Predictions made in 1987 from Science Fiction Writers

Writers of the Future has released the 1987 time capsule predictions from science fiction writers for the year 2012.

(H/T KurzweilAI)

Sheldon Glashow
Prediction 1 (Sheldon Glashow) – There will be no fast trains connecting American cities, but a network of levitated superconducting trains will be under construction in Western Europe and in Japan.

There are presently only two commercial maglev transport systems in operation, with two others under construction. In April 2004, Shanghai began commercial operations of the high-speed Transrapid system. Beginning March 2005, Japan began operation of the HSST “Linimo” line in time for the 2005 World Expo. In its first three months, the Linimo line carried over 10 million passengers. South Korea and the People’s Republic of China are both building low speed maglev lines of their own design, one in Beijing and the other at Seoul’s Incheon Airport.

Japan has one superconducting maglev line. This is the nine-station 9 km (5.6 mi) long Tobu-kyuryo Line, otherwise known as the Linimo. The linear-motor
magnetic-levitated train has a top speed of 100 km/h.

The Shanghai Maglev Train demonstration line, or Initial Operating Segment (IOS), has been in commercial operations since April 2004 and now operates 115 (up from 110 daily trips in 2010) daily trips that traverse the 30 km (19 mi) between the two stations in just 7 minutes, achieving a top speed of 431 km/h (268 mph), averaging 266 km/h (165 mph). On a 12 November 2003 system commissioning test run, the Shanghai maglev achieved a speed of 501 km/h (311 mph), which is its designed top cruising speed for longer intercity routes.

Prediction 2 (Sheldon Glashow) – Japan will be the central economic power in the world, owning or controlling a significant part of European and American industries. This “economic dictatorship” will be beneficial to Japan’s client states, since Japan benefits by keeping its customers healthy and wealthy. Indeed, a peaceful and prosperous world community will owe its existence to this Pax Japanica.

Japan is the third largest economy. Japan is about one third of the US economy and was passed by China.

Prediction 3 (Sheldon Glashow) – Many diseases will be curable: diabetes and gout, for example, will be treated by ‘genetic engineering’ techniques. Multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease will be effectively cured. However, AIDS will not yet have been controlled. It will have become the leading cause of death worldwide with millions of new cases each year.

AIDS is a controlled disease but the other diseases did not get cured yet. AIDS was the 6th leading cause of death (for a disease) worldwide in 2008

In 2011, 1.7 million people died from AIDS.
230,000 of them were under the age of 15.
Since the beginning of the epidemic, more than 60 million people have contracted HIV and nearly 30 million have died of HIV-related causes.

Gregory Benford

Prediction 1 (Gregory Benford) – Berkeley, California will have a theme park devoted to its high period—the 1960s.

I would declare this a bullseye with Disney California adventure. Although it has little of the 1960s period and it is not in Berkeley but in Anaheim.

Disney California Adventure is a theme park in Anaheim, California and one of two theme parks comprising the Disneyland Resort (with the original Disneyland Park being the other). It opened on February 8, 2001 as Disney’s California Adventure Park, with its name change (the removal of the possessive and the word Park) announced on May 28, 2010

Prediction 2 (Gregory Benford) – Bases on the moon, an expedition to Mars…all done. But the big news will be some problematical evidence for intelligent life elsewhere.

No moon or Mars bases.

Prediction 3 (Gregory Benford) – There will have been major “diebacks” in overcrowded Third World countries, all across southern Asia and through Africa. This will be a major effect keeping population from reaching 10 billion.

No major diebacks.

Prediction 4 (Gregory Benford) -World population stands at nearly 8 billion.

World population at about 7.1 billion.

World Population reached 7 Billion on October 31, 2011 and is expected to reach 8 billion in about 2025.

Prediction 5 (Gregory Benford) – The Dow-Jones Industrial Average stands at 8,400, but the dollar is worth a third of today’s.

Dow Jones at about 13000 (ranging from about 12000-13000 throughout the year so far.

Prediction 6 (Gregory Benford) – Oil is running out, but shale-extracted oil is getting cheaper. The real shortage in much of the world is…water.

Crude oil and oil liquids are still increasing, although the growth is far less. Shale extracted oil is an important factor. Water shortages are an important issue.

Prediction 7 (Gregory Benford) – I will be old, but not dead. Come by to see me, and bring a bottle.


Other Predictions

There are more predictions to be reviewed. Several missed the collapse of the Soviet Union.



But the Writers of the Future Contest has asked me to read your palm, nevertheless. Twenty-five years is not great length on the scale of the history, and thus I am conservative, limiting myself to the following five predictions—one for each finger. And indeed, they are less prediction than certainty.

• The Thumb—Power: America and the U.S.S.R. preserve an uneasy accord, each testing the other’s will within well-defined limits. No major nuclear war has taken place. Soviets are more like Americans (and Americans more like Soviets) than anyone else.

• The Index Finger—Learning: Vestiges of reading, writing, and spelling remain in the curricula of the public schools. Those who can read a few hundred common words are counted literate. The schools train their students for employment—how to report to computers and follow instructions. (Called interaction.) Fifty million adult Americans are less than fluent in English.

• The Fool Finger—Entertainment: Sports and televised dramas are the only commonly available recreations. The dramas are performed by computer-generated images indistinguishable (on screen) from living people. Scenery is provided by the same method. Although science fiction and fantasy characterize the majority of these dramas, they are not so identified.

• The Ring Finger—Love: There is little sex outside marriage, which normally includes a legal contract. A single instance of infidelity is amply sufficient to terminate a marriage, with damages to the aggrieved party; this is a consequence of the two great plagues of the past 25 years. (I do not include the one we call AIDS, because it began well before this was written.) The population of the planet is below six billion. People live in space and on the moon, but their numbers are not significant.

• The Little Finger—Minority: A literate stratum supplies leadership in government and most (though not all) other fields. Its members are experimenting with sociological simulations that take into account the individual characters and preferences of most of the population. Its aim is to increase the power of the literate class and further limit literacy, without provoking war with the U.S.S.R. or alienating the rising powers—China and the Latin American block. A literate counterculture also exists.

Its products, too, are largely science fiction and fantasy; it tries to broaden the literate base, in part in order that its output can be read. It is of course to you of this counterculture that I write to say, take heart! Twenty-five years is no great length upon the long scale of history. In my time too, the age was dark. But we are summoning the sun.


Predictions for 2012

We must count ourselves lucky if anyone has leisure enough in 2012 to open this time capsule and care what is inside. In 2012 Americans will see the collapse of Imperial America, the Pax Americana, as having ended with our loss of national will and national selflessness in the 1970s. Worldwide economic collapse will have cost America its dominant world role; but it will not result in Russian hegemony; their economy is too dependent on the world economy to maintain an irresistible military force. A new world order will emerge from famine, disease, and social dislocation: the re-tribalization of Africa, the destruction of the illusion of Islamic unity, the struggle between aristocracy and proletariat in Latin America—without the financial support of the industrialized nations, the old order will be gone. The changes will be as great as those emerging from the fall of Rome, with new power centers emerging wherever stability and security are established. The homogeneity of Israel will probably allow it to survive; Mexico and Japan may change rulers, but they will still be strong. If America is to recover, we must stop pretending to be what we were in 1950, and reorder our values away from pursuit of privilege.


We’re coming out of a time of troubles into a time of risks and promise—as we have been doing since the beginning of history. I think the 21st century will be a time of terror, surprises, miracles, and glory—with the emphasis on surprises and miracles.


In 2012 We will see:

1) That economic cycles caused by rises in technological levels will begin to level out—countries that have a falsely inflated economy will be forced to export their technologies to third-world countries where people are willing to work for less money. This will lead to a situation where knowledge, the key to our technologic success, will be spread across the world. We’ll see rapid decreases in starvation levels, but will still be plagued with political turmoil.

2) Men’s Rights—We will see a reaction to the women’s movement. Men will demand to be portrayed by the media as the sensitive, caring creatures that they are. They will also demand equal rights in custody battles where children are seldom awarded to a father because our society chooses to believe a mother is a better care-taker by nature.

3) Introduction of x-ray microscopes in the early 2000’s will lead to rapid progress in gene splicing. Look for rapid growth in medicine and mining, and food production. We may also see bacteria being engineered to simulate parts of the immune system (which could cure immune disorders such as AIDS and allergies).


It is good to see that a cashless, checkless society has just about come to pass, that automation has transformed offices and robotics manufacturing in mainly beneficial ways, including telecommuting, that defense spending has finally slowed for a few of the right reasons, that population growth has also slowed and that biotechnology has transformed medicine, agriculture and industry—all of this resulting in an older, slightly conservative, but longer-lived and healthier society possessed of more leisure and a wider range of educational and recreational options in which to enjoy it—and it is very good at last to see this much industry located off-planet, this many permanent space residents and increased exploration of the solar system. I would also like to take this opportunity to plug my new book, to be published in both computerized and printed versions in time for 2012 Christmas sales—but I’ve not yet decided on its proper title. Grandchildren of Amber sounds at this point a little clumsy, but may have to serve.

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