It is now 2020. Doesn’t that sound so futuristic? I feel like we should be able to travel to Mars for our vacations and jet pack our way to work every morning, but that isn’t happening. There have been significant technological innovations, but in many ways, today resembles what life was like a few decades ago.
Let’s take a look at some prognostications from the past of what life would be like in the 2020s. Some are laughably off base. A few are eerily on target. And then there are the frighteningly plausible possibilities.
Way back in 1982, some guy named Richard Bachman made predictions about 2025 in his book, “The Running Man.” The protagonist is Ben Richards, an impoverished man who is unable to find work and has a very sick daughter. In a desperate attempt to get some money, he becomes a contestant on a violent game show where he is hunted by hitmen and must hide from law enforcement.
The 2020s must have been a major concern to people in 1992, because “Children of Men,” “Red Mars” and “Sailor Song” were all published that year, and all contain events set in the 2020s. “Children of Men” opens with a diary entry from 2021 which describes the mass infertility epidemic that has brought humanity to the brink of extinction. More optimistically, “Red Mars” begins in 2026 with the voyage of the first Martian colonists. “Sailor Song” brings us down again with a story about a small Alaskan fishing town where residents are living with the consequences of humanity’s environmental destruction.
A year later, “Parable of the Sower” was published by sci-fi legend Octavia E. Butler. It is another story of humanity’s reckoning with environmental destruction and about humanity’s desire to colonize other planets.
The “Dervish House” is a thriller set in Istanbul during a week-long heatwave in April 2027. The book was published in 2010, and explores themes of terrorism, corruption and religion.
“2020: A Novel” is the most recent entry in this list. It was published in the U.S, in 2018, and the U.K. in 2017. It is another story of terrorism, and the reaction to it. A major terrorist attack spurs two far-right groups to join together and exploit the fears of an already divided United Kingdom.
Most of these are pretty bleak. Even traveling on a spaceship to Mars with 100 people sounds terrifying. Fortunately, these are just speculations, and the future is in our hands. Let’s make 2020 a good year.
Feature image from the intro to the 1972 Hanna-Barbera cartoon, “Sealab 2020.”