“In Praise of Futurists” By Anil Shrivastava “Musafir”
Now that September 2019 is almost here, the year 2020 can’t be far behind. Although I personally don’t have a 2020 vision in that matter, it is interesting to look at some forecasts in retrospect that were predicted for the year 2020.
• President Hillary Clinton will be a one-term President.
• The U.S. will not be a Democratic country, but a totalitarian one.
• By 2020, every road and street in America will be “replaced by a network of pneumatic tubes
• In the year 2020, the humans will arrive on Mars –Wired magazine in 1997.
• By 2020, “There will be no C, X, or Q in our everyday alphabet. – John Elfreth Watkins Jr.
• Nuclear-powered vacuum cleaners would become a reality by 2020 – CoAlex Lewyt, president of Lewyt vacuum company in 1955
• By 2020, the machines will be producing so much that everyone in the U.S. will, in effect, be independently wealthy. –Time magazine in 1966.
I am not trying to poke fun at the futurists or prove them ridiculous. On the contrary, I marvel their aspiration and enthusiasm that we’re actually going to get to something which may sound far-fetched at the time. This also inspires the innovators among us to work on something that would one day overcome human boundaries and limitations.
Most of us don’t know what we don’t know. In order to know something we must know what we don’t know. The futurists and innovators know what they don’t know and they try to seek answers unknown realities.
Stanley Davis wrote in his book, Future perfect, “The newborn, for example, is not able to distinguish itself from its environment; it must sense the environment as “not me” before it can develop any distinct sense of “me.” The infant moves from not knowing that it doesn’t know, to knowing that it doesn’t know what is out there beyond itself, to knowing.”
“The child is father of the man,” penned William Wordsworth (1770-1850). This is true for the curiosity displayed by the futurists and innovators.
Unknown is a source of fear. The less we know, more threatened we feel. Lack of knowledge means we don’t know what we need to know to protect ourselves. Therefore Neanderthal and our ancestors in Stone Age worshipped rain and thunder gods instead
of inventing protective equipment such as umbrella and roof over their head. They didn’t know what they needed to know to protect themselves
There is nothing funny about trying to visualize what lies around the next curve. Futurists, whether it’s in books or movies, or experts predicting what may happen tomorrow are speaking to our innate desire we have for some control over our future, our fate, our survival. And even when they are wrong many a time, at least they give food for thought to innovators among us. One thing I know for sure that we humans will keep imagining and will keep reaching for the stars. So it be.