In 2012 We will see:
1) That economic cycles caused by rises in technological levels will begin to level out—countries that have a falsely inflated economy will be forced to export their technologies to third-world countries where people are willing to work for less money. This will lead to a situation where knowledge, the key to our technologic success, will be spread across the world. We'll see rapid decreases in starvation levels, but will still be plagued with political turmoil.
2) Men's Rights—We will see a reaction to the women's movement. Men will demand to be portrayed by the media as the sensitive, caring creatures that they are. They will also demand equal rights in custody battles where children are seldom awarded to a father because our society chooses to believe a mother is a better care-taker by nature.
3) Introduction of x-ray microscopes in the early 2000's will lead to rapid progress in gene splicing. Look for rapid growth in medicine and mining, and food production. We may also see bacteria being engineered to simulate parts of the immune system (which could cure immune disorders such as AIDS and allergies).
In essence, overstating a trend because you are in the middle of participating in it.
There is nothing overly dramatic about this economic cycle than any other down cycle. It's certainly nowhere close to previous cycles.
(2) is marginally true - man's rights movements exist, but considered fringe by majority. I also suspect this one has something to do with Wolverton's personal history, which is not really a good place to discuss.
(3) No curing of any disorders by genetically engineered bacteria so far, AFAIK. Also I'm not sure how bacteria would help curing AIDS caused by retrovirus, anyway.
The text implies that some sort of MR movement would spring up as a widespread reaction to feminism (and it doesn’t have any comparable issues to fight for, it doesn’t have the numbers, it doesn’t have the intellectual depth nor the academic backbone). It did spring up as a tiny reaction to feminism. Wikipedia tells me that the movement has its roots in the 1970s, so it’s not like this would have been something completely new in 1987. It’s hard to say, but I see no reason to believe that the MR movement is that much bigger than it was in 1987. And it still defines itself as a reaction to feminism. Which makes about zero sense. All the issues they are fighting for were not caused by feminism. Far from it. Many feminists will be perfectly capable of recognizing them as valid problems. (But, again, that’s very much besides the point.)
While I can agree that, at present, many of the "MRA" seem like "weirdos" tilting at windmills, there is nothing inherently wrong with having strong advocates on both sides of a discussion.
This ought to give one pause and great skepticism when evaluating today's pop-culture fears. Of course, just because an idiot picks (c) on an SAT question doesn't mean it's wrong.
What else but a fear of war motivates us to avoid it? Would China have instituted its one-child policy without a fear of population explosion, a policy which arguably is one of the most important factors in its rapid rise (as compared to India, for instance)? Perhaps the seeming inevitability of Japan's dominance made them complacent while simultaneously stripping American's of theirs?
There is debate over the actual effectiveness of the policy. The really optimistic numbers seem to come straight fromt the Chinese government, and there are a lot of people who disagree with them.
Additionally they are going to have a huge demographic problem as the one child generation ages. I was just reading an economist article that said estimates are that over 1/3 of Shanghai will be over 60 by 2020, and by 2050 the median age in China will be 49.
If someone thinks we aren't doing the same thing, they're insane.
The success doesn't bother me; the pandering does.
For varying values of we, anyway. Every generation seems to have its crisis/moral panic du jour. Only a minority ever seems to take a moderate, pragmatic view, and expect neither utopia nor dystopia.
Maybe the old utopia is the new mundane?
Infant mortality near zero, lifespan 80 years, global communication and travel, almost no hunger or war.
Wouldn't that be considered utopia 100 years ago?
Those are for the West, but the rest of the world is rapidly catching up, too.
Seriously, these guys are doing what we all do: making some kind of linear estimate based on past data. Usually these estimates end in some sort of crisis. No, we are not out of oil. It's debatable whether we've even reached peak oil, which I doubt. The U.S. has a shot at becoming a major oil exporter if we don't screw it up. No, hunger and disease are no more widespread and rampant than they were then. If anything, things have probably gotten a little better. No, we are not colonizing the moon or Mars. Our space program is still barely getting started. No, everybody isn't an illiterate slob watching CGI dramas, but that day still seems to be fast approaching, at least for the western world.
The internet really took the species on a hard turn from where we all thought we were going. Even idea of a hive mind where billions vegetate using computer stimulus wasn't considered. Everybody thought that the individual would stay the same and technology would evolve around them. What's happened is much more interesting: the idea of the unique individual is changing as more of the things that make us unique are being recorded and shared. Technology is not transforming the world; technology is transforming us.
ADD: An interesting title to this article might be "It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine."
Like, here's a wildly wrong one: "Probate and copyright law will be entirely restructured by 2012 because people will be frozen at death, and there will be electronic means of consulting them. Many attorneys will specialize in advocacy for the dead." What is this guy anticipating? He's anticipating that biocomputing will explode up from approximately 0 to the level where we blur the line between life and death.
What about "now in 1987, we would beg you to forgive us. We have burdened you with impossible debts, wasted and polluted the planet that should have been your rich heritage, left you instead a dreadful legacy of ignorance, want, and war"? The author has totally neglected the idea that perhaps future presidents would create debts, pollution, ignorance, and war at scales which just blow those original scales out of the water, so as to seem irrelevant by comparison. Instead he predicts a total reversal of human nature, expressed in a "faith that you have saved yourselves".
If they've shown sci-fi bias towards computers, that has actually to some extent held up; if they've shown sci-fi bias towards space, that has not. The slow-and-incremental predictions are not so bad.
I was interested to see that another page on the site hosting the submitted article has a description of the late L. Ron Hubbard
that perhaps needs some fact-checking.
Some promising technologies will still be struggling along in 2037. Others have
disappeared or been replaced completely. No matter how miraculous and marvelous
the advances that have happened though, society will have managed to consider
them mundane and probably inevitable. I don't know what quantum computers and
machine learning will have allowed by 2037- (better weather prediction? deep
mathematical truths?), but I suspect that the things people think about the
most, like how to have meaningful relationships and fulfilling work, will have
only been minimally affected. On the other hand, I predict that some people
thinking about those things now will have found, individually, exactly what
they were looking for.
Each generation will be less mature (at least until it reaches the same age as
the last). Each new generation (there will have been a couple by 2037) will,
despite its immaturity, regressiveness, and destructiveness, manage to yield
forth individuals who inspire and transform, who rise above petty concerns and
a world brimming with distraction and reveal something new about the capacity
In short, the fundamental struggle will continue between technology that exalts
our knowledge and capacity, and human nature that debases and waste them.
Existential threats to mankind will still occasionally surface. The threat of
genocide, tyrants who oppress and reign in terror, the Earth groaning under its
abuse as we attempt to listen better, to act better. But, as always there will be
pockets of peace and prosperity where others can sit and take a moment to write
an entry for 2062.
AI would advance a lot.
Virtual reality would be a commonplace.
Population would keep slowly rising (due to natural selection).
World would be even more peaceful than it is today.
No existential threats to mankind in the next 25 years.
But we'll still be adamant that it's not "real" AI.
Brilliant points (Orson Scott Card):
> We must count ourselves lucky if anyone has leisure enough in 2012 to open this time capsule and care what is inside. In 2012 Americans will see the collapse of Imperial America, the Pax Americana, as having ended with our loss of national will and national selflessness in the 1970s. Worldwide economic collapse will have cost America its dominant world role; but it will not result in Russian hegemony; their economy is too dependent on the world economy to maintain an irresistible military force. ...
And this one by Roger Zelazny, pretty spot on until...
> It is good to see that a cashless, checkless society has just about come to pass, that automation has transformed offices and robotics manufacturing in mainly beneficial ways, including telecommuting, that defense spending has finally slowed for a few of the right reasons,
I stopped reading at "defense spending has finally slowed"... no one could have predicted George W. Bush I guess
This one is almost completely opposite:
>Multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease will be effectively cured. However, AIDS will not yet have been controlled. It will have become the leading cause of death worldwide with millions of new cases each year.
Most were quaintly charming, but that was right on. I'm surprised that fewer authors mentioned the information revolution as being a large force in society.
The cheap labor in Asia isn't particularly subjugated (and Western nations produce more material goods in absolute terms, never mind U.S. agriculture).
LNG is next by weight (though well down the curve). Coal fares rather worse than I would have thought, though it may win on energy/volume.
Energy densities of various storage media / methods:
And more energy densities:
A kilogram of uranium has roughly 20 million times the energy of a kilogram of gasoline. Which has roughly 25 times the energy storage of a kilogram of LiON batteries (and just ekes out kerosene/diesel as well). TNT and gunpowder have surprisingly low energy densities -- it's not their storage capacity, but release rates which give them value (it's also why planes loaded with jet fuel are more effective attack vectors against skyscrapers than missiles loaded with explosives, at least on a total net energy delivery basis).
This is a pretty vague statement. Which western nations? Which asian nations? Which material goods? In absolute terms of what? Measured at what point?
I'm not saying anything in particular, but can you provide a source so we can see the meaning behind it?
I don't think it is controversial that U.S. manufacturing output has grown.
You can probably conclude that no-one predicted the information revolution. (What people didn't predict or mention is often the most interesting part of past future predictions.)
When I was in college, my English professor vowed that he would make us better writers by forcing us to write an essay every single night. And it really worked.
Yet we live in a world where people are writing, constantly writing, in a way my English teacher could barely have dreamed of. High school kids, debating endlessly with a hostile audience every day, are turning into frighteningly persuasive writers all on their own.
Computers have probably done lots for literacy.
You can see it a little bit now when much older people who don't use computers a lot, write things. They aren't very literate, probably because they haven't written as much as young people have.
I can see however where that came from - with the rise of the TV culture and not seeing the following rise of the internet and global information connectedness brought by it - you can easily decide that the future is couch potatoes watching TV, not couch potatoes reading blogs and writing comments :)
u jelly brah?
In 1987 none of these writers had any real insight into the changes the Internet would bring. "The World is Flat"  wouldn't come out for nearly 20 years. Although engineers were getting a pretty good grasp of what would be different 10 years later in '97. I clearly remember showing my parents Java when they came to visit at Christmas in 1994 and they thought it was 'interesting' but really didn't believe that everyone in the world would be affected by it. The next year (Christmas '95) and at my sister's house in Utah I pointed out a web site on a car ad and asked her if she knew what it was. Nope, I told her that soon it would be the only way to get information on anything. She didn't believe me.
We've not made nearly the strides in delivered medicine that we might have, that is in part due to regulatory delays, although mechanical things (titanium inserts, replacement joins, heart valves, etc) did quite well.
And world politics were clearly difficult to predict. I too saw the juggernaut of Japanese manufacturing excellence and thought "Gee, if we don't get our game on we're dead meat!" but never ever imagined a world with web sites like Global Sources  where you fill out a form, wire some money, and have a Chinese factory working on widgets for you before the end of the week.
It's fascinating to look into why the "inevitable," didn't come to pass. Likewise with many of the doomsday predictions we see here, the pivots that prevented many from occurring (arguably, fall of the USSR, massive public health efforts, sheer luck)are sweet spots in history. It'd be interesting to do some kind of meta-analysis of future predictions and these little events that seemingly held back the fates. I can almost groan about trying to assess the qualitative data now...
Recently there was mention of a poll of evangelical Christians and some large percentage thought the rapture would happen in their lifetime.
Honestly, that's pretty much literally the same psychology at work as those who believed in impending nuclear holocaust then and imminent climate doom now.
I think it's in peoples nature to mentally take trend lines straight up, or even exponentially up. So, if there were x nuclear warheads in 1987, then they assumed it would be 100 * x in 2012.
The same pattern is at work with the climate now, as you've pointed out. Those who speak of the largest catastrophes get the most airtime, and it's a self-reinforcing cycle. Any room full of teenagers will inevitably predict the world will be uninhabitable by their 40th birthday, when in reality it will probably be much the same.
Perhaps it's an ego thing - people can't believe that they aren't the crowning generation of the human race. They want to believe that their life is as good as anyones will get, because future people just won't be as fortunate/gifted/special as they are.
The truth of the matter is that each generation has led a better quality of life than the last for a long time going back. This is both technology related but also, as slow as it happens, lessons do get learned.
It's funny to see all the doom and gloom about resources running out, when that's no closer now than it was in 1987. This should be a lesson for the rank pessimists around us now.
It's actually very difficult to predict the future, because of unexpected events that change history. Everyone in this group thinks Japan is going to take over the world - they were 2 years away from the bursting of their bubble, which has never re-inflated. They also think that Russia is going to continue to be the foe, when itself was only 3 or so years away from falling apart as the USSR. Nobody could see the rise of Islamic terrorism and the massive pivot that it would create.
I got a different impression - they were either very pessimistic about the future, or unrealistically optimistic. Either a dystopia or a utopia. I suspect that this is because both of these viewpoints were interesting. The most boring viewpoint would be mediocrity, especially to science fiction writers. Yet, mediocrity is probably the best bet for the future. Some things will get better, others worse, human nature will stay the same as it's always been, and barring catastrophes like worldwide nuclear war, life will go on.
"Japan will be the central economic power in the world, owning or controlling a significant part of European and American industries. This "economic dictatorship" will be beneficial to Japan's client states, since Japan benefits by keeping its customers healthy and wealthy. Indeed, a peaceful and prosperous world community will owe its existence to this Pax Japanica." --SHELDON GLASHOW
Replace Japan with China and he's spot on. The idea has also been given the name "Chimerica" by some economists [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chimerica].
...except for the prosperous and peaceful part, right? And oh yeah...everything else?
I think you will find yourself just as wrong about China as Glashow was about Japan.
Prosperous: clearly people in Asia & Africa are much, much more prosperous than in 1987.
In the developing regions, the proportion of people living on less than $1.25 a day fell from 47 per cent in 1990 to 24 per cent in 2008. [snip] The number of extreme poor in the developing regions fell from over 2 billion in 1990 to less than 1.4 billion in 2008.
Even in the US and Europe income per person has grown substantially since 1987. Don't let the current economic problems overshadow longer-term trends.
Peaceful: If you live outside central Africa the last 25 years haven't been bad. In 1987 Iraq was at the end of the Iran/Iraq war and Afghanistan was in the middle of attempting to expel an invading superpower. Not much change there.
Of course, the various central African wars have been a complete disaster - only WW1 & WW2 have been comparable.
OTOH, there hasn't been a nuclear war, which was what people expected in 1987.
 http://www.bit.ly/SWICYq (Sorry about the short URL - it goes to a Flash Gapminder page)
As for peaceful, Glashow's reference to a Pax Japanica implies that, at least within its economically-annexed countries, there would be genuine peace over and above what he observed in 1987. Since the establishing event didn't happen, I guess it doesn't make sense to analyze the effects...but I'll grant you that for several years between 1987 and now, the international rhetoric among nations with large standing armies has cooled.
But this isn't the Golden Age of anything, certainly not Japan.
Regarding the OP, China has nothing to do with any of it. Their assertions of economic influence in Africa and South America are just a shift in patron and beneficiaries from the old world order. Great for some countries (at least in the short term), less so for others.
Is he? I don't know of many Chinese companies that own stakes in American or European industry - maybe Lenovo counts to some extent, but what others?
It seems that the sources of China's capital and the markets for the resulting industry are almost entirely Western, and primarily American. China's fate is far more determined by American investors and consumers than the reverse.
China's government scrambles to buy dollars to keep the RMB artificially weak against the dollar so this pattern can be sustained for a while longer. But how long can that last?
Speaking from Australia, China made $9.9bn investment last year, also growing... http://blogs.wsj.com/dealjournalaustralia/2011/12/30/chinese... - here they are generally looking to up their stake in mining/energy companies. I think its much the same in Canada as well.
US GDP is about $15 trillion/yr right now.
So the $8bn of direct investment you mention is about 0.4% of the investment that happened in the US last year.
A far cry from "owning or controlling a significant part of European and American industries". ;)
Oh, and the $10bn investment into Australia, which has "only" 27% * $1.5e12 = $405bn of investment yearly, is about 2.5% of yearly Australian investment. At that rate you _could_ get to "significant" in several years, if the economy doesn't also grow at several % a year....
(For further comparison, the EU gdp is about 17tn/year and investment is almost 19% of that, so figure about 2.9tn/year.)
On the topic of Australia, the effect of China's demand for resources can't be understated - they are the main reason there's currently a mining boom here; without them we would probably be stuck in 0-1% growth. As it is we are at 3% GDP growth per annum.
He's still alive, incidentally. And has turned to blogging: http://www.thewaythefutureblogs.com/
This was the most stunning part of the predictions as it's far more negative than what truly is the case, yet points to many truths and is what many could say about the next 25 years.
Oh how I wish this was the case...
Interesting for the pessimism, that is. Every age and sub-age and decade and year, and so on down, has its seeping pessimism - yet here we are, still.
Humans are good at foreseeing, identifying, and solving problems. Yet despite the vast evidence of that trait at work in our history, recent and otherwise, our capacity for progress and success is greatly underrated in every present day in comparison to our capacity to build problems.
Optimism can have its day when we've moved past our tribalistic, petty natures. Until then, we have work to do.
To be exact, we are still not good at predicting WHAT solution to those problems will appear. That's why optimistic entries are largely incorrect (to my standard).
Right on the money.
How depressing. Not just the worlds they paint, but that some of the brightest minds were (and are) trapped into such a negative way of looking at the future.
Since the fall of communism ended the two-superpower cold war, industrialised nations simply don't feel the threat of being sucked into a massively destructive third world war.
Don't forget also that many of those minds write about things happening in a post-apocalptic timeframe :)
Old enough to be aware of the voices of Gloom and Doom even then.
There's always an excuse to believe in them. And there's always a choice to see it otherwise.
They really had high hopes for space exploration. Shame that never happened. :(
EDIT: Oh this was a good one (thankfully not at all accurate):
"TIM POWERS: Probate and copyright law will be entirely restructured by 2012 because people will be frozen at death, and there will be electronic means of consulting them. Many attorneys will specialize in advocacy for the dead."
Written on the Eastern Air Shuttle between Boston and N.Y.
What will life be like in the year 2012? There will have been no nuclear war, and the threat of such a war will have been removed by the mutual nuclear disarmament of the major powers. SDI, Reagan's ill advised Star Wars program will have come to nothing.
Japan will be the central economic power in the world, owning or controlling a significant part of European and American industries. This "economic dictatorship" will be beneficial to Japan's client states, since Japan benefits by keeping its customers healthy and wealthy. Indeed, a peaceful and prosperous world community will owe its existence to this Pax Japanica.
Many diseases will be curable: diabetes and gout, for example, will be treated by 'genetic engineering' techniques. Multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease will be effectively cured. However, AIDS will not yet have been controlled. It will have become the leading cause of death worldwide with millions of new cases each year.
The American economy will have experienced a gentle yet relentless decline. Our children will not live such comfortable lives as we do. The spread between the rich and the poor will have grown, and crime will have become so prevalent as to threaten the social fabric. The rich and the poor will form 2 armed camps. Most automobiles and heavy machinery will be manufactured in Japanese owned planets located in America. Yet, agriculture and higher education will be our most successful exports. There will be no fast trains connecting American cities, but a network of levitated superconducting trains will be under construction in Western Europe and in Japan.
Predictions are the product of your current experience - your time until now. Many brilliant people try and predict the future, but in the end the future is up to us.
That should say a lot about not listening to what's being said currently about what will happen in 25 years from now.
The disaster scenarios you imagine are inevitable are really just the worst case, and the things that actually problems aren't thing you can predict.
If we had a time-phone, now in 1987, we would beg you to forgive us. We have burdened you with impossible debts, wasted and polluted the planet that should have been your rich heritage, left you instead a dreadful legacy of ignorance, want, and war.
Yet, in spite of that, we have a proud faith in you. Faith that you have saved yourselves, that you are giving birth to no more children than you can love and nurture, that you have cleansed and healed your injured planet, ended hunger, conquered crime, learned to live in peace.
Looking toward a better future for you than we can see for ourselves, we trust that you will use your computers and all your new electronic media to inform and liberate, not to dominate and oppress, trust that you will employ the arts of genetic engineering to advance the human species and make your children better than yourselves. We know that you will be inventing new sciences that would dazzle us, opening brave new frontiers, climbing on toward the stars.
We live again through you.
I like Silverbergs and Zelazny's ones the best. Too sad Zelazny didn't live to present us that 2012 Christmas Grandchildren of Amber.
Though on whole, if you grab a statement out of each (almost) you have the world of today.
It is good to see that a cashless, checkless society has just about come to pass, that automation has transformed offices and robotics manufacturing in mainly beneficial ways, including telecommuting, that defense spending has finally slowed for a few of the right reasons, that population growth has also slowed and that biotechnology has transformed medicine, agriculture and industry—all of this resulting in an older, slightly conservative, but longer-lived and healthier society possessed of more leisure and a wider range of educational and recreational options in which to enjoy it—and it is very good at last to see this much industry located off-planet, this many permanent space residents and increased exploration of the solar system. I would also like to take this opportunity to plug my new book, to be published in both computerized and printed versions in time for 2012 Christmas sales—but I've not yet decided on its proper title. Grandchildren of Amber sounds at this point a little clumsy, but may have to serve"
* We're mostly a cashless society using cards and electronic payment -- CORRECT
* Automation has transformed offices and robotics manufacturing in mainly beneficial ways -- CORRECT
* Defense spending has finally slowed for a few of the right reasons -- MIXED : True as a ratio, but not in absolute $$$
* population growth has also slowed -- CORRECT
* Biotechnology has transformed medicine, agriculture and industry—all of this resulting in an older, slightly conservative, but longer-lived and healthier society possessed of more leisure and a wider range of educational and recreational options -- CORRECT on nearly all counts
* ...in which to enjoy it—and it is very good at last to see this much industry located off-planet, this many permanent space residents and increased exploration of the solar system. -- WRONG
* I would also like to take this opportunity to plug my new book, to be published in both computerized and printed versions in time for 2012 Christmas sales—but I've not yet decided on its proper title. Grandchildren of Amber sounds at this point a little clumsy, but may have to serve -- ...
Despite all the other excellent predictions, his death came much earlier than he forsaw :(
If I had made a prediction back then I would say there would certainly be some sort of nuclear event at some point in the next twenty or thirty years.
How badly we underperformed.
He's right. Berkeley has People's Park. As for the theme, well...
Algis Budrys stands out in particular.
This pretty accurately describes Telegraph Ave.
Any comments on this?
Then again, I guess it could be interpreted in a different way...
Isaac Asimov Died 1992
Gregory Benford Alive
Algis Budrys Died 2008
Gerald Feinberg Died 1992
Sheldon Glashow Alive
Frederik Pohl Alive
Jerry Pournelle Alive
Tim Powers Alive
Orson Scott Card Alive
Robert Silverberg Alive
Jack Williamson Died 2006
Gene Wolfe Alive
Dave Wolverton Alive
Roger Zelazny Died 1997
Predictions are hard, especially about the future. -- Yogi Berra
But seriously, I was in my mid-20's in 1987 and not a lot of these predictions seem outlandish having lived through that time.
In that spirit, here's a few "hits" for everyone here:
"A new world order will emerge from famine, disease, and social dislocation: the re-tribalization of Africa, the destruction of the illusion of Islamic unity, the struggle between aristocracy and proletariat in Latin America—without the financial support of the industrialized nations, the old order will be gone." -- Orson Scott Card
"America and the U.S.S.R. preserve an uneasy accord, each testing the other's will within well-defined limits. [snip]Vestiges of reading, writing, and spelling remain in the curricula of the public schools. Those who can read a few hundred common words are counted literate. The schools train their students for employment—how to report to computers and follow instructions. [snip] There is little sex outside marriage, which normally includes a legal contract. A single instance of infidelity is amply sufficient to terminate a marriage, with damages to the aggrieved party [snip] The population of the planet is below six billion." -- Gene Wolfe
"Most Americans are barely literate, think in images rather than symbols [snip] Berkeley, California will have a theme park devoted to its high period—the 1960s. [snip] There will have been major "diebacks" in overcrowded Third World countries, all across southern Asia and through Africa. This will be a major effect keeping population from reaching 10 billion." -- Gregory Benford
This rubbed me the wrong way. Thinking that way does not make a person stupid or illiterate.