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

Moon colonies, no. Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity? Yes.

"Make room, make room!"
In 2014, there is every likelihood that the world population will be 6,500,000,000 and the population of the United States will be 350,000,000. Boston-to-Washington, the most crowded area of its size on the earth, will have become a single city with a population of over 40,000,000.

In fact, it's worse than Asimov thought. Our planetary population sits at 7.1 billion today, though the U.S. population is only 316 million. Boston, New York, Washington, and all spots in between—not to mention Atlanta—remain independent cities served by a speedy train.

It's made of people
Ordinary agriculture will keep up with great difficulty and there will be "farms" turning to the more efficient micro-organisms. Processed yeast and algae products will be available in a variety of flavors. The 2014 fair will feature an Algae Bar at which "mock-turkey" and "pseudosteak" will be served. It won't be bad at all (if you can dig up those premium prices), but there will be considerable psychological resistance to such an innovation.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Soylent and the $330,000 vat-grown hamburger.

Distributing the future
Not all the world's population will enjoy the gadgety world of the future to the full. A larger portion than today will be deprived and although they may be better off, materially, than today, they will be further behind when compared with the advanced portions of the world. They will have moved backward, relatively.

Of course he's right. Though cellphones have increased connectivity in the developing world and some billionaires are working on bringing the Internet to everyone by radio or wire or balloon, the present is very much as Asimov described it 49 years ago. Or as writer William Gibson put it, "The future is already here—it's just not evenly distributed."

The increasing use of mechanical devices to replace failing hearts and kidneys, and repair stiffening arteries and breaking nerves will have cut the death rate still further and have lifted the life expectancy in some parts of the world to age 85.

The average life expectancy in Japan and Switzerland is 83.

Educated in binary
The world of A.D. 2014 will have few routine jobs that cannot be done better by some machine than by any human being. Mankind will therefore have become largely a race of machine tenders. Schools will have to be oriented in this direction... 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" (from "formula translation").

 

Previous Page  1  2  3  4  5  Next Page 

Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.