He is right about a few things and wrong about a great many others.
But then I was thinking there are a number of Dopers around who were in high school around 1964 and am wondering about how their predictions from those years compare to the situation today.
For example I would guess on one hand that they never would have guessed the internet revolution on one hand–but on the other hand would have predicted many things which never came to pass: personal airplanes affordable for anyone in the middle class, a major decline in the workweek…
So senior dopers how is the world different than what you would have predicted it would be like?
I have a story that was published in my HS science magazine about 1968 based on an exponential technology curve - what if it went straight up? (I know about S-curves now.) In it my main character talks with his girlfriend on line using video (like Skype) and orders on-line - like Amazon. At the end they stop sending by mail and teleport his packages to him. Bezos hasn’t come up with that one yet!
Way beyond the given date, in 1977 for a class in grad school I predicted the microprocessor controlled vibrator. I didn’t predict wireless remote control, though.
Asimov was very smart (Ph.D in biochemistry); but he was writing in the 1950s and 60s-he missed a lot.
In his "Foundation: trilogy, people sent messages in sealed capsules.
That was dated, even for 1950
Thanks for finding that. It’s interesting to see where he was right and where he was totally off. For example, I don’t think that electroluminescent panels produce enough light to be practical for illumination, although they are used in some nightlights. And polarized windows are available, but expensive.
Well, I graduated from HS in 1954. I certainly didn’t think we would have a computer in the home. Ken Olsen, founder of DEC couldn’t imagine a computer in the home 35 years ago. And, aware of the bandwidth problem I never saw the point of visual telephones. I’m still not sure I do, not for ordinary conversations, but now we have the bandwidth. Amusingly Asimov missed that and thought we would still be struggling with how to transmit laser beams. I did think that personal planes were in the future. My brother who eventually got a private pilot’s license thought that was absurd. I guess I thought there might be personal robots and maybe there will be. In 1960 one of the mechanics at the garage was going to school at night to study turbine engines and confidently predicted that in 10 years you would start seeing them on ordinary cars. I like that idea. If someone is tailgating, just turn on the afterburners. I didn’t expect colonies on the moon and was astonished when we heard about Sputnik a few years later. I never anticipated that passenger rail and public transit generally would go into such sharp decline. I should have since every year, as the forsythia bloomed, the transit workers would go on strike, it would be settled after a week or two and the fares would rise. At the end of every strike, ridership would decline another 10%. For the most part, I expected that the future would look a lot like the present. And, as I look around my living room, I realize that only the computer would look really out of place in 1954. I guess the flat screen TV and the stacks of CDs, but that’s really minor.
I would also add that Asimov wrote about a future society (in “Foundation”) where there was an imperial government, with a hereditary aristocracy. That seems unlikely. He also placed Hari Seldon in a medieval-style university.
All of this seems quite archaic; although maybe it was his way of setting the decline of the galactic Empire.
Which speaks to the heart of the matter-when we have unlimited energy, and automatic manufacturing (and everybody can live a life of near idleness), will humanity regress?
It’s hard for a bunch of reasons. It’s hard to know which technologies are going to steadily improve, which ones are going to rapidly improve, and which ones are going to hit plateaus where improvement is extremely difficult. It’s hard because sometimes new technologies come seemingly out of nowhere. And it’s hard because societal changes are hard to predict.
I’d hesitate to make any predictions at all about the world in 2064. (Not that I expect to be around to see 2064 to see whether they come true, absent major improvements in gerontology, and besides, all of us Baby Boomers should have the consideration to die off and get the hell out of everyone else’s way sometime, dammit. :)) I believe it’s going to be a lot more different from 2014 than 2014 is from 1964, but in what ways, I’d hate to hazard a guess.
Science Fiction is not about predicting the future. It is about telling a story and about the impact of certain technological changes. (Among other things.) The Foundation series had a strong link to the Roman Empire - thus much of the politics. He was not seriously saying that an empire was a reasonable political model. And the lack of aliens was a reaction against Campbell’s desire to show humans as superior, not a prediction either.
I don’t recall Asimov making many predictions in his non-fiction. Clarke did. Profiles of the Future was all about this.
I wasn’t anywhere near being alive in 1964, but I think one of the major ‘red herrings’ that futurists made predictions about for the 21st century was our progress in outer space. In the sixties, space exploration was expanding rapidly, and given its popular support, it seemed logical to extrapolate on that. It’s kind of sad to read all of the articles from back then about how we’ll have colonies on the moon and Mars in just a few decades. The truth was that the only real motivator to go to the moon was political, and when the space race ended, so did funding.
I hadn’t read the link before, but it is surprising how much he got wrong. One thing he kind of got right - picturephones - were being demoed at the Bell Telephone pavilion at the fair, and could hardly be called a prediction. (I got to use it.)
As for self driving cars, I heard a forecast of 10% acceptance by 2035 this morning, so not quite right there either.