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Arthur C. Clarke Predicts The Future From 1964 — How Well Did He Do?

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ClarkeIn addition to being one of the literary titans of the science fiction genre, Sir Arthur C. Clarke proved an adept hand at predicting the ways technology would evolve in the future, from game-changing communications satellites to visions of space flight that uncannily mirrored the eventual real thing. Of course, this sort of forecast runs the risk of you looking goofy a few decades down the line when we’re not all puttering around the sky in Jetsons vehicles. Or, as Clarke himself more eloquently put it:

Trying to predict the future is a discouraging, hazardous occupation, because the prophet invariably falls between two schools. If his predictions sound at all reasonable, you can be quite sure that in 20, or at most 50 years, the progress of science and technology has made him seem ridiculously conservative. On the other hand, if by some miracle a prophet could describe the future exactly as it was going to take place, his predictions would sound so absurd, so far-fetched that everybody would laugh him to scorn.

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AT&T’s Early Nineties Ad Campaign Got The Future Right (For The Most Part)

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Predicting the future can be tough. Even if you’re well versed in every aspect of your reality, from the technological to the philosophical and everything in between, the force of history will often take a sharp left down a side alley you didn’t even see and roll right past you while you’re still pointing in the direction you were so certain was “the future.” Part of the fun of science fiction is that simple guesswork, imagining what things might be like 10 or 100 or 1 million years down the road, and even when you get it wrong, hey, at least it made for a hell of a story. So let us add a new prophet to the prognosticators of yore such as Isaac Asimov and Gregory Benford: Tom Selleck?

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Isaac Asimov Predicts The Future Of 2014…From 1964

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AsimovScience fiction has always been about imagining the future: technologically, philosophically, or even satirically. It doesn’t always get the future right, mind you — we may technically have jetpacks and flying cars, but they’re not nearly as sleek and omnipresent as we’d been hoping for. One of the genre’s premiere futurists was Isaac Asimov, who was a science fiction titan but who also wrote fantasy, mysteries, and volumes of nonfiction encompassing subjects such as history, science, Shakespeare, and even the Bible. But in 1964, Asimov sat down to imagine a very specific future: that distant and mysterious year of “2014 A.D.”

In an article penned for the New York Times on August 16, 2014, Asimov uses the hopeful visions of the 1964 World’s Fair to imagine what our own impending future, a few short months away, might look like, and what wonders the World’s Fair of 2014 might hold. Asimov’s predictions range from the simple to the fantastic, but it’s intriguing to see what he got right, and what he got wrong. Below we’ll excerpt some of those predictions, and see how well the late Asimov’s foresight predicted the world we all live in.

Early on he predicts that underground dwellings will be all the rage, “with easily controlled temperature, free from the vicissitudes of weather, with air cleaned and light controlled.” The surface, Asimov claims, will be largely used for agriculture and parklands. While there’s no reason we couldn’t all chilling in snazzy underground hobbit holes, subterranean housing hasn’t caught on nearly as much as Asimov thought. Instead, we continue spreading up and out, but rarely down.

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David Brin Poses The Question: What Is Science Fiction?

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One of our primary areas of interest here at GFR is, obviously, science fiction. But just what is science fiction? Ask ten sci-fi fans and you’ll probably get ten different answers. I’ve suggested before that science fiction is fundamentally a literature of hope, because even if the future it envisions is a terrible one, its still suggests that our species will at least have a future. And as long as we haven’t driven ourselves to extinction, that means we can still make better choices and evolve and perhaps save ourselves from that impending doom. In the video above, writer David Brin presents an excellent breakdown of science fiction’s nature and evolution, and he touches on the concept I just explained. As he puts it, science fiction is about the notion that “children can learn from the mistakes of their parents.”

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Artist Paints Earth With A Futuristic Twist

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Listfield Coke DroidWhile many artists are captivated by fantastical visions of what other planets, star systems, and life forms might look like, artist Scott Listfield believes there’s plenty of weirdness right here on Earth to inspire his work, especially when injected with an element of futurism.

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Find Out What SF Writers In 1987 Thought The World Of 2012 Would Look Like

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It is the job of the science fiction writer to guess what the future might look like. Sometimes they get it right, sometimes they get it wrong…and sometimes they even get it really wrong. In the end, a knack for precognition isn’t nearly as important as creating wondrous worlds, intriguing characters, and exciting stories. Still, there’s no denying our fascination not just with what the future will bring, but with what others once thought the future would bring. In that spirit, L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future contest recently opened a time capsule sealed 25 years ago, filled with predictions by many notable science fiction writers in response to the question, “What will life be like in the year 2012?”

The capsule was opened during an April ceremony honoring the winners of the annual L. Ron Hubbard Writers and Illustrators of the Future contests, founded by Hubbard during the ’80s. The opening of the time capsule completed a journey begun in 1987, and revealed the predictions of genre legends such as Isaac Asimov, Gregory Benford, Frederick Pohl, and Orson Scott Card. They have posted the predictions over at the Writers of the Future website, and we’ve got the full text at the bottom.