Predictions on Our Future Education. Were They Right?

Twenty-five years ago, in 1998, judges and winners for the Writers and Illustrators of the Future Contests were asked to answer this question: “With the rapid development and vast expansion of computer technology, how do you think the fundamentals of education will be taught to our children by the year 2023?”

And now in 2023, a quarter-century later, that time capsule was opened at the L. Ron Hubbard Achievement Awards Gala in front of a full house at the Taglyan Complex in Hollywood and to over 430,000 viewers and an additional 1.2 million listeners.

Education quality has been a hotly discussed topic. Contest founder L. Ron Hubbard earlier made this very insightful observation, “A culture is held together solely and only by education. Whether that education is accomplished by experience or by teaching, a culture as a whole is the summation of its education.”

Thirty-one science fiction and fantasy writers and illustrators placed their answers in the capsule. After all, who would be better to predict the future than the heralds of that future? But were their predictions accurate?

During the awards ceremony, Gunhild Jacobs, Executive Director Author Services, Inc., and event emcee called Contest judges Tim Powers (On Stranger Tides) and Kevin J. Anderson (Dune Prequels) to the stage to cut the seal and open the time capsule.

Gunhild Jacobs rapidly scanned through the predictions and gave Kevin Anderson the one made by Tim Powers a quarter century ago. “Voice recognition & transcription programs will have made literacy (all of spelling & most of grammar) obsolete; math-competent people will assume control, morality will be discarded as archaic, & the common people will be bred for food.” The audience moaned as Kevin quipped that he hoped everyone enjoyed their steak tonight. To which Tim Powers responded that he “may have been a bit ahead of the curve.”

Tim Powers was then handed the prediction made by famed Golden Age Dean of Science Fiction Artists Frank Kelly Freas, “Much as usual—badly.”

Here is a selection of other predictions found in the time capsule.

Grand Master of Science Fiction Jack Williamson (one of the originators of the term “genetic engineering”) anticipated education “by bio-silicon brain implants,” while Writers of the Future Coordinating Judge Algis Budrys (Rogue Moon) forecasted, “On computers. 26 years from now, some other technology will be ready.”

Scientist, international best-selling author, and creator of the science blog Chaos Manner, Dr. Jerry Pournelle (Mote in Gods Eye and Luciefer’s Hammer) appears to have gotten it closest, “Systematic phonetics with computers for reading. Computers don’t get impatient and don’t make mistakes. Computer education programs will be greatly improved. Virtual classrooms will exist but will not be the standard yet.”

Award-winning science fiction and fantasy artist Rob Hassan wrote, “I anticipate every aspect of education will touch electronic communication starting with pre-school and continuing through all higher education and with this expansion, all students have access to other cultures, technologies, and opportunities, to make the world a close-knit society.”

While others were somewhat dire. Award-winning horror writer, Scott Nicholson, provided his view of a dystopian future by 2023, “By direct implant via brain wave resonators, all knowledge will be controlled by government agencies.”

Chesley award-winning illustrator, Val Lakey Lindahn, foresaw that “The fundamentals of education will be primarily to teach the children to find fresh water—a precious commodity due to overpopulation.”

Check out all the predictions below…

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