What year is The Future now?


I can hear the faint sound of The Smiths asking How Soon is Now in relation to the title of this post. I used to think some of their music was interesting, but insufferable hipsters and Morrisey ruined them for me. But I digress.

Beyond 2000 was one of the first shows I remember watching as a kid. It detailed all the new inventions and live improvements we’d have by the turn of the new millennium, including fusion power and self-driving cars. Gateway 2000 wanted to sell us futuristic computers before they pivoted to those awesome cow boxes.

And say, remember The New Millennium? Microsoft went as far as to break from their year-based nomenclature and called Windows 98 Third Edition Windows Millennium Edition instead, given Windows 2000 wasn’t the unifying OS they expected it would be. Is it a coincidence that Windows 2000 had the best UI before and since of any Microsoft OS? I think not.

The year 2000 was a big deal for obvious reasons, but its passing lead futurists, politicians, and planners to pin their hopes on a new one. When I lived in Singapore, I remember going across the Causeway (or the Tuas Second Link!) and seeing the billboards for the Malaysian Government’s bold Wawasan 2020 plan. I’m sure they had no idea how right they were about needing rapid development and world-class healthcare to combat a changing landscape.

Now that 2020 has faded into memory, with the collective middle fingers of the world squarely aimed at it, what year is the future now?

I’ve seen a few discussions about 2030, but it doesn’t have the same satisfying repetition. 2036 2038 (thanks Peter Molnar!) will be another Y2K moment when the 32-bit timestamps used by older Unix and NTP roll over, but I doubt it’ll generate the same fervour as the former. 2048 would be a fun number for computer nerds, but likely few others.

2050 seems to be the new darling. It’s what governments around the world are pinning their reductions in carbon to, despite it long being too late. 2100 nay gets a mention at all, which surprises me.

Personally, I’m pinning my hopes on 2024, when we can all travel and see each other again. Clara and I have wanted to tick off Nagoya, Hiroshima, Taipei, and Boston for years!

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Ruben Schade is a technical writer and infrastructure architect in Sydney, Australia who refers to himself in the third person. Hi!

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