An old article from the July 1997 issue of WIRED magazine, authored by Pete Leyden and Peter Schwartz, made several eerily prescient predictions about the twenty-first century that have “come true in one way or another” — including a pandemic, increasing energy prices, climate change, and Brexit.
Yesterday, a section of the list was released on Reddit and the post read “”In 1997 Wired magazine published a ’10 things that could go wrong in the 21st century’; Almost every single one of them has come true.”
Cars that run on hydrogen. Then there’s biology, and then there’s quantum computers. Cancer therapies based on gene therapy. The War on Drugs must come to an end. Automatic translation that is accurate. The demise of the nation-state is approaching. The first human to set foot on Mars. These are only a handful of the changes that will occur in our society by 2020. This was the cover of the storey that was published in the July 1997 issue of WIRED magazine.
This image has been smirkingly re-circulated as a prime illustration of blinkered End-of-History chauvinism since the real year 2020. From the perspective of 2021, it’s safe to state that the article’s writers, Peter Schwartz and Peter Leyden (who extended their theory into a 2000 book), were well off the mark with their forecasts.
But their vision of the twenty-first century hasn’t been completely laughable: a rising China, hybrid cars, video calls, and online grocery shopping have all become so commonplace that they hardly need to be mentioned, and the internet’s status as “the main medium of the twenty-first century” has faded away. And who among us would define university costs as anything other than “absurd”?
People were all praise for the article and the infographic went popular on Reddit and Twitter, with many people reacting the almost 25-year-old forecasts. One of the user wrote in a tweet “Absolutely amazing scenarios in this July 1997 @WIRED article, take a read, scary accurate. I’d note DoD spends millions on forecasts and none are as accurate as this, not even close”.