Isaac Asimov's 2014 Predictions, Today

Monday, January 13, 2014

isaac asimov mural (Museo de Arte Callejero/flickr)

In 1964, science fiction writer Isaac Asimov wrote predictions for what life would be like in 2014. Matt Novak, writer of the Paleofuture blog for, talks about what Asimov got right and wrong, and what it tells us about paleofuturism 50 years later.

→ Tomorrow, Matt returns to assess your predictions for life in 2064. Start posting them here now.

Some of Asimov's 1964 Predictions About 2014

  •  “In 2014, there is every likelihood that the world population will be 6,500,000,000 and the population of the United States will be 350,000,000.”
  • “The screen can be used not only to see the people you call but also for studying documents and photographs and reading passages from books.”
  • “Conversations with the moon will be a trifle uncomfortable, but the way, in that 2.5 seconds must elapse between statement and answer (it takes light that long to make the round trip). Similar conversations with Mars will experience a 3.5-minute delay even when Mars is at its closest.”
  • “The world of A.D. 2014 will have few routine jobs that cannot be done better by some machine than by any human being. Mankind will therefore have become largely a race of machine tenders.”
  • “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 the human driver.”


Matt Novak

Comments [22]

marlene from NY

hey jeb hope (optimism) is all we got
can't afford a more realistic view

Jan. 15 2014 01:48 PM
Patrick from Brooklyn

In the future we will die very differently. The idea of expending huge resources at the end of life will quickly disappear based simply on economics and changing values.

Jan. 15 2014 06:18 AM
R Marc from stl

Asimov aside, I think the most plausible production of the near future (minus the plot device ) is Richard K Morgan's Thirteen. Self segregation and voting against ones interest for ideology will result, eventually, like something he described.

Jan. 13 2014 10:36 PM
Sandy DJ from NJ

As interesting as these are, I think that the world predicted by Aldous Huxley in "A Brave New World" circa 1926 is FAR more impressive given the "state" of then current technology:
Oral birth control
Test tube fertilization
Genetic modification
Large scale drug use for mood regulation
Rampant sex/pornography as the norm
Corporate interests over human ones (worshipping Ford)
Teaching Platitudes versus teaching how to think/question

Jan. 13 2014 09:07 PM
Evan from Brooklyn

Asimov lived in Newton, Mass. for the most productive third of his life.
He HATED travel. One of his characters, who was a stand in for himself, shared this feature.
This guy is just blowing smoke. He can't have read his Asimov.
Brian, stop messing with these futurologists. They're all just a bunch of airheaded blabbermouths. A really uninteresting segment.

Jan. 13 2014 02:17 PM
Mike from Bknyc

No actually he lived in BROOKLYN!

Sorry, he's OURS!

And ANN, II guess the more things change the more they stay the same ;(

Jan. 13 2014 12:32 PM
Jeb from Brooklyn

On a less thoughtful, more nerdy point...

Computing has rapidly progressed from desktop to laptop to handheld to wearable. Obviously, the next step is device-free implanted computing that uses the body for visual/aural functionality.

I imagine this technology will grow less and less invasive to install, perhaps becoming self-implanting.

The only question is: if computing is internalized, how will status-conscious users be able to show off that they have THE BEST implants? Maybe an apple stamped on their foreheads?

Jan. 13 2014 12:21 PM
Jeb from Brooklyn

What I would love to hear tomorrow is a discussion of the "future gap" recent surveys have identified.

Generally, it seems, those in the most privileged positions (whites, especially white males) tend to be less optimistic about the future than those who are generally less privileged.

If this is true, then what role does class, minority status, etc. play in the way we think about the future?

Jan. 13 2014 12:15 PM


"The fact is, globalization is distributing incomes more fairly from a global perspective."

Well, let's just agree to disagree on that one. Globalization has lowered American incomes far more than it has improved incomes outside of the U.S.A. and much of that is because the trade deals that have most had an impact, NAFTA and MFN for China, were gutted of their environmental and workplace requlations. Can you guess which party led the charge for their removals? We couldn't even plan properly for the impact of the surplussed Mexican farmworkers.

To close with some irony, it would appear that the much covered beginning of the War on Poverty was really the starting gun for unrestrained greed and thievery. Average incomes (for Americans...I'll let the rest of the world worry about their own nations.) have fallen relative to the national product such that the formula I gave in my first post is true.

Jan. 13 2014 12:00 PM
Chris from Brooklyn

Curious about US population: does the official number include non-registered people? If not, the number may be much nearer to Asimov's prediction.

Jan. 13 2014 11:53 AM
Ann from upper Manhattan

On Mr. Novak's point that 60s' visions of the future were socially unadvanced: i love the sci-fi writers of his era, but have long marveled that their pictures of women seemed mostly limited to equipping them with really snazzy household appliances... alas.

Jan. 13 2014 11:50 AM

I guess you had to be there...aside from the various international pavilions, the 64-65 World's Fair had major pavilions by GE, GM, Ford, General Tire, IBM and was very much about commerce. My memory take-aways from the many weekend days spent there...Belgian waffles, the dancers in the African pavilion and their pungent and sad looking gorilla, the moving sidewalks that whisked us passed The Pieta, James Bond's Aston-Martin, and many, many jazz concerts - Ella, Louie Armstrong, et al at the Singer Bowl. Go to an NY World's Fair website for some info -

Jan. 13 2014 11:50 AM
Muriel from Financial District

I used to be a great SciFi fan and loved to imagine what our future would hold until I realized that the idea of improvement in consciousness is never addressed. It's always about the stuff but never about maturity of humanity. How will we ever be able to conceive of harmonious society, a world of enough of everything, no poverty and whatever else we can dream we would love to have without the literature and films that envision a more mature, stable, aware and conscious humanity that is not obsessed with stuff.

Jan. 13 2014 11:47 AM
E. Summer from New York City

Asimov lived in Manhattan. Sorry.

Jan. 13 2014 11:46 AM
jgarbuz from Queens


>One more time: $4,400 is to $654 billion, as $106,000 is to $15.7 trillion. If you are not earning $106K, you are demanding fewer goods and services from the economy than the average 1963 worker.<

You are talking about American incomes in post-WWII America. But globally, the US had an unfair advantage which gave Americans an average 5-10 times the real incomes of most people on the planet. If you are talking about an "unfair" distribution of income due to globalization, you mean American incomes in America, not Chinese incomes in China. The fact is, globalization is distributing incomes more fairly from a global perspective. The breakdown of tariffs and protectionism, and the rise of free trade pushed by the US government itself, and the collapse of Communism and socialism, are the main reasons for this phenomenon. Let's not forget that Columbus was looking to find China and INdia, not "America," and why he called the natives of this land "indians." It was Asia that had what Europeans were looking for, and stumbled over America in the process. Finding and founding America is the unique phenomenon that changed the world.

Jan. 13 2014 11:45 AM

Asimov was a frequent resident of NYC, and moved back to the city in 1970, where he lived until his death in 1992.

Jan. 13 2014 11:45 AM
E. Summer from NYC

Asimov lived and died in NYC. Your guest is confusing him with Arthur C. Clarke who lived (and passed away) in Sri Lanka.

Jan. 13 2014 11:44 AM
mike from BKNYC

Azimov liVed in BROOKLYN !!!!

Jan. 13 2014 11:44 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Asimov should be remembered as the Jewish-American prophet for the 21st century. Most of his prophecies have already come true, more or less.

Jan. 13 2014 11:37 AM
Joe Mirsky from Pompton Lakes, NJ

From my book, Ornamentally Incorrect
Back to the Future

The telephonoscope is shown in Albert Robida’s The Twentieth Century. The Electric Life, published in 1892. It’s a multi-channel flat-screen TV, with news and commercials.

Robida (1848-1926) was a prolific French illustrator and author of science fiction. The Twentieth Century and The Twentieth Century. The Electric Life envisioned life in 1952 and 1953. In addition to the telephonoscope, modern marvels included trains in elevated pneumatic tubes, a videophone, flying zeppelin transport and aerocars that look like amusement ride cars, and meals and mail delivered by pneumatic tube. And he foresaw the social and political emancipation of women.

In an 1887 book, War in the Twentieth Century, Robida imagined a French-German war in 1945, with airships bombarding armored vehicles, and chemical and biological weapons.

Jan. 13 2014 10:36 AM

"A.D. 2014 is that in a society of enforced leisure, the most glorious single word in the vocabulary will have become work!"

In Asimov's own writings, robots are banned from use on earth as their impact on incomes and livelihoods is considered unfair. Too bad that Isaac did not see how 'globalization' would lead to a much poorer distribution of income in 2014 America rather than a growth in standards for workers everywhere else. Rather than insist that the world 'come up' to our standards on worker safety, treatment and environmental protection, we are racing oligarchies to the bottom in our treatment of human factors and of the earth, wage distribution chief among them.

One more time: $4,400 is to $654 billion, as $106,000 is to $15.7 trillion. If you are not earning $106K, you are demanding fewer goods and services from the economy than the average 1963 worker.

NYC held World's Fairs in 1939 and 1964, what kept them from having another fair in or around 1989? Has the world grown so small that they are no longer needed? Or are they just considered terrorist-bait? I think that the disposable income of the people who would attend has taken such a hit in the last 50 years, that no one would pay the $200 entry fee.

Jan. 13 2014 10:09 AM
Ed from Larchmont

Isaac Asimov was the best ... he probably did die falling forward and getting his nose stuck in his typewriter.

Jan. 13 2014 08:22 AM

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