Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Heinlein predicts

Prediction isn't an easy business and any writer of science fiction with any sense admits that the future is a sandbox where he tries to explain the present. Still, the public does expect science fiction authors to have some idea about what tomorrow has in store. Here we have Robert A Heinlein's predictions from 1949 about life in the 21st century (Published in Galaxy magazine, February 1952).
  1. Interplanetary travel is waiting at your front door–C.O.D. It's yours when you pay for it.
  2. Contraception and control of disease is revising relations between sexes to an extent that will change our entire social and economic structure.
  3. The most important military fact of this century is that there is no way to repel an attack from outer space.
  4. It is utterly impossible that the United States will start a "preventive war." We will fight when attacked, either directly or in a territory we have guaranteed to defend.
  5. In fifteen years the housing shortage will be solved by a "breakthrough" into new technology which will make every house now standing as obsolete as privies.
  6. We'll all be getting a little hungry by and by.
  7. The cult of the phony in art will disappear. So-called "modern art" will be discussed only by psychiatrists.
  8. Freud will be classed as a pre-scientific, intuitive pioneer and psychoanalysis will be replaced by a growing, changing "operational psychology" based on measurement and prediction.
  9. Cancer, the common cold, and tooth decay will all be conquered; the revolutionary new problem in medical research will be to accomplish "regeneration," i.e., to enable a man to grow a new leg, rather than fit him with an artificial limb.
  10. By the end of this century mankind will have explored this solar system, and the first ship intended to reach the nearest star will be abuilding.
  11. Your personal telephone will be small enough to carry in your handbag. Your house telephone will record messages, answer simple queries, and transmit vision.
  12. Intelligent life will be found on Mars.
  13. A thousand miles an hour at a cent a mile will be commonplace; short hauls will be made in evacuated subways at extreme speeds.
  14. A major objective of applied physics will be to control gravity.
  15. We will not achieve a "world state" in the predictable future. Nevertheless, Communism will vanish from this planet.
  16. Increasing mobility will disenfranchise a majority of the population. About 1990 a constitutional amendment will do away with state lines while retaining the semblance.
  17. All aircraft will be controlled by a giant radar net run on a continent-wide basis by a multiple electronic "brain."
  18. Fish and yeast will become our principal sources of proteins. Beef will be a luxury; lamb and mutton will disappear.
  19. Mankind will not destroy itself, nor will "civilization" be destroyed.
Here are things we won't get soon, if ever:
  • Travel through time.
  • Travel faster than the speed of light
  • "Radio" transmission of matter.
  • Manlike robots with manlike reactions.
  • Laboratory creation of life.
  • Real understanding of what "thought" is and how it is related to matter.
  • Scientific proof of personal survival after death.
  • Nor a permanent end to war. (I don't like that prediction any better thanyou do.)
Not a bad collection. Some nice hits and some very revealing misses.


jayessell said...

Is there a point by point analysis of this list anywhere?

Is #4 applicable to the Cuban Missise Crisis? The invasion of Grenada?

#10: Robot probes, yes.

#11 Oh come now! Even in 1949 (Even in 1907) Mars was thought to be an arid desert with an unbreathable atmosphere.

Lichen maybe... Martians? Well... dead Martians maybe.

#15 They'll probably keep trying it, not that it will work.

#17 'Electronic Skyways' as seen in BttF2 proposed for the flying cars? Sort of a super-GPS?

#19 With enough time...

C: Isn't there some teleportation research in progress? Have they done one atom yet?

E: Wasn't there artificial life in the news recently?

jayessell said...

#11: Cell phones predicted!

#12: INTELLIGENT Life on Mars?!?
(Difficult to detect on Earth!)

David said...

The complete article with later comments by Heinlein can be found in his book Expanded Universe.