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Yet another weird SF fan
 

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Rating Heinlein's 1952 Predictions

In 1952, Robert Heinlein made a series of predictions (my comments are in italics):

  1. Interplanetary travel is waiting at your front door — C.O.D. It's yours when you pay for it.

    Miss

  2. Contraception and control of disease is revising relations between the sexes to an extent that will change our entire social and economic structure.

    Hit, at least for now.

  3. The most important military fact of this century is that there is no way to repel an attack from outer space.

    Miss

  4. It is utterly impossible that the United States will start a "preventive war." We will fight when attacked, either directly or in a territory we have guaranteed to defend.

    Miss. You can quibble on the grounds that Gulf War II had not yet taken place by 2000, but it didn't take much longer.

  5. In fifteen years the housing shortage will be solved by a "breakthrough" into new technologies which will make every house now standing as obsolete as privies.

    Miss. The alleged housing shortage was solved by the prosaic means of building more homes the old-fashioned way.

  6. We'll all be getting a little hungry by and by.

    Miss (and how!)

  7. The cult of the phony in art will disappear. So-called "modern art" will be discussed only by psychiatrists.

    I regret to say this is also a miss. On the other hand, we philistines are less intimidated by artists than before.

  8. Freud will be classed as a pre-scientific, intuitive pioneer and psychoanalysis will be replaced by a growing, changing "operational psychology" based on measurement and prediction.

    Hit, mostly. Psychology is still a bit dubious … and the neurological part is particularly noted for pathetically-small samples.

  9. Cancer, the common cold, and tooth decay will all be conquered; the revolutionary new problem in medical research will be to accomplish "regeneration," i.e., to enable a man to grow a new leg, rather than fit him with an artificial limb.

    Miss.

  10. By the end of this century mankind will have explored this solar system, and the first ship intended to reach the nearest star will be a-building.

    Miss (sigh).

  11. Your personal telephone will be small enough to carry in your handbag. Your house telephone will record messages, answer simple inquiries, and transmit vision.

    Hit, mostly. The personal telephones are likely to answer queries and transmit vision.

  12. Intelligent life will be found on Mars.

    Miss.

  13. A thousand miles an hour at a cent a mile will be commonplace; short hauls will be made in evacuated subways at extreme speed.

    Miss.

  14. A major objective of applied physics will be to control gravity.

    Miss.

  15. We will not achieve a "World State" in the predictable future. Nevertheless, Communism will vanish from this planet.

    Hit, mostly. What's left of communism are nationalist governments that pay a decreasing amount of lip service to Marx.

  16. Increasing mobility will disenfranchise a majority of the population. About 1990 a constitutional amendment will do away with state lines while retaining the semblance.

    Miss, I think. State lines are gradually being erased by Federal obnoxiousness instead of a Constitutional Amendment. On the other hand, there have been some steps back from the brink, e.g., the 55 mph speed limit is back to a state matter.

  17. All aircraft will be controlled by a giant radar net run on a continent-wide basis by a multiple electronic "brain."

    Miss.

  18. Fish and yeast will become our principal sources of proteins. Beef will be a luxury; lamb and mutton will disappear.

    Miss.

  19. Mankind will not destroy itself, nor will "Civilization" be destroyed.

    Hit.

Four hits out of 19. That's better than Sturgeon's Law but not by much.

If we look for systematic errors, four of the misses were a matter of overestimating space travel and two of them were a matter of underestimating agriculture.

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