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  • Asimov's Prescience - predicting 2019 from 35 years ago ...

    Probably like many others here - Asimov, Clarke, & Sagan were people I loved to read in my youth. I thought iTulipers might enjoy this from 35 years ago ... when newspapers were actually in vogue

    35 years ago, Isaac Asimov was asked by the Star to predict the world of 2019. Here is what he wrote
    By ISAAC ASIMOV Special to The Star
    Thu., Dec. 27, 2018

    Originally published Dec. 31, 1983

    lf we look into the world as it may be at the end of another generation, let’s say 2019 — that’s 35 years from now, the same number of years since 1949 when George Orwell’s 1984 was first published — three considerations must dominate our thoughts:

    In 1983, American writer Isaac Asimov wrote that by 2019, “It is quite likely that society, then, will have entered a phase that may be more or less permanently improved over the situation as it now exists.” (MONDADORI PORTFOLIO)
    1. Nuclear war. 2. Computerization. 3. Space utilization.

    If the United States and the Soviet Union flail away at each other at any time between now and 2019, there is absolutely no use to discussing what life will be like in that year. Too few of us, or of our children and grand· children, will be alive then for there to be any point in describing the precise condition of global misery at that time.

    Let us, therefore, assume there will be no nuclear war — not necessarily a safe assumption — and carry on from there.

    Computerization will undoubtedly continue onward inevitably. Computers have already made themselves essential to the governments of the industrial nations, and to world industry: and it is now beginning to make itself comfortable in the home.

    An essential side product, the mobile computerized object, or robot, is already flooding into industry and will, in the course of the next generation, penetrate the home.

    There is bound to be resistance to the march of the computers, but barring a successful Luddite revolution, which does not seem in the cards, the march will continue.

    The growing complexity of society will make it impossible to do without them, except by courting chaos; and those parts of the world that fall behind in this respect will suffer so obviously as a result that their ruling bodies will clamour for computerization as they now clamour for weapons.

    The immediate effect of intensifying computerization will be, of course, to change utterly our work habits. This has happened before.

    Before the Industrial Revolution, the vast majority of humanity was engaged in agriculture and indirectly allied professions. After industrialization, the shift from the farm to the factory was rapid and painful. With computerization the new shift from the factory to something new will be still more rapid and in consequence, still more painful.

    It is not that computerization is going to mean fewer jobs as a whole, for technological advance has always, in the past, created more jobs than it has destroyed, and there is no reason to think that won’t be true now, too.

    However, the jobs created are not identical with the jobs that have been destroyed, and in similar cases in the past the change has never been so radical.

    Destroying our minds

    The jobs that will disappear will tend to be just those routine clerical and assembly-line jobs that are simple enough, repetitive enough, and stultifying enough to destroy the finely balanced minds of those human beings unfortunate enough to have been forced to spend years doing them in order to earn a living, and yet complicated enough to rest above the capacity of any machine that is neither a computer nor computerized.

    It is these that computers and robots for which they are perfectly designed will take over.

    The jobs that will appear will, inevitably, involve the design, the manufacture, the installation, the maintenance and repair of computers and robots, and an understanding of whole new industries that these “intelligent” machines will make possible.

    This means that a vast change in the nature of education must take place, and entire populations must be made “computer-literate” and must be taught to deal with a “high-tech” world.


    Again, this sort of thing has happened before. An industrialized workforce must, of necessity, be more educated than an agricultural one. Field hands can get along without knowing how to read and write. Factory employees cannot.

    Consequently, public education on a mass scale had to be introduced in industrializing nations in the course of the 19th century.

    The change, however, is much faster this time and society must work much faster; perhaps faster than they can. It means that the next generation will be one of difficult transition as untrained millions find themselves helpless to do the jobs that most need doing.

    By the year 2019, however, we should find that the transition is about over. Those who can he retrained and re-educated will have been: those who can’t be will have been put to work at something useful, or where ruling groups are less wise, will have been supported by some sort of grudging welfare arrangement.

    In any case, the generation of the transition will be dying out, and there will be a new generation growing up who will have been educated into the new world. It is quite likely that society, then, will have entered a phase that may be more or less permanently improved over the situation as it now exists for a variety of reasons.

    First: Population will be continuing to increase for some years after the present and this will make the pangs of transition even more painful. Governments will be unable to hide from themselves the fact that no problem can possibly be solved as long as those problems continue to be intensified by the addition of greater numbers more rapidly than they can be dealt with.

    Efforts to prevent this from happening by encouraging a lower birthrate will become steadily more strenuous and it is to be hoped that by 2019, the world as a whole will be striving toward a population plateau.

    Second: 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. It is to be hoped that by 2019, advances in technology will place tools in our hands that will help accelerate the process whereby the deterioration of the environment will be reversed.

    Third: The world effort that must be invested in this and in generally easing the pains of the transition may, assuming the presence of a minimum level of sanity among the peoples of the world, again not a safe assumption, weaken in comparison the causes that have fed the time-honoured quarrels between and within nations over petty hatred and suspicions.

    In short, there will be increasing co-operation among nations and among groups within nations, not out of any sudden growth of idealism or decency but out of a cold-blooded realization that anything less than that will mean destruction for all.

    By 2019, then, it may well be that the nations will be getting along well enough to allow the planet to live under the faint semblance of a world government by co-operation, even though no one may admit its existence.

    Aside from these negative advances — the approaching defeat of overpopulation, pollution and militarism — there will be positive advances, too.

    Education, which must be revolutionized in the new world, will be revolutionized by the very agency that requires the revolution — the computer.

    Schools will undoubtedly still exist, but a good schoolteacher can do no better than to inspire curiosity which an interested student can then satisfy at home at the console of his computer outlet.

    There will be an opportunity finally for every youngster, and indeed, every person, to learn what he or she wants to learn. in his or her own time, at his or her own speed, in his or her own way.

    Education will become fun because it will bubble up from within and not be forced in from without.

    At the dawn of 1984, Isaac Asimov predicted that robots would be common by the year 2019. They are, in many forms, although silicone-covered sex companions may have been one step beyond his imagination. (FRED DUFOUR)
    While computers and robots are doing the scut-work of society so that the world, in 2019, will seem more and more to be “running itself,” 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.

    And if it seems impossibly optimistic to suppose that the world could be changing in this direction in a mere 35 years (only changing, of course. and not necessarily having achieved the change totally), then add the final item to the mix. Add my third phrase: space utilization.

    It is not likely that we will abandon space, having come this far. And if militarism fades, we will do more with it than make it another arena for war. Nor will we simply make trips through it.

    We will enter space to stay.

    With the shuttle rocket as the vehicle, we will build a space station and lay the foundation for making space a permanent home for increasing numbers of human beings.

    Mining the Moon

    By 2019, we will be back on the moon in force. There will be on it not Americans only, but an international force of some size; and not to collect moon rocks only, but to establish a mining station that will process moon soil and take it to places in space where it can be smelted into metals, ceramics. glass and concrete — construction materials for the large structures that will be put in orbit about the Earth.

    One such structure which very conceivably, might be completed by 2019 would be the prototype of a solar power station, outfitted to collect solar energy, convert it to microwaves and beam it to Earth.

    It would be the first of a girdle of such devices fitted about Earth’s equatorial plane. It would the beginning of the time when a major part of Earth’s energy will come from the sun under conditions that will make it not the property of any one nation, but of the globe generally.

    Such structures will be, in themselves guarantees of world peace and continued co-operation among nations. The energy will be so necessary to all and so clearly deliverable only if the nations remain at peace and work together, that war would become simply unthinkable — by popular demand.

    In addition, observatories will be built in space to increase our knowledge of the universe immeasurably; as will laboratories, where experiments can be conducted that might be unsafe, or impossible, on Earth’s surface.

    Most important, in a practical sense, would be the construction of factories that could make use of the special properties of space — high and low temperatures, hard radiation. Unlimited vacuum, zero gravity — to manufacture objects that could be difficult or impossible to manufacture on Earth, so that the world’s technology might be totally transformed.

    In fact, projects might even be on the planning boards in 2019 to shift industries into orbit in a wholesale manner. Space, you see, is far more voluminous than Earth’s surface is and it is therefore a far more useful repository for the waste that is inseparable from industry.

    Nor are there living things in space to suffer from the influx of waste. And the waste would not even remain in Earth’s vicinity, but would be swept outward far beyond the asteroid belt by the solar wind.

    Earth will then be in a position to rid itself of the side-effects of industrialization, and yet without actually getting rid of its needed advantages. The factories will he gone, but not far. only a few thousand miles straight up.

    And humanity, not its structures only. will eventually be in space. By 2019, the first space settlement should be on the drawing boards; and may perhaps be under actual construction.

    It would be the first of many in which human beings could live by the tens of thousands, and in which they could build small societies of all kinds, lending humanity a further twist of variety.

    In fact, although the world of 2019 will he far changed from the present world of 1984, that will only be a barometer of far greater changes planned for the years still to come.

    EDITOR’S NOTE
    How and why did the Star get Asimov to write for us back in 1983?

    Vian Ewart, who was Insight editor then, says the idea for an Orwell series came naturally, and he recalls the project fondly to this day. He put together a team including a writer (Ellie Tesher), an illustrator and layout designer.

    “Asimov was popular at the time” for his science fiction, Ewart says, “so I simply phoned him at his New York home and asked him. He loved the idea of a 1984 series and was pleased to be ‘the lead-off writer.’ He was a very gracious man and charged $1 a word.”


    Please feel free to leave any serious thoughts you have on what the year 2054 will look like in this thread




    Last edited by Fiat Currency; 12-30-18, 01:05 PM.

  • #2
    Re: Asimov's Prescience - predicting 2019 from 35 years ago ...

    The successes and failures of these predictions are interesting. Predictions of increased leisure time and hobbies due to automation have never come to pass. Mill's old line "Hitherto it is questionable if all the mechanical inventions yet made have lightened the day's toil of any human being," tends to hold. The space prediction was a giant whiff too. The US has zero manned spaceflight capability of any kind going into 2019. The Soviet Union is obviously gone. And computerized education hasn't really taken off, probably for the same reason personal trainers have--simply setting up programs and meeting times and routines is necessary and people generally suck at self-direction and self-motivation without these social routines that computers alone (or gym access alone) cannot provide. But the general computerization idea was a solid hit, and the demography decent.

    I'll think on your question a little more when I have some time. Always fun to do.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Asimov's Prescience - predicting 2019 from 35 years ago ...

      we wanted flying cars but instead we got 140 characters. [not my own original observation]

      it's worth thinking a bit about why asimov erred in the ways he did: he assumed too much good will, too much self-directed curiosity, too much self-restraint and too little cupidity, paranoia, tribalism and aggressiveness. i.e. he assumed people were like himself- always a fatal flaw.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Asimov's Prescience - predicting 2019 from 35 years ago ...

        Originally posted by jk View Post
        we wanted flying cars but instead we got 140 characters. [not my own original observation]

        it's worth thinking a bit about why asimov erred in the ways he did: he assumed too much good will, too much self-directed curiosity, too much self-restraint and too little cupidity, paranoia, tribalism and aggressiveness. i.e. he assumed people were like himself- always a fatal flaw.
        Yeah, I think there's more there too.

        1. There's a general tendency to assume permanency in nation-states. But I've gone on here before about how so far they've tended not to last too much longer than major corporations on average. And I suspect that generally subnational units shift much more often (don't have any numbers on it), as smaller and medium businesses do. Might be worth thinking about 'creative destruction' in government as almost so common as is business. This is a particularly hard fact for those who grew up or live in most English-speaking countries to keep salient.

        2. There's an ebb and flow to major technological pushes. Around these parts, you might think of 4 waves. The first, let's say from 1620 to 1790, was about conquering and privatizing land and maximizing agricultural capitalization of it. The native population was decimated and most of the towns and major institutions established. The second, say from 1790 to 1850 was about mass industrialization. Here the cities establish themselves through mass immigration with exploding population growth accelerating though the period from 10% to 30% per decade. The third was about 1850 to 1970, and largely the story of energy, power, engines and speed. Major urban population here peaks during this time, and population growth slows from 30% down to single digits. The fourth has run 1970 to present. It's largely about computing and telecom. Population growth stays very slow. This is all sort of rough and inexact and obviously specific to the northeast of the US, but if you want to think of the major economic push driving changes in commercial technology and lifestyle, there it is. In political events, roughly Mayflower to the Constitution to the Civil War to the 60s and all that came with it. The push for speed maxed out around 1973 along with the oil crisis. Human speed records, and manned exploration records set then have pretty much stuck. Industrial and energy output pretty much hit a wall. Same thing may be happening with computing. I don't think it's going to end in 2019, but it has been slowing down this past decade. Intel has been promising 10nm architecture is arriving since 2014. It's now pushed back another year again. Folks have seen this coming for some time. Is there enough gas left in the tank for computing to be the prime mover of major commercial innovation and productivity advances for 35 more years? And even if there is, do we want to use it? At the end of the last age, we had the concorde jets and saturn v rockets and metroliners which we've since abandoned. One can imagine the realities of ubicomp and pervasive 5g data proving to have enough downsides that a cottage industry in signal jammers takes off. Hell, the US still hasn't even privatized and capitalized most of the west of the country it captured in the Mexican-American war like the colonists did in the northeast in wave 1. And it's not like the flying car was technologically impossible. That is to say, just because people can do a thing, doesn't mean they should or will.

        3. The deep need for religion, rhythm, and routine will not go away. And therefore the leisure time will never materialize. All the greats from Plato to Mill caught onto this one. But the siren song of automation sings loudly. This is totally related to your point, jk. It is the nature of man. For everything there is a season. Technology will not change the need for these things, but it may change the religion and alter the rhythm a bit, within the established circadian bounds. That is to say, the prediction Asimov gave was heavy on material change, light on spiritual, cultural, and institutional. But they often go hand-in-hand and information about one can inform predictions about the other. He predicted physical environmental damage, and something of globalization, but not the elephant, bison, hippo and gorillas of the story, which I think were the rise of China, the fall of the USSR, sustained accelerating inequality in Western Europe and North America, and the Islamic revival. These four factors are driving geopolitics--and economic decisions--as much as any other. Does China have another 35 years of spectacular growth left in it? Does it collapse? Can it level off somewhere in between? Depending on how you answer these questions, the world 35 years out looks totally different. Does a wave of secularization sweep across the Islamic world? Or does the revival stay and entrench itself? Can the republics of the West survive 35 more years of accelerating inequality? Can they stop it at current levels? Can they reverse it? How do answers to these questions interact with material technological questions? As I said, I think they largely inform each other.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Asimov's Prescience - predicting 2019 from 35 years ago ...

          Originally posted by Fiat Currency View Post
          Probably like many others here - Asimov, Clarke, & Sagan were people I loved to read in my youth. I thought iTulipers might enjoy this from 35 years ago ... when newspapers were actually in vogue



          Please feel free to leave any serious thoughts you have on what the year 2054 will look like in this thread




          Interesting thought experiment.

          I’m left with the thought that humans are challenged to think beyond the linear trajectories of their caveman/cave woman spears they throw to catch dinner.

          I think Amara’s Law is relevant:

          We tend to overestimate the impact of technology in the short term and underestimate its impact in the long term.

          35 years is deceptively hard because it is beyond the reach of existing tech and it requires a balance between speculative feasibility with practical viability.

          I’ll stick to a few major themes:

          1)Cheap physical realisation of quantum computing, Moore’s Law continues just in a new quantum analog form, just as it has prior to silicon.

          2)Genomic/digital medicine is fully realised, providing enhanced quality/quantity of life, for those who can afford it. Wealth is still wealth, but it now includes Time.

          3)The Human struggle to effectively leverage virtually unlimited computing horsepower and data storage also goes exponential. Computing horsepower and data storage is not the problem. The problem is actionable analysis.

          4)AI utilisation becomes a critical need, rather than just a buzzword want, as even humanity’s best/brightest struggle to leverage technological potential. Humans as AI Creators, then AI administrators, then humans as observers of AI creating and training AI.

          5)Human genetic/cybernetic enhancement beyond just quality/quantity of life leads to genuine possible risk of Homo sapiens species bifurcation along wealth/education lines.

          6)AI Rights become the new Animal Rights as synthetic sentience approaches.

          7)AI represents earth in 99% of solar system development & exploitation and 100% of deep space exploration.

          8)Education becomes a truly lifelong affinity community aubacription activity leveraging broader/deeper tribal ties as both a means for those with power to retain it as well as a means for those currently without it to gain it. It becomes the new Guild/Union/Tribe/Lobby Group.

          9)AI as sole interface for citizens with civil service, local governance, and public infrastructure management.

          10)Humans will still kill and subjugate each other.

          Disruptions:

          Bio/Viral:

          We will see broader viral/bio outbreaks as a result of physical human network effects of Metcalfe’s Law with consequences similar to 9/11, Boxing Day tsunami, 2009 GFC.

          Coastal:

          Human “Littoralisation” that has seen human concentration in coastal mega cities will lead to the strong possibility of Three Gorges Dam-like authoritarian evacuations as more sustainable solution to humanitarian and disaster relief reactive bandaids.

          Eminent domain will increase in utility not just for seizing physical(land) but also digital(device “right of way” to ensure security compliance and confiscation/destruction of those that aren’t)

          Digital/Cyber:

          We will see several major cyber disruptions by both state and non-state actors. They will have roughly equivalent financial/societal impact as 9/11, Boxing Day tsunami, 2009 GFC.

          Cyber becomes the dominant warfighting domain between sovereign nations/blocs as our lives/world become further reliant on constant connectivity.

          Economic/Financial:

          The corruption of central banking policy leads to the rise of truly decentralised economic/financial networks.

          We see the rise of several low friction decentralised co-op exchanges.

          Political:

          Sovereign power diminishes, corporate power consolidates and increases, community network power increases to compensate.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Asimov's Prescience - predicting 2019 from 35 years ago ...

            Here's a Microsoft video from ten years ago making predictions about life in 2019.
            My favorite is the Harry Potter newspaper. Plus nothing has a bezel or a case or a battery or a cord.


            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Asimov's Prescience - predicting 2019 from 35 years ago ...

              Originally posted by thriftyandboringinohio View Post
              Here's a Microsoft video from ten years ago making predictions about life in 2019.
              My favorite is the Harry Potter newspaper. Plus nothing has a bezel or a case or a battery or a cord.
              Harry Potter AI


              Creative industries are going to be more creative.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Asimov's Prescience - predicting 2019 from 35 years ago ...

                Originally posted by thriftyandboringinohio View Post
                Here's a Microsoft video from ten years ago making predictions about life in 2019.
                My favorite is the Harry Potter newspaper. Plus nothing has a bezel or a case or a battery or a cord.


                Harry Potter newspapers, urban future gardens, Minority Report work desks. "Please arrive 30 minutes before boarding for your giant-ass airplane lounge chair," lol. Everything in 2019 sucks so much more than that video. It's easy to forget how much hope was floating around back then, even in the doldrums of the great recession. Would there be a second stimulus? Would the EU reform? Would we really build a new green investment bubble that changed everything? Would we really reform the financial system? No, no, no, and no. In fact, in the past 10 years, the width of airline seats shrunk by more than an inch and a half on average. Droughts caused Portugal and Spain to lose hydro capacity and blow the EU's targets out of the water. The iPhone hasn't changed much at all, except for the price, which has doubled. US went into record debt just to publicly finance corporate stock buybacks at the end of an expansion. Welcome to hell, consumer unit 5492716083. Your whereabouts and actions will be monitored at all times for your convenience.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Asimov's Prescience - predicting 2019 from 35 years ago ...

                  Originally posted by jk View Post
                  we wanted flying cars but instead we got 140 characters. [not my own original observation]

                  it's worth thinking a bit about why asimov erred in the ways he did: he assumed too much good will, too much self-directed curiosity, too much self-restraint and too little cupidity, paranoia, tribalism and aggressiveness. i.e. he assumed people were like himself- always a fatal flaw.

                  Fun read on flying cars, innovation, the Soviet Union, and more:

                  https://thebaffler.com/salvos/of-fly...rate-of-profit

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Asimov's Prescience - predicting 2019 from 35 years ago ...

                    Originally posted by Chomsky View Post
                    Fun read on flying cars, innovation, the Soviet Union, and more:

                    https://thebaffler.com/salvos/of-fly...rate-of-profit
                    the first half was fun but then i started getting bogged down.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Asimov's Prescience - predicting 2019 from 35 years ago ...

                      Thanks to Chomsky for posting that piece. I agree, the first half is much in line with my own thinking. The second, not quite as much.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Asimov's Prescience - predicting 2019 from 35 years ago ...

                        Originally posted by dcarrigg View Post
                        Thanks to Chomsky for posting that piece. I agree, the first half is much in line with my own thinking. The second, not quite as much.
                        maybe that's why it's called "the baffler."

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Asimov's Prescience - predicting 2019 from 35 years ago ...

                          Originally posted by jk View Post
                          maybe that's why it's called "the baffler."
                          I mean, to me it was obviously harkening back to his Bullshit Jobs piece. It just felt kind of forced into the tech progress piece. There may even be a kernel of truth there about how organizational culture is connected to it. It has occurred to me that an interesting thing to build would be an institute for non-computational science--one university out of thousands that focused on using tools other than digital computers to address research questions--just to see what they'd come up with. One thing we have sort of lost with the internet in research culture is independent regional competition. The old regional journals are functionally international now, even if they have regions stuck in their name (think New England Journal of Medicine, etc). There was a time not so long ago where the culture and uniqueness of a people and place could fold itself into unique thrusts in interesting research directions. Think of Santa Fe and complex systems, Kansas City and modern monetary theory, etc. Those days are very close to over and probably have already ended for younger researchers. Now every university and every journal is more or less integrated into one world market that's more or less approaching problems the same way. And if there's any real sort of impetus behind that occurring, I don't think it's just federal grants or administrative creep making it happen. Maybe to some extent in the drive to kill tenure and promotion so that the only way to get a raise is by switching employers, meaning nobody feels free to go outside the box and everybody colors inside the lines because they will die working class if they don't play the game and negotiate with a job offer every 2 years or so. But the internet also makes the submission and journal ranking process possible. Everyone wants to be published in the top one or two in every field. Fewer people are going to be happy to be toiling away in some obscure one focused on looking at a problem in a unique way, and most of those people are going to be older and more secure in their jobs.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Asimov's Prescience - predicting 2019 from 35 years ago ...

                            Originally posted by dcarrigg View Post
                            I mean, to me it was obviously harkening back to his Bullshit Jobs piece. It just felt kind of forced into the tech progress piece.

                            The Flying Cars piece predates the Bullshit Jobs piece (and more recent book), but yeah.

                            I love Graeber, from Debt: The First 5000 Years to The Utopia of Rules to Bullshit Jobs, not to mention his central role in Occupy Wall Street. Always an interesting and provocative read.

                            The Baffler is Thomas Frank's magazine. He's strongly associated with Harper's magazine, which is where i first read Graeber as well as Eric Janszen. Graeber and EJ are the two luminaries who have most influenced my thinking over the past 10+ years.
                            Last edited by Chomsky; 01-06-19, 04:34 PM.

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