isaac_asimov

Photo: biography.com

If you’re like me and you really love reading Sci-Fi novels and stories, then you definitely know who Isaac Asimov is – but if that’s not really the case, then let me give you a bit of background: he is one of the most prolific writers of all time, having written or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 90,000 letters and postcards. He is considered one of the best science-fiction writers of all time, and if you haven’t read his works, I really, really recommend reading his work. He was also a professor of biochemistry at Boston University.

When New York City hosted The World’s Fair in 1964, Isaac Asimov, took the opportunity to wonder what the world would look like 50 years hence — assuming the world survived the nuclear threats of the Cold War – which was a big worry at the time. Writing in The New York Times, Asimov imagined how the world would look like in 2014. So let’s he, was the master right? He was imagining a world where:

“Gadgetry will continue to relieve mankind of tedious jobs. Kitchen units will be devised that will prepare ‘automeals,’ heating water and converting it to coffee; toasting bread; frying, poaching or scrambling eggs, grilling bacon, and so on. Breakfasts will be ‘ordered’ the night before to be ready by a specified hour the next morning.”

Ok, this is fairly straightforward now, and it may not seem like a big deal now – but imagining this in the 60s – that was a huge leap! OK, he gets some minus points for the pre-ordered breakfasts, but we do eat a lot of pre-prepared food, so we’ll give him some credit.

“Communications will become sight-sound and you will see as well as hear the person you telephone. The screen can be used not only to see the people you call but also for studying documents and photographs and reading passages from books. Synchronous satellites, hovering in space will make it possible for you to direct-dial any spot on earth, including the weather stations in Antarctica.”

This – this is a big one here. We have smartphones, webcams, Kindle type devices for reading books, synchonous satellites… gee willikers Batman, he’s spot on! 10/10 mister Asimov!

“Robots will neither be common nor very good in 2014, but they will be in existence.”

Not much else to say; again, spot on.

“[M]en will continue to withdraw from nature in order to create an environment that will suit them better. By 2014, electroluminescent panels will be in common use. Ceilings and walls will glow softly, and in a variety of colors that will change at the touch of a push button.”

Mmm, no, not really. We don’t really have electroluminescent panels.

“[H]ighways … in the more advanced sections of the world will have passed their peak in 2014; there will be increasing emphasis on transportation that makes the least possible contact with the surface. There will be aircraft, of course, but even ground travel will increasingly take to the air a foot or two off the ground.”

Mmm sort of, but again, not really, we don’t really use hovercrafts.

“[V]ehicles with ‘Robot-brains’ … can be set for particular destinations … that will then proceed there without interference by the slow reflexes of a human driver.”

Close enough. While we’re yet to see driverless vehicles on the roads as part of the status quo, great leaps are being made in this direction with fantastic results so far.

“[T]he world population will be 6,500,000,000 and the population of the United States will be 350,000,000.” And later he warns that if the population growth continues unchecked, “All earth will be a single choked Manhattan by A.D. 2450 and society will collapse long before that!” As a result, “There will, therefore, be a worldwide propaganda drive in favor of birth control by rational and humane methods and, by 2014, it will undoubtedly have taken serious effect.”

This again is a remarkable prediction. There’s approximately 7 billion people, so very close, and the population of the US is 314 million, so again, really close; and indeed, the results of birth control promotion are starting to make themselves felt in many areas of the world.

“Ordinary agriculture will keep up with great difficulty and there will be ‘farms’ turning to the more efficient micro-organisms. Processed yeast and algae products will be available in a variety of flavors.”

Mmmm, sort of right, but no, not really.

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Copyright 2014 ZME Science

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