Reagan-Era Futurists Thought Iran Would Get Nukes by 2020

Will Iran obtain a nuclear weapon? That's the hot-button question for the U.S. government as the United Nations General Assembly meets in New York this week. No one knows for sure, (except maybe Space Cat). But if you asked American futurists of the early 1980s, they'd probably tell you that it's bound to happen by the year 2020.

The 1982 book Omni Future Almanac took a stab at predicting which countries would have nuclear weapons by the 21st century. They started with what countries were known to have them in 1980 (just six, if you don't count Israel), then made predictions for the years 2000 and 2020.

For what it's worth, there are fewer nuclear armed countries today than they predicted. I've made annotations to the year 2000 list to explain:

1980

  • United States
  • Britain
  • France
  • Soviet Union
  • China
  • India

2000

  • Brazil (No)
  • Argentina (No)
  • Libya (No)
  • Taiwan (No)
  • Iraq (No, though there was a little war started on the pretense that they might.)
  • South Korea (No, but it's clear their neighbor to the North probably has some simple nuclear weapons.)
  • Israel (Yes. It joined the club in the late 1960s, though unofficially.)
  • South Africa (Kind of. They had them in the mid-1980s but the white minority government gave them up in 1989 shortly before apartheid ended.)
  • Pakistan (Yes. They joined the club in 1998.)

2020

  • Cuba
  • Iran
  • Venezuela
  • Angola
  • Nigeria
  • Zaire
  • Australia
  • Indonesia
  • Japan
  • Spain
  • Italy

Reagan-Era Futurists Thought Iran Would Get Nukes by 2020

Images: a mushroom cloud in 1946 via Getty Images, and a map of countries projected to get nuclear weapons scanned from the 1982 book Omni Future Almanac