Created By: StarSword on January 11, 2013 Last Edited By: StarSword on June 4, 2013
Troped

Failed Future Forecast

Predictions of the future don't match up to what happens in the predicted year.

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Trope
Author's note: This is intended to address a perceived missing supertrope or index for predictions of the future that don't happen, but don't really fall under The Great Politics Mess-Up or I Want My Jetpack. Posted it after having an epiphany on the trope title during a discussion in the Lost and Found.

Rolling Updates, Needs a Better Description


"Politics is the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn't happen."

People have been trying to predict the future for as long as human civilization, but in most cases they have been partially or completely wrong when the year in question rolls around.

This is a particularly Omnipresent Trope in near-future Speculative Fiction, since the readers (and author) are usually still around when the prediction fails. If the creator is still alive they may even offer an official explanation.

Before adding examples, please make sure it doesn't fit better under one of the subtropes, which include:

[[index]]
  • Apocalypse Day Planner: The world continues to exist despite many predictions to the contrary. Two subtypes common enough for their own tropes are:
    • Mayan Doomsday: As should be fairly obvious by now, the world didn't end on December 21, 2012.
    • Millennium Bug: With some exceptions, our computers did not all crash and burn on January 1, 2000.
  • Crystal Spires and Togas: In major cities the first half is often true, but the latter continues to be unpopular.
  • Future Spandex: Continues to be much less popular than predicted.
  • The Great Politics Mess-Up: A major historical event is not foreseen, making the prediction impossible. The classic example is writers during the Cold War not predicting the breakup of the Warsaw Pact and Soviet Union in 1989 and 1991 respectively.
  • I Want My Jetpack: Technological or scientific developments did not come to pass by the designated year.
  • History Marches On: Improved understanding of historical events renders the prediction outdated.
  • No New Fashions in the Future: Fashionable hairstyles, clothing, architecture, and so on fail to change as rapidly as they do in Real Life.
  • Science Marches On: Improved understanding of science renders the prediction outdated.
  • Space Clothes: As with Future Spandex, above.
  • Technology Marches On: Advancements in technology render the prediction outdated.
[[/index]]

The fact that the prediction isn't true may be Hilarious in Hindsight or Harsher in Hindsight. See also Time Marches On, which tends more towards reactions of current audiences (e.g. a work becomes unreadable due to Values Dissonance).

Examples:

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder:Advertising]]
  • In a series of commercials for PrimeCo Wireless circa 1997-98, a man from the future pretty much says that by his time there won't be any other phones but PrimeCo. The company was broken up and sold off to various other telecom companies starting in 1999.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Anime and Manga]] [[/folder]]

[[folder:Film]] [[/folder]]

[[folder:Literature]]
  • K. A. Applegate's Remnants series has Earth struck by a planet-killing asteroid in 2011. Though funnily enough a much more minor prediction in the book did come true: that the United States would have a black president in 2011 (though a man, not a woman).
  • The Space Odyssey Series predicted lunar bases and manned missions to Jupiter by the first year of the 21st Century. More egregiously, the movie predicted that we would be flown there by PanAm, which went out of business in 1991.
  • George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four: Although there are some concepts in the novel that we'd be wise to heed as milder versions have crept into Real Life ("Orwellian" political euphemisms or doublespeak, control of information and "the memory hole", increased surveillance and "Total Information Awareness", perpetual war and war footing, etc.), the developed world in 1984 wasn't divided into three totalitarian superstates (although the Third World, in terms of Cold War proxy wars, bore some similarity to that geographical southern quadrant constantly fought over by the three big powers as described in the novel), and the West at any rate wasn't living anywhere near the level of oppression as described in the setting of Airstrip One (Britain), Oceania.
  • Both the book and the movie of H. G. Wells's The Shape of Things to Come predicted that World War II would lead to the collapse of civilization and the rise of a technocratic new world order. Among Wells's howlers was the prediction that the German army would be fought to a standstill by Poland.
  • The predictions Nostradamus made in The Prophecies were, as previously mentioned, usually pretty darn vague, but he did have a few unambiguous ones. For instance, his very specific prophecy for July 1999 -- he could only have dated it more precisely if he'd specified which day of the month -- which completely and utterly failed to happen. Paris was not, in fact, smitten by winged terror from the skies. Or if it was, they kept quiet about it.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
  • Star Trek: The Original Series predicted that Earth would suffer the Eugenics Wars in the 1990s, during which Khan Noonien Singh would come to prominence. After the designated decade came and went with no Eugenics Wars, the novelverse retconned them to have taken place in secret.
  • Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: "In the year 1987, NASA launched the last of America's deep space probes. ..." Granted, we haven't sent any manned probes past Earth orbit since Apollo 17 in 1972, but we're still sending unmanned ones.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Professional Wrestling]]
  • The New Breed, a 1986 tag team who claimed to be from 2002, said (among other things) that Dusty Rhodes was President of the US in the future. They also thought that LazorTron (Hector Gurerro) was real because in their time there really were robots.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Video Games]]
  • One of the first sections of The Mario Paint Player's Guide is "Mario Paint: A History", which is a brief overview of art, animation, and music, with an accompanying timeline of artists and works. The final part of this section is "The 90s", which features the following timeline:
    • 1992--Mario Paint Introduced
    • 1993--Mario Paint Player's Guide
    • 199?--First Mario Paint Exhibit
    • 200?--Mario Paint Institute Opens
[[/folder]]
Community Feedback Replies: 42
  • January 12, 2013
    Chabal2
    Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service: an ad for a cryogenic storage company in the 80's promises that by 1997, Manhattan will be a maximum-security prison, off-world colonies will be established by 2019, and the billionth Betamax will be sold in 2052.
  • January 12, 2013
    rodneyAnonymous
    This description is all about real life. This site is all about fiction.
  • January 12, 2013
    Chernoskill
    Oh boy, this is pretty much present in all near-future media... The world didn't awaken in 2011 (Shadowrun), the Machines didn't unleash a nuclear holocaust (Terminator), World War 3 never happened (a ton of sources)... I'D almost call this one omnipresent.
  • January 12, 2013
    StarSword
    @Chabal2: The second one is I Want My Jetpack and the third is Technology Marches On. I'm gonna hold off on the first one until I'm sure I'm actually going to have an example section.

    @rodney: I did mention I wanted help with the description. It's in an Early Development Phase.

    @Chernoskill: As for that, we probably need a criteria list for inclusion on the trope page (I've already suggested "other stuff comes true" and "writers offer explanation"). Though it's possible we may have to just not have an example section.
  • January 12, 2013
    StarSword
    Added the X Marches On tropes to the subtrope list. Also changed the description for Millennium Bug to more accurately reflect the page content.
  • January 12, 2013
    elwoz
    Rather than listing only two specific predictions for the end of the world (admittedly common enough to get their own tropes) I suggest

  • January 12, 2013
    StarSword
    ^Wasn't aware there was a supertrope. Much appreciated.
  • January 12, 2013
    rodneyAnonymous
    Um, yeah, and my comment (very specifically describing a flaw) was meant to help with that. No need to be defensive.

    BTW, "We can probably chalk this up mostly to..." is especially poor TVT style. Speculation about RL psychology is 1) way off-mission, and 2) probably wrong.
  • January 12, 2013
    StarSword
    ^Didn't mean to come off as defensive, sorry. Tossing the psychology line.
  • January 15, 2013
    randomsurfer
  • January 15, 2013
    StarSword
    ^Added, and went ahead and added Chabal2's example as well with potholes to the tropes the sub-examples go under. I still think we may need a set of criteria for trope page-worthy examples to keep it readable.
  • January 16, 2013
    elwoz
    Here's another few subtropes:

    If the writers predict a major historical event (other than The End Of The World As We Know It) that then doesn't happen, does that go under The Great Politics Mess Up? Such as Star Trek's Eugenics Wars (which despite the time frame somehow managed not to be TEOTWAWKI as far as I know -- usually a Cold-War era WWIII is apocalyptic, because it was hard to imagine how the nukes could possibly not get used once people started shooting at each other).

    New York City getting turned into a giant prison in Escape From New York doesn't seem like a sufficiently major historical event to qualify, although the context (the USA turning into a theocratic, totalitarian state) might. But I don't know where else to put it.
  • January 17, 2013
    Arivne

  • February 3, 2013
    StarSword
    Just discovered an existing index, Time Marches On. It seems to me it refers more to stuff like events following publication rendering the work silly-looking, etc. Thoughts?
  • February 3, 2013
    Entirity
    2001 a space odyssey
  • February 3, 2013
    LobsterMagnus
  • February 3, 2013
    SharleeD
    ^^^ Time Marches On seems like a separate trope from this one, as it encompasses works that go out of date even if they never made any predictions of future events (e.g. works that are set in their author's time but become unreadable due to Values Dissonance). Conversely, some classic works that rate as Failed Future Forecasts (e.g. HG Wells' work) can still be read and enjoyed in the same spirit today as when they were written.
  • February 3, 2013
    StarSword
    ^^That's covered by the Mayan Doomsday subtrope.
  • February 4, 2013
    SharleeD
  • February 4, 2013
    TonyG
  • February 4, 2013
    StarSword
    @Sharlee D and Tony G: Modified and added. With the Nostradamus one, I added a remark about how he made his prophecies vague on purpose in order to duck the Inquisition's radar (IIRC), and I adjusted the Space Odyssey one to include the books.
  • February 5, 2013
    randomsurfer
    DC Comics' Armageddon2001 (1991): in 2001 a DC hero (Hawk of Hawk and Dove) will turn heel and kill all the other heroes, becoming the dictator of Earth.
  • February 5, 2013
    StarSword
    ^Considering there's no such thing as superheroes in real life, I think that one would be Jossed without needing a date.
  • February 5, 2013
    arromdee
    I think it still counts. Superheroes don't exist, but superhero comics still do, and the world as shown in superhero comics made in 2001 didn't resemble the world as shown in superhero comics that predicted 2001.
  • February 6, 2013
    randomsurfer
    ^That.

    There is also (or will be also) Arno Stark, Tony Stark's first cousin once removed and the mercenary Iron Man 2020, who was/will be active at least as early as 2015.
  • May 11, 2013
    randomsurfer
    In a series of commercials for PrimeCo Wireless circa 1997-98, a man from the future pretty much says that by his time there won't be any other phones but PrimeCo. But it's long been out of business and sold off to various other phone companies.
  • May 11, 2013
    StarSword
    Oh, hey, this thread. ^Stuck it up there after adding a date.

    I think I'm going to keep the example section.
  • May 11, 2013
    WeAreAllKosh
    Literature

    George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty Four: Although there are some concepts in the novel that we'd be wise to heed as milder versions have crept into Real Life ("Orwellian" political euphemisms or doublespeak, control of information and "the memory hole", increased surveillance and "Total Information Awareness", perpetual war and war footing, etc.)--the developed world in 1984 wasn't divided into three totalitarian superstates (although the Third World, in terms of Cold War proxy wars, bore some similarity to that geographical southern quadrant constantly fought over by the three big powers as described in the novel), and the West at any rate wasn't living anywhere near the level of oppression as described in the setting of Airstrip One (Britain), Oceania.
  • May 12, 2013
    Lumpenprole
    Both the book and the movie of H.G. Wells's The Shape Of Things To Come predicted that World War 2 would lead to the collapse of civilization and the rise of a technocratic new world order. Among Wells's howlers was the prediction that the German army would be fought to a standstill by Poland.
  • May 12, 2013
    StarSword
    Description thoughts? Hats?
  • May 13, 2013
    LobsterMagnus
    ^^This is actually kind of a half-aversion, considering the fact that Wells predicted WWII in the first place! (The book was written six years before the war.) He just got many details wrong of course. But then Well's war goes on far longer than in Real Life, and after that, the story loses any semblance to actual history.
  • May 13, 2013
    StarSword
    ^There were people predicting World War II before the ink was dry on the Treaty of Versailles. I recall seeing a political cartoon that even got the year right.
  • May 25, 2013
    StarSword
  • May 28, 2013
    StarSword
    Bump again.
  • May 30, 2013
    StarSword
    And another bump.
  • May 30, 2013
    randomsurfer
    Professional Wrestling: The New Breed, a 1986 tag team who claimed to be from 2002, said (among other things) that Dusty Rhodes was President of the US in the future. They also thought that LazorTron (Hector Gurerro) was real because in their time there really were robots.
  • June 3, 2013
    NESBoy
    One of the first sections of The Mario Paint Player's Guide is "Mario Paint: A History", which is a brief overview of art, animation, and music, with an accompanying timeline of artists and works. The final part of this section is "The 90s", which features the following timeline:
    • 1992--Mario Paint Introduced
    • 1993--Mario Paint Player's Guide
    • 199?--First Mario Paint Exhibit
    • 200?--Mario Paint Institute Opens
  • June 4, 2013
    AgProv
    Nostradamus' very specific prophecy for July 1999 - he could only have dated it more precisely if he'd specified which day of the month - which completely and utterly failed to happen; Paris was not, in fact, smitten by winged terror from the skies. Or if it was, they kept quiet about it.
  • June 4, 2013
    omeganian
    Politics is the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn't happen.
  • June 4, 2013
    StarSword
    ^Oh, that's good.
  • June 4, 2013
    StarSword
    We've got four hats out of five. Any objections to me going ahead and launching?
  • June 4, 2013
    StarSword
    I guess not. Boom.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=bszbep1yzgednwdgg7bm1cz8&trope=FailedFutureForecast