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5 Futurologist’s Predictions That Didn’t Come True (Yet)

5 Futurologist’s Predictions That Didn’t Come True (Yet)

Where they were too optimistic about our current world

predictions that didn't come true, meal pills, robot maids, hologram tv

In the L.A. Times of April third, 1988, journalist Nicole Yorkin paints a picture of a family’s regular workday in 2013. With the help of futurologists and technology specialists she predicts many things strikingly well, like all sorts of communication via internet. But other fantasies we are still waiting for now that it is 25 years later, if they ever come true at all. Five examples:

1. The biggest dream that didn’t yet make it to reality is robots in our homes. In the eighties people envisioned pet-robots for the children, switching on their favourite music and helping them with their homework. But also regular home robots for the whole family, that roll around waking everybody up, cooking diner and cleaning the house. Today  a lot of futurologists still say that this robot phase is just around the corner. In Japan there may indeed be operating a few robots like this, but the rest of us probably have to stick to just dreaming about robots for the next couple of years.

2. Another optimistic view on the future was about visualizing. If you couldn’t make it to a meeting in 2013, they would just project your holograph in between your colleagues. While fitnessing in the gym, a helmet would make you feel like you were jogging in pure nature. And your house could be decorated easily by projecting images on the wall, hanging a Monet next to the dinnertable if intellectual guests were coming over.

3. Futurologists in the eighties were predominantly male, so they spent a lot of time fantasizing about cars. They were actually quite right about most of the technology, predicting very advanced navigation and anti-bumping systems. What they did get a bit too enthusiastic about, however, were shapes and sizes. In general, cars would be much smaller, but they would especially come in all kinds of varieties. Some of them extremely small, like beach buggies. The inside, less tied to aerodynamics, could change even more drastically. In 2013 interiors would even automatically adjust themselves to the driver that stepped in.

4. A somewhat sadder hope that didn’t make it: high-tech education. They imagined classrooms covered by projectors, so that the kids could actually feel like they were in the middle of a pyramid. All schoolwork would be digital, with the students playing with 3D-images on their computerlike desks. And language barriers wouldn’t be a problem anymore, since the teachers speech would immediately be translated.

5. What isn’t in the L.A. article, but was a popular idea, is meal-in-a-pill. With population growth and advancements in chemistry, it was easy to imagine people eventually just taking pills to get enough nutrition. According to Warren Belasco, who wrote an article about it in 2000, this idea wasn’t actually the prediction of futurologists, but rather a popular thought among the public. If we look at what we eat now the futurologists seem to be right. Our meals seem to be growing, rather than shrinking to the size of pills.

Photo, Flickr, @siris
Source: LA Times
Warren Belasco (2000). Future notes: The meal‐in‐a‐pill Food and Foodways DOI: 10.1080/07409710.2000.9962093

predictions that didn’t come true, meal pills, robot maids, hologram tv

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5 Comments

  • David
    July 30, 2013, 18:56

    Everything except 5 is possible right now. Some of it is cost prohibitive, but it’s all possible.

    REPLY
  • somename
    July 30, 2013, 23:26

    5 predictions that came true while this author was asleep.

    1) Yes we’re a little ways off from Rosie the robot but we have robot cleaners and lawn mowers http://www.irobot.com/en/us/learn/home.aspx, we have whole home automation systems (robots) http://www.homeseer.com/, we have the cybernetic wet dream that is the internet (complete with music being suggested by what you like and all the help with homework you could ever want), we have toys that blur the lines between robots and pets http://blog.ted.com/2013/04/10/7-covetable-toys-that-blurred-the-line-between-robot-pet-and-friend/. And thanks to advances in pre-prepared meals I can get packages of mass produced Buttered Chicken that’s better than anything I could hope to cook – that was made and packaged by robots in a factory…

    2) We can take a jog through virtual worlds if we like http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oculus_Rift or just throw up a large screen 2D/3D plasma TV in front of the treadmill. We can hang any painting we want on the wall http://www.newegg.ca/Digital-Photo-Frames/SubCategory/ID-548. Heck projectors have come so far down in price I could turn whole walls in my house into projection screens for around $500 each. We can Skype/GoToMeeting/GoToWebinar/Facetime into meetings or if we’re so inclined use telepresence robots http://www.forbes.com/sites/parmyolson/2013/06/27/rise-of-the-telepresence-robots/.

    The thing is, pained walls with real paintings, going running in a real park and actually showing up and shaking a warm hand are all preferable most of the time so no one is in a rush to implement these everywhere – but that doesn’t mean that they don’t exist.

    3) Small cars like say… Smart cars? Adjustable interiors like electronic foldaway seats and removable interior elements? Automatically adjusting seats and mirrors where the driver can select a stored configuration? – that is already an option in some cars…

    4) The tech for this exists, it’s expensive, but it exists. It also has questionable use in an actual classroom. Do kids really need an $10k immersive VR cave or is a virtual tour on an existing computer enough? It can be done today but why spend the money?
    The only thing that is a hitch is the translation but Google Translate’s conversation mode is damn close.

    5) As fun as this notion is – who the hell wants to eat a fist full of pills when they could have a chocolate and peanut butter flavored meal replacement shake? – it may not be in pill form but a meal in a mini soda can or tiny packet is close enough no? If don’t think so you could empty an Ensure packet into 50 gelcaps and call it a reality. But the fact of the matter is that since futurologists didn’t make this prediction, the Jetsons did, why is this on a list of failed futurologist predictions to begin with?

    REPLY
  • mm
    Katja
    July 31, 2013, 08:48

    Hi Somename,
    Thanks for your comment and all the interesting links you put in there. You’re right, a lot of predictions are indeed (close to) possible. But I think it is interesting that it is not as common in people’s everyday life as Yorkin thought 25 years ago. As you also say, it shows we (luckily) still prefer some things the old and ‘real’ way, like jogging outside and eating food.
    And number five on the list maybe shouldn’t strictly be there, athough I don’t doubt some futurolgist did predict the meal-in-pills, but I included it anyway because I found it a fascinating futuristic idea.

    REPLY