When I Predicted 2010

I started writing my first novel in 1992 or so. It was… terrible. Lost in the sands of time due to hard drive corruption or something like that. Thank God. The main character was myself. Not some pseudonymical stand-in for myself, but myself. It took place in 2010.

Now, it wasn’t intended to be a futurist piece. It took place in 2010 because the elements of the plot couldn’t have me being 15 or so. So I doubled my age, which put it circa 2008, and then added a couple years because 2010 was more interesting. I extrapolated very conservatively from current trends at the time and that was that. I wasn’t familiar with Moore’s Law. As a result, the 2010 I envisioned was not nearly as advanced as the one we experienced.

It had a Krugmanian view of the Internet, as there and not-insignificant but also not revolutionary. In the story, it was stymied by the need of the government to control speech of the hate and unpatriotic variety. There was an Alternet that was not so restricted, but was restricted in other ways.

There were some things I got right, though. Sometimes predictable, sometimes not.

In the story, the Los Angeles Raiders moved back to Oakland, which would happen a bit later. The Houston Oilers left Houston, but not for Nashville. Jacksonville got an expansion team.

There was an Earth-Shattering terrorist attack in 2001. In the story, it took place in Seattle rather than New York, and it was in March (3/2/01) rather than September. There was a war, but details were not really spelled out. There were conspiracy theories.

George W Bush was president. Very unpopular. In the story, he unseated President Gore in 2004. He had not yet been elected governor of Texas when it was written, though it was known that he and his brother were running for governor.

Perhaps the oddest thing I got right involved the little brother of someone I knew. He was nine or so when it was written, but in the book it turned out that he was gay. He came out in 2006 or so.

I got a lot wrong, too, and not just of the trajectory of technology. In the story, crime rates had continued to get worse. It was a very unsafe place. It was a case where nobody knew what to do about it rather than everybody trying to take credit for it.

The biggest thing I got wrong was of a more personal nature. The self I depicted, over fifteen years down the road, was rather lonely. He was unmarried with little prospect of marriage. He was an extrapolation of who I felt I was at the time, and as with the Internet, it didn’t know that trajectories change and that the life you have at any given point, and the path you seem to be on, isn’t set in stone.

I re-started it in the early aughts and actually finished the first installment. The character in that story was fictional. That was partly a product of not being the self-absorbed teenager who wanted to write a story strictly as a vehicle of self-expression. But it was partly because it had to be. The person that the story was about pretty far from the person I became.

So hooray for getting it wrong!

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Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter. ...more →

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13 thoughts on “When I Predicted 2010

  1. Well, I’m very glad about the things you got wrong, both personally and with respect to the overall condition of heavy crime. Your vision of America in 2010 might have looked a bit like, say, South Africa?

    On the personal level, it’s very difficult for a 15-year-old to understand young-adult social interactions, to really get it that people who want to find mates, do (eventually) find mates. All you really know at that age is the frustration of wanting a mate and not having one, and you’re really too young to know what it is that you want in a mate other than existence. Then, if you’re like me, you eventually start finding out things you like and don’t like in potential mates and you get told things like “don’t compromise,” and “hold out for the one who’s perfect” which leads to

    a) rejection of other potential mates who, at least for the short term, would have been just fine, or
    b) clinging on to someone with whom the relationship’s use-by date has expired, or
    c) deep, sudden, intense infatuations that crash painfully and quickly, or
    d) an emotionally draining cocktail of all of the above.

    And my theory is that it’s when you get tired of dealing with these and sort out what’s really important from what’s actually not so important on the “desired qualities” list that you are suitable for really long-term pair-bonding.

    In other words, dating is an important growth experience. Likely not having dated much at 15, it’s unsurprising that the 15-year-old you would have got adult social life wrong. But it’s testament to the savvy and intelligence of the 15-year-old you that you got so many social and political extrapolations right.

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      • Hold on, Mike was pretty precise with his words… the Supreme Court did sort of “hijack” the process… or, more neutrally, “cut short” the process is possibly closer.

        But then each year my memory fades and I find myself wondering, what ever did happen in FL? Did Gore get more votes (in FL, that is)? And, like all things related to that election, it seems that the answer is no, but possibly maybe.

        Which echoes Notme’s comment about the wrong remedy. On yet another hand, Its hard to believe that Gore’s lawyers wouldn’t have just kept for more and bigger recounts until they found the right remedy (possibly maybe).

        This strikes me as different than the howling at the moon over the Electoral vote vs. Popular vote. As a Cubs fan, I can point out the Cahill struck out Conforto to end the 6th inning with the score tied… but it seems the rules allow for the runner to become undead and amble to first, and, worse, to allow other runners, say, from third, to race home with game winning runs all during a sort of twighlight where the batter is out, but not out. So howl sometimes we must.

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        • 1) The SC had no business interfering in the state matter, and the result of that is one of the worst decisions–as a logical/structural matter–the court has made in many decades (which I would hope even conservatives could agree with).

          2) Notme is right that there is no reason to believe that Gore would have won the recount he was asking for (and also in the implication that this is Gore’s fault, because the best evidence is that a full recount would have gone to him).

          3) Either way, the number is in the ~150 vote margin range. The butterfly ballot getting 3,000 extra Buchanan (or uncountable Buchanan+real candidate) votes swamps the difference. (and yes, it was designed by a Democrat)

          4) I feel entirely justified in my sour grapes over the whole thing, since I believe Bush won only because the mechanisms of voting interfered with Floridians’ desires (and, more generally, the mechanisms of the Electoral College interfered with Americans’ desires). And, of course, Gore would have been a dramatically better president to everyone other than Africans fighting AIDS (Bush’s one legitimately excellent achievement in eight years that no one else would have done).

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  2. It had a Krugmanian view of the Internet, as there and not-insignificant but also not revolutionary.

    Predicting the future was part of my job, at least off-and-on, for 25 years. Wired data networks are something I got right (mobile, not so much). In 1984 I predicted that personal processor cycles were going to get ridiculously cheap, and that connecting those to a data network would be revolutionary. In 1993 I predicted that TCP/IP would win the ongoing technology battle over which data network (even then, the telcos of the world wanted X.25 and ATM — since I worked for a telco, this made me unpopular). I missed some things, though. I thought people would serve up content from their house, not load things onto a dozen different companies’ servers. And I thought IP multicast would be really important. Multicast might still make it, if the backbone providers can ever figure out a way to bill each other for transit.

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