Why The Simpsons Predicts The Future So Often, According To A College Professor

the simpsons

Since making its primetime premiere almost 27 years ago, The Simpsons has consistently been ahead of its time, and as fans have witnessed repeatedly, the show is also ahead of our real world time. The Simpsons has gotten the future right plenty of times - here are some examples - and its uncanny "skill" has been particularly notable recently, with that whole "Donald Trump getting elected President" thing. Dr. John Donaldson, who teaches philosophy at the University of Glasgow, has offered up an explanation for why the show always seems to be so prescient.

It's a show about life. It deals with situations close to our own hearts and touches on themes we see in our day-to-day lives, so it's unsurprising that some of the things they touch on can become a reality.

Dr. John Donaldson is an obvious fan of The Simpsons, and both he and the University of Glasgow's Philosophy Department got media attention when it was announced he would be teaching a one-day class in January 2017 called "D'oh! The Simpsons Introduce Philosophy," and he's quite interested in showing others how the long-running animated comedy can be used to explore a wide variety of philosophical themes and issues, among other things. And it was while speaking with Business Insider about the class that he offered up his admittedly simplistic, but no less relevant, explanation.

As awesome as it would be to have a TV series that could dependably and accurately tell viewers how the future plays out, that's not something that exists, and Dr. John Donaldson compares The Simpsons' creative team to sci-fi writers who have long foretold of advancements in science and technology. In The Simpsons' case, the formula seems to be applying a healthy dose of sardonic satire to common sense about America, and after 600 episodes featuring dozens upon dozens of specific references, moments, sight gags and more, it shouldn't surprise so many of us that the show has gotten so much right. It would, of course, take a lot longer to list all of the things the show hasn't predicted correctly.

Dr. John Donaldson also namechecked the president-elect in his explanation, as you can see below.

Coincidences happen. The Simpsons set out to make a joke about Donald Trump because it seemed so ridiculous, and it just so happened that political circumstances changed to the point that someone like Trump could become president.

Along with Donald Trump's ascension to the Oval Office, The Simpsons recently earned more foresight notoriety when MIT's Bengt Holmström won a Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, an event that Milhouse envisioned for a 2010 episode. An extremely educated coincidence, to be sure, but still nothing resembling magic. With at least two more seasons on the way, we still have much to learn from The Simpsons about what the years 2030 and beyond will be like. If, at some point, the nation is overtaken by a love of junior lacrosse, then we have Kirk Van Houten to thank in the episode "There Will Be Buds" that aired earlier this month.

The Simpsons airs (and sets the future in motion) on Sunday nights on Fox. No predictions are needed to tell what's coming to the small screen in the near future, as you just have to check out our fall TV schedule and our midseason premiere schedule.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.