Wed
Jul 9 2014 2:45pm

Isaac Asimov’s Predictions for the Future Respond to Tyra Banks’ Predictions for the Future

In a recent editorial in the Wall Street Journal Tyra Banks made 10 predictions about what the future will hold.

Granted, she was speaking in regards to how we will perceive beauty and how it will be achieved in The Future A.D. but I couldn’t help but be reminded of another famous prognosticator and his vision of the year 2014 as relayed from the 1964 World’s Fair. Both Banks and Asimov’s lists stem from a healthy diet of science fiction, knowingly or not, and extrapolate current technologies and societal norms while adding a dash of imagination and a peppering of insanity. Don’t believe me? Behold the comparison.

 

Tyra predicts: Global warming will threaten our crops so natural food will be scarce. Hourglass, curvy bodies will be the aspirational beauty standard, representing that those women have access to bounties of fulfilling yet healthy food, which means they are affluent.

Asimov said: Ordinary agriculture will keep up with great difficulty and there will be “farms” turning to the more efficient micro-organisms. Processed yeast and algae products will be available in a variety of flavors. 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.

Tyra predicts: Everyone will have at least one personal robot/assistant/companion. The robot will have super artificial intelligence and will be able to sense if its owner is having a low-self-esteem day and will then strategically give boosts of confidence to its owner. “Wow, Eloisa! Your eyes look especially lovely today.”

Asimov said: Robots will neither be common nor very good in 2014, but they will be in existence. [...] It will undoubtedly amuse [the fairgoers] to scatter debris over the floor in order to see the robot lumberingly remove it and classify it into “throw away” and “set aside.” (Robots for gardening work will also have made their appearance.)

Tyra predicts: Plastic surgery will be as easy and quick as going to the drugstore for Tylenol.

Asimov said: Not all the world’s population will enjoy the gadgety world of the future to the full. A larger portion than today will be deprived and although they may be better off, materially, than today, they will be further behind when compared with the advanced portions of the world. They will have moved backward, relatively.

Tyra predicts: Because beauty will be so readily accessible and skin color and features will be similar, prejudices based on physical features will be nearly eradicated. Prejudice will be socioeconomically based.

Asimov said: The lucky few who can be involved in creative work of any sort will be the true elite of mankind, for they alone will do more than serve a machine.

Tyra predicts: Women’s empowerment will be an irrelevant concept because the balance of power between the sexes will have shifted dramatically. Women, in control of when they can have children (up to age 120!), and having more degrees and education than men, will be in charge.

Asimov said: The direction in which man is traveling is viewed with buoyant hope.

Tyra predicts: Robot/avatar models with features that look totally different from the golden-skinned everyday people will represent and sell products world-wide.

Asimov said: Conversations with the moon will be a trifle uncomfortable.

 

Well...they can’t all be winners.


Chris Lough is the production manager for and an often-writer on Tor.com. He can be found on Twitter and almost always in the future.

4 comments
Nick Hlavacek
1. Nick31
Interesting. Asimov nailed it when it comes to robots ... if you limit it to robots inside the home and exclude industry. Which means he didn't nail it at all since robots / automation make up a huge part of many industries and have little to no presence in the home. Really none of his predictions here are all that close to the reality of 2014. The one that is partially right is his observation that the differences between the third world and developed countries will have increased. Even that one is wrong though in that the percentage of people living in extreme poverty has dropped (considerably), not increased as he predicted. The full article does have a couple predictions he got right, but only a few. There are a couple I wish he'd gotten right (flying cars!) but his Malthusian pessimism is fortunately way off the mark.

The good news for Asimov is that the supermodel's predictions don't look like they'll be significantly more accurate than his were.
Herb2177
2. Herb2177
Thankfully, Malthus was, is, and will remain wrong.

Asimov was also wrong that a larger portion than today would be deprived of gadgetry. One need only look at the profusion of smart phones. Technology continues to do the heavy lifting in making the poor vastly richer in absolute terms.
Herb2177
3. the other Will
Asimov's predictions were made in '64 about 2014 or today. Banks' predictions were made in 2014 about an unspecified time in the future. About as apple vs orange as 1 can get.
Asimov was premature at best about synthetic foods. Traditional foods & agriculture dominate globally, contributing to the accelerating depletion of natural resources.
Asimov was off in 2 ways about robots. The versatile, artificially intelligent machines that he & other sci-fi writers predicted don't exist yet. But they are in widespread use in industry & even in homes (Roomba, etc)
Sadly, Asimov was dead on about the growing gap between rich & poor
globally.
Asimov was also correct, although overly pessimistic, about machines displacing human workers.
Asimov was probably correct that some people would be optimistic about the future of humanity - those who aren't hungry and/or unemployed, or aware of their growing numbers.
Banks is probably correct in predicting that Western standards of beauty will dominate, although not because of food shortages but because of mass media.
Banks is not clearly thinking about prejudice. Poverty impairs the improvement of appearance. But there's many other excuses for prejudice.
I think Banks is overly optimistic about the relationship between the sexes for most of the world.
Banks is probably correct that machines will eventually be used to represent & sell products & services, but that may be in the far future.
Herb2177
4. tubamaster
Tyra clearly doesn't understand agronomy. Global warming is actually good for crops as the increase in CO2 provides for greater production and the greenhouse effect that is of such a concern references an ideal environment for growing.

Subscribe to this thread

Receive notification by email when a new comment is added. You must be a registered user to subscribe to threads.
Post a comment