Past predictions about the future oftentimes fail miserably—or at least produce a few giggles. In 1949, Popular Mechanics predicted that future computers would at least “weigh no more than 1.5 tons.” In 1967, U.S. News predicted that scientists would be able to control the weather, and astronauts would have set foot on Mars by 2000.
Sometimes, however, futuristic predictions can be surprisingly accurate. Isaac Asimov, writing for the New York Times about the 1964 World’s Fair, was nearly spot-on with a few predictions for what would turn up at a 2014 World’s Fair.
- “Complete lunches and dinners, with the food semiprepared, will be stored in the freezer until ready for processing. I suspect, though, that even in 2014 it will still be advisable to have a small corner in the kitchen unit where the more individual meals can be prepared by hand, especially when company is coming.”
- “Robots will neither be common nor very good in 2014, but they will be in existence. “
- “Large solar-power stations will also be in operation in a number of desert and semi-desert areas — Arizona, the Negev, Kazakhstan. In the more crowded, but cloudy and smoggy areas, solar power will be less practical.”
- “By 2014, only unmanned ships will have landed on Mars, though a manned expedition will be in the works and in the 2014 Futurama will show a model of an elaborate Martian colony.”
- “Mankind will suffer badly from the disease of boredom, a disease spreading more widely each year and growing in intensity. This will have serious mental, emotional and sociological consequences, and I dare say that psychiatry will be far and away the most important medical specialty in 2014. The lucky few who can be involved in creative work of any sort will be the true elite of mankind, for they alone will do more than serve a machine.”
Of course, Asimov didn’t get everything right. Most people’s ceilings do not glow softly, and flying cars are still on Google’s to-do list. We haven’t moved into underground cities in order to replace the Earth’s surface with “large-scale agriculture, grazing and parklands, with less space wasted on actual human occupancy,” either. While Asimov predicted a world population of 6.5 billion, we’ve topped that at more than 7 billion.
And Asimov did fall flat on one other point: sadly, World’s Fairs are now a nostalgic fixture of the past. Today, we instead have Expos whose primary focus is improving their host country’s branding rather than inspiring dreamy visions of the not-too-distant future.
(H/t Dan Fagin)
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