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The Twenties II- 2020’s Can We Predict the Future?

Updated on July 7, 2011

Part of being a historian, for me anyway, is having an intense interest in the future and the direction to where the past and present will lead us. This is a bit of a divergence from the previous article and attests to my sometimes quirky nature.


I had a period of my life in during the late 1980’s when I was obsessed with this man. How was it possible that a man that lived in the 16th century could even come close to having knowledge of events taking place centuries after his passing? I wanted to sort out the difference between ‘media hype’, interpreting the quatrains of his writing ‘ex post facto’ with all the Jean Dixon stuff that we have discredited against the ‘real thing’. I took the trouble to go to the Denver Public Library to do my own research. I wanted to check on the reliability of one of his predictions, a simple one that could not be ‘spun’ a great deal. I picked up a book on Nostradamus printed in 1911, and wanted to see if one of his three terrors of future as well described by him, Adolph Hitler, was actually mentioned but his name misspelled as ‘Hisler’. In 1911, Hitler was a young adult inAustria, and was completely irrelevant. The book was printed before Hitler’s significance and the quatrain was there. So, how did Nostradamus know? This could not be accepted as a coincidence. If the prophesies were from God, there would be no question as to their accuracy. The scholars have found many prophesy from Nostradamus that did not take place at the appointed time, if at all. No human being can be that prescient. I propose that he dealt in the black arts to obtain his prophesies and was given such powers from demonic forces.

The Writers

I look at the writings of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells representing late 19th century speculation, in age just before things started to really take off in the world of science and technology. I loved to read about these men, who dared to look ahead, peer into a future and hypothesize about its outcome. Benjamin Franklin once commented that he would have liked to be preserved in a cask ofMadeira and revived in a century to observe the progress of the republic that he helped to create. I am sure that he would have, as a well versed man himself, been quite amazed. Jules Verne’s novel “From Earth to Moon” had a couple of technical flaws, major, I would think. The use of cannon to launch men to the moon involved the passengers enclosed in a capsule as a projectile that in reality would have been destroyed by air resistance and the passengers virtually pulped by the G-forces that such a launch would involve. But that was not too bad for 1865, when the novel was written, considering the understanding of aerodynamics and astrophysics at the time.

Failure of Nerve

In 1900 a prominent member of the staff at the U.S. Patent Office stated that everything of significance had already been invented by that time. Prominent physicists thinking in terms of Newtonian physics could not conceive of energy derived from splitting or fusing atoms, both of which could easily occur within their lifespan.

During the 1890’s, a prominent scientist stated that heavier than air flight was fundamentally impossible and that flight was for birds, angels and fools. His failure of nerve was that while an anti-gravity device was not yet at hand, the ability of heavier than air objects to fly had always been universally demonstrated. How did the birds remain aloft? With the basics of aerodynamics figured out, all we needed was a lightweight power source which was heretofore, not available. By the end of the 19th century, we had that with the internal combustion engine along with two “daring do” bicycle mechanics that made history. So, the scientist would be proven wrong as the contradiction lay right around the corner.

During the 1920’s, the scientific community laughs at the rocket pioneer, Robert Goddard, regarding his treatise of reaching high altitudes and suggesting that space travel could well be possible. Well, unfortunately after his death, he was vindicated. What was considered science fiction became science fact within an individual’s lifetime.

I have been a consistent subscriber to Time magazine and Popular Science for the last 35 years, following developments as they occur. How about some more recent predictions that show a ‘failure of nerve”?

In a 1950 edition of Popular Science, a writer predicted that in the future computers available would only weigh a ton or more. Obviously, this was written at the dawn of solid state electronics and the potential of this technology was not really appreciated.

I had read that even Bill Gates once said that “no one would require more than some 640 kb of random access memory. So much for that idea, computers are routinely sold with random access memory capabilities in the gigabyte range. (Correction: this quotation is in dispute, he says that he never meant it that way. Well, consider it an example of computer memory capabilities during the early 1980's, all the same)

I read a 1985 Popular Science article that said that video display screens not using a standard picture tube would run into almost insurmountable technical obstacles when one attempted to make them much larger than what would be found on a transistorized television set. Well look at your HD television set, today.

I am guilty of this as well; I bought one of the first Tandy Radio Shack model computers appearing in the late 1970’s. Many of you may remember the one where you used your TV as the display and your cassette tape deck as your storage medium. You put in a couple of kitchen recipes and you were out of storage. I thought that this was just an expensive toy. I could not envision what was right around the corner and in plain sight.

As recently as the mid 1990’s, the idea that anyone needed hard drives beyond the five hundred megabytes range was unfathomable. So much for that, terabyte drives are now readily available to hold individual files and programs that would require more disk storage than the capacity of what was available on my first PC (200mb).

Predicting the future is perilous and even the most far sighted, prescient men that lived during a period could well ‘miss the boat’ The man who came as close as I could imagine to speculating on the direction of technology was the late Arthur C. Clarke. He envisioned orbital satellites and other elements of the modern world that came to pass. He wrote a book entitled “Profiles of the Future” which estimated technological achievement between the time it was written, 1970’s, to 2100AD. This is a most interesting read from someone who had an understanding of the subject matter. Usually if there is an economic imperative driving development of certain technology, the “inconceivable” will eventually be accomplished. The problem with many futurists is that they fail to take into consideration cultural and political changes and how they mesh into their prediction of technical advancement. For example, the ‘video phone” has been possible for over half a century, but it did not take off for cultural reasons. Do you want to answer a phone while you are in your underwear or your wife in curlers? It is an invitation to your home that you may not welcome.

Sketch around 1900 of New York City as it is Predicted to Appear in 1999

Radio Ga Ga by Queen 1984

I was thinking about you when I recalled this pop melody that had many scenes from Fritz Lang's 1927 film depicting life in the future entitled "Metropolis"

The 2020’s:

I want to introduce you to an interesting site that speculates on future developments. It appears to be British in origin and is a lot of fun. Much of the speculation beyond the end of the current century needs to be taken ‘tongue in cheek”, but it reveals some of the technical and many social and cultural trends expected over the coming century. I don’t want to even guess about 10,000AD, but they certainly do try. It is also interesting as it is not all ‘cheery’ making for a more realistic assessment. This is located at:

You will each find some development that will make you salivate in anticipation. For me, possibilities for the near future reflects on preventative medicine are exciting and are within the realm to reality today. Imagine a bathroom mirror that employs pattern recognition technology that can scan your body daily for changes and lesions not visible to the naked eye. This information is recorded and made available electronically to your physician. Breast cancer and melanomas can be detected and treated early. What about the toilet” Did you know that they can take chemical analysis of your urine and send the results of that to your physician, how’s that for preventative medicine? Wouldn’t it be nice to find cures for cancer that do not involve drinking bottles of Clorox on a daily basis?

I expect that the next level of storage, a petabyte, would probably be commercially available in the next decade in the way the terabyte is today. I am not going to make the mistake of a ‘failure of nerve’; the last 20-30 years show a distinct pattern. A petabyte is a tremendous amount of storage capacity, but somehow because of the medium, which include high definition video and related programs, we will find a use for it. What we really need right now and what I am sure is around the corner, probably before 2020, is a universal increase in internet bandwidth to handle the more information intense media that is already available. The Road Runner isn’t running fast enough! Let me introduce you to the petabyte:

The hippocampus of a human adult brain has been estimated to store a limit of up to 2.5 petabytes of binary data equivalent.

The Internet Archive has approximately 3 petabytes of information growing at the rate of 100 terabytes each month.

This is equal to about 1 million gigabytes, pretty impressive, isn’t it?

My Future:

What I am waiting for is a development of a practical molecular based pattern replicator, that will render all material acquisition as a form of value, meaningless. I probably won’t be around to see that. But therein lies our maturation as a species. The development of teleportation would be mindnumbing and while there is only scant research, moving a particle, photon, without mass, instantaneously from one point to another, I am waiting for actual matter, even an atom, to be moved in such a way.

So much for the look ahead, thanks for reading!

Comments-How about an 'atta boy' is you like this!

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    • Credence2 profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      Hi, Greensleeves, how have you been? Thanks for reading this article. Trying to predict events beyond tomorrow is the trickiest game in town. It is unfortunate that the basic nature of man and the human family does not progress as quickly as his technology. Thereby, the danger of our destroying ourselves is always in view. I have always liked Star Trek because outside of the technical gadgets, people seem to have been redirected as to their goals and aspirations. But when the pattern replicator is ever invented probably at the end of many revolutions to come, we may move beyond the gimme, grabby?

      I am seeing things now that when I was in my teens was considered science fiction. Since the process accelerates with time the 50 years will be even more of a future shock. I keep my physical and mental faculties in tact to better understand and appreciate the changes and their significance when they come.

      I just hope that we as a species can survive our infancy and move toward a more mature civilization.

    • Greensleeves Hubs profile image

      Greensleeves Hubs 

      4 years ago from Essex, UK

      Always interesting Credence, to speculate on the future, but as is evident from much of this article, our predictions about technological developments are usually way off the mark. There are general trends which can be envisaged, but who knows where technology will take us in 50, 100, or what about 10,000 years time?

      The big worry for me is the one DzyMsLizzy refers to in the Comments - the pace of technological change is still accelerating and yet the human brain stays the same. Where once our society stayed pretty much the same throughout many generations, now it is different. Can we cope and make sense of the implications of new technology before it comes into being? Already many today who have passed out of their 20s in age, will be feeling left behind in their struggles to keep abreast of the new technology (and the jargon which goes with it!)

      Nonetheless, technological development is inevitable, and I do find your speculations on preventative medicine intriguing and credible. As for the rest, well, the only future I will predict is that the future will be unpredictable but interesting! :)

    • Credence2 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      Hi, quicksand thanks for dropping by and coming along for the ride.

      I hope that you had as much fun reading the article as I did writing it

    • quicksand profile image


      6 years ago

      Jeez, Credence2, this is indeed a very interesting article! I predict that in the future we would be able to go into the future and get beck to the past, which would still be the future from now! Well, this need not necessarily be a physical journey! Cheers!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      hello there gerry i shouldnt give it out but here is there web address

      and details, there there most competitive in the game ,say martin netsims recommened you

    • Credence2 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      Yes, FF, I get a little carried away. There need not be any conflict between science and technology and being arrogant regarding man and the ultimate circumstances that the human family finds itself in. I am one those guys where I need to see the next big thing! Regards, Cred2

    • frugalfamily profile image

      Brenda Trott, M.Ed 

      8 years ago from Houston, TX

      Careful boys, now you are describing the tower of Babel!

    • Credence2 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      Nice to hear from you AC and thanks for your comment. That song, In the Year 2525, brings back a lot of memories, without looking it up I recall it being on the pop charts in either 1969 or 1970. Go to the site that I referenced and you can get an idea of what can be expected technically and otherwise within the 26th Century! AC, it boggles the mind, what is the next technological breakthrough? It we can develop our technology while controling our malevolent tendencies, the future could be exciting. You and I have seen a great deal of the last half century. Being a Star Trek fanatic I summed the state of the human condition relative to the extrodinary technology on this series.

      I am glad you like this, my thinking goes along in these lines quite often, your encouragement has helped me decide to write more in this vein.

      Regards, Cred2

    • American_Choices profile image


      8 years ago from USA

      In the year 2525 haunts me to this day.

      Your article reminded me of my 49 years and wonder what the world has in store for us.

      I, like you found Nostradamus fascinating. DiVinci was both a scientist and an artist. Bill Gates purchased DiVinci's Codex for close to $31 million. Stunning men of history that could see the future.

      God gave us different colored skins, different species, different languages and yet with the Internet we as humans can be closer than ever. I believe the challenge we have is to find the similarities not the differences. Eastern philosophy is a parallel to Western. The animals of the sea, air and land are as diverse as us humans. I love Zuckerman's photos those showcase the majesty of the animal species.

      This new communication tool called the Internet, I pray

      will be a freedom for all-knowledge, education is freedom. Sharing our opinions, appreciating different opinions is what we are here on earth for-enjoy each others' company, thoughts, aspirations, concerns.

      I too want the hover car.

      Outstanding hub-you are a wonderful writer. Thank you so much for stopping by. I am a true fan now and very glad I found you.

    • Credence2 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      Thanks, FF for weighin in. I would like to see our return to space in a big way in some form soon. About flying cars, unitl someone figures out a way to neutralize gravity, I am always going to be just a bit worried.

    • frugalfamily profile image

      Brenda Trott, M.Ed 

      8 years ago from Houston, TX

      I'm still waiting for the flying cars to arrive. I think with our changes in policies, more inventions will occur. Although many disagree, for example, that ending the space shuttle program would set us back, I think it will push us forward as we let go of so much political cr*p associated with the program. Let the private sector take over and see just how far we can get...isn't that what America is really about? As always your hub is up interesting and awesome.

    • Credence2 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      Thank, DzyMslizzy for reading the article. I expect to be amazed even more over the next few years. Your point is well taken, the danger is quite real that our technology will outstrip our maturity as a species and we may well create the tools of our own undoing.

      You are right is very easy to force fit something in retrospect, that is why I suspect trying to interpret future events based upon Nostradamus' writings as people will try to bring the writings in line with the actual event, when if each were looked at independently and objectively there may well be no correlation.

      I needed to use the "past perfect" tense to give a more reliable evaluation. The published version of Nostradamus' work verified in this book that had been verified as published in 1911. A simple test where there could really be no room for interpretation of what was in the writing verses actual events was what I needed. If I were living in 1911 and saw what was provided about Hitler, it could have no significance as the man was of no real significance at the time. I would have to have been astounded 25 years later when the man that the quatrain alluded to was in fact identified practically by name with an error of letter in the spelling. But you see, I knew all of this in 1911.

      Nice to speak with another person who likes to peer into tomorrow. All the best Cred2

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 

      8 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Fascinating, indeed. Our development in technology, in many cases, outpaces our ability as a society to deal with the ramifications of our inventions!

      So many things from science fiction have in effect, become science fact: Star Trek "communicators" and , "beam me up, Scotty" parallel our flip-open cell phones; Jules Verne's Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea forecast nuclear submarines; an accident involving a radar range operator and a candy bar led to microwave ovens, and so on.

      Nostradamus? Eh..not so's very easy to force-fit something in retrospect. Let's look at something we don't believe has happened yet, make a guess as to what he's talking about, and THEN evalutate both when/if whatever event takes place.

      Interesting article...voted up.

    • Credence2 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      OD, thanks for reading and commenting. Praise from a master is most assuredly gratifying. You know, OD, that isthe tragedy, isn't it, that over the eons of time the only constant in the universe is that we all continue to hunt and be hunted, while the world around us change and the method and manner of our doing mayhem changes with technology, what ever really changes?

    • OpinionDuck profile image


      8 years ago


      Interesting and well written hub.

      My two cents is that much that is predicted about the course of human events, such as Germany and Hitler, is that man is so predictable.


    • Credence2 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      Hi, Jillian, thanks for your comment. You know that helmet you mentioned does in fact exists today. I have read about it somewhere. And you can bet if Nintendo has them, the technology has been around a while.

      I only worry about 2 things..

      The coming technologies would be devastating to humanity if it fell into the wrong hands.

      Our education for our youth needs to be preparing them to take the reins in a world that is so quickly changing. Will we be able to compete in the coming high tech century that lies before us?

      I am glad that you liked the linked site, much after the 22nd century things get pretty cryptic. But it is fun to speculate. See you around the hubs, aloha, Cred2

    • Credence2 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      Donna, thanks for your comment. I am obsessed with time and always find examining its components interesting.

    • Jillian Barclay profile image

      Donna Lichtenfels 

      8 years ago from California, USA

      Dear Credence,

      I really like this article! Past, present, future; each is so interconnected!

      I remember in the late '60's and early '70's, my father was working on a top-secret helmet for fighter pilots. It was to be the future! It would allow them, somehow, to just look at a target, press their bomb release and the bomb would hit the target they had spotted.

      At that time I was a young teen and much more interested (I did not like my dad) in selling him to the Soviets, than in the technology. I don't know if the military ever completed the helmets, but I do know that I now see the same technology used in virtual reality video games.

      So, in a way, he was right. It was the future!

      By the way, when I mentioned to my father that I would get a good bit of money for him, well, just let me say, the ensuing misery that I experienced was not good!

      Your link is awesome!

    • Dee aka Nonna profile image

      Dee aka Nonna 

      8 years ago

      This was a very interesting article. I am so fasinated by past, present, all the prediction people. I think there is great merit in much of the materials...I know there are some "fakes" but they are, for the most part, easy to spot. Thank you for the "divergency from previous articles" and for showing us your "quirky nature". I, for one, enjoyed it very, very much.


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