– what the experts predicted for 2013

In 1988, the LA Times asked 30 futurologists what life would be like 25 years in the future. So how accurate were their ideas?

Why haven’t you done the dishes yet? In 1988, futurologists imagined homes staffed by ‘convenience robots’. Photograph: KPA/Zuma/Rex Features

In 1988, Nicole Yorkin of the Los Angeles Times interviewed 30 futurologists for a piece looking ahead to “a cold, sunny spring morning in April 2013”, imagining the life of the fictional Morrow family in the far-off world of 21st-century LA. Just how accurate were they in predicting life today?

What they got right

The article’s most strikingly accurate prediction is its description of satnavs: “Autos will … come equipped with electronic navigation or map systems,” Yorkin writes. “Once the driver programmes a destination, the system will pick the fastest route, taking into account traffic information, then give the driver the estimated time of arrival, continually plotting the car’s position on a map.”

Teleconferencing and Skype-style video calls are the norm in the article’s 2013 – although strangely each Skype call doesn’t start “Have you turned the camera on? I can’t quite hear you” – and teleconferencing involves a Star Wars-like 3D hologram.

But Yorkin is almost spot on about email and the internet: electronic mail allows Alma Morrow to “send and receive messages, graphics, illustrations and animated figures over her computer screen”, while later her mother-in-law conducts “video-banking” using “the Integrated Services Digital Network, which allows the same cables to simultaneously transmit diverse types of information – voice, data and video”.

And her future newspaper is a personalised product featuring only the stories that interest her, which is pretty similar to the Guardian’s mobile app with its sections hand-picked by each reader. Yorkin’s version, however, is “printed by laser-jet printer off the home computer”, which feels pretty stone age today. Mobile phones are notable by their absence, although the Morrows’ son Zach has a “personalised portable computer” the size of a credit card.

What they got wrong

 

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