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2014: as predicted by sci-fi writer Isaac Asimov FIFTY years ago.

Writing in the New York Times in 1964, the science fiction author Isaac Asimov took the chance to speculate on what the world would look like in 2014, having attended the 1964 New York World's Fair.

His predictions are uncannily accurate, given the notorious difficulty that supposed experts can have in judging the direction of scientific progress. Thomas Watson, the Chairman of IBM, famously said in 1943 that 'I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.'

But at a time when 8-track tapes were cutting edge, Asimov correctly predicted the existence of photovoltaic glass, laboratory-grown meat, 3D films and more.

Yahoo News took a glance at Asimov's editorial - here are some of his most accurate claims for our future:

Dynamic lighting and 'smart' windows. He wrote 'By 2014, electroluminescent panels will be in common use. Ceilings and walls will glow softly, and in a variety of colors that will change at the touch of a push button.

Windows need be no more than an archaic touch, and even when present will be polarized to block out the harsh sunlight. The degree of opacity of the glass may even be made to alter automatically in accordance with the intensity of the light falling upon it.'

The modern reality? The Philips Hue featured in our 'innovations of 2013' for its ability to mimic any colour in your home lighting. Elsewhere, cars such as the Mercedes S-class have sunroof panels which darken in bright sunlight.

 Philips Hue


Lab-grown meat. Asimov wrote of the difficulty agriculture would have in feeding the world in 2014 (he guessed the world's population would be 6.5bn, short of the current 7bn total). 'The 2014 fair will feature an Algae Bar at which "mock-turkey" and "pseudosteak" will be served. It won't be bad at all (if you can dig up those premium prices), but there will be considerable psychological resistance to such an innovation'.

The modern reality? That's pretty spot-on. Scientists last year developed the first lab-grown burger, albiet not from algae. It cost £125,000 to research, and met considerable public squeamishness.


Self-driving cars. In the 1964 editorial, Asimov wrote that 'Much effort will be put into the designing of vehicles with "Robot-brains", vehicles that can be set for particular destinations and that will then proceed there without interference by the slow reflexes of a human driver."

The modern reality? They may not be on our roads yet, but they are not far away. We have obstacle-dodging cars from several manufacturers, Google's autonomous car projects, and Milton Keynes has been highlighted for a test programme of driverless cars.



The slow rise of robotics. With impressively muted optimism, Asimov wrote that 'Robots will neither be common nor very good in 2014, but they will be in existence.' He predicted a 'a robot housemaid: large, clumsy, slow-moving but capable of general picking-up, arranging, cleaning and manipulation of various appliances.' 

The modern reality? Robots are indeed here, but they're not quite the machines of our imagination yet - although some of them are pretty terrifying. And it seems to be the consensus that it's a case of 'when, not if' we will be competing for jobs.




Other things Isaac Asimov correctly prophesied included 'large-scale solar power stations'; unmanned Mars landings and planned human missions; wall-mounted televisions as the norm, and 3D holographic displays in development; wireless charging; video-calling and the ability to call anywhere on earth using satellites, and - sadly - greater disparity in access to technology between rich and poor thanks to the pace of change.

It wasn't all right, however. He did also anticipate large underground and underwater housing projects, and successful nuclear fusion, as well as a general reliance on nuclear power. And one major innovation that completely escaped his notice was the Internet.

He also expected mankind to have become a 'society of enforced leisure', with boredom 'spreading more widely each year and growing in intensity' as we lose our duties to machines, and ended by claiming that 'the most glorious single word in the vocabulary will have become work!'

Maybe next year Isaac. Maybe next year.