I was sitting in my bath the other day, mellowing out, when it came to me that nobody is very good at predicting the future, and they never have been. Cassandra might have been, but she was cursed with “never being understood” so people mostly just second-guessed what she really meant. When I was just a cub, the future (which was always 20 years away) was going to bring us flying cars, food in pellet form, and personal teleporters. Guess what — didn’t happen.
At that time, transistors hadn’t been invented, and a computer was something that the world’s best thinkers claimed we’d never need more than three of — in the world! So those people who thought of such stuff just played out the crap we already had, and made it bigger, better, and fancier. They couldn’t possibly have foreseen cell phones or color TVs or the end of newspapers. Instead they came up with stuff like the telephone/TV on your wrist (after all, Dick Tracey had one), but not the telephone/TV/movie player in your pocket.
No one, except maybe George Orwell, would have thought that the US would be famous throughout the world for torturing prisoners, or closing down hospitals and throwing crazy people out on the street to fend for themselves. And while a few folks thought of lasers, they never considered the possibility that the death rays they envisioned could be used on your eyes so you wouldn’t need glasses.
Even today, the futurists continue to guess that the future will be exactly like today, but flashier. I understand their problem. When I try to imagine what will replace my wall-sized color TV screen, I draw a blank. If I try to guess what will replace World of Warcraft, I just get a headache. Heck, I thought we’d all be using Betamaxes by now.
Maybe it’s better this way. We don’t have the best track record for dealing with reality. If we don’t know what’s coming, at least we can’t screw up the future until it gets here….