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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

Self-driving hovercraft
There is every likelihood that highways—at least in the more advanced sections of the world—will have passed their peak in 2014; there will be increasing emphasis on transportation that makes the least possible contact with the surface. There will be aircraft, of course, but even ground travel will increasingly take to the air—a foot or two off the ground.... Bridges will also be of less importance, since cars will be capable of crossing water on their jets, though local ordinances will discourage the practice.

Oh, Isaac. You've succumbed to the eternal dream of jet packs and flying cars. The highway endures. And bridges? Still important.

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.

Nailed it! Even a few years ago, the self-driving car seemed like nothing more than a piece of science fiction, but today several states have approved autonomous vehicles for roadways and it's not unreasonable to think that in a few years luxury cars will begin to offer a "full auto-drive" mode.

For short-range travel, moving sidewalks will be making their appearance in downtown sections... Compressed air tubes will carry goods and materials over local stretches.

Didn't nail it! There are moving sidewalks at airports, and Elon Musk (himself a character right out of an Asimov story) has his Hyperloop. But we do not live in a society of moving carpets and pneumatic tubes.

Skype from the moon
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. Synchronous satellites, hovering in space will make it possible for you to direct-dial any spot on earth, including the weather stations in Antarctica (shown in chill splendor as part of the '64 General Motors exhibit).

As with the self-driving cars, the prospect of video telephones was more science fictional than real for years. Turns out that Ma Bell wasn't ever going to transform our old voice phones into videophones. Instead, we got Skype and FaceTime and Google Hangouts and suddenly we're living in the future. And satellites (and the Internet!) make it possible for us to direct-dial pretty much anywhere on Earth.

For that matter, you will be able to reach someone at the moon colonies.

I said anywhere on Earth, Asimov.

By 2014, only unmanned ships will have landed on Mars, though a manned expedition will be in the works.


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