Seers and scientists have all made predictions about what the decade has to offer. (Illustration by Andrew Moghab, School of Visual Arts)
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Is the world ending? Do cars fly on their own now? Time to discuss how past predictions hold up to the present day.

It’s 2020. This means that we have entered a new year and a new decade. Some also believed that by this year, we would have reached several milestones. This article takes a look at past predictions made by futurists, scientists and others on how the world would look like by 2020. So go grab some popcorn, sit back and prepare to chuckle at some outrageous predictions — or be in shock about how accurate some of them have been.

Accurate Predictions:

1. Cryptocurrency

Digital currency was a relatively new concept in the 1990s, but economist Milton Friedman saw its potential. He stated that, “The internet is going to be one of the major forces for reducing the role of the government” and that “one thing that’s missing, but that will soon be developed [is] a reliable e-cash.” Today, cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin is a significant force, as the total market holds an around $100 billion.

2. State of Emergency for Global Sustainability

In 1973, a computer program at MIT was created to track Earth’s sustainability. It predicted that by 2020, climate change was to become a critical issue and threaten the quality of life on this planet. Pollution would become such a major problem that the population would decrease. While the population has not diminished, the planet has reached a stage of emergency as global surface temperature continues to rise. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change supports such claims, as the global average temperature continues to rise at approximately 1.7 degrees Celsius per century. In the midst of this, greenhouse gas emissions continues to rise.

3. “Smart” Personal Companions

About 20 years ago, Bill Gates wrote inBusiness @ The Speed of Thought” that personal devices would connect and sync all devices in a “smart way” to allow for the exchange of data. Today, voice-controlled personal assistants such as Amazon Alexa, Google Home and Siri are prominent in our day-to-day lives. They respond to our voices to perform tasks and share information.

4. Potential for WW3

The great seer Nostradamus prophesied that in 2020, there was going to be a major global conflict. In one of his quatrains, he stated that, “The great leader will succumb. The third big war will begin when the big city is burning.” As of now, it appears that his prediction is valid. Three days into 2020, World War III (WW3) became a trending hashtag on Twitter. This continues as Iran has retaliated after the U.S. assassination of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani. The U.S. and its allies remain on edge as tensions are high.

5. Wearable Computing Machines

In 1998, Michio Kaku theorized that by 2020, there would be wearable computers. He based his predictions on Moore’s Law, which states that the speed and capability of computers increase every two years, thus making them more affordable. Kaku’s predictions are accurate as we have smart watches and portable devices that individuals depend on. They have made it easier to do tasks on the go and simplified our lives; It is valid to say that these devices are here to stay.

Inaccurate Predictions:

1. Teleportation/Nano Mobility

In “Shift 2020: How Technology Will Impact Our Future,” Michael J. O’Farrell wrote that teleportation and telepathy would be possible by 2020. Well, as we enter 2020, such claims seem to be far from true, instead being pseudoscience that goes against the laws of physics. As much as we would like to teleport to anywhere in the world or to communicate with others using our minds, they are mere fantasies that seem unlikely in the long run.

2. Anti-Gravity Belts

In 1968, scientist D.G. Brennan stated that by 2020 anti-gravity belts would revolutionize the art of warfare. Deployment of such technology would make it easier to maneuver and walk on land. However, as of today, such tools have yet to be deployed by any of the world’s military forces; they are only prevalent in sci-fi bangers like “Star Wars.”

3. Decline of Nationalism

In 1968, political science professor Ithiel de Sola Pool claimed that by 2018, nationalism would be a declining global force. As of 2020, rampant bouts of nationalism are still prevalent. The Brexit debacle shows United Kingdom prioritizing its political and economic needs over the European Union’s interests. Meanwhile, the election of Donald Trump shows the desire of many to “Make America Great Again.”

4. Self-Driving Cars

In the 1990s, Ray Kurzweil, chief engineer at Google Alphabet, noted that self-driving cars would be implemented on major highways during the first decade of the 21st century. As of now, cars like Tesla’s Model S and Model X have Autopilot features that are at Level 2 functionality. They have cruise control, auto steer and self-navigation, but do not provide full self-driving capabilities. No completely autonomous car has been approved for market sale for multiple reasons: Roads are complex and can lead to unpredictable situations for drivers, and autonomous cars are not smart enough to deal with obstacles, traffic and signals. It may take up to several decades before their implementation. As of now, companies including Tesla, Waymo and Uber are working on newer and safer models of self-driving cars. It will take decades before the prophecy finally fulfills itself however.

5. Life Expectancy Will Be Greater than 100

Ray Kurzweil also claimed in 1999 that by 2019, the human life expectancy would be over 100 years old. Kurzweil believed that nanobots and computerized health monitors would be able to successfully diagnose health conditions, then proceed to provide remedies or have the bots repair the human body. He is accurate about having health-based gadgets that monitor our health status, but as of now, the average world life expectancy is at 70 years for men and 72 years for women. Mathematically speaking, the man is off by about 30 years, but with more improvements in medicine and breakouts in medical tech, the life expectancy rate could continue to rise. One day, the life expectancy will be greater than 100, but Kurzweil has spoken too soon.

As shown above, predictions are wild and crazy. They possess an element of mystery and unpredictability. The universe works its magic and makes some predictions happen while others don’t. In this upcoming year, it will be interesting to see how things turn out. Which predictions will become a reality while others flop?

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