2020: Expectations vs. reality

A phone that doubles as a hologram clock? Futurists predicted a lot of crazy tech would be around in 2020. Image: Shutterstock

Hover boards! Flying Cars! Robots! Mars! Decades ago futurists made some pretty bold predictions about the year 2020.

“I shall not be surprised if on my 92nd birthday I’m able to go for a ride in an antigravity car,” wrote mathematician and scientist D.G Brennan in 1968.

And then there was futurist Ray Kurzweil who was sure that we’d all be living well over 100 come 2019.

Here, we hash out some of the biggest futurist, government and academic-led predictions and see which have actually happened for real.

“Computers will be invisible!”

There were loads of scholars, including Kurzweil, who were positive that keyboards and cables would be long gone by 2020. And monitors? Not even a thing.

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“They are embedded everywhere – in walls, tables, chairs, desks, clothing jewellery and bodies,” his prophecy reads. “People routinely use three-dimensional displays built into their glasses or contact lenses. … display technology projects images directly into the human retina.”

Accuracy rating? 4 out of 5 hover boards! Yep, computers are very much hidden everywhere– think smart homes, phones and desks. And although we don’t rock software on our eyeballs, Google Glass is a pretty similar concept.

“Data analysts will be in serious demand!”

Back in 2016 The Future of Jobs report surveyed executives from more than 350 employers across nine industries in an attempt to predict how the careers market would evolve. One of their key takeaways was an insane growth in data analytics, which was only just getting established as an attractive and exciting STEM career.

Survey respondents said they expect to have a greater demand for data analysts because they will need help making sense of all of the data generated by technological disruptions.

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Accuracy rating? 5 out of 5 hover boards! In the four years since the report was published, the coolest of companies have started giving serious weight to the business-boosting insights data can deliver. And in fact data science roles are among LinkedIn’s top emerging jobs.

 “C, X and Q will be gone from the alphabet!”

In 1900 curator of mechanical technology at the Smithsonian Institution John Elfreth Watkins Jnr. took an educated – but bold – guess about the future of language. He told Ladies Home Journal  that by 2020 a stack of letters would be kicked out of the alphabet because they were no longer used enough to warrant a spot.

“[In 2020] there will be no C, X or Q in our everyday alphabet!” he stressed to the publication. “They will be abandoned because unnecessary.”

Accuracy rating? Er, 0 out of 5 hover boards! OK, so maybe we use the dog/crying face/love heart emojis more than the letter X, but it’s definitely still hanging out on our keyboards. C and Q are still very much there too!

 “Our every move will be tracked!”

On Kurzweil’s list of 2020 predictions was that we’d all have zilch privacy. “Each individual’s practically every move (will be) stored in a database somewhere,” he wrote.

Accuracy rating? 3 out of 5 hover boards! OK, so we’re not physically tailed 24/7, but there is loads of tech designed to collect, store and share our data. Our social media sites know which websites we’ve been hitting up (feeding us targeted-ads accordingly), apps like Find My Friends allow others to access our locations, and Siri-type virtual assistants can even identify our voices. Creepy? Yes. Cool? Also yes.

Consider yourself future-focused? Check out this awesome STEM exhibit. 

Cassie Steel

Author: Cassie Steel

As Refraction’s digital editor, Cassie Steel spends her days researching robots and stalking famous scientists on Twitter.


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