International exhibitions, which began in the mid-19th century as events at which the industrial achievements of the world’s nations could be displayed, provided a technological and industrial shop-window for the companies and countries that took part in them, thus attesting to the progress of the developed societies. It was on the occasion of a visit to the New York World’s Fair in 1964 that the famous science fiction writer Isaac Asimov decided to jump forward half a century and imagine what might be on show at the 2014 equivalent.
In that article, published in 1964, Asimov showed astonishing foresight, whether it be about modes of transport, telecommunications, automation, demographic growth or the in-built limitations of our planet. And if at times Asimov was wrong (he thought, for example, that human beings would by now have built under the ground and beneath the oceans), re-reading this piece in the very year when its predictions are set reveals the powers of anticipation he possessed. To undertake a similar exercise today and attempt to forecast technological developments in 2064 would undoubtedly be a risky enterprise —mainly on account of the marked acceleration in the pace of technological advance.