A decade ago, the world was braced for the Y2K bug and everyone was prognosticating about the 21st century. Ten years into the new millennium, we look back at those predictions and decide which still seem likely - or not.

Science and Technology

GPS will soon follow us everywhere, and inform people of everything we do. GPS cellphones, google latitude, and Twitter see to that.


Wireless networking between objects across a household. Wrong on the specifics, but completely right on concept.

Time says we'll still be addicted to videogames, but not in a format we'd recognise as a video game. The launch of Modern Warfare 2 disagrees with Time, and thinks standard video games are going strong, thank you.


We will stop evolving. This prediction fails to take into account that evolution is something that can happen at the fringes of society, among the poor, dispossessed and dying. If a resistance to HIV/AIDS arises, guess where it would happen.

We'll be living on Mars. Time says we have the tech, and 2007 would be the best time to go! 2009 runs itself slowly down, and still no plans of a manned mission to Mars.

Airlines will modernise, and increase their efficiency. Nope. Instead, we're stuck with aging fleets, hidden costs, and increasingly insane behavior from the TSA.


Automakers will streamline their operations. Instead, they just went bankrupt, and got bailed out.

Computer processors will hit 10GHz by 2010. We haven't even seen 4GHz yet. Whose law?


Wait and see
We can find a universal theory of everything. They didn't know then, and we're still not sure.

Self-controlled cars by 2025. We're seeing better and more GPS systems. In 15 years, it's completely possible that we'll see cars patching into a network

Matter will be software, and you can download hardware. 3D printers are certainly here, but we're a long, long way from replicators.


E-ink will save us all! Paper content and video content will combine on a single device. The Apple tablet (or something similar) might just do this, but there are still issues with battery life, weight, and cost.

Biotech will make major inroads in manufacturing and information technology.


We will never run out of oil! And never hit $100 per barrel! Sigh.


Climate Change and the Planet

Global warming skeptics will continue to argue with scientists over climate change. Yup, that one's true, and the sides have become increasingly polarized. The article mentions a wide variety of scientists who approach climate change with varying degrees of acceptance. Since then, the vast majority of scientists accept human-influenced global climate change as fact, and dissenters are increasingly laypeople.

Will we still eat meat? Not if we realize how badly it effects the planet. Hasn't stopped us yet!


Culture and Society

Time says there will be no female Pope, but that women will have an increasing role in the churches. Given the conservative swing in electing Ratzinger as Pope, female clergy are highly unlikely in the Catholic church, even with declining numbers of priests.

Indie music will flourish on the internet. JoCo, if you're reading this, I <3 U.

Advertising will evolve from the cold call into the cross call, where your details come from another company. At least we got the "do not call" registry.


Time predicted short attention spans will call for short form comedy, which we see in 30 second bits on YouTube. Ironic humor and memes are not predicted.

Product placements and advertising inserts will increase in order to get more attention for ads. Sounds about right.


Time thinks religion will replace politicians. Instead, we've seen politicians become increasingly tied to religion as a method of gaining power.

We'll be wired into sporting events to approximate the feel of being there. They're right about the impressive increase in technology for sports broadcasting, but stadiums are still filled for major games.

Electronic Media magazine predicted that local news would come to dominate the news cycle, due to the ease of producing digital content. Instead, local newspapers and channels are now mostly just grabbing content off the wires.


People won't stay home instead of going to movie theaters. Wrong, due to torrents, NetFlix, HD and large screen TVs

The elite of the future will be entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, they didn't account for the rise in prominence of the reality star, famous for merely existing.

The Chicago Tribune predicted that the first decade of the 21st century would be good for home builders. And it was, for most of the decade - and then everything imploded.


We won't have privacy, but common decency will stop people from prying. Nope, paranoia, wiretapping, Facebook and everything else have severely limited what we can keep as private. Common decency isn't stopping people from losing their benefits due to Facebook posts.

"Young employees will be in high demand, and hard to come by." Quotes supplied by your semi-employed blogger.

Wait and See
Teenagers will cease to exist in 20 years (2020). 10 years in, and they're still going strong, abusing prescription drugs, and borrowing the minivan


The Atlanta Journal and Constitution posited that by 2035, the population boom would have tailed off, but people would have an increasing desire for pets. That's still 25 years away, but we're not seeing it yet.

Nationalism will cause an increase in splinter nations. Apart from the usual suspects, there hasn't been a massive increase in Balkanisation over the last decade. However, the situation in Iraq was leaning that way for a period.

Cybersex might replace real sex. It hasn't happened yet, but you can link sex toys to video feeds or other people, which has certainly made cybersex more real.


China may surpass the United States. Unless India scoops them, this is still a strong possibility.

The rise of digital film. More directors are using it, but there's still plenty who aren't.



Drug resistant bacteria are on the rise. Completely right on this front.

Tissue manipulation will provide amazing therapeutic advances, especially through the use of stem cells. While there have been certain moral objections raised to the use of fetal stem cells, they, and other tissue based bioengineering techniques, are a bright spot in health research.


Alternative medicine will fade beneath the hard light of the future. Homeopathy on the NHS says otherwise

Christopher Reeve will walk again. =(

Bespoke drugs from the pharmacy will be available in 2020.. Halfway there, and we're not seeing it.


Wait and See
We'll copy our brains to PCs by 2030. We're still a long, long way off.


We won't ever log off the internet. Push notification and an iPhone seem to agree.


The rise of internet based software, circumventing the need to have desktop versions of everything. Hello, Google.

Targeted marketing through the internet. This continues to worsen, thanks to the likes of Facebook, which market to you based on personal details.

AOL will own everything. We say "hello Google!" again.

Wireless providers will move beyond the phone. While 3G modems are around, it's more that the phone has evolved beyond what people thought the phone would be.


The Dangers of Lists

Some news-sources decided just to run mammoth lists, parts of which are right, part wrong. Here's a few of them, with our scores (in parens).

New York Times' 21 Brands To Watch in the 21st Century
America Online
(dead in the water)
Banana Republic (really?)
ESPN (includes ESPN2, ESPN Magazine, ESPN Zone)
(not doing so well these days)
Excite@Home (again, really?)
Fidelity Investments
Tommy Hilfiger
Krispy Kreme
(points for delicious)
Lucent Technologies (now owned by Alcatal, had to cut back on paying retirement funds, and has a massively reduced workforce)
Mountain Dew (or mtn dew, as it's now known)
Nickelodeon (includes Nick at Nite)
(they had some rough years there, but are doing damned well right now)
Nokia (really, really struggling at present)
Priceline.com (well, they've got the Shat working for them, so there's that)
SBC Communications (now part of AT&T)
Starbucks (definitely got that one right)
Yahoo (almost, but not quite, dead)


No Google or Apple? Twitter, Facebook and YouTube hadn't yet hit the scene.

Discover magazine's list of things you'll need to know by 2020.
You will need to know stuff you can hardly guess today (Fair enough)
You will need to know how to talk to your house (Not yet an issue for most people)
You will have to learn to drive a more automated car (Slowly filtering down to many new cars, like the BMW park assist)
You'll identify yourself, gain access to homes and businesses, and board aircraft after a laser has measured the shape of your irises (Not happening yet, we still rely heavily on ID cards of one sort or another.)
You'll need to know how to clean up that electronic trail day in and day out (Yes, yes, yes!)
You'll need to know enough to make more complicated medical choices (To a certain extent this is becoming true, but not drastically more than previous years.)
You'll need to access your betrothed's genetic map (Genetic testing is already available, and encouraged among some populations. )
We will have to face the fact that technology favors some and eclipses others (We're starting to see this already, despite efforts of groups like OLPC.)
You're going to have to somehow live while you watch a billion people starve (Not yet, but we might be close.)
You will always need to know if the facts you've dredged up are accurate and truthful
(While Wikipedia has probably increased the general accuracy of information trawled from the internet, many don't care about accuracy, and never will. The entire Birther movement is testimony to that.)
You will be forced to take on moral questions no human has ever faced
(Should I upload this video to YouTube, or not?)

Ray Kurzweil made some very interesting (and accurate) predictions for 2009, in his book The Age of Intelligent Machines. He seems to be on the right track, but just goes a little too far. While we don't have space to discuss every point here, he did predict the shrinking size of most computers (laptops, netbooks and smartphones); the increasing reliance on flash memory; wireless communications between devices; facial identification from images; video chat, and the rise of autotune.


On the other hand, he also thought a sub-$1000 petaflop computer would be available; computers would come in more shapes and sizes than we see; displays would meet print quality; tablet devices would be used in schools; most data would be entered via speech to text; walking exoskeletons would help the disabled; and that privacy would be a major political issue, rather than a personal one.