On his birthday, Isaac Asimov's 1964 predictions of life in 2014


An automatic meal maker, shown here in the book 1975: And the Changes to Come, would prepare meals automatically …

Although Isaac Asimov, the popular and prolific science fiction writer, did not live to see 2014 (he died in 1992), he made several predictions about what it would look like.

Asimov, who would have turned 94 today, painted a picture of the world 50 years into the future in an August 1964 article in The New York Times. Published in conjunction with the New York World’s Fair of 1964, the article invited readers to imagine Asimov’s vision of what a World’s Fair of 2014 would look like.

In his piece, he predicted, quite accurately, that “men will continue to withdraw from nature in order to create an environment that will suit them better.” Asimov’s future was really quite Jetsons-like: Humans have moved beyond living only on the surface of the planet and live underground, underwater or in colonies on the moon, while transporting around in hovering vehicles.

Isaac Asimov

He predicted that “ceilings and walls would glow softly, in a variety of colors that will change at the touch of a push button.” Windows would largely be archaic, and their transparency could be easily changed.

Suburban homes will move underground, because light, air and temperature could be easily controlled.

“Gadgetry will continue to relieve mankind of tedious jobs,” he wrote. They will also run cordlessly, powered by batteries that provide energy using the waste of nuclear plants. He predicted that kitchens would easily prepare “automeals.” Breakfasts will be ordered the night before to be ready in the morning. The kitchen would heat water and convert it to coffee, toast bread, prepare eggs and grill bacon.

He also predicted the rise of frozen dinners, saying that semi-prepared lunches and dinners “will be stored in the freezer until ready for processing.”

But, added that “even in 2014 it will still be advisable to have a small corner in the kitchen unit where the more individual meals can be prepared by hand, especially when company is coming.”

Outside the home, humans will jet about in hovering cars that have “Robot-brains” driving humans to set destinations. Moving sidewalks will appear in city centers, raised above traffic. Compressed air tubes will carry goods and materials over small distances.

Asimov also predicted that phone calls would expand so that you could not only hear the caller on the other end, but see him. So he basically predicted Skype.

But his picture was not all rosy. He also said that overpopulation would become the largest single problem our society grapples with. The area from Boston to Washington, D.C. will merge into one single city, he wrote, with a population of more than 40 million. The gap between the haves and the have-nots will widen, particularly as robots will have taken over most jobs.

But the worst part of the future, he predicted in 1964, was that “mankind will suffer badly from the disease of boredom, a disease spreading more widely each year and growing in intensity,” having serious mental and emotional problems.

His most somber speculation is that the society of 2014 will be one of enforced leisure and the most coveted and glorious word will be “work.”

Ilyce Glink is an award-winning, nationally syndicated real estate columnist, blogger and radio talk show host, and managing editor of the Equifax Finance Blog. Follow her on Twitter @Glink.

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