21st century where the solution is that the milkman did it (just showing how unlikely people thought that milkmen would disappear.)

Does anyone know what story this is?

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    The milkmen that I regularly pass on the way to work would doubtless despair of people's ability to know the present, let alone the future. (-:
    – JdeBP
    Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 1:21
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    This makes me think of G. K. Chesterton's story "The Invisible Man" from 1911, which features a man who has robot butlers, murdered by the mail man (who was socially "invisible")
    – Andrew
    Commented Feb 22, 2022 at 22:22
  • Links to where it's "often brought up"?
    – user14111
    Commented Feb 24, 2022 at 0:22
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    all that came to mind was: Benny Hill's "Ernie (The Fastest Milkman in the West)" ... :o Commented Feb 24, 2022 at 1:20

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Note: This answer clearly misses one important element being sought - the story does not take place in the future. I'll leave the answer here, though, while we keep looking for the right answer.


"The Invisible Man" by G. K. Chesterton may fit.

There's supposedly a scifi story from the 1890's-1910's era about a mystery set in the 21st century where the solution is that the milkman did it (just showing how unlikely people thought that milkmen would disappear.)

It was published in 1911

It's science fiction, in some sense - it has robot servants!

"I suppose you've seen on the hoardings all about this 'Smythe's Silent Service'? Or you must be the only person that hasn't. Oh, I don't know much about it, it's some clockwork invention for doing all the housework by machinery. You know the sort of thing: 'Press a Button—A Butler who Never Drinks.' 'Turn a Handle—Ten Housemaids who Never Flirt.'

The mailman did it

“Nobody ever notices postmen somehow,” he said thoughtfully; “yet they have passions like other men, and even carry large bags where a small corpse can be stowed quite easily.”

The postman, instead of turning naturally, had ducked and tumbled against the garden fence. He was a lean fair-bearded man of very ordinary appearance, but as he turned an alarmed face over his shoulder, all three men were fixed with an almost fiendish squint.

Mailmen haven't disappeared, though.

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    This story is not set in the 21st century. Also I think the question is not about story characters that disappear, rather it laments the fact that people are so bad at imagining the future, they cannot image things they are used to will no longer exist 100 years from their vantage point in time. Commented Feb 23, 2022 at 23:44
  • You're completely right. Don't know how I missed the "21th century" part.
    – Andrew
    Commented Feb 23, 2022 at 23:53
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    If it is any consolation, Chesterton was the first thing to come to my mind, too, before I re-read the question. Commented Feb 24, 2022 at 9:53

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