I read a lot of futurism these days. It fascinates me.
But if you absorb enough of the stuff, you start to expect everything you’ve known and loved about human civilization to disappear—and soon.
I’ve reached that point. It’s hard to believe the world of 20 or 30 years from now (if I’m lucky enough to be around) is going to be something I want to see.
I am no Paul Atreides. I’ve been wrong before, and I hope I’m wrong about this. Science fiction authors have been overestimating the pace of human change since H.G. Wells. Why should I be any different?
To convince myself that technological advance might not be about to end civilization, I’m reviewing some of my greatest failures of prognostication.
Here are the top ten that still haunt me:
1) I failed to predict the collapse of the Soviet Union.
I was only 13 years old at the time, but it still feels like a major oversight. My first experience with failure.
2) I believed Krispy Kreme would be a bigger deal by now.
Don’t get me wrong, Krispy Kreme is a big deal. But the chain had thoroughly mastered the manipulation of human thought and biology by at least the 1960s, so I felt sure it would expand into defense applications or direct mind control. Possibly even religion?
Nope. Still just making donuts. (that we know of)
3) I failed to predict the return to cities.
I live in the city. There have always been people here.
Now there are more.
I did not predict this.
I do not like people.
4) I failed to predict more than six Fast & Furious sequels.
The Fast and the Furious appeared in 2001. It was profitable and popular. Based on a complex set of variables I won’t go into, I predicted exactly six more additions to the franchise.
And yet here we are in 2017 with the seventh sequel about to be released, for a total of eight movies in the franchise, and it likely won’t stop there.
Clearly, I cannot see the future.
5) Holograms still aren’t a thing.
Admit it, you thought holograms were going to be a big deal by now (assuming you are 30 or older). So did I.
I can’t say for sure they won’t still become so, but even if it happens, I was WAY off on the timeline.
6) No moon base.
Still no human structures of any kind up there.
Which isn’t to say we haven’t left a lot of crap. We have; 413,100 lbs. of it to be precise.
The only artificial things on the moon are the remains of a bunch of rockets, retroreflectors, flags, and personal items left by astronauts.
C’est la vie. I once considered the possibility that I would personally get to the moon by 2017, even if just as a tourist. Score me a big fat F for that one.
7) I believed a movie would be made from the screenplay I wrote in 2007.
It was the first screenplay I’d ever written. My first real piece of fiction.
It was brilliant. No one had ever seen anything like it before. I had pretty much reinvented the horror/fantasy film, maybe even the medium of film itself.
Then I let people read it. After four readers vomited and one self-immolated, I had to concede the writing might not be good.
8) I did not foresee that David Lynch’s Dune would become one of the “worst movies of all time.”
There was a period in my life—undergrad college I think—when I was fairly obsessed with this film. I remember naming it when asked to name my favorite movie. Dune had been my favorite novel as well, so maybe I just transferred what I knew of one into the other.
Around this time—the early years of the mass-popular internet—Dune started showing up on people’s “worst sci-fi movies of all time” and even just “worst movies of all time” lists. It stung.
I know it’s not a good movie. It’s a mess, and the effects have aged particularly poorly.
But some part of me still loves it. I haven’t watched it in a long time, but I think I was able to see the movie that Lynch meant to make instead of the one he did. There is still a lot of beauty there. I think.
9) I did not become a martial arts master.
I think something like 50 percent all guys in their teens and 20s believe this at some point, so maybe I can be excused for this one.
10) I thought Facebook was a niche fad.
In 2007, I asked a co-worker of mine why she wasn’t on Myspace. She said she was on something called Facebook, only accessible to people who were in college or still had a .edu email address.
In response, I made the following noise: Pffft.
I will try to remember all of these terrible failures of prediction whenever a bad case of future shock overcomes me.
The next time I feel positive that biotech-modified humans will rule the world in 2037, I will remind myself that people still eat potato chips (first appearance: 1817).
Enjoy your very normal week.