Predicting the Future


Predicting the Future

by Bob Burridge © 2010

There’s something in us as humans that makes us wonder about the future. For some, the focus stays pretty narrow. They just want to know what the next day is going to be like. For others, they want to know about the more distant and general things.

When I was in High School I belonged to a book club at my school. One of my favorite books was a 1964 publication called “Profiles of the Future” by Arthur C. Clarke. Here are some of the predictions he made about 46 years ago.

  • By about 1970 we will orbit a space lab, then men will land on the moon.
    Close! Of course the moon landing took place in 1969, and the space lab came some years later.

  • Machines will some day be able to translate languages.
    Today anyone can go to Altavista’s Babel Fish web site, or Google and others to do that.

  • We will have personal wireless communications by the late 1980s.
    Today just about everyone carries some kind of cell phone around.

  • There will be a global library by the early 2000’s.
    The internet has fulfilled his vision beyond anything he could have imagined.

Clarke’s detailed descriptions show that he didn’t quite anticipate the way these would actually come to pass. But he was very insightful.

On the web site of audiencedialogue.org I once found a list of interesting past predictions:

  • In 1926, Lee de Forest, the father of radio, said, “While theoretically and technically television may be feasible, commercially and financially I consider it an impossibility, a development on which we need waste little time dreaming.”
  • Darryl F Zanuck, in 1946 said, “Television won’t be able to hold onto any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.”
  • In about 1880, Alexander Graham Bell predicted, “One day there will be a telephone in every major city in the USA.”
  • In 1900 a group of British experts said, “The telephone may be appropriate for our American cousins, but not here, because we have an adequate supply of messenger boys.”
  • In 1943,Thomas Watson, head of IBM said, “I think there is a world market for as many as 5 computers.”
  • in 1949 Popular Mechanics magazine made the bold prediction that “Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons”
  • As late as 1977, the founder of Digital, Ken Olsen said, “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”
  • Frenchman Marshal Foch said in 1912, “Aircraft are interesting toys, but of no military value.”
  • In 1903 the President of Michigan Savings Bank advised Henry Ford’s lawyer not to invest in the Ford Motor Company. He said, “The horse is here to stay, but the automobile is only a novelty.”
  • Harper’s Weekly, in August 1902 wrote, “The actual building of roads devoted to motor cars is not for the near future, in spite of many rumors to that effect.”
  • In 1943 aviation publicist Harry Bruno said, “Automobiles will start to decline as soon as the last shot is fired in World War 2. Instead of a car in every garage, there will be a helicopter.”

Anticipating what’s coming and knowing what it will be like are not the same thing. Even the smartest people can be way off in projecting what is yet to come.

Of course God’s predictions in the Bible have all come true exactly as he said they would.

At the Christmas season we are always reminded about the detailed information given about the promised Messiah. The Bible clearly predicted that he would be born of a virgin in the city of Bethlehem. That he would come out of Nazareth and be Immanuel (God With Us).

At Easter time we hear those many passages about his suffering and death for the sins of his people. His victory over evil was predicted as far back as the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3:15. His agony and the purpose of his death is described amazingly well in Isaiah 53.

Of course there are also the many predictions given in ancient times to people like Noah, Abraham, Moses, Daniel, and others. All came to pass exactly as God said they would. They were not always fully understood before they were fulfilled, but with out privilege of hind-sight we see how perfectly accurate they all were.

There remain promises God has made about the future too. Interpreters might debate about the details of how they will all come to pass, but as sure as in the past, all will take place just as God has said.

In Deuteronomy 18:22 God gave us this test for anyone daring to predict what will come to pass,

“When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.”

In warning Israel God spoke in Ezekiel 12:25 saying,

“For I am the LORD: I will speak, and the word that I shall speak shall come to pass; …”

Our confidence rests in the character of God himself. There is no power that can derail his plan. God knows all things eternally and his word to us can never fail. We rest in the hope that is before us, a hope that cannot fail.

Hebrews 6:18, “That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: “

Note: The Bible quotations in this article are from the King James Version unless otherwise noted.

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About Bob Burridge

I've taught Science, Bible, Math, Computer Programming and served 25 years as Pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Pinellas Park, Florida. I'm now Executive Director of the ministry of the Genevan Institute for Reformed Studies
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