In 1999, Bill Gates Made Some Scarily Accurate Predictions About the Future of Technology

Francis Apesteguy/Getty Images

Bill Gates is known to be a lot of things: software genius, philanthropist and entrepreneur, to name just a few.

But how You know, a person who can look into the future and see all the possible outcomes a la Doctor Strange in Avengers: Infinity War

Twenty years ago, Gates wrote Business @ the Speed of Thought, a book discussing how business and technology were starting to become increasingly integrated, a concept that was relatively new at the time. Recently, Forbes took another look at the book and the theories Gates had to see if the predictions were correct.

It may surprise you how accurate some of his theories turned out to be. From virtual assistants like Alexa to social media, Gates had a startling sense of the future. 

Here are some of our personal favorite Gates prophecies.

The Rise of Social Media

Gates: “Private websites for your friends and family will be common, allowing you to chat and plan for events.”

Sure, “private websites” might be a bit of a stretch, especially considering the issues surrounding companies like Facebook when it comes to privacy invasion. However, websiteslike Facebook and Instagram have enabled private group chats. So when you’re not posting pictures of that trip you took to Europe, you can also talk about all the great stuff you saw without skipping a beat. It may not sound like the most impressive thing in the world, but thanks to the advent of these social media sites, information can now be disseminated at lightning-fast speed, something thought impossible back in 1999. 

Cookies, Cookies, Cookies (the Internet Kind)

Gates: “Software that knows when you’ve booked a trip and uses that information to suggest activities at the local destination. It suggests activities, discounts, offers and cheaper prices for all the things that you want to take part in.”

Companies developing algorithms and software that can track what you’re viewing, shopping for and so on probably seemed pretty farfetched back in 1999, but now it’s a fact of life. Amazon and Google are just two of the places you can expect cookies—data received by websites of what someone is doing on that site, which is then stored by the company—to be used in a large capacity. 

If you’re like Ron Swanson and see this as an invasion of privacy, you wouldn’t necessarily be wrong. However, having your personal preferences tracked does have its advantages. After all, if the offer for a cheaper flight comes to you as a result of cookies, are they really all thatbad?

Talking Sports Online

Gates: “While watching a sports competition on television, services will allow you to discuss what is going on live, and enter a contest where you vote on who you think will win.”

If there’s one thing the internet and social media were built for, it is watching sports. Reacting online, especially on Twitter, has become one of the best parts of watching a game live. Not only have sites like Facebook and Twitter become places to discuss games but they are even beginning to stream games live. So for all the cord cutters out there, you can still catch the game. (Well, as long as you have an account.)

Managing All of Your Projects Online

Gates: “Project managers looking to put a team together will be able to go online, describe the project and receive recommendations for available people who would fit their requirements.”

It’s hard to imagine a time when programs like Google Calendar, email, Microsoft PowerPoint and Excel were either in their infancy or didn’t exist. Using software like this has become second nature to all of us and has certainly made our lives in the office a hell of a lot easier.

Gates has always been a forward-thinking guy, a true looking-two-steps-ahead type of person when it comes to business. It was obvious to him, even back then, that technology would change how businesses were run and how it could help them flourish. 

Smartphones Will Be Everywhere

Gates: “People will carry around small devices that allow them to constantly stay in touch and do electronic business from wherever they are. They will be able to check the news, see flights they have booked, get information from financial markets and do just about anything else on these devices.”

Cell phones existed before 1999 (hello, Zack Morris), but nobody could have predicted what they’d eventually be able to do. Well, except for Bill Gates. 

Smartphones can do almost anything you need them to at this point: Giving directions, ordering food, checking financials and catching up on the latest headlines are just a few things. Gates was able to foresee that technology of all kinds would begin to naturally converge, making all of our lives so, so, so much easier. 

Read more: Using the Placebo Effect to Manifest Career Success

Did you like this article?
Thumbs Up
Thumbs Down