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Isaac Asimov's Predictions For 2014 From 50 Years Ago Are Eerily Accurate

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ISAAC ASIMOV 2014
Portrait of the american biochemist and writer Isaac Asimov. USA, 1970s. Glowing ceilings, a booming population, and everyone becoming a "machine tender" were among his predictions for 2014, made 50 years ago. | Mondadori via Getty Images

Fifty years ago, American scientist and author Isaac Asimov published a story in The New York Times that listed his predictions for what the world would be like in 2014.

Asimov wrote more than 500 books in his lifetime, including science fiction novels and nonfiction scientific books, so he was well-versed in thinking about the future.

In his article, called "Visit to the World's Fair of 2014," Asimov got a whole bunch of his guesses right -- and his other predictions are making us a little envious of his imagined future.

Correct Predictions

"By 2014, electroluminescent panels will be in common use."

You may not realize what electroluminescent panels are, but these thin, bright panels are used in retail displays, signs, lighting and flat panel TVs.

isaac asimov 2014

"Gadgetry will continue to relieve mankind of tedious jobs."

True.

"Communications will become sight-sound and you will see as well as hear the person you telephone."

Skype, Google Hangout, FaceTime and more have made video chatting common.

"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."

With computers, tablets and smartphones, all of this is true.

“Robots will neither be common nor very good in 2014, but they will be in existence.”

If you define "robot" as a computer that looks and acts like a human, then this guess is definitely true. We don't have robot servants or robot friends, but we do have robots that can twerk, do the "Thriller" dance and sing. It sounds like our priorities have been off...

Close, But Not Exact, Predictions

"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."

We have Keurigs and other instant coffee machines -- so he's not too far off there. But as for a total "automeal," we still can't press a button and have breakfast ready. Someone please get on this ASAP.

"Ceilings and walls will glow softly, and in a variety of colors that will change at the touch of a push button.”

This could probably be true if we felt like it, since the technology exists. But glowing walls and ceilings aren't extraordinarily popular.

isaac asimov 2014

“[T]he world population will be 6,500,000,000."

Good guess, but it's actually more like 7,100,000,000.

"Mankind will therefore have become largely a race of machine tenders. Schools will have to be oriented in this direction."

Sure, computer science has become an important field of study, but we have hardly become "a race of machine tenders." Of course, a lot of us are never far from a machine (our smartphones) that we pretty much constantly "tend."

Incorrect Predictions

“The appliances of 2014 will have no electric cords, of course, for they will be powered by long-lived batteries running on radioisotopes.”

We might still use electric cords, but at least we have cool surge protectors, right?

"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.'"

We wish this were true. Unfortunately, coding classes are still relatively uncommon in high schools, and just 1.4 percent of high school AP students took the computer science exam in 2012.

We will live in a "society of enforced leisure,” and "the most glorious single word in the vocabulary will have become work!”

Sigh. Not yet, Asimov, not yet.

[h/t Open Culture]

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