Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
The Media News

Isaac Asimov's 50-Year-Old Prediction For 2014 Is Viral and Wrong 385

Posted by Soulskill
from the so-just-like-everything-else-on-the-internet dept.
Daniel_Stuckey writes "The media is currently praising Isaac Asimov's vision for 2014, which he articulated in a New York Times opinion piece in 1964. The sci-fi writer imagined visiting the 2014 World Fair, and the global culture and economy the exhibits might reflect. NPR called his many predictions, which range from cordless smart telephones, to robots running our leisure society, to machine-cooked 'automeals,' 'right on.' Business Insider called the forecast 'spot on.' The Huffington Post called the projections 'eerily accurate.' The only thing is, they're not. Taken as a whole, Asimov's vision for 2014 is wildly off. It's more that 'Genius predicted the future 50 years ago' makes for a great article hook. Asimov does hit a couple pretty close to home: He got pretty close to guessing the world population (6.5 billion); he anticipated automated cars ('vehicles with 'robot brains'"); and he seems to have described the current smartphone/tablet craze ('sight-sound' telephones that 'can be used not only to see the people you call but also for studying documents and photographs and reading passages from books.') But he also thought we'd have a colony on the moon, be living under a global population control regime, eating at multi-flavored algae bars, and letting machines prepare us personalized meals. Most divergent of all, he believed that increasing automatization of labor would spawn not inequality or joblessness, but spiritual malaise."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Isaac Asimov's 50-Year-Old Prediction For 2014 Is Viral and Wrong

Comments Filter:
  • by fv (95460) * <fyodor@insecure.org> on Friday January 03, 2014 @04:40PM (#45860129) Homepage
    The summary links to four different commentaries but not Asimov's original article [nytimes.com]. I'd rather get it from the source.
    • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Friday January 03, 2014 @04:59PM (#45860309)

      On reading the original I think it is amazingly accurate.

      Thanks for the link.

      • by cruff (171569) on Friday January 03, 2014 @05:09PM (#45860425)

        On reading the original I think it is amazingly accurate.

        To me, it didn't seem that accurate in terms of the number of correct predictions. The overall flavor of his predictions seems reasonable, however. After all, he predicted flying cars of a type, and they are still not here. I want my flying car!

        • I want my flying car!

          Ok, here ya go [controller.com]. Not too old, very good shape and only $408,000!

      • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Friday January 03, 2014 @05:12PM (#45860457)

        The science and technology are amazingly accurate, the social and cultural changes are not even close; and really the social and cultural issues are far more important. A guaranteed income, mass joblessness, and and strict population controls would all have much, much larger effects on the world we live in than video conferencing and drones on Mars.

        • by HeckRuler (1369601) on Friday January 03, 2014 @05:55PM (#45860909)

          If only we could explain what causes this upheaval of the status quo that lead to social and cultural issues. Surely it's the not automation taking jobs while still supplying a net gain in resources! That would never explain why the masses have shit jobs, yet the nation can still support the dole.

          A guaranteed income,

          Welfare, housing assistance, charity. It's rough, but the basics are provided for if you go out and get them.

          mass joblessness,

          Underemployment. College grads are flipping burgers.

          and strict population controls

          China did it. But yeah, it's really not a problem for first-worlders. Asimov didn't see that coming.

          would all have much, much larger effects on the world we live in

          You're using the term "would have" like these things didn't come to pass.

          • bullshit (Score:4, Insightful)

            by RelliK (4466) on Friday January 03, 2014 @09:14PM (#45862473)

            Just as with Nostradamus, bible, etc. "predictions" they kinda sorta came true if you squint at them the right way. And there are enough true believers to parrot praise in unison. However, a more objective look reveals that these "predictions" are way off.

            A guaranteed income,

            Welfare, housing assistance, charity. It's rough, but the basics are provided for if you go out and get them.

            That is NOT guaranteed income [wikipedia.org]. Welfare (in US at least) has existed since 1935, so that's hardly a prediction.

            mass joblessness,

            Underemployment. College grads are flipping burgers.

            Not to the level that was predicted, and certainly not to the level afforded by guaranteed income.

            and strict population controls

            China did it. But yeah, it's really not a problem for first-worlders. Asimov didn't see that coming.

            Precisely. *One* country has a problem with overpopulation. And their solution is NOT strict population controls, but economic disincentives for families that have more than one child (so it costs more, but rich families can afford it).

            would all have much, much larger effects on the world we live in

            You're using the term "would have" like these things didn't come to pass.

            Because it fucking didn't. Quit trying to see things that are not there.

            • and strict population controls

              China did it. But yeah, it's really not a problem for first-worlders. Asimov didn't see that coming.

              Precisely. *One* country has a problem with overpopulation. And their solution is NOT strict population controls, but economic disincentives for families that have more than one child (so it costs more, but rich families can afford it).

              You might want to read up a little more on that. China was forcibly aborting fetuses, and probably still are. I don't call that an "economic disincentive". See? http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/story/2012-07-25/China-forced-abortions/56465974/1 [usatoday.com]

              So if kidnapping women and injecting them with chemicals to kill their unborn fetus isn't "strict", I'd hate to see how bedtime is enforced in your house.

          • by Chalnoth (1334923) on Friday January 03, 2014 @11:01PM (#45862983)

            Welfare, housing assistance, charity. It's rough, but the basics are provided for if you go out and get them.

            Knowing a number of extremely poor people, this isn't even remotely true. Especially not of late, when we have the national and state governments cutting back so severely on various programs to help the poor. I have one friend, for example, who has precisely zero normal income (due to various family issues and an untreated disability). Yet she has an incredibly hard time getting any sort of aid, because she has no proof of income!

            This is why we need an unconditional basic income, instead of all these stupid programs. The very large number of conditions set on the various programs to help the poor end up guaranteeing that many extremely poor people get left out, if only because they have a hard time supplying the paperwork to prove that they qualify. Poor people also very frequently have a hard time traveling any significant distance, meaning that if they live in rural America, traveling to the various government offices to apply for aid becomes a significant burden. Some of the required documents (e.g. birth certificate) also come along with charges that are difficult to cover.

            There is no good reason for this. Nobody deserves to be left destitute on the street, so we should just guarantee a base level of income so that nobody has to. Get your Social Security card, and get your monthly check, end of story (paid for with a moderate hike in income taxes). That way almost nobody will fall through the cracks.

            And the most awesome thing about a guaranteed basic income that is high enough: if it is high enough that not working becomes a viable option, then it will break the stranglehold that employers have over their employees. Employers will actually have to provide decent working conditions and/or pay, or they will quickly find themselves without employees.

            • If my employees can receive a check for not working that is higher than what I am willing to pay them to work (or, probably even lower than, because who would work a full time job if you're only going to make a few bucks more than if you didn't work), what is my incentive to maintain my business at all?

              Rather than pay my employees more so I can stay in business, but make less money myself, I too could simply not work and make a decent wage.

              Your logic is horribly flawed.

              • by tragedy (27079)

                what is my incentive to maintain my business at all?

                That's a good question. What _is_ your incentive to maintain your business at all? If you can't think of why you should maintain it in a hypothetical world with a basic income, why should you be able to think of a reason to maintain it in the world we currently live in? Why don't you just get a minimum wage job flipping burgers?

              • by ultranova (717540) on Saturday January 04, 2014 @07:51AM (#45864375)

                Rather than pay my employees more so I can stay in business, but make less money myself, I too could simply not work and make a decent wage.

                Your business is obviously not providing much, if any, added value if you can't make it profitable without an endless supply of desperate people to exploit. It would be an awesome boost to economy to have such living dead enterprises go under and release the resources they've tie up for the use of actually profitable ones.

        • by timeOday (582209)
          But those cultural changes have come true to quite a degree. Granted, instead of complete mass joblessness, we have a significant decrease in the workforce participation rate (i.e. joblessness) but more significantly an explosion in service industry jobs, along with income subsidies of various types since the jobs are not economically necessary enough to provide a living wage. As for strict population controls, the most populous nation on earth introduced a strict population control 14 years after the p
        • by fiannaFailMan (702447) on Friday January 03, 2014 @06:21PM (#45861093) Journal

          The science and technology are amazingly accurate, the social and cultural changes are not even close; and really the social and cultural issues are far more important. A guaranteed income, mass joblessness, and and strict population controls would all have much, much larger effects on the world we live in than video conferencing and drones on Mars.

          It figures. In his writing, the scientific concepts were pretty mind-blowing, but the characters were flat as pancakes and the dialog was abysmal. He struck me as a writer who understands technology a lot better than its effects on people, and he didn't seem to be in tune with how people interact.

          • by DexterIsADog (2954149) on Friday January 03, 2014 @11:56PM (#45863135)

            The science and technology are amazingly accurate, the social and cultural changes are not even close; and really the social and cultural issues are far more important. A guaranteed income, mass joblessness, and and strict population controls would all have much, much larger effects on the world we live in than video conferencing and drones on Mars.

            It figures. In his writing, the scientific concepts were pretty mind-blowing, but the characters were flat as pancakes and the dialog was abysmal. He struck me as a writer who understands technology a lot better than its effects on people, and he didn't seem to be in tune with how people interact.

            You're right, he was clueless about people. As part of his security entourage at a couple of Star Trek cons in NY (don't ask), I spent plenty of time talking with him and observing. Very nice guy (he wrote me a personalized limerick about having two penises!), but not very perceptive about people.

        • by gbjbaanb (229885)

          to be fair, he wasn't so far off on population control - China's only just relaxed its one-child policy. A lot of Africa's kids still get "controlled" by natural causes, and a lot of western society's kids simply don't get born like they used to because of the financial or social constraints many in the West subject themselves to (ie rich and middle class families are not having many kids because they can't afford it, or couldn't support children in their oh-so-important careers).

          I guess the societal chang

        • Where is Mobile? (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Ottibus (753944)

          The science and technology are amazingly accurate

          I must have been reading a different article. The one I read had working Fusion reactors, cars that float above the ground, Cubic TVs, windowless underground houses, no electic cords, colonies on the moon and automatic cooking machines in every kitchen.

          But the article has absolutely no mention of mobile devices which seems, to me, to be a massive failure of foresight.

    • by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Friday January 03, 2014 @05:04PM (#45860379) Homepage Journal
      Not to be confused with this link to when we discussed these predictions on Slashdot, back in August [slashdot.org]. Really, I'm surprised Asimov didn't predict that we'd still have dupes in 2014.
    • by _Sharp'r_ (649297)

      Asimov did predict that alpha particles would have the potential to disrupt computer memory back in 1952.....

    • and in the 2014 Futurama will show a model of an elaborate Martian colony
    • Summary is wrong (Score:5, Interesting)

      by goombah99 (560566) on Friday January 03, 2014 @06:17PM (#45861077)

      But he also thought we'd have a colony on the moon, be living under a global population control regime, eating at multi-flavored algae bars, and letting machines prepare us personalized meals

      multi-flavor algae: Sodium alginate is a major food additive. many flavors.

        global population control regime:
              china we all know about:
              uzbekistan: forced sterilization or IUD.
              india: more than two children and you can't particiapte in many elective offices
              iran: manadatory contraception to obtain marriage lic.
            USA: ask Sarah Palin what she thinks of Title X
            Israel: ordered sterilizations.

      Auomated custom meal preparation robots:
                http://www.psfk.com/2012/11/burger-making-robot.html#!rgOyn [psfk.com]

      Automated labor sparks malaise:
              Foxcon suicide fences. no layoffs just repetitive work that machines won't do.

  • I beg to differ (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vikingpower (768921) <exercitussolus@g ... m minus caffeine> on Friday January 03, 2014 @04:41PM (#45860147) Homepage Journal

    Most divergent of all, he believed that increasing automatization of labor would spawn not inequality or joblessness, but spiritual malaise.

    How is this different from what we have now, I insist and ask ?

    • Re:I beg to differ (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mwvdlee (775178) on Friday January 03, 2014 @04:45PM (#45860171) Homepage

      There is a lot less influence from religion and a far greater part of social contact is indirectly, through devices.
      Our current spiritual "average" situation may wel look like malaise to somebody living in 1964.

      • On the other hand, the global population control regime is only slightly less efficient than he predicted.

      • by plover (150551)

        If we accept the premise that we are in a period of "spiritual malaise" (not that I necessarily know how to measure such a thing, or even that I agree we're in such a period), I still wouldn't agree that "automatization of labor" is the cause. A cell phone or a tablet is not a labor saving device as much as it is a communications and information delivery device, and I don't see that a Facebook relationship enhances or detracts from spirituality. Maybe you can't follow your favorite deity on Twitter, but y

        • by PRMan (959735)
          Pastors often have their congregation "turn off" all their electronics in order to better hear God. It's a common theme in churches. So the constant filling of our time with noise does contribute to our "spiritual malaise", at least according to many in spiritual jobs.
          • Re:I beg to differ (Score:5, Insightful)

            by i kan reed (749298) on Friday January 03, 2014 @05:31PM (#45860657) Homepage Journal

            Keep in mind Asimov was an avowed atheist, and his description of "spiritual malaise" referred more to human nature, and less to going to church.

            • +5

              The premise is that spirituality is not directly coupled with religion or God, but that spirituality (e.g. soul, faith, belief, intuition, love, higher thought) is a fundamental human characteristic that defines our existence (i.e. consciousness).

              "Spiritual malaise" would mean a lack of or lessening of human consciousness.

          • by arth1 (260657)

            Pastors often have their congregation "turn off" all their electronics in order to better hear God.

            If the god is so impotent that mere personal electronics can cause him not to be heard, he might not be worth listening to.

            If I were to create a god, I'd make him a bit less dependent on what we do and don't.

      • There is a lot less influence from religion and a far greater part of social contact is indirectly, through devices. Our current spiritual "average" situation may wel look like malaise to somebody living in 1964.

        There is a lot less influence from religion than 50 years ago. Really? In the US we still have Christian extremists trying to smother evolution. Religion currently plays a significant role in US politics, with the Republican party in particular actively courting the conservative Christian vote. Views on abortion have stayed more or less static over the last 40 or 50 years, but at least attitudes to homosexuality are moving in the right direction. We also, of course, have the rise of militant Islam on the w

        • by khallow (566160)

          In the US we still have Christian extremists trying to smother evolution.

          They've been trying since the mid-19th century and they haven't gotten any more effective.

    • > How is this different from what we have now, I insist and ask ?

      It's not. Just read Slashdot and you will see plenty of malaise.

    • this.

      signed, ennui guy.

    • How is this different from what we have now, I insist and ask ?

      Only the rich can afford ennui in america.

    • by plebeian (910665)
      I would actually go further, and site the prevalence of mood disorders as exactly the type of malaise of the spirit he was predicting.
    • Most divergent of all, he believed that increasing automatization of labor would spawn not inequality or joblessness, but spiritual malaise.

      How is this different from what we have now, I insist and ask ?

      It wasn't caused by automation.

    • Re:I beg to differ (Score:4, Interesting)

      by MozeeToby (1163751) on Friday January 03, 2014 @05:17PM (#45860523)

      Asimov thought we'd automate everything and everyone would basically have access to everything they really desired. He thought everyone living like kings and never having to work would make everyone a bit depressed and dissatisfied with their lives.

    • by TimFenn (924261)

      Most divergent of all, he believed that increasing automatization of labor would spawn not inequality or joblessness, but spiritual malaise.

      How is this different from what we have now, I insist and ask ?

      The 60s were different in that they were one of the few times when there wasn't increasing inequality/joblesness - people married young and could hold on to a job for 50 years - which is the outlier, not the historical norm. Just look at the 19th century by comparison. For a bit more discussion, see here [nytimes.com].

      • Re:I beg to differ (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Intron (870560) on Friday January 03, 2014 @06:38PM (#45861231)

        Most divergent of all, he believed that increasing automatization of labor would spawn not inequality or joblessness, but spiritual malaise.

        How is this different from what we have now, I insist and ask ?

        The 60s were different in that they were one of the few times when there wasn't increasing inequality/joblesness - people married young and could hold on to a job for 50 years - which is the outlier, not the historical norm. Just look at the 19th century by comparison. For a bit more discussion, see here [nytimes.com].

        Having lived through that period, there was a general feeling that we could do anything: stop wars, have civil rights, go to the moon, end poverty by sharing as taught in the bible^W the Whole Earth Catalog. It was a dream, but a pretty good one. Even though the war in Iraq was as unjust and pointless as Vietnam, there was a lot less marching and rock-throwing. People seem to not believe that they can change things. I would call that a malaise.

        • Even though the war in Iraq was as unjust and pointless as Vietnam, there was a lot less marching and rock-throwing.

          Most people felt no personal investment in Iraq, because it was volunteers and foreigners dying. There was a draft in Vietnam, making it personal to a lot more people who feared being called up, or their loved ones being called up. That's the difference, not society.

          • And I'd say that the war in Iraq had far less of a point than Vietnam. I believe that good people bought into containing the spread of communism, and felt that war was the only way to do so. For Iraq, I've found no narrative that makes sense, other than raw exercise of presidential power in furtherance of corporate interests.

        • by houghi (78078)

          Even though the war in Iraq was as unjust and pointless as Vietnam, there was a lot less marching and rock-throwing.

          I Liked an anti-war thing on Facebook. Is that not the same?

  • by blogan (84463) on Friday January 03, 2014 @04:43PM (#45860157)

    He keeps thinking there will be a 2014 World's Fair.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    >Most divergent of all, he believed that increasing automatization of labor would spawn not inequality or joblessness, but spiritual malaise.

    Lol what? Automatization is to blame? What sort retard actually believes this? SURELY it's not god-awful policies, allowing corporations and banks to get out of control, or any of that sort of "serious" business. It's OBVIOUSLY improvements of our working conditions and the ability to produce more.

    • by omnichad (1198475)

      The same sort that would make up the word automatization instead of just saying automation.

  • Not bad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BringsApples (3418089) on Friday January 03, 2014 @04:52PM (#45860247)
    From one of TFAs:

    ... 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.

    But what he failed to grasp was that the mindset of people in general changes. So if we're all bored, all we'll do is invent shit like facebook, and call it 'an integrated part of our society'. But he knew that 'passing time' isn't just some thing to do. This guy was a genius to conclude that robots would be doing a lot of the labor that men used to do, and since the people would be so great in numbers, they'd get bored to such an extent that would cause them mental repercussions. This is beyond what anyone would have been able to experience up to the 60's, in my opinion.

  • by JoeyRox (2711699) on Friday January 03, 2014 @04:54PM (#45860271)
    he failed to predict they would have rounded corners, which everyone knows is the true genius of the smartphone.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by OzPeter (195038)

      he failed to predict they would have rounded corners, which everyone knows is the true genius of the smartphone.

      He actually wanted to say they had rounded corners - but his lawyers advised him against that. It was something to do about a time travel machine, a patent application and being sued or some such.

  • by rossdee (243626) on Friday January 03, 2014 @04:59PM (#45860311)

    But most SF authors also predicted a future of humanoid robots.

  • It seems like most sci-fi predictions were based on the big ticket items when the real marvels are in nano technology. Of course, most writers/theorists probably didn't foresee a surge in the "ownership society" attitude of citizenry.

  • by pesho (843750) on Friday January 03, 2014 @05:01PM (#45860347)

    To me it seems he was too optimistic. He got the technology part pretty well. What he underestimated was the dickishness of the average human:

    • 1. Global governance: why not, we badly needed. The only problem is that people on any given spot of the world think the guys across the border are out to get them.
    • 2. Base on the moon. No problem from technical standpoint, but then again who is going to spend money on that when a war makes for a better photo-op and comes handy during elections.
    • 3. Distributing fairly the productivity gains from automation. Yeah right! You are fired, go flip burgers. Oh and by the way you have to know that flipping burgers is not a carrier, so we are going to pay you less than it would cost us to put a robot there. You see we are doing you good here by providing a stimulus for you to achieve your dreams.
    • by jedidiah (1196)

      Even the areas where he was kind of right also touched on things that aren't really all that different between then and now. On the one hand, his idea of automated meals didn't quite pan out but they already had TV dinners back then anyways.

      Plus there is still this annoying air gap between the freezer and the stove and ZERO inter-device integration.

      Even if I wanted a TV dinner warm and ready when I step into the house, there would still be that air gap and integration problem.

  • Actually... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The current result of automated labor is spiritual malaise... Because that's an inexorable product of it having brought radical inequality and joblessness since our culture bases one's personal value upon one's wealth.

    We do have algae in our beverages [nakedjuice.com], China did undertake a massive population control regime, and I'm not sure what you'd called TV dinners if not "machine-created meals". Granted, they aren't personalized and prepared on the spot as he might perhaps have envisioned, but I'm more than willing to

  • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Friday January 03, 2014 @05:07PM (#45860407)
    I have yet to see how inequality and joblessness don't cause "spiritual malaise" as a consequence. At least they certainly have "serious mental, emotional and sociological consequences", even if not along the same pathway. Ask your psychiatrist.
  • by Culture20 (968837) on Friday January 03, 2014 @05:14PM (#45860483)
    I eat at Taco Bell semi-regularly.
  • I'm pretty sure they sell the multi-flavored algae bars at Whole Foods.
  • by OrangeTide (124937) on Friday January 03, 2014 @05:16PM (#45860507) Homepage Journal

    Ever been to Whole Foods?

    Tofu, Quinoa, Quorn, Seitan, Tempeh, ...
     

  • In the future we will have more of the things we want, and less of the annoyances we don't want... due to technology. I'm a visionary! Oh wait, that's common sense.

  • Why so negative? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by OblongPlatypus (233746) on Friday January 03, 2014 @05:32PM (#45860661)

    Sure, "spot on" is obviously stretching it, but considering the time scale I think he did really well - I doubt anyone today would be able to predict 2064 equally well. Some good examples from the original article:

    State of robotics: "Robots will neither be common nor very good in 2014, but they will be in existence."

    State of space exploration: "By 2014, only unmanned ships will have landed on Mars, though a manned expedition will be in the works."

    Smartphones: "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."

    Fiberoptics for data transmission: "Laser beams will have to be led through plastic pipes, to avoid material and atmospheric interference."

    Flatscreens: "As for television, wall screens will have replaced the ordinary set."

    Slightly too optimistic on the proliferation of programming skills, but remarkable considering the state of computers in 1964: "All the high-school students will be taught the fundamentals of computer technology will become proficient in binary arithmetic and will be trained to perfection in the use of the computer languages that will have developed out of those like the contemporary "Fortran""

  • by Gothmolly (148874) on Friday January 03, 2014 @05:40PM (#45860731)

    If "spiritual malaise" doesn't describe 21st century America, then I don't know what does.

  • by wcrowe (94389) on Friday January 03, 2014 @05:44PM (#45860783)

    I don't know about Asimov being that inaccurate. Keep in mind that a lot of what he is describing are exhibits at the 2014 World's fair. These would still be futuristic things even in 2014, but technologically possible. Many of the things he describes are devices or systems that are technically possible, but still not quite reasonable from an economic perspective. Obviously he is way off on some things, but that just goes to show how difficult it is to predict future developments.

  • No, we was right (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fustakrakich (1673220) on Friday January 03, 2014 @06:27PM (#45861133) Journal

    We are living under a global population control regime. It's called world finance. The borders are only there to push up the profit margins.

  • by craighansen (744648) on Friday January 03, 2014 @11:43PM (#45863085)

    When I was at the 1964 World's Fair, AT&T was showing off their "picturephone" which did everything he described for his 2014 prediction: "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." So how is that even a precient prediction when it was already at the Fair? Further, it hardly is a prediction of smartphones - there's nothing in this prediction that suggests the pervasive use of a wireless, portable, battery-powered device that performs computation and gaming along with communication - let alone the rounded corners that others joked about here.

    The next sentence, predicting synchronous satellites, is also hardly precient given that "Unisphere," the symbol of the 1964 World's Fair, was a 12-story stainless steel globe with satellites circling it. I also note that the "Unisphere," a twelve-story stainless steel globe, was produced by and celebrated the glory days of U.S. Steel, which began in the 1960's to dramatically change its focus and after several reorganizations, now produces substantially less steel than it did in 1964. For me, the most glaring part of his mis-predictions were the heavy reliance on I.B.M., General Motors, and General Electric, presenting the assumption that these lumbering giants of the 1960's were going to be the vanguard of corporations in 2014.

    Really, I see the first part of his essay as describing what the World's Fair itself was predicting about the future. The exhibits were presenting the view that these futuristic ideas were safely in the hands of large corporations, who were well-positioned to serve all the consumer's needs. The second part, starting with the Equitable Life sign projecting the future population growth, is his attempt to show that all will not be so rosy. However, while his total may have been about right, he missed that growth in the US will have slowed down, so we don't have the solid city from DC to Boston that he projected. His estimate of the pervasiveness of automation is surely off-the-mark as there's still plenty of physical drudgery being performed by humanity rather than robots, and so forth. His estimates of industrial and food production are similar to the "Club of Rome" predictions and don't really match up with where we are in 2014. The second part of his essay more accurately predicts his own science-fiction stories than today's reality, though we may be all the poorer for not having lived up to his stories.

The most delightful day after the one on which you buy a cottage in the country is the one on which you resell it. -- J. Brecheux

Working...