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These old videos show how hard it is to predict the future

Science fiction writers are our psychics. We turn to them to look into a crystal ball and see what the future holds.

But they are increasingly being supplanted by the oracles of the technology industry. Tesla’s Elon Musk tells us that, by 2040, owning a non-autonomous car will be like owning a horse. By that same year, venture capitalist Marc Andreessen says sensors throughout our bodies will let us know what’s happening inside us all the time. Virgin chairman Richard Branson says that, by then, we’ll have suborbital flights that get us from Phoenix to Shanghai in two hours. And tech investor Esther Dyson says Fed-Ex will be gone because no one will get deliveries anymore, they’ll just 3D-print what they want at home.

Will that really be the world we live in by 2040? The year seems far enough away from now that anything’s possible. And yet, 25 years can pass rather quickly. For the Real Future Fair, Oddball Films and curator Christina Yglesias mined old films, TV shows and newscasts dating back to the 1950s for their predictions of the future. The excerpt above shows that some predictions are laughably wrong, others are eerily spot-on, and some are somewhere in between. The 1960s prediction that robots would be making our meals by 2001 feels a little off, unless you only consume microwave meals. But the 1950s Facetime prediction hits close to home.

If you’re in San Francisco, come see the whole collection of clips, as well as drone demos, a robot petting zoo, city hacking, and electronic self-defense, at our Real Future Fair, 11am-5pm on Saturday, November 7.


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