Subscribe / Unsubscribe Enewsletters | Login | Register

Pencil Banner

How Isaac Asimov correctly predicted 2014 tech in 1964

Jason Snell | Sept. 2, 2013
Unencumbered by the details of today's world, science fiction can make audiences think about modern issues without getting bogged down with the details and prejudices that might make them less open-minded

Isaac Asimov was a pretty cool guy. He's famous for his science fiction (I, Robot, the Foundation series), but he wrote or edited more than 500 books, fiction and non-fiction alike. And in 1964, he wrote an astounding piece for the New York Times envisioning the World's Fair of 2014.

Here's the thing about science fiction: It's often more about the present than the future. Unencumbered by the details of today's world, science fiction can make audiences think about modern issues without getting bogged down with the details and prejudices that might make them less open-minded. It's also really hard to predict the future, so if science fiction was truly just a genre designed to let readers place bets on future events, it would've been outlawed years ago.

But Asimov's predictions of next year from the perspective of 49 years ago? They're not perfect, but they're pretty good. In fact, I might go so far as to say they're the best I've seen. So let's take a look at what a visionary science-fiction writer from the last century envisioned for the world we live in today.

Glow lights and underground apartments

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.

In 2013 the concept of the man cave is with us, but humans haven't yet moved underground (one of Asimov's less successful predictions). Our light bulbs have moved from incandescent to fluorescent to LED, and the Philips Hue bulb is a Wi-Fi controlled LED that can change colors on demand.

Underwater housing will have its attractions to those who like water sports, and will undoubtedly encourage the more efficient exploitation of ocean resources, both food and mineral.

I know some surfers. I'm pretty sure they don't live near Sebastian the Crab. Also, Isaac, what's with all the dreams of people living in windowless caves of steel? It makes us SAD.

I, robot owner
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... Complete lunches and dinners, with the food semiprepared, will be stored in the freezer until ready for processing.

We haven't stopped cooking, and I'm not sure predicting the TV dinner is much of a feat since it had been in existence for a decade when Asimov wrote his story. But the coffee machine sounds like a Keurig to me. I can't believe he missed out on predicting Sodastream, though.

 

1  2  3  4  5  Next Page 

Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.