The Year 2000

Leonard Richardson is a writer, software developer, and thoughtful person. Among many intriguing things in his blog is a 2008 analysis he made of predictions in the 1967 book The Year 2000: A Framework for Speculation on the Next Thirty-Three Years by Herman Kahn and A. J. Wiener. That book seems fascinating, methodologically if not for its content – and even more important is to look back at its predictions and see how they hold up a few decades later. Richardson does that, subjectively and entertainingly. He finds that "Out of 135 predictions there are 27 hits and 22 partial hits", with the 27 "hits" being (fixing a few typos, and hmmmm, there seem to be only 26 "hits"):

  • Multiple applications of lasers and masers for sensing, measuring, communication, cutting, heating, welding, power transmission, ilumination, destructive (defensive), and other purposes
  • Extreme high-strength and/or high-temperature structural materials
  • New or improved superperformance fabrics (papers, fibers, and plastics)
  • New or improved materials for equipment and appliances (plastic, glasses, alloys, ceramics, intermetallics, and cermets)
  • More reliable and longer-range weather forecasting
  • Extensive and intensive use of high altitude cameras for mapping, prospecting, census, land use, and geological investigations
  • New methods of water transportation (such as large submarines, flexible and special purpose "container ships", or more extensive use of large automated single-purpose bulk cargo ships)
  • New and useful plant and animal species
  • General use of automation and cybernation in management and production
  • Extensive and intensive centralization (or automatic interconnection) of current and past personal and business information in high-speed data processors
  • Other new and possibly pervasive techniques for surveillance, monitoring, and control of individuals and organizations
  • Other (permanent or temporary) changes–or experiments–with the overall environment (e.g., the "permanent" increase in C-14 and temporary creation of other radioactivity by nuclear explosions, the increasing generation of CO2 in the atmosphere, projects Starfire, West Ford, and Storm Fury)
  • More extensive use of transplantation of human organs
  • Automated universal (real time) credit, audit, and banking systems
  • Improved chemical control of some mental illnesses and some aspects of senility
  • Simple inexpensive home video recording and playing
  • Inexpensive high-capacity, worldwide, regional, and local (home and business) communication (perhaps using satellites, lasers, and light pipes)
  • Practical home and business use of "wired" video communication for both telephone and TV (possibly including retrieval of taped material from libraries or other sources) and rapid transmission and reception of facsimiles (possibly including news, library material, commercial announcements, instantaneous mail delivery, other printouts, and so on)
  • Pervasive business use of computers for the storage, processing, and retrieval of information
  • Shared time (public and interconnected?) computers generally available to home and business on a metered basis
  • Other widespread use of computers for intellectual and professional assistance (translation, teaching, literature search, medical diagnosis, traffic control, crime detection, computation, design, analyis and to some degree as intellectual collaborator generally)
  • Personal "pagers" (perhaps even two-way pocket phones) and other personal electronic equipment for communication, computing, and data processing program
  • Direct broadcasts from satellites to home receivers
  • Home computer to "run" household and communicate with outside world
  • Inexpensive (less than one cent a page), rapid high-quality black and white reproduction; followed by color and high-detailed photography reproduction–perhaps for home as well as office use
  • Inexpensive worldwide transportation of humans and cargo

The failed "predictions" are also interesting. Many involve things that do (or could) exist but cost too much for widespread application. Others could arguably be true, but were written so vaguely that in Richardson's judgment they shouldn't count. Fascinating!

(cf Superforecasting (2016-02-21), Forecasting Lessons from Systems Dynamics (2017-07-05), Scenario Planning and Probabilistic Forecasting (2020-12-10), ...) - ^z - 2021-07-28