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OPINION

How Accurate Were They? Evaluating 10 Pop Culture Dystopian Predictions About the Future

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

Science fiction is never, really, about the future. It’s always a reflection of the time it’s set in, but frequently authors predict what’s coming more accurately than they expected. As we live in a world of artificial intelligence, globalist government, and threat of world war, it might be a fun distraction to evaluate how accurately many sci-fi writers of the past saw their future. Presented is our top 10 list, in no particular order.

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I, Robot 

Release year: 2004

Setting year: 2035

Loosely (very loosely) based on the Isaac Asimov collection of the same name, this action-thriller follows Will Smith’s fight against an artificial intelligence that wants to wipe out humanity.

Rating: 6/10

Self-driving cars. Corporations control everything. Robots causing mass unemployment. A coke that costs $50. All spot on reasonable. The AI wiping out humanity hasn’t come to pass. Yet.

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century

Release year: 1979

Setting year: 2491

An accident puts a NASA pilot into suspended animation before the nuclear holocaust. He awakes 500 years later to save the Earth from alien invasion, dependency on computers, and lameness.

Rating: 1/10

While fun at the time, this gets our lowest rating. I mention it because I’d sure like to sleep through whatever’s coming this century and wake up in a world of space babes and adorable robots.

The Jetsons

Release year: 1962

Setting year: 2062

The eponymous futuristic family – a husband, wife, two kids, space dog, and a robot maid – play on sitcom tropes set 100 years in the future.

Rating: 2/10

Although The Smithsonian once described The Jetsons as “the single most important piece of 20th century futurism,” its prediction that the American nuclear family would survive until the 2060s has proven false, alas. However, Jane Jetson did show the world the first instance of carpal tunnel syndrome with “buttonitis.” 

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Minority Report

Release year: 2002

Setting year: 2054

Loosely based on the Phillip K Dick novel, this Tom Cruise vehicle shows us a future where murder has gotten so out of hand in the District of Columbia the government uses psychics to arrest people before they can kill.

Rating: 4/10

The government arresting people without them actually doing something wrong? Yup. Holding people accountable for murder? In Washington, DC? Nahhh.

Gattaca 

Release year: 1997

Setting year: “not too distant future”

Genetic manipulation has created a future where the rich can maintain social superiority by giving their children perfect abilities while the poor struggle.

Rating: 3/10

Now 25 years later, we don’t have biotech anywhere near on this scale. The rich still just maintain social superiority the old-fashioned way: elite institutions of higher ed and nepotism.

WALL-E             

Release year: 2008 

Setting year: 2805

In the far-flung future, a lovable robot goes into space to save mankind after consumerism destroyed the Earth.

Rating: 7/10

Too far away to really evaluate, but the idea of a humanity of unrecognizable blobs who stare at screens all day is pretty spot on. ALSO the harmless love story between two robots has been canceled because it’s a love story, so we like it even more.

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Elysium  

Release year: 2013

Setting year: 2154

In this dystopia, the very wealthy live on a man-made space station while the rest of the population is stuck on a ruined Earth with nothing.

Rating: 8/10

Uhh this really seems less like a prediction about the future and more a documentary about modern-day Los Angeles. The orbital space station replaces gated communities.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine 

Release year: 1995

Setting year: 2024

Moving up the California coast, our heroes from the future are sent back in time in the episodes Past Tense to a ruined San Francisco where new technology has created staggering income disparity.

Rating: 10/10

Depressingly accurate prophesy about liberal hypocrisy in the American city with both the most billionaires and homeless people, even though it didn’t predict the poop app.

V for Vendetta 

Release year: 2005

Setting year: 2027

In a dystopia that seems just around the corner, the titular freedom fighter, based on Guy Fawkes, plots to overthrow a tyrannical government. Based on the 1988 graphic novel by Alan Moore.

Rating: 5/10

Although Moore’s radical, far-left worldview could best be described as strongly in favor of Cocoa Puffs, this film does predict that an evil government would use a disease as an excuse to seize power. Also casting John Hurt as the bad guy is a clever nod to … 

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1984

Release year: 1984

Setting year: 1984

John Hurt plays the last rational man in a world where an evil government uses advanced technology to control every aspect of human life. Based on George Orwell’s prophetic 1949 book of the same name, which we’ve talked about before

Rating: 9/10

The book is so perennially prescient that it topped Amazon’s best-seller list during the lockdowns. Only thing George got wrong was the year.

What else should we have had on our list? What concerns you about the future? Do you have any leads on how to get put in suspended animation for 500 years? Let us know!

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