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

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

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

  • by MBGMorden (803437) on Friday January 03, 2014 @04:51PM (#45860239)

    Seeing your gripe at Asimov's article I am very curious... What are your predictions for 2064?

    The Year of Linux on the Desktop?

  • 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.
  • 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 OzPeter (195038) on Friday January 03, 2014 @05:07PM (#45860405)

    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 Culture20 (968837) on Friday January 03, 2014 @05:14PM (#45860483)
    I eat at Taco Bell semi-regularly.
  • by Sperbels (1008585) on Friday January 03, 2014 @05:40PM (#45860733)

    Asimov was a smart dude, and he did a lot better at predicting 50 years away than most "technologists"/"futurists" would today.

    Well, it's rather simple to see the future when you're the founder of psychohistory. Duh.

  • Re:RTFA (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 03, 2014 @06:32PM (#45861183)

    So how come some random musicians, who get paid next to nothing, "get all the bitches" while me and my engineer coworkers don't???

  • by HeckRuler (1369601) on Friday January 03, 2014 @06:45PM (#45861281)

    We'll hit global peak oil [wikipedia.org] sometime in there. It's not like all the cars will stop running tomarrow. It's more like oil will get so expensive that people start taking the bus, train, bike. You know, like it did in 2007. That squeeze popped the housing bubble, everyone got poor, had to use the bus anyway, and oil prices returned to sane levels. Plus everyone started digging into any sort of oil potential when it was looking like $100/barrel was coming. Yay improperly damped systems. And while the US might have hit peak oil a while ago, global peak oil is certainly a ways out. 50 years sounds optimistic.

    If things don't change that could break globalization. It'll be a hard lesson to people that they can buy a shirt for $0.50 cents in Bangladesh, sell it here for $10, and still lose money. But of course things will change. Maybe the slow boats will switch the nuclear. Who knows. Maybe solar powered lighter-than-air hydrogen-based sky truckers will save the day.

    The battlefield for the first-world nations will be vastly more automated. A tipping point will come when they want their machines to operate without satellite coverage and a greater degree or autonomy will be introduced. That or mobile connectivity will reign supreme next to air superiority.

    Well see a continued gradual improvement in robotics. What they can do NOW is amazing. Give it 50 years and I imagine they'll be novelty competitors in the Olympics. Even in 50 years, it won't be cost effective to have a personal android maid. That's called a roomba. It doesn't do windows.

    More and more jobs will be automated. Like factory jobs, then clerical jobs, the office worker and low-end technical jobs will fade. Like how we no longer have mail rooms at the office, we will no longer have HR departments. Problem with your paycheck? log in and fill out the complaint form.

    China will suffer setbacks and undergo more change. Everyone knows China is coming online and turning into a super-power. But I think they'll have to go through some growing pains before they rival the USA. They'll develop a middle class. They'll clean up their factory lands. They'll have to decide what "legal" actually means. India is lagging behind China but will have the opportunity to during these stumbles. Europe will continue to consolidate into a single power. Africa will still be a clusterfuck.

    Like how we dealt with black's rights, and women's right and are now dealing with gay's rights, I see we'll deal with the rights of artificial beings. AI's in university servers. They'll break that Turing test in the court room and we'll see how it goes. Mostly though, AI and computers will be still be tools. Google's overmind might know more about you than you do and have the omniscience of a god, but it won't have any over-arcing goals other than fetching you pictures of cats on the Internet.

    We'll have to deal with our bodies and DNA being open to public scrutiny to anyone with a buck. Hello GATAGA.

    People will still be greedy selfish assholes most of the time, but the exceptions will make it all worth it.

  • Seeing your gripe at Asimov's article I am very curious... What are your predictions for 2064?

    The Year of Linux on the Desktop?

    Nah; Microsoft will have been acquired by Taco Bell by that time... which will then have split up to become a bunch of Baby Bells. One of those Baby Bells will rename itself Microsoft, and split off to only handle the multi-flavoured algae part of the industry, consuming their only competitor, Algae Tastes & Technologies. Their most popular menu item will be the Zune, available in regular, large, and X-Box.

Pound for pound, the amoeba is the most vicious animal on earth.

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