“It’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future,” said someone clever. It is difficult, and yet people keep doing it.
I have written that I tend to believe the predictions made by scientists more than those made by mystics. Of course, Sir Isaac Newton throws my theory against the wall with his predictions of the end of the world that he based on The Bible.
Scientists don’t always get it right, but sometimes science fiction writers do a good job of predicting. The best science fiction is probably fiction that is actually grounded in real science. Some of my favorite sci-fi writers, such as Philip K. Dick, have gotten it right and also a lot of it very wrong.
Isaac Asimov was born in Russia in 1920, but his family immigrated to the United States when he was three years old. His parents owned a candy store in Brooklyn and young Isaac spent a lot of time there – and reading the store’s popular magazines which included “pulp fiction” that included science fiction.
At 21, this very prolific writer wrote one of his most anthologized stories, “Nightfall.” The story was inspired by a conversation with his friend and editor John Campbell. Campbell had been reading Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Nature and noted this passage: “If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which has been shown!” Asimov wrote a story about a planet with six suns that has a sunset only once every 2,049 years.
What did Asimov predict back in 1983 for us living in 2019? (And why did he pick 36 years in the future to target?)
“The consequences of human irresponsibility in terms of waste and pollution will become more apparent and unbearable with time and again, attempts to deal with this will become more strenuous.” A “world effort” must be applied, necessitating “increasing co-operation among nations and among groups within nations” out of a “cold-blooded realization that anything less than that will mean destruction for all.”
Is that the climate crisis? It was obvious to some scientists in 1983 that things were headed in the wrong direction.
He was more positive that we would be dealing better with overpopulation, pollution and militarism. We probably are dealing better with those issues, though we haven’t “solved” any of them.
Education – a career and life choice for me – was something he predicted “will become fun because it will bubble up from within and not be forced in from without.” I wouldn’t use “fun” as my main adjective for education today, but through MOOCs, alternate degrees, customized programs and other DIY educational paths there is more education “bubbling up” than ever before.
What about technology? Like others, he believed that the increase in the use of everyday technology will enable increased quality of life and more free time for many people. He said that “… more and more human beings will find themselves living a life rich in leisure. This does not mean leisure to do nothing, but leisure to do something one wants to do; to be free to engage in scientific research. in literature and the arts, to pursue out-of-the-way interests and fascinating hobbies of all kinds.”