Predicting the future has long captivated scientists and scholars. But when it comes to forecasting what 2020 was supposed to look like, few got it right.
We don’t all live in steel houses, like Thomas Edison predicted back in 1911. The world population is 7.7 billion, not 8 billion, as the International Food Policy Institute predicted. And astronauts are still years away from landing on Mars, despite a 2020 prediction by the National Research Council.
With plenty of excitement in store over the next year, here are a few things that – despite humankind’s best guesses -- almost certainly won’t happen.
Ever since “The Jetsons” hit the airwaves in 1962, flying cars have been emblematic of a high-tech future. Apparently, they’re also difficult to make.
Back in 2017, Uber boasted that it was just three years away from launching flying cars in three cities: Los Angeles, Dubai and Dallas. The airborne fleet would come with a new air traffic control system specially designed for the low-flying vehicles.
That ambitious timeline has been pushed back to 2023.
MAIL BY DRONE
Six years ago, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos predicted that his company would be delivering packages using drones by 2020.
Of course, that hasn’t happened yet. For the moment, Amazon’s drone ambitions remain closer to the ground as researchers continue to work out how such a system would operate.
DEMOCRACY IN CHINA
Ten years ago, a pair of sociologists predicted that communist China was on a pathway to democracy. But there are no signs that the Chinese government – which boasts one of the world’s most powerful economies – is anywhere close to changing course.
If anything, the violent pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong throughout 2019 prove just how committed China is to maintaining the status quo.
Some people believe that French astrologer Nostradamus predicted the rise of Hitler and the assassination of John F. Kennedy. For 2020, some interpreters of his work believe he predicted that sea levels would rise, Antarctica would detach and melt, and that marine life would die in 2020.
It’s true that marine life is struggling. Seventy gray whales were stranded on the west coast of the U.S. early last year, and Canadian scientists have yet to figure out why North Atlantic right whales keep dying. The same goes for British Columbia’s southern resident killer whale population, which has seen years of dwindling numbers as calves struggle to survive beyond a few weeks.
And it’s true that sea levels are rising. According to the U.S. National Ocean Service, sea levels rise about one-eighth of an inch per year.
It would take a sudden and cataclysmic event for Antarctica to completely detach and melt in 2020. Even so, the polar continent continues to shed ice at a record rate.
THE WORLD'S FIRST HYPERLOOP SYSTEM
Imagine hopping in an air-tight tube and commuting to work at speeds of up to 1,200 kilometres per hour. That was SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s vision for the hyperloop. More than 100 kilometres of hyperloop was supposed to be up and running by 2020, but that still hasn’t happened.
However, Musk recently tweeted that Las Vegas will “hopefully” have its first high-speed transit tunnel up and running sometime in the new year.