What Were Some Successful Futurist Predictions?

Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov

Underlying almost every successful invention is a successful futurist prediction. Some inventions are made by accident. But most are purposefully created based on futurist predictions that they will be adopted. Of course, most predictions in this regard are wrong. But many can be correct. Nikola Tesla, one of the most lauded amateur futurists of the 20th century, predicted that his alternating current would become the primary way we used electricity. He was right.

The Moon landing was predicted by a number of futurists.
The Moon landing was predicted by a number of futurists.

Particle physicists anticipate the future successfully when they postulate particles predicted by their theories. Such particles whose existence was predicted in this way include the top quark, the positron, and the neutrino. So one might say that theoretical physicists are unintentional futurists.

Historically, futurists are best at predicting the future when they actually play a key role in bringing about the future they predicted. In this way prophesies can be self-fulfilling. Examples include widespread adoption of cheap automobiles, the launch of Sputnik, the Moon landing, and the harnessing of nuclear energy, to name a few. Naturally, there is a hindsight bias at play here, whereby we more readily remember the futurist predictions that turned out to be successful.

The worlds of finance and business are filled with professional futurists, though they do not usually refer to themselves as such. Using studies, equations, evidence, and educated extrapolations, business futurists try to project whether or not a company branch should be opened in a particular city, or how many years it will take for a particular start-up to reach cash flow positive. Careers and fortunes are made and destroyed in the aftermath of these predictions. One of the reasons the stock market is so chaotic is that its behavior depends not just on the historical performance of numerous companies, but by the aggregate predictions of future performance.

Perhaps the most amazingly successful futurist prediction was that of Francis Bacon, the English philosopher who is credited with inventing the scientific method in in early 17th century, a few years before his death. He predicted that his new method of acquiring knowledge, at first called the Baconian method, would become a powerful and pervasive way of deriving the truth from observations about nature. The explosion of the Scientific Revolution in the centuries which followed thoroughly validated his prediction.

Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov

Michael is a longtime wiseGEEK contributor who specializes in topics relating to paleontology, physics, biology, astronomy, chemistry, and futurism. In addition to being an avid blogger, Michael is particularly passionate about stem cell research, regenerative medicine, and life extension therapies. He has also worked for the Methuselah Foundation, the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and the Lifeboat Foundation.

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Discussion Comments


@bfree - I read that too, and I certainly like the idea that I could download and print my own products without ever stepping foot in a store. I must say though that technology and the future certainly have a long way to go in achieving that one.

Not only would it be costly for the ordinary consumer but I don't imagine many folks would want something that enormous in their homes.


Did anyone read "The Futurist Magazine's top ten Forecasts for 2010 and Beyond?" Here we are past that date and I've yet to see any of their predictions come to pass, though I wish that some -- like algae or ammonia becoming new fuels -- had come to pass. I think I could do without the brain telepathy though, that's just kind of weird.


Nickola Tesla, the man who single-handedly designed our entire system of power distribution from generation to final delivery, reduced to the dismissive term "amateur futurist"? That's a travesty.

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