Grace Hauck, a reporter for USA Today, put together an interesting story that looked at 20 predictions that were supposed to have taken place by 2020.
I won’t go over each one since you can read the full article for that. I thought I’d just take a look at a few of the more interesting ones to see how well the forecasters have done. (Hint: not that well.)
- Ray Kurzweil, a futurist, predicted in 1999 that human life expectancy would rise to over 100 by 2019. In 2019, the average life expectancy of the global population is 72.6 years while life expectancy in the USA is 78.6. Kurzweil did, however, predict such as smartwatches with health monitoring built into them.👎 👍
- Kurzweil also predicted that paper books and documents will be rarely used or accessed. The U.S. book publishing industry sold 675 million print books and brought in nearly $26 billion in 2018. 👎
- In 1997, futurists Peter Schwartz and Peter Leyden said China would have the world’s largest economy. Currently, the nominal GDP of the U.S. is $21 trillion while China’s GDP is at $14 trillion.👎
- Kurzweil predicted that self-driving cars on majors highways will be feasible during the first decade of the twenty-first century. While progress has been made, we’re not quite there, and some believe it could be decades before we have true self-driving cars. 👎 👍
- Schwartz and Leyden predicted – possibly as soon as the presidential election of 2008, that we will be able to vote electronically from home. I don’t see this happening any time soon. 👎
- In his 1999 book, “Business @ the Speed of Thought,” Bill Gates predicted personal devices that “connect and sync all your devices in a smart way, whether they are at home or in the office, and allow them to exchange data.” We’re not there yet, but with the advent of devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home and their smart assistants, we are getting closer to such a reality. 👍
- Schwartz and Leyden predicted that by 2010, “hydrogen would be processed in refinery-like plants and loaded onto cars that can go thousands of miles – and many months – before refueling.” In 2018, 2,300 hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles were sold in the USA – less than 1% of the number of electric cars sold; so this one seems a bit off. 👎
- A report in 1996 by the Space Studies Board of the National Research Council said NASA would launch “possible human exploratory missions to the moon and Mars within the next quarter-century,” predicting that humans would land on Mars by 2018. Though we haven’t set foot on Mars, we’ve landed eight unmanned spacecraft on the planet’s surface. 👎
- In 1997, British news organization The Independent forecast that in 2020, Boris Johnson would become a member of the Cabinet of the United Kingdom. At the time, Johnson, 32, was an outspoken editor and columnist but had not held public office. “Not shy in clashing with party lines, Boris would ‘renegotiate EU membership so Britain stands to Europe as Canada, not Texas, stands to the USA,’ ” the journalists wrote. Wow, now that’s what I call foresight… 👍
- In 1968, physicist Herman Kahn and futurist Anthony J. Weiner said that by 2020, Americans would work 26 hours a week. Though we work less than we did in 1968, the average American worked nearly 35 hours a week in 2018.
- In 1968, Ithiel de Sola Pool, a political science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, predicted that better communication, easier translation, and a greater understanding of the nature of human motivations would make it easier for people to connect across ethnic and national lines. “By the year 2018 nationalism should be a waning force in the world,” he wrote. Wow, now that’s a bad prediction, but I hold out hope for such a world. 👎
- In 2000, Jim Borden predicted that by 2020, he will have one of the world’s most popular blogs, with millions of followers and tens of thousands of comments on every post he makes. He will be a popular guest on all the late-night talk shows and on the Ellen Show. I’m not quite there, but I’ve got until the end of this year…
*image from Forbes