Predicting the future is a fool’s game, but everyone has to do it. Whenever you decide where to invest your money, what job to take, where to live, who to marry or what menu item to choose, you’re making a prediction about the future that might be totally wrong.
Lesser people than us make great sport of examining old sci-fi predictions and seeing how way off they were. Flying cars, interstellar travel, housekeeping robots and melting ice caps. Haw bloody haw.
Clever folk like us ought to instead examine the more fruitful field of those predictions that turned out to be correct. Here are a few:
– In Back to the Future, about the only thing they got right was video phones.
– In other science fiction, some authors correctly anticipated virtual reality and the internet.
– On the social side of things, H.L. Menken’s suspicions about looming women’s liberation and sexual freedom were fairly spot-on.
How did they do it?
In each case, the prototype was already in existence. It is much easier to imagine the development of an existing technology than it is to correctly anticipate the creation of a totally new one.
In the eighties, there were extremely expensive and poorly-performing video conference calls and satellite links to far-flung reporters. The internet already existed in a basic form, with some workers able to monitor remote machines from home and some universities able to share documents. As for the sexual revolution, by the 1920s its underlying philosophy and early practitioners had already laid the groundwork for what was to come.
So if you want to predict what will be in thirty years’ time, just look at what is already in the works:
– self-driving cars (to some extent)
– group marriage
And as even the prototype does not yet exist, you can pretty much write off:
– interplanetary travel
– housekeeping robots (still)
– interspecies marriage
Of course, the future being the future, anything is possible. Perhaps ironing out those minor difficulties in self-driving cars will turn out to be an insurmountable challenge. Maybe there’ll be a sudden surge in Cult-Marx goat-love. Who knows. But anyway, if you were a betting men, that would be the way to bet.
Are there any other existing prototypes that already look promising or threatening?