Oppenheim - Asia in 1984

In 1964 Alexander Oppenheim published 'Asia in 1984' in New Scientist (396) (1964), 754-755. In this article he predicted what Asia would be like in twenty years time, that is in 1984. We are now more than 25 years further on (and over 45 years since Oppenheim wrote the article) and it is interesting to look at his predictions and see how they matched up to what actually happened. Here is an extract from the article:

It will be in the fields of applied science and technology that the greatest progress will be made in Asia. By 1984 industrialisation will have taken place in many countries, including China, India, and Malaysia. These countries will require much shorter time to become industrialised than that which was taken by Europe and North America in the past, they being able to take advantage of the experience gained by their predecessors. Reactors will be used in many power stations and electronic computers in many organisations. Electronic diagnostic equipment will probably be developed and used in hospitals in some countries, such as Japan. Higher-yield and better quality natural rubber will continue to compete with synthetic. Some Asian countries such as Japan and China will produce their own motor vehicles in large quantities while other like India and Malaysia will assemble sufficient motor vehicles to meet the demands of their home markets. Japan will become one of the pioneers in the production of turbine motor engines. By the year 1984 Asia will not only be very close behind Europe and America in the applied sciences and technology but it will also become their greatest competitor in the world supply of manufactured goods and scientific equipment.

In each Asian country the universities will be the pinnacles of the educational system of the country as a whole. They will be fed from the schools and they will not only contribute to the total school system but also make their presence felt throughout the societies in which they exist. A principal task of education must be to break down the prejudices and established ideas which have little or no relevance to life on the eve of the 21st century. There is much in Asian culture which is of universal and eternal value, but at the same time there are certain elements in it which militate against advances towards rationality. For example, there are still many peoples in Asia who do not eat eggs as part of their daily diet, only because of the symbolic value of the egg in their culture. Many Chinese in Malaya still refrain from eating bean sprouts which are cheap, plentiful and very nutritious, and this only because its low price is such as to associate it with poverty. By 1984 as a result of the spread and influence of education, most of these little barriers will have been eroded and it is even possible that the Asian countries will find themselves in a state of preparedness to take up the challenges which stand at the threshold of the next century.

Last Updated March 2011