Checking in on Predictions for the Year 2020

People are talking about timeshares in space in 2020. Which got me wondering... what else did people think we'd be doing 4 years from now?


April 21, 2016

“The International Space Station Could Get Its Own Timeshare by 2020.”

When I read that headline last week, my first thought was, “Holy crap, that is epic. A freakin’ Airbnb in space? Humans are awesome.”

Then, my second thought was, “This sounds exactly like a prediction someone would have made twenty years ago.”

I mean, space is the most classic “future” theme ever. The year 2020 is a nice round number. And people hanging out in a “space apartment” sounds like every 12-year-old’s semi-realistic fantasy (or the entire premise of The Jetsons).

Which got me thinking…

What are some actual predictions people made decades ago about the year 2020? What else did we think would be going down? And are we exceeding or falling short of expectations?

Using this thing called the Internet, I wound the clocks back to find out. Here are seven predictions and my take on whether or not they’ll come to fruition four years from now.

“Paper and coins will be largely replaced by electronic cash…and paper cash will be used mainly for black market purchases.” (1994)

Venmo is awesome and so is the competition. In fact, electronic cash is one of the most convenient developments in my lifetime and something everyone takes for granted.

But guess what? In 2015, 85% of all transactions globally (and 40% in the U.S.) involved paper money. Cash is private, intuitive, and most importantly, cash doesn’t risk those damn transaction fees.

Just like it took time for people to get on board the email train years ago, it’ll take time for electronic cash to “largely replace” paper money.

Will this happen?

To some extent, yes. But not just yet. Paper money will still play a role in 2020 and it won’t be just for buying a gram of weed. Plus, Venmo works juuust fine for “black market” purchases.

Computers will have “odor and flavor sensors comparable to humans.” (1994)

According to IBM, computers will touch, taste, smell, hear, and see by 2018. IBM is pretty smart, so I’ll go ahead and agree with them.

Plus, computers can already do pretty much all of our jobs for us, so nothing would surprise me at this point.

Me: Hey, Siri!

Siri: You smell terrible. Take a shower.

Will this happen?

100% happening by 2020. Count on it.

“Almost all new cars are hybrid vehicles, mostly using hydrogen power.” (1997)

The future is hybrid, but it’s also electric. Not hydrogen. Here’s why:

First off, there’s a huge lack of hydrogen infrastructure. A hydrogen filling station costs more than $1 million to build and, unsurprisingly, neither the government nor the corporate world has any plans for rapid expansion.

There are plans, however, to install an abundance of electric charging stations. In fact, New York City is currently considering putting charging stations “on at least two streets in every borough.” That’d be in addition to the 280 public charging sites that already exist in NYC.

Automotive analyst, Alan Baum explains the situation perfectly:

“We’ve got electricity everywhere. Putting in 240-volt charging units requires some effort and expense, but it’s not game changing. Putting in hydrogen is.”

We also have Tesla leading the electric car charge…and Toyota leading the hydrogen-powered car charge.

Tesla’s cooler than Toyota, and Elon Musk’s cooler than everyone.

Will this happen?

If these 90s folks had replaced the word “hydrogen” with “electric” they would’ve nailed this one. But they didn’t. So, no, this will not happen.

“Getting lost will take real creativity in an era where an embedded GPS receiver will enable personal electronic devices to know where they are to within a few yards.” (2000)

Yeah, so clearly this is already the case. It’s pretty much impossible to get lost.

But I felt this deserved a mention because, um, remember paper maps? Those poor folks back in the year 2000 (I was nine, I don’t count) having to pull over to the side of the road to figure out where the heck they were.

We’d all have a panic attack if that was required nowadays.

Will this happen?

Already has.

“Americans can vote electronically from home.” (1997)

My main job description is to read the news everyday. So, if you think you hear the words “hacked” or “privacy” way too often, multiply it by about fifty and that’s where I’m at. It’s every day. And it’s brutal.

So yeah, you’re nuts if you think we’ll be ready for electronic voting by 2020. Somebody would hack the crap out of the election and “Deez Nuts” would be the President of the United States.

Will this happen?

Absolutely not. Although, I could see trials taking place for smaller, local elections.

“The Chinese economy grows to be the largest in the world.” (1997)

Five years ago it seemed China would without a doubt surpass the United States as the world’s largest economy by 2020. But in recent years, those projections have been pushed back to 2026 or even later.

Just check out this GIF that was created using data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It projects the United States to remain on top through 2030…and it’s not even close.

Considering the recent reports of China’s economy slowing and mentions of a “guaranteed bubble,” I’ll go with a more conservative projection.

Will this happen?

Maybe, but I highly doubt it.

“Humans arrive on Mars.” (1997)

NASA has a three-step plan to get a man on Mars by 2030. So, our friends back in ‘97 were a little aggressive with this prediction.

Will this happen?

Nah. Unless aliens show up in 2019 and offer us a ride.

Daily briefings, straight to your inbox

Business and tech news in 5 minutes or less

Join over 1 million people who read The Hustle

Psst

How'd Bezos build a billion dollar empire?

In 1994, Jeff Bezos discovered a shocking stat: Internet usage grew 2,300% per year.

Data shows where markets are headed.

And that’s why we built Trends — to show you up-and-coming market opportunities about to explode. Interested?

Join us, it's free.

Look, you came to this site because you saw something cool. But here’s the deal. This site is actually a daily email that covers the important news in business, tech, and culture.

So, if you like what you’re reading, give the email a try.