Robert Anson Heinlein's science fiction, including such titles as
“Starship Troopers” and “Stranger in a Strange
Land”, earned him a place among the Golden Age greats; but he
had a habit of writing his opinions into his stories (first as
aphorisms, later as sermons). They may have been wittily
expressed, but that's no evidence that his judgement was reliable!
Fortunately his 1950 magazine article “Pandora's Box”
contained a set of specific predictions for the year 2000,
providing an opportunity to evaluate whether his “homespun common
sense” was an accurate guide to how the real world works.
In each section below, the first paragraph of bold text is the
prophecy as given in the original article. Next I have appended
comments of my own arguing for and against the accuracy of the
prediction, and a score, running in each case from 0, a total
miss, up to 1, utterly perfect.
The first indented paragraph after this gives the postscripts
from his amended version for 1966, “Where To?”
Lastly come the afterthoughts for the 1980 version, as collected
in “Expanded Universe.”
Most of the material here was first posted in 1997 (which was of
course a bit hasty — see my Y2k page
for an excuse), but I've also added some postscripts.
Interplanetary travel is waiting at your front door — C.O.D.
It's yours when you pay for it. Pro: He may have meant only to deny the proposition “Space
travel is and will remain unachievable at any price.” Anti: He's already got an “impossibles” list (see number
twenty), so I'm not sure he's entitled to score
any extra for its converse. Besides, the way the prediction is
phrased makes it more plausible he's saying “We have the
technology for manned Mars shots,” which in 1950 was rubbish. Score: Rather than award 0 points for expecting the space
race to be a stroll, I'll interpret it as a non‐prediction and
thus null and void.
And now we are paying for it and the cost is high. But, for
reasons understandable only to bureaucrats, we have almost halted
production of a nuclear‐powered spacecraft when success was in
sight. Never mind; if we don't, another country will. By the end
of this century space travel will be cheap.
Bureaucrats, Hiroshima survivors, and the general public
(including Arthur C. Clarke). By the end
of this century, nobody is likely to have the resources even for
an impromptu moon shot.
And now the Apollo‐Saturn Man‐on‐the‐Moon program has come and
gone. […] Is space travel dead? No, because the United
States is not the only nation on this planet. […] By
2000 A.D. we could have O'Neill colonies, self‐supporting and
exporting power to Earth, at both Lagrange‐4 and Lagrange‐5,
transfer stations in orbit about Earth and around Luna, a
permanent base on Luna equipped with an electric catapult — and a
geriatrics retirement home. However, […] what is most
likely to happen [is] that our space program will
continue to dwindle. It would not surprise me (but would
distress me mightily!) to see the Space Shuttle canceled. In the
meantime some other nation or group will start exploiting space —
industry, power, perhaps Lagrange‐point colonies — and suddenly we
will wake up to the fact that we have been left at the post.
Who by? The Russians?
Contraception and control of diseases is revising relations
between the sexes to an extent that will change our entire social
and economic structure. Pro: Not bad at all — in effect, he's predicting the
Pill! Anti: The Pill has affected marriage customs far less than
(say) extended lifespans or the civil rights movement generally;
and our “control of diseases” has proved less effective than we
had hoped… Score: Being as generous as I reasonably can, I'll give him
0.9 marks. That's a cumulative 0.9 out of 1, remember; so far so
[…] I am tempted to call it a fulfilled prophecy. […]
But the end is not yet; this revolution will go much farther and
is now barely started. […]
This amounts to a claim that there will be no backlash (AIDS
panics, neo‐sexists, etc.). Still, he's far less wrong than usual.
[…] The sexual revolution: it continues apace — Femlib, Gaylib,
single women with progeny and never a lifted eyebrow […].
Prediction: by 2000 A.D. or soon thereafter extended families
of several sorts will be more common than core families. The
common characteristic of the various types will be increased
security for children under legally enforceable contracts.
A desperate attempt to salvage his reputation as a bullshitter?
[1999 Update: No doubt Clinton should have gone for plain
extramarital sex; a pregnant intern wouldn't have bothered
The most important military fact of this century is that there
is no way to repel an attack from outer space. Pro: It could be argued that the S.D.I. fiasco proves the
impossibility of a defence against ICBMs, which travel pretty high
up, if not in “outer space.” Anti: What he means is that extra‐atmospheric Star
Wars missile bases are a good idea. Wrong, wrong, wrong. I'd guess
the “most important military fact of this century” is one of the
Technology is all very well, but it's no substitute for an
attainable political objective.
Marching on Moscow isn't the best way to defeat Russia (the most
important military fact of several centuries).
Ee equals em cee squared.
Score: 0 points. Total so far: 0.9 out of 2.
I flatly stand by this one. […] This prediction is as
safe as predicting tomorrow's sunrise. Anti‐aircraft fire never
stopped air attacks; it simply made them expensive. The
disadvantage in being at the bottom of a deep “gravity well” is
very great; gravity gauge will be as crucial in the coming years
as wind gauge was in the days when sailing ships controlled
empires. The nation that controls the Moon will control the Earth
— but no one seems willing these days to speak that nasty fact out
An extra layer of daftness. Once you've climbed out of our gravity
well, why would you want to crawl back down into the Moon's?
I have just heard a convincing report that the USSR has
developed lasers far better than ours that can blind our
eyes‐in‐the‐sky satellites and, presumably, destroy our ICBMs in
flight. Stipulate that this rumor is true: It does not change my
1950 assertion one iota. Missiles tossed from the Moon […]
arrive at approximately seven miles per second. A laser
capable of blinding a satellite and of disabling an ICBM to the
point where it can't explode would need to be orders of magnitude
more powerful in order to volatilize a chunk of Luna. […]
Imagine what would have happened if the USA had believed all this
piffle and started building lunar missile silos in 1980. Long
before the moonbase was ready, it would have escalated the Cold
War to a probably terminal level.
[1999 Update: Am I being too harsh here? He wrote this
before the first ICBMs appeared, after all… But if they were this
unstoppable, why was Heinlein so keen on missile defence?]
It is utterly impossible that the United States will start a
“preventive war.” We will fight when attacked, either directly or
in a territory we have guaranteed to defend. Pro: Well, it's true that the USA has been doing its best
to depict its wars as defensive police actions… Anti: Laos, Libya, Nicaragua, Grenada, Kuwait, etc. I might
grant him Panama, though; it was Noriega who declared war! Score: 0 points. Total so far: 0.9 out of 3.
Since 1950 we have done so in several theaters and are doing so
in Viet Nam as this is written. “Preventive” or “pre‐emptive” war
seems as unlikely as ever, no matter who is in the White House.
Here is a new prediction: World War III (as a major, all‐out
war) will not take place at least until 1980 and could easily hold
off until 2000. […]
If this new stuff means anything, it's a weakened form of
prediction number nineteen.
I am forced to revise the 1950 prediction to this extent: It is
no longer certain that we will fight to repel attack on territory
we have guaranteed to defend; our behavior both with respect to
Viet Nam and to Taiwan is a clear warning to our NATO allies. The
question is not whether we should ever have been in Viet Nam or
whether we should ever have allied ourselves to the Nationalist
Chinese. I do not know of any professional military man who
favored ever getting into conflict on the continent of Asia; such
war for us is a logistic and strategic disaster. But to break a
commitment to an ally once it has been made is to destroy
Feeble efforts to turn his prediction inside‐out.
[1999 Update: Last year's missile attack on a Sudanese
pharmaceutical factory was presumably justifiable as part of the
USA's “War On Drugs”…]
In fifteen years the housing shortage will be solved by a
“breakthrough” into new technology which will make every house now
standing as obsolete as privies. Pro: The post‐war housing shortage didn't last very
long. Anti: Houses are much the same as they were. Score: 0 points. Total so far: 0.9 out of 4.
Here I fell flat on my face. There has been no breakthrough in
housing, nor is any now in prospect. […]
At least he realised he was talking rubbish, although admittedly
it did take him sixteen years.
I'm still flat on my face with my nose rubbed in the mud; the
situation is worse than ever. […]
Waffle, waffle, whinge.
We'll all be getting a little hungry by and by. Pro: African famines. Anti: These are a geopolitical problem, not an agrarian
one. “We” in the First World are not detectably at risk, unless
there's a proper Death‐Of‐Grass style eco‐catastrophe within the
next few months. Score: 0 points. Total so far: 0.9 out of 5.
(No 1966 postscript.)
Not necessarily. In 1950 I was too pessimistic concerning
population. Now I suspect that the controlling parameter is oil.
In modern agriculture oil is the prime factor — as power for farm
machinery (obviously) but also for insecticides and fertilizers.
Since our oil policies in Washington are about as boneheaded —
counterproductive — as they can be, I have no way to guess
how much food we can raise in 2000 A.D. But no one in the
United States should be hungry in 2000 A.D. — unless we are
conquered and occupied.
No one? At least, no one worth speaking of…
The cult of the phony in art will disappear. So‐called “modern
art” will be discussed only by psychiatrists. Pro: I suppose the phrase “modern art” must be pretty unhip
by now. Anti: He's completely wrong. Score: 0 points. Total so far: stuck at 0.9 out of 6.
(No 1966 postscript.)
One may hope. But art reflects culture and the world is even
nuttier now than it was in 1950; these are the Crazy Years. But,
while “fine” art continues to look like the work of retarded
monkeys, commercial art grows steadily better.
Well, I see what he means, but it doesn't make his prediction any
Freud will be classed as a pre‐scientific, intuitive pioneer
and psychoanalysis will be replaced by a growing, changing
“operational psychology” based on measurement and
prediction. Pro: Yes, most psychologists now classify Freudianism as a
mythos. Come to that, they did in 1950, didn't they? Anti: Business is still booming for the Freudian
psychoanalysts, while “operational” (i.e. behaviourist) psychology
is as dead as a dodo. Score: Let's be ridiculously generous and give him 0.3
points. Total so far: 1.2 out of 7.
(No 1966 postscript.)
This prediction is beginning to come true. Freud is no longer
taken seriously by informed people. More and more professional
psychologists are skilled in appropriate mathematics; most of the
younger ones understand inductive methodology and the nature of
scientific confirmation and are trying hard to put rigor into
their extremely difficult, still inchoate subject. […]
But if anything, psychotherapy is getting less like a
science and more like a religion.
Cancer, the common cold, and tooth decay will all be conquered;
the revolutionary new problem in medical research will be to
accomplish “regeneration,” i.e., to enable a man to grow a new
leg, rather than fit him with an artificial limb. Pro: They've come up with some new treatments for cancer
(and even tooth decay). Anti: But we're nowhere near “conquering” any of them, and
no one's seriously trying to develop “regeneration.” Score: Another 0.1 points. Total so far: 1.3 out of 8.
In the meantime spectacular progress has been made in organ
transplants — and the problem of regeneration is related to this
one. Biochemistry and genetics have made a spectacular
breakthrough in “cracking the genetic code.” It is a tiny crack,
however, with a long way to go before we will have the human
chromosomes charted and still longer before we will be able to
“tailor” human beings by gene manipulation. The possibility is
there — but not by year 2000. This is probably just as well. If we
aren't bright enough to build decent houses, are we bright enough
to play God with the architecture of human beings?
Transplants don't lead to regeneration; they replace
the whole idea! And while wholesale germline DNA tinkering on
humans is unlikely for a long time yet, this is largely a matter
of ethical qualms rather than of technological limitations. The
Human Genome Project will be all but complete by the end of the
century (but not by year 2000!).
I see no reason to change this prediction if you will let me
elaborate (weasel) a little. “The common cold” is a portmanteau
expression for upper respiratory infections which appear to be
caused by a very large number of different viruses. […]
Good news: Oncology (cancer), immunology, hematology and “the
common cold” turn out to be strongly interrelated subjects:
research in all these is moving fast — and a real breakthrough in
any one of them might mean a breakthrough in all.
Just what did Heinlein eventually die of, anyway?
By the end of this century mankind will have explored this
solar system, and the first ship intended to reach the nearest
star will be abuilding. Pro: Well, we've sent unmanned flyby probes past
most planets, and even made soft landings on a couple! Anti: What Heinlein meant was that we'd see human
footprints on Pluto, which may well never happen. And as for
interstellar exploration… (Abuilding? Is this a James Blish
“Cities in Flight” reference?) Score: Another charitable donation of 0.1 points. Half‐time
score: 1.4 out of 9.
Our editor suggested that I had been too optimistic on this one
— but I stand by it. […] Clarke's forecasts are similar in sentiment
but add some twenty to fifty years.
My dollar is still on the table at twenty years and counting.
Senator Proxmire can't live forever. In the last 10½ years men
have been to the Moon several times; much of the Solar system has
been most thoroughly explored within the limits of “black box”
technology and more will be visited before this year is out. Ah,
but not explored by men — and the distances are so great.
Surely they are… by free‐fall orbits, which is all that we have
been using. But […] if your ship could boost at one‐tenth
gee [then a mere seven pages of elementary Newtonian maths is
adequate to show that it could manage round‐trips to Mars in 14½
days, or to Pluto in as many weeks]. Most of you who read this
will live to see constant boost ships of 1 ⁄ 10
gee or better — and will be able to afford vacations in space —
soon, soon! […]
NASA hasn't announced any plans for manned Mars shots yet, so
they're still unlikely before 2020 at the earliest; and this
mythical constant boost fuel‐guzzler drive is hardly likely to
make things any cheaper. Personally, I don't expect recreational
space travel to become economically viable until we've got
self‐replicating mining and manufacturing robots (i.e., unlimited
[1999 Update: Like they say, There Ain't No Such Thing As A
Free Launch! (Sorry.)]
[2020 Addendum: indeed, NASA's big Mars mission this year
is just another remote‐controlled buggy.]
Your personal telephone will be small enough to carry in your
handbag. Your house telephone will record messages, answer simple
inquiries, and transmit vision. Pro: Portable phones do exist, and many house phones have
recording facilities. By 2000 some households — even outside Tokyo
— may also have videophones. Heinlein deserves some credit for
this one. Anti: “Your” telephone is a prediction of universal
availability, which is unlikely as yet — does the British Telecom
Customer Enquiries phoneline have any of these facilities?
Think of the computing power needed to answer enquiries like “Oi,
wotcha myte, hah's fings?”! Score: Call it 0.7 points. Total so far: 2.1 out of 10.
(No 1966 postscript. Arthur C. Clarke meanwhile makes some fairly
good general and
specific predictions here.)
This prediction is trivial and timid. Most of it has already
come true and the telephone system will hand you the rest on a
custom basis if you'll pay for it. In the year 2000, with modern
telephones tied into home computers (as common then as flush
toilets are today) you'll be able to have 3‑dimensional
holovision along with stereo speech. Arthur C. Clarke says that
this will do away with most personal contact in business. I agree
with all of Mr. Clarke's arguments and disagree with his
I'd back the inventor of the telecommunications satellite, if only
in the long term. And if B.T. puts an affordable receptionist AI
in the shops this Christmas I'll eat my entire wardrobe!
[1999 Update: Instead my Christmas menu happened to include
both beef and lamb… cf. prediction eighteen.]
Intelligent life will be found on Mars. Pro: I suppose there might yet be deranged Martians hiding
under a rock somewhere doing their damnedest to disguise their
biosphere… Anti: HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA
HA HA HA! Score: Generously not a negative score. Total so far: 2.1
out of 11.
Predicting intelligent life on Mars looks pretty silly after
those dismal photographs. I shan't withdraw it until Mars has been
thoroughly explored. […]
Compare Clarke: “We are now
at the point of discovering whether there is vegetation on Mars;
the Mariner and Viking missions should settle this matter one way
or the other”!
The photographs made by the Martian landers of 1976 and the
orbiting companions make the prediction of intelligent Martian
life look even sillier. But the new pictures and the new data make
Mars even more mysterious. I'm a diehard because I suspect
that life is ubiquitous — call that a religious opinion if you
I call it a fatheaded opinion. At present even extinct microbes
look pretty unlikely.
A thousand miles an hour at a cent a mile will be commonplace;
short hauls will be made in evacuated subways at extreme
speeds. Pro: There have been supersonic passenger transports for
decades, though they're still the exception rather than the rule.
And evacuated subways rings a few bells — remember the Aum
Shinrikyo cult? Anti: $10 an hour at Mach 1.3? Round the world in a day for
160 quid? Score: 0.1 points. Total so far: 2.2 out of 12.
I must hedge number thirteen; the “cent” I meant was scaled by
the 1950 dollar. But our currency has been going through a long
steady inflation, and no nation in history has ever gone as far as
we have along this route without reaching the explosive phase of
inflation. Ten‐dollar hamburgers? Brother, we are headed for the
hundred‐dollar hamburger — for the barter‐only hamburger.
But this is only an inconvenience rather than a disaster as long
as there is plenty of hamburger.
An extra false prediction.
[Further painful exchange‐rate weaselling in terms of the gold
standard, as if this system hadn't fallen apart…] About those
subways: possible, even probable, by 2000 A.D. But I see
little chance that they will be financed until the dollar is
stabilized — a most painful process our government hates to
The investment isn't the problem. It's just a stupid idea.
A major objective of applied physics will be to control
gravity. Pro: Well, a major objective of S.F. writers is explaining
antigravity away via quasiscientific patter… Anti: There are good reasons to suspect that gravity
control, F.T.L. travel, and time machines come as a package, and
are equivalent in terms of feasibility (see my guide to
gravitationally repulsive “exotic matter” is, in theory, the vital
ingredient required for holding open a space–time wormhole.
But for now at least, antigravity is fantasy, not science. Score: 0 points. Total so far: 2.2 out of 13.
This prediction stands. But today's physics is in a tremendous
state of flux with new data piling up faster than it can be
digested; it is anybody's guess as to where we are headed
[…]. This is the Golden Age of physics — and it's an
Or to summarise: “No one understands modern physics” (translation:
“R.A.H. doesn't grok Q.C.D.”). Clarke devotes a
full chapter of Profiles of
the Future to speculations about gravity‐control, but admits
that this is what they are: “No competent scientist,
at this stage of our ignorance, would deliberately set out to look
for a way of overcoming gravity.”
I stand by the basic prediction. There is so much work going on
both by mathematical physicists and experimental physicists as to
the nature of gravity that it seems inevitable that twenty years
from now applied physicists will be trying to control it. But note
that I said “trying” — succeeding may take a long time. If and
when they do succeed, a spin off is likely to be a spaceship that
is in no way a rocket ship — and the Galaxy is ours! (Unless we
meet that smarter, meaner, tougher race that kills us or enslaves
us or eats us — or all three.)
What, they might eat us without killing us? And did it not
occur to him that these hypothetical aliens, even if they're
dumber, nicer, and softer than us, could have a billion‐year
technological head start and a perfectly reasonable prior claim to
the territory in question?
We will not achieve a “World State” in the predictable future.
Nevertheless, Communism will vanish from this planet. Pro: Yes! The United Nations shows little sign of
metamorphosing into a World State, and the USSR (which is
essentially what he meant by “Communism”) has indeed collapsed! A
high‐scoring prediction! Anti: There's still China, Cuba and so on (there are
communists in the current French government!); and Marxism shows
no sign of vanishing — which would after all involve burning a lot
of books. Score: Give him 0.8 points. Total so far: 3.0 out of 14.
I stand flatly behind prediction number fifteen.
“Flatly” again? I knew his characters are two‐dimensional,
[…] I shan't weasel as I am utterly dismayed by the political
events of the past 15–20 years. At least two thirds of the
globe now calls itself Marxist. Another large number of countries
are military dictatorships. Another large group (including the
United States) are constitutional democratic republics but so
tinged with socialism (“welfare state”) that all of them are
tottering on the brink of bankruptcy and collapse. So far as I can
see today the only thing that could cause the soi‐disant Marxist
countries to collapse in as little as twenty years would be for
the United States to be conquered and occupied by the USSR
I gather this is the kind of politically colour‐blind drivel that
passes for ideological debate in the Land of the Great Satan. Note
that Heinlein is back‐pedalling frantically here on one of the few
predictions he has ended up scoring any points
[1999 Update: Guess what party's still the biggest in the
Increasing mobility will disenfranchise a majority of the
population. About 1990 a constitutional amendment will do away
with state lines while retaining the semblance. Pro: Er… Anti: No. Score: 0 points. Total so far: 3.0 out of 15.
(No 1966 postscript.)
I goofed. I will be much surprised if either half of this
double prediction comes to pass by 2000 — at least in the form
described and for the reasons I had in mind. The franchise now
extends to any warm body over eighteen and that franchise can be
transferred to another state in less time than it takes the
citizen to find housing in his/her new state. Thus no
constitutional amendment is needed. But the state lines are fading
year by year anyhow as power continues to move from the states to
the Federal government and especially into the hands of
Gosh — he realised he was wrong before 1990!
All aircraft will be controlled by a giant radar net run on a
continent‐wide basis by a multiple electronic “brain.” Pro: Well, most aircraft will be guided by air
traffic controllers with a load of clapped‐out computers… Anti: But what Heinlein has got in mind is direct
remote‐control by huge mainframes, which seems an unlikely
prospect now or ever. Could he not imagine a plane's onboard
autopilot being any use for this? Score: 0 points. Total so far: 3.0 out of 16.
(No 1966 postscript.)
This prediction still stands — although it may be my wishful
thinking. Such a system was designed over thirty years ago;
Congress wouldn't buy it. […]
Compare prediction number nine; Heinlein is
willing to trust computer programmers much further than he does
[1999 Update: If you're planning to be airborne at midnight
this new year, pray that the guidance software wasn't designed in
Fish and yeast will become our principle sources of proteins.
Beef will be a luxury; lamb and mutton will disappear. Pro: Umm, well, vegetarianism is getting more popular,
partly on ecological grounds. Anti: Here in Britain at least, the availability of beef is
so secure that its price actually dropped during the recent
major cull of cattle. This prediction is astonishingly full of
interesting false assumptions, such as:
There are Plenty More Fish in the Sea.
Yeast can be farmed more practically than cereals.
Famines are due to a shortage of resources, rather than an
unequal distribution of resources.
Pork and chicken don't exist.
Score: 0 points. Total so far: 3.0 out of 17.
I'll hedge number eighteen just a little. Hunger is not now a
problem in the USA, and need not be in the year 2000 — but hunger
is a world problem and would at once become an acute problem for
us if we were conquered… a distinct possibility by 2000. Between
our present status and that of subjugation lies a whole spectrum
of political and economic possible shapes to the future under
which we would share the worldwide hunger to a greater or lesser
extent. And the problem grows. We can expect to have to feed
around half a billion Americans circa year 2000 — our present
huge surpluses would then represent acute shortages even if we
never shipped a ton of wheat to India.
Hedge it “just a little”? This is more like adding “or maybe not”
on the end; after all, predictions four and
nineteen say that there will be no major war!
It would now appear that the USA population in 2000 A.D.
will be about 270,000,000 instead of 500,000,000. I have been
collecting clippings on demography for forty years; all that the
projections have in common is that all of them are wrong. Even
that figure of 270,000,000 may be too high; today the only reason
our population continues to increase is that we oldsters are
living longer; our current birthrate is not sufficient even to
replace the parent generation.
Why is this a separate prediction from number
Mankind will not destroy itself, nor will “civilization”
be destroyed. Pro: Probably true. Come to that, the sun probably won't go
nova. Anti: But it hardly counts as a prediction, since it is
incapable of being falsified. Score: Not counted (as for “prediction” number
one). Total so far: still 3.0 out of 17.
I stand by prediction number nineteen.
And I stand by my claim that it doesn't score; who'd be reading
this critique if he'd been wrong? (Womankind?)
I will stand by prediction number nineteen. There will be wars
and we will be in some of them — and some may involve atomic
weapons. But there will not be that all‐destroying nuclear
holocaust that forms the background of so many S.F. stories. There
are three reasons for this: The United States, the Soviet Union,
and the People's Republic of China. Why? Because the three
strongest countries in the world (while mutually detesting each
the other two) have nothing to gain and everything to lose in an
all‐out swapping of H‑bombs. Because Kremlin bosses are not
idiots and neither are those in Beijing (Peiping) (Peking). If
another country — say Israel, India or the South African Republic
— gets desperate and tosses an A‑ or H‑bomb, that
country is likely to receive three phone calls simultaneously, one
from each of the Big Three: “You have exactly three minutes to
back down. Then we destroy you.” After World War II I never
expected that our safety would ever depend on a massive split in
Communist International — but that is exactly what has
Eh? What is so magical about there being three blocs? Besides
which, nowadays there aren't three any more!
[unnumbered in the original, but included here to boost
Things we won't get soon, if ever:
Travel through time.
Travel faster than the speed of light.
“Radio” transmission of matter.
Manlike robots with manlike reactions.
Laboratory creation of life.
Real understanding of what “thought” is and how it is related
Scientific proof of personal survival after death.
Nor a permanent end to war. (I don't like that prediction any
better than you do.)
Pro: Time machines, F.T.L. drives, and scientific proof of
the existence of fairies are pretty guaranteeably non‐imminent. I
also tend to agree with him on the improbability of World Peace
(barring global apocalypse), Star Trek transporters (see
rant), and androids (if only because
they're pointless). That's six out of the eight. Anti: Predictions (a) and (b) are equivalent (see number
fourteen), (c) is gibberish, and (d) through to
(g) I despise as symptoms of irrational mysticism. I for one have
already achieved (f). Score: Let's say 0.6 points. Final total: 3.6 out of 18, or
20 percent. Even assuming penalties for “no‐change” predictions,
he'd have got a better score if he had reversed all his
prophecies — saying for instance “PREDICTION
TWELVE: There are no Martians!”
I see no reason to change any of the negative predictions which
follow the numbered affirmative ones. They are all conceivably
possible; they are all wildly unlikely by year 2000. Some of them
are debatable if the terms are defined to suit the affirmative
side — definitions of “life” and “manlike,” for example. Let it
stand that I am not talking about an amino acid in one case, or a
machine that plays chess in the other.
The old game of If Scientists Can Do It Then It Can't Be What I
Meant, popular ever since the first organics were synthesised
(urea, in 1828). I suspect we'll have humanlike AI and synthetic
lifeforms — by any definition — within decades rather than
I see no point in saying more.
In which case the last words go to these two: