Let's predict the past!

This’ll be a toughie, and I hope y’all will keep each other as honest as possible.

Flashing back to your life back in January 1st, 1980, I want you to predict what life will be like in the year 2000. Using only the knowledge that you had back then, tell us what the society, technology and politics of the far off future of the year 2000 will be like. Will we even exist, or will we finally destroy ourselves? Will there be established and regular travel to the moon, other planets or even other solar systems? What’s your best guess, fellow futurians?

Well, that whole war with Iran over the hostage crisis changed everything… another five years of a draft and another generation lost to a foreign war, this time with sand instead of rain. Who knew that Carter could be such a hawk?

Soviet Union fall apart? No way in hell. Not unless it gets hit by a large comet.

Earth’s population of how many billion in 2000? We’ll run out of food, water and space to live!

What’s the ‘internet’? Shop on line?..It’ll never work.

Newspapers will rule forever! I will work at a newspaper when I move to San Francisco, and will work there until I retire.

Supersonic jet travel, at least over water, will be routine.

I’m going hiking this May in Washington on Mt St. Helens, it should be a blast!
I’m also looking forward to the new John Lennon album coming out next year.

Yea… hey! I bet the Beatles will wind up getting back together sometime. They’ll probably be the four coolest 60 year old guys performing and raking in the bucks.

Flying cars! Nuff said!

Robot butlers, at least for rich people.

We’ve already got talking cars and microwave ovens hitting the market. I s’pose my house will be full of talking appliances by then.

Car phones will probably be a big deal in coming years. Wonder if I’ll have a fax machine in my car one of these days? And since the smallest ones cost the most, I guess the most popular, expensive phones will be super itty bitty and only poor folk will have the big giant ones.

I’m gonna go see Led Zeppelin later this year too!

We’ll probably have super-duper calculators, like this Sharp EL-5100 I’ve been obsessing over and drawing in my art pad, but they’ll have even more buttons!

(Man, I wanted one of those in high school. And then I got to university and discovered that I couldn’t afford an HP-41C either…)

We learned our lesson in Vietnam. No more wars unless we are attacked frontally!

Wow, The Empire Strikes Back was an amazing movie, and the next one’s due out in a couple years. At this rate, George will have the entire trilogy of trilogies finished well before 2000! Awesome!

Keypunch operator is the job of the future. I was assured this only recently in Career Guidance by someone who should know.

Ironically, while I thought the Soviet regime was stable and would endure, I would have predicted China’s communist regime was going to fall. I figured that there were too many problems in China and when Deng died (he was 76 in 1980) his successors would be unable to hold things together. Both Deng (who lived to 92) and the communist regime turned out to be more robust than I had thought.

I predict that in the year 2000 gas will cost $5/gal…but it won’t matter since public transportation and electric cars will make it all but obsolete. Computers will make life easier, maybe cutting our work-week down to 30 hours or so. New technology will make building houses much cheaper, cutting the average price of a house from today’s astronomical $58,000 to perhaps $40,000 or even $30,000.

The Rolling Stones can’t possibly stay together too much longer. They’re getting way to old to rock and roll.

We’ll all be squatting in pollution choked bomb craters and eating artificial food from factories. All except the lucky rich bastards on the L5 colonies and Luna City.

These new video cassettes are great!–The movie theaters will all close down soon–they’ll never be able to compete with everybody watching movies at home.

I really don’t see how the quality could get any better, either!

Now that you ask, I wish I would have written down my predictions at the time (I was 15 in 1980) and could compare. Maybe I should now. I might be still alive in 2050 to realize how wrong I was. Unfortunately, I can’t really tell anymore what I expected back then.

Amongst the things that have already been mentioned :

-No way I would have predicted the fall of the Soviet Union and it splitting apart, even though I do remember reading a book at the time predicting exactly that (“L’empire éclaté”, published in 1978), nor the resulting events (like the war in the Balkans)

-I expected the EU to be more integrated and smaller than it is. I still think we would be better off if it were.

-I didn’t expect that so many dictatorships would become democracies (Asia, South America, Eastern Europe…)

-I wouldn’t have been surprised much by the ubiquity of home computers. I did expect I would play wonderful games on computers later in my life. I must admit that nowaday graphisms are beyond my wildest expectations at the time.

-On the other hand, I wouldn’t have guessed the creation of something like internet.

-I didn’t expect much space exploration. It already was quite obvious at the time that we weren’t going to send anyone to Mars anytime soon. So, I guess my predictions would have been close to the reality (unmanned exploration, rovers…)

-I was very surprised when the first exoplanets were detected. I wouldn’t have thought it would happen in my lifetime.

-Same thing with mapping human DNA : no, not going to happen during the next 30 years or so.

-I would have expected much more striking medical advances.

-Things like GPS and items in your pocket you can use to give a phone call, check a database, take a picture, update your agenda, play a game, look for a restaurant, wake you up in the morning, find your way in an unknown place, and so on… That’s the stuff of SciFi. Not going to happen in my lifetime. If ever. Absolutely no way. Totally excluded. Laughable.

-No flying cars or such things. These were already a joke in the 50s. Nobody has been expecting that during the last 75 years.

-But fusion power should have made much more progresses. My predictions probably would have included fusion power plants by 2014.

The really ironic part of this is that the Internet already existed! It was just smaller and out of the public view, mostly linking universities.

I suspect at the time that most people who were thinking about computing as a utility were still thinking in terms of logging on to some mainframe somewhere. The idea of incremental extension of the network by adding peers was just a little over the horizon, because contemporary home terminals and communications links just weren’t powerful enough.

Home terminals (computers) would become powerful enough in the mid nineties, and then the big shift to ubiquity would come with the spread of ‘always-on’ connections during the zeroes.

See, I don’t think the internet as a concept would be too surprising. “Big central computers linked up by wires? Maybe I could look up something stored on that computer through this computer? Yeah, that sounds reasonable”. The more surprising aspects are the huge growth in personal computers, and also the huge societal impact that the internet has had.