Evaluating 8 Of Isaac Asimov's Predictions About 2014
By Alex Suskind
Predicting the future is a bit of fool’s errand. If I told you that 50 years from now we will all be petering around in flying cars a la George Jetson and moving from one end of the planet to the other in fancy-schmancy transporters, you’d likely point and laugh and call me a lunatic. Then again, I am a just a lowly writer and not, say, Isaac Asimov, one of the godfathers of science-fiction and an expert in biochemistry.
Back in 1964, Asimov wrote a story for the New York Times (via Open Culture) on what the world would––or could-–look like 50 years in the future. At that point, Asimov was one of the world’s best-known sci-fi experts, having written hundreds of stories about robots, distant planets, and interstellar empires. In other words, if anyone was going to correctly predict Earth’s status in 2014, it was going to be him.
Well––surprise!––it’s now 2014. And guess what? Asimov’s article is pretty accurate. At a time when television was just beginning to dominate the world and computers looked something like this, the legendary author was making bold predictions about new handheld gadgets and moving sidewalks and all sorts of other ephemera. Let’s take a look back at a few of these predictions and see how they measure up to our current reality.
He thought walls would glow “in a variety of colors” and “change at the touch of a push button”Though I am sure 1960s LSD users were very excited at the prospect of “glowing” walls, you don’t see them much today. But, they do exist! Example: This 2009 article talks about the use of light-emitting wallpaper, where “a chemical coating on the walls [can] illuminate all parts of the room with an even glow” (hm, that sounds healthy). Unfortunately, this technology is currently few and far between, so the likelihood of it “killing off the lightbulb,” as the previously linked article states, seems a bit premature.
He predicted the popularity of the microwave ovenAsimov’s prediction of “units that will prepare ‘automeals,’ heating water and converting it to coffee; toasting bread; frying, poaching or scrambling eggs, and grilling bacon,” was right on the money. Though the first microwave oven was invented in the late ‘40s, it would be another 30 years before prices began dropping and regular folks were able to afford them in their kitchens. Then again, I still can't fry/poach scramble eggs, so Asimov may have been a bit overzealous on that front.