Looking At 2014 From 1964

After visiting the 1964 World’s Fair, held in New York, Isaac Asimov made a series of predictions about what the world would be like 50 years into his future—that is, in the year 2014 A.D.

  • Electroluminescent panels will be in common use. Ceilings and walls will glow softly, and in a variety of colors that will change at the touch of a push button.
  • Suburban houses, underground, with easily controlled temperature, free from the vicissitudes of weather, should be fairly common. There may even be subterranean cities.
  • Gadgetry will continue to relieve mankind of tedious jobs. 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.
  • Breakfasts will be “ordered” the night before, to be ready by an indicated hour the next morning.
  • Robots will neither be common, nor very good, but they will be in existence.
  • Computers will be much miniaturized.
  • The appliances would’ve no electric cords, of course, for they will be powered by long-lived batteries.
  • The world of 50 years will have shrunk further.
  • There is every likelihood that highways, at least, in the more advanced sections of the world, will have passed their peak. There will be increasing emphasis on transportation that makes the least possible contact with the surface.
  • There will be aircraft, of course, but even ground travel will increasingly take to the air, a foot or two off the ground. Jets of compressed air will also lift land vehicles off the highways.
  • [The fair of the future will offer] rides on small roboticized cars, which will maneuver in crowds at the two-foot level, neatly and automatically avoiding each other.
  • For short-range travel, moving sidewalks (with benches on either side; standing room in the center) will be making their appearance in downtown sections.
  • Compressed air tubes will carry goods and materials over local stretches.
  • Communications will become sight-sound, and you will see as well as hear the person you telephone.
  • Synchronous satellites, hovering in space, will make it possible for you to direct-dial any spot on Earth, including the weather stations in Antarctica.
  • Conversations with the Moon will be a trifle uncomfortable, but the way, in that 2.5 seconds must elapse between statement and answer (it takes light that long to make the round trip.) Similar conversations with Mars will experience a 3.5-minute delay even when Mars is at its closest.
  • Only unmanned ships will have landed on Mars, though a manned expedition will be in the works.
  • As for television, wall screens will have replaced the ordinary set, but transparent cubes will be making their appearance in which three-dimensional viewing will be possible.
  • Population pressure will force increasing penetration of desert and polar areas.
  • [The year will] see a good beginning made in the colonization of the continental shelves. Underwater housing will have its attractions to those who like water sports.
  • Ordinary agriculture will keep up with great difficulty and there will be “farms” turning to the more efficient microorganisms. Processed yeast and algae products will be available in a variety of flavors.
  • [The fair of 2014] will feature an algae bar at which “mock-turkey” and “pseudosteak” will be served.
  • Not all the world’s population will enjoy the gadgetry world of the future to the full. A larger portion than today will be deprived, and although, materially, they may be better off than today, they will be further behind when compared with the advanced portions of the world.
  • [If population growth goes] unchecked, then all Earth will be a single choked Manhattan by A.D. 2450. Society will collapse long before that.
  • [There will] be few routine jobs that cannot be done better by some machine than by any human being. Mankind will, therefore, have become largely a race of machine tenders.
  • Mankind will suffer badly from the disease of boredom, a disease spreading more widely each year and growing in intensity. The lucky few who can be involved in creative work of any sort will be the true elite of mankind, for they alone will do more than serve a machine. In a society of enforced leisure, the most glorious single word in the vocabulary will have become work.

h/t: NYT

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