Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

How did Isaac Asimov eerily predict life in 2014 way back in 1964?

U.S. Library of Congress

Amidst the torrent of astrological forecasts that typically mark the start of a new year, it's worth looking back to a set of predictions that Isaac Asimov made 50 years ago in The New York Times.

Yesterday, the web site BusinessInsider.com posted an article in its technology section that notes the uncanny parallels between a piece the prolific science fiction writer wrote in 1964 and the world we live in today.

Asimov, who conceived the word "robotics" in 1941 and went onto write I, Robot a decade later, outlined many ideas on quotidian existence in 2014.

Story continues below advertisement

Among the highlights (as noted in the article): "Men will continue to withdraw from nature in order to create an environment that will suit them better."

And this: "Communications will become sight-sound and you will see as well as hear the person you telephone. The screen can be used not only to see the people you call but also for studying documents and photographs and reading passages from books."

If the second point sounds strikingly like the device you may or may not be using to read this article, indeed, others have already drawn similar conclusions.

Asimov, who passed away in 1992, also estimated the world's population in 2014 at 6.5 billion people – a number we reached roughly nine years ago. Still, it was a solid, conservative guess. Meanwhile, his guess on the population of the United States, 350 million, just barely exceeds today's actual figure of 317 million American citizens.

Slate.com's analysis of Asimov's predictions wryly suggests that his notion of "automeals" is now finally playing out with engineered products like Soylent and Ambro, "the trend of instant food that does its very best not to suck."

This isn't the first time Business Insider has noted Asimov's foresight. Just a few weeks back, the same writer, Dylan Love, heaped praise on how Asimov portrayed robots as benign contributors that advanced society.

Another article on the site, reposted from the sustainability website Treehugger.com, singled out additional examples in which Asimov's predictions have proven true – along with an advertisement that shows him promoting the Radio Shack TRS-80 pocket computer.

Story continues below advertisement

While the device looks like an elongated calculator – a far cry from today's smartphones – the tagline reads, "A few years ago, the idea of a computer you could fit in your pocket was just science fiction."

All of which prompts the question of whether Asimov was attuned to the inevitable evolution of the technologic world or whether people have somehow – subconsciously or explicitly – turned his prophecies into reality.

Either way, it provides an alternative to pondering the impact of the moon entering your zodiac sign.

Report an error Licensing Options
Comments

The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Thank you!

You are now subscribed to the newsletter at

You can unsubscribe from this newsletter or Globe promotions at any time by clicking the link at the bottom of the newsletter, or by emailing us at privacy@globeandmail.com.