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The Wonders Of The Year 2014, As Told By Isaac Asimov

Apr 22, 2014
Originally published on April 22, 2014 4:38 pm
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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

A moment now remember how the future looked 50 years ago today.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "FUTURAMA")

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

On this date in 1964, the New York World's Fair opened. It offered visions of a better future, much of it based on technology. A popular exhibit was this one: General Motors' "Futurama."

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "FUTURAMA")

BLOCK: That summer of 1964, the New York Times sent scientist and science fiction writer Isaac Asimov to the fair. He wrote about what he saw and offered his own predictions for 2014.

CORNISH: By now, Asimov thought we would withdraw from nature. The whole idea buildings with windows would be outdated.

BLOCK: Instead, we'd have electro-luminescent panels for light. Ceilings and walls, Asimov wrote, will glow softly in colors that will change at the touch of a button.

CORNISH: A bit off there. But when it came to TV, he was pretty close. Wall screens, he said, would be in style. And he thought we'd have robots, but they wouldn't be very good.

BLOCK: In 1964, Asimov put a lot of faith in the future of computers. He believed machines would be able to translate Russian into English but didn't foresee a Google Translate for a multitude of tongues.

(SOUNDBITE OF GOOGLE TRANSLATE RECORDING)

CORNISH: Asimov predicted large solar power stations in operation in a number of desert and semi-desert areas.

BLOCK: He was convinced that by now, our cars would be able to levitate. Easier to navigate on the moon colonies, of course. And GM thought so, too.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "FUTURAMA")

BLOCK: Overall, we scored Asimov's predictions in his 1964 article as slightly more wrong than right. But some are hard to judge. For instance, an algae bar that features mock turkey and pseudo-steak. Not really.

CORNISH: But maybe not far off from Tofurkey? Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.