The World's Fair of 2064

  @FortuneMagazine December 19, 2013: 7:27 AM ET
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(Fortune)

Fifty years ago the writer Isaac Asimov took a guess at what a World's Fair of 2014 might look like, on the occasion of the one held in New York in 1964. He got a lot right. He foresaw cordless appliances, for instance, and predicted that there would be robots but that they would not be very good. Today, as we consider the future, one thing stands clear: There is no World's Fair of 2014. This contentious world, while it has grown smaller and closer in some respects, is in no mood to hold a celebration for itself. If it did, you would probably see one pavilion trying to acquire and consolidate its competitors while another tried to blow up its neighbors.

Still, by 2064 it is possible that the world will be in shape to give itself one heck of a great fair. It would be very different, of course, from the one that took place 100 years earlier.

First of all, there would be no national exhibits, because there will be very little interest in nationalism as such. The U.S. will still exist, we may assume, but any attempt to unite the Red exhibit with the Blue exhibit and then incorporate it with the Green exhibit will fail, and the notion of having three discordant displays costing three times the price of one will be rejected by what remains of the federal government. The impoverished, violent oligarchy that was once Russia will have dropped out as well, along with Europe, which won't be able to afford the airfare.

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