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The History of the Future and Back

By Peter Clarke, JD on June 27, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the internet.

It is natural for us to ponder the future and to wonder what is coming next. For example, right now we are considering how far will Artificial Intelligence (AI) go. Will more and more of our lives be facilitated positively by AI? Or, will AI robots ultimately work toward their own superiority and survival over that of their human creators? But let's also consider the history of the future. What were past predictions of the future? And what about future look backs to this present time?

Centuries ago, it is unlikely that most humans contemplated that not too long in the future that their descendants would talk to one and other over the telephone and would travel great distances by planes, trains and automobiles. Indeed, they would have struggled to even imagine lighting up the night with electricity and the many other functions that would be moved forward by electricity.

As recently as the New York Worlds Fairs in the mid-1960s, there were grand predictions about how by now we would be flying around in our own flying cars. Well, that prediction proved wrong, obviously. And while there were many grand future predictions at those Worlds Fairs, one major development was missed -- the internet!

So, future predictions at times just don't get it right -- either by way of over-predicting or under-predicting.

How about look backs? How will future humans view what is taking place presently? Will we be viewed favorably for all of our technological advances that are bringing the world closer by way of many different types of communications mediums? Will future humans live better because of AI that is starting in this era?

Or, assuming humans are still on Earth for the foreseeable future, will we be viewed very badly by future humans for destroying much of the planet and mankind because of environmental destruction, or biological or nuclear warfare -- the roots of which could be traced to this time period?

What are your predictions for the future? Will they be correct? Let's stick around and find out!

Eric Sinrod (@EricSinrod on Twitter) is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP, where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes. You can read his professional biography here. To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod's columns, please email him at with Subscribe in the Subject line. This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author's law firm or its individual partners.

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