Asimov gets the future kinda right, even from 1964

I was talking with a friend last night and he made the comment that no one had predicted the smartphone. I was sure Isaac Asimov had but conflated it with the Calculator Pad from Foundation (that is pretty much an iPad).

So I went looking this morning and found what Asimov had written. It comes from a fascinating article he wrote in 1964 about the World’s Fair. It discussed what the world would be like in 2014. He was eerily right on many things, sometimes in the very details. Here is what he wrote:

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.

He then described fiber-optic cables and satellites to carry the signals (although he does suggest we will have colonies on the Moon by 2014).

He does seem to have missed the Internet which is a big miss. And thought that compressed air would be used to move cars around.

Here are some other things he got right.

Mars: “However, by 2014, only unmanned ships will have landed on Mars, though a manned expedition will be in the works and in the 2014 Futurama will show a model of an elaborate Martian colony.”

Technology inequality: “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.”

Coffee and bread machines: “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.”

Humanoid Robots: “Robots will neither be common nor very good in 2014, but they will be in existence…It will be such computers, much miniaturized, that will serve as the “brains” of robots.”

Solar Power: “Large solar-power stations will also be in operation in a number of desert and semi-desert areas — Arizona, the Negev, Kazakhstan. In the more crowded, but cloudy and smoggy areas, solar power will be less practical. An exhibit at the 2014 fair will show models of power stations in space, collecting sunlight by means of huge parabolic focusing devices and radiating the energy thus collected down to earth.”

Self-driving vehicles: “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. “

TVs: “As for television, wall screens will have replaced the ordinary set”

Population growth: “The rate of increase of population will have slackened*but, I suspect, not sufficiently.”

Image: thierry ehrmann