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Science fiction predictions, right and wrong, about 2019 |

Science fiction predictions, right and wrong, about 2019

Brian C. Rittmeyer
Toronto Star
Portrait of the American biochemist and writer Isaac Asimov from the 1970s.

The future is now.

Back in the early 1980s, we were wondering what the distant future had in store, what it would be like.

Well, that future — 2019 — is almost here.

The 1982 science-fiction film “Blade Runner” was set in 2019. And as 1983 came to an end, the Toronto Star newspaper asked author Isaac Asimov for his predictions 35 years in the future.

CNN looked at the predictions made in Ridley Scott’s sci-fi movie, starring Harrison Ford. They found mixed results.

We don’t exactly have the human-like robots called “replicants” depicted in the film, which is probably a good thing. Flying cars don’t clog the airways. And people still smoking in offices is certainly a thing of the past.

Some of what the movie got right was digital billboards, talking to computers and video calls, although we don’t need to go into a phone booth to do it.

Asimov’s special to The Star was first printed on New Year’s Eve, Dec. 31, in 1983. It was posted to their website again on Thursday.

Asimov, who died in 1992, was safe in assuming that the United States and the Soviet Union would not engage in a nuclear war, so there still was a future to ponder.

Much of his predictions focused on the impact of computerization, and he was right about that, even if he didn’t get into specifics like the internet and smartphones.

He appeared to foresee the coming of cyberschooling, writing that children will have the opportunity “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.”

Asimov predicted robots in the home in 2019. Aside from the Roomba, home robots are ubiquitous yet. Unless, our home robots don’t require physical bodies, as their intellect is in the smart devices we increasingly have.

He saw the mounting toll waste and pollution would have on the environment. With there being the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” thought to be as large or bigger than the state of Texas, still out there, and wildlife getting ensnared in our waste, it’s something we’re still working on. Recent efforts have included banning or stopping the use of plastic bags and straws, and recycling became more widespread since then.

The increased cooperation and move toward a “world government” he foresaw appears to be heading the opposite way, with increasing waves of nationalism gaining power around the world.

Asimov saw mankind moving into space more than we actually have. While astronauts orbit in the International Space Station — the first part of which was launched in 1998 — we have not returned to the moon and aren’t mining it. NASA is working on a manned mission to Mars, where we have rovers exploring the planet for us, but we don’t have any settlements under construction in space.

He predicted observatories in space. The Hubble telescope went up in 1990.

“In fact, although the world of 2019 will be 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,” Asimov concluded.

Now we can ponder how much things will change in another 35 years, as we await the arrival of 2054.

Brian Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Brian at 724-226-4701, or via Twitter @BCRittmeyer.

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