Randy McDonald (rfmcdpei) wrote,
Randy McDonald

[LINK] "2010 Isn't What Many Futurists Of The Past Imagined"

Linton Weeks' NPR essay "2010 Isn't What Many Futurists Of The Past Imagined" says what needs to be said of futurology, namely, that the futures predicted often reflect the fears and hopes of contemporaries as much as anything else.

In 1983, the Science & Technology Agency in Tokyo polled 2,000 experts — university professors, government officials and business thinkers — in more than a dozen fields about 800 technological categories. The Japan Economic Journal reported on the results and what life in 2010 would be like "if all the new technologies and innovations actually materialize as planned."

Japanese seers got some things right. Ordinary households, according to the report, "would enjoy all kinds of information thanks to the development of digital communications networks."

They missed on a few things, too. "The three most pernicious adult diseases — cancer, cerebral apoplexy and heart ailments — would be conquered." We wish.

And the futurologists imagined the skies in 2010 alive with orbiting factories and experimental laboratories "floating around in space, producing new pharmaceuticals, alloys and other substances, taking full advantage of the absence of gravity." They also believed that satellites would generate power from solar rays to be used by earthlings.

[. . .]

So many wild predictions from the past about 2010 have come true so fast, it does seem like we already live in the future. Robots clean the floors and serve drinks and bark like pet dogs. Google's self-driving cars are cruising the streets. A reporter from The New York Times has risen from the ground with a jet pack on his back.

But what about all the predictions that didn't come true? What can we learn from them?

Maybe by looking back at the predictions — realized and unrealized — we can glean something about life in the past. What the predictors longed for. What they wanted. What they feared.

Those 2,000 Japanese futurists in 1983, for instance, predicted that by 2010 it would be possible to successfully predict earthquakes. The country was still grappling with the tragic results of the Miyagi earthquake of 1978 that caused massive mudslides and more than two dozen deaths.

The Japan Economic Journal also reported that the futurists believed "prevention of cold damage in agricultural areas would come to light by the year 2010." The winter of 1981 was particularly harsh in Japan. Some 48 people died during the heaviest snowfall in nearly 20 years, The Globe and Mail of Canada reported.

Go, read.
Tags: futurology, links, science fiction
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