Isaac Asimov famously wrote an article for the New York Times way back in 1964 where he detailed the world of tomorrow. Tomorrow, in this case, being quite literal for us; Asimov's vision starts on Wednesday. How accurate was he?
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The original article makes for fascinating reading, if only because while predictions of the future can have the habit of going all Criswell, Isaac actually nailed a lot of things we take for granted right now, let alone in 2014. He did cover himself with a disclaimer:
I don't know, but I can guess.
But still, my hat's off — once again — to Isaac's extraordinary predictive skill.
One thought that occurs to me is that men 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.
Whether you're stuck in front of a computer, or just staring at a smartphone screen, this starts well, and goes on in the same style.
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.
George Foreman is probably quite glad this one panned out correctly.
Robots will neither be common nor very good in 2014.
Nobody's developed Isaac's positronic brains just yet, which is why robot vacuum cleaners tend to suck.
Much effort will be put into the designing of vehicles with "Robot-brains"*vehicles that can be set for particular destinations and that will then proceed there without interference by the slow reflexes of a human driver.
Which is, within a certain degree of flexibility, exactly what Google's cars do now, and the direction that the big auto makers are heading.
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.
Ever heard of that little thing called the Internet?
Sure, there's a few things that we haven't quite managed yet — physical panes of glass as windows are still very much a thing, although you could replace them with LCD screens I suppose — but it's an uncanny read, right down to very-nearly-getting the world population correct.
We've actually gone past Isaac's pick of 6.5 billion people, but he very wisely noted that this would continue to be a resource problem.
You might be tempted to think that Asimov's piece isn't that impressive, given it's couched in some broad language, but consider this.
How accurately do you think you could predict what we'll be doing at this point in 2064?
Visit to the World's Fair of 2014 [NY Times]