The Skeptics' Guide to the Future

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The Skeptics' Guide to the Future: What Yesterday's Science and Science Fiction Tell Us About the World of Tomorrow

Skeptics' Guide to the Future, The - Hardcover - USA - 1st edition.jpg

Hardcover - USA - 1st edition.

Author Steven Novella, Bob Novella, Jay Novella
Published 2022-09-27
Type Non-fiction
Genre Educational
Themes Futurism, Skepticism
Age Group Adult

The Skeptics' Guide to the Future: What Yesterday's Science and Science Fiction Tell Us About the World of Tomorrow is a non-fiction book about futurism written by Steven Novella with Bob Novella and Jay Novella and published on 2022-09-27 as part of The Skeptics' Guide series.

The book explains why futurists throughout history are almost always completely wrong in their predictions, and how one can employ skepticism to make predictions that are slightly less wrong, but still never very accurate.


Own?Hardcover, USA, 1st edition.
Read?Hardcover, USA, 1st edition.

I got this as a gift from my friend Mike for my 43rd birthday.





  • The book is an easy read. It doesn't get too deep in the weeds on any subject, but still gives you enough background information to make sense of what it's talking about.
  • The book doesn't just point out that past futurists got everything wrong, but it studies their methods, examines their failures, and tries to learns from their mistakes so we can stop making such bad predictions about the future.
  • I like how the book covers all the futuristic mainstays: space travel, robots, cyborgs, brain-machine interfaces, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, etc.
  • The book makes it very clear that far off predictions have pretty much no chances of being correct. History has shown us time and time again that a person, no matter how wise they are now, can't possibly predict the next big thing, and such "next big things" occur frequently and change culture in unpredictable ways.
  • One great example about the difficulty of predicting new technology is the speed of commercial aircraft. Despite 50 years of technological advances, it still takes about 5-6 hours to fly from New York to California, about the same it took when it first began. The average person would probably predict a steady decrease of time, but those few who are familiar air travel know why: the sound barrier creates a very big hurtle. While we can fly past Mach 1, the increase in cost to make aircraft capable of doing so increases the engineering cost by so much, it prices it out of general use, and most people aren't willing to pay several thousand dollars more per airline ticket just to save a few hours of travel time. Another great example is pointing out how pockets, which are both incredibly useful and low-tech, still weren't invented until the 1600s!


  • Several chapters pay lip service to people like Elon Musk, billionaire nitwits who certainly don't deserve any more attention.
  • The book repeats the misconception that balloon travel was used in Around the World in Eighty Days. While a balloon appears on many reprinted covers, and in most adaptations of the book, the original has no balloon travel.


  • Nothing.