Chancellors' Predictions in 1983 for 2003

The attached material was placed in the time capsule placed in the wall of a new building at SIO during the 80th anniversary. The capsule is supposed to be opened on the 100th anniversary of SIO.


Roger Revelle - age 94

Director Emeritus, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Time has passed so quickly that October 13, 1983 seems almost like yesterday. Yet higher education has been revolutionized during these 20 years. From being one of the most labor-intensive of human activities, it has become a capital-intensive industry.

The revolution in higher education didn't just happen; it came from computers. It began with IBM's development of a computer that could read handwriting - any kind of handwriting, no matter how strange - and could translate half-formed, ungrammatical sentences and misspelled words into good English. Some innovative faculty members immediately thought of using one of these machines to grade blue books. It turned out that the machine could do the job more rapidly and much more cheaply than graduate teaching assistants, many of whom were promptly terminated.

The next step came from the talking-and-listening, fully-interactive computer developed by CDC for its PLATO programs early in 1992. This apparatus could give lectures and answer verbal questions from students; moreover, it could improvise professor-type jokes during the lectures. It could also write equations and draw diagrams to illustrate what it was saying. Every now and then, it would shoot a piece of chalk at a sleeping student. One enterprising chancellor - I believe he was at U.C.Irvine - decided to appoint half a dozen of these machines to fill six faculty FTEs. They were so successful and so inexpensive compared with faculty salaries (even though the initial cost was high) that soon every campus in the U.C. system had followed Irvine's lead.

Of course there was a little trouble with the Academic Senate. The Committees on Academic Personnel refused to recommend several machines for promotion to tenure, but they were quickly overridden in the name of economy by the vice chancellors - except in U.C. Santa Cruz. During the past 10 years, the new machines have replaced all assistant professors. As tenured professors and associate professors retire, they too are being replaced by machines. The financial savings are enormous.

In the last few years, an alarming new tendency has become evident. The students are also being replaced by machine. At first there was some question about whether machines could meet the admission requirements of the University of California, since none of them were high school graduates. But a few were admitted on an experimental basis, and all but one achieved a 4.0 grade-point average. The one that didn't, turned out to be a defective Apple. "We mustn't let one bad Apple spoil the whole barrel," said the vice chancellor for Marine Affairs, as he threw the defective computer from the roof of Ritter Hall.

Roger Revelle

September, 1983


1. San Diego County will be the second largest county in the State and UCSD will be the crown jewel in the University of California system. San Diego as a city will be one of the leading intellectual and cultural centers of the world.

2. The portion of Gross National Product devoted to research and development in the United States will double by 2003 and be at six to seven percent.

3. High speed transmission and analysis of data will allow scientists to be widely separated yet collaborative. The collection of the right data and its interpretation will be as difficult in 2003 as it was in 1983.

4. The portion of female faculty in the University of California system will be approximately 40 percent.

5. Machine translation of foreign language text will be commercially viable, cited here as one of the advances due to work in the cognitive sciences.

6. Computer-assisted learning will be a standard form of instruction at all educational levels, including many of the introductory courses at UCSD.

7. Controlled fusion will be achieved.

8. The United States will have orbiting manned space stations performing a variety of scientific and practical missions.

9. The long awaited massive earthquake along the San Andreas Fault will have been accurately predicted by SIO scientists.

10. There will be in 2003 much closer ties between private industry and the research universities regarding the funding of basic research.

11. The understanding of the neurochemical basis of mental processes will be well advanced, with specific substances for improving memory and treating psychiatric problems already in use.

12. The "bullet train" from San Diego to Los Angeles will not be built, but massive dirigibles will carry large passenger loads between San Diego and other cities at relatively low prices.


1. Although federal support for research will be four times its 1983 level, the Director of SIO and individual Principal Investigators will regularly complain to the Chancellor regarding the lack of funding and inequities in overhead recovery.

2. The total enrollment at UCSD will be 22,000 students, 300 of whom are graduate students at SIO. The faculty and staff at SIO will continue to refer to the rest of UCSD as "the upper campus".

3. For each problem solved using successive generations of super-computers, four more will be uncovered. In each case one of the four problems will be: how to pay for the next machine.

Richard C. Atkinson


September 30, 1983

July 26, 1983

Dr. William A. Nierenberg


Scripps Institution of Oceanography University of California

La Jolla, CA 92093

Dear Bill:

You have invited me to prophecy "what university teaching and research will be like in the year 2003." Historians are in the business of explaining after the fact how various events occurred. They are notoriously poor in predictions of what will happen tomorrow, much less in twenty years.

Beyond that, there is the problem that the University, if it ever was, is not a community of scholars in any meaningful sense. The nature of research in the humanities and the 'social sciences' is quite different from that in the physical and biological sciences, and the distance is likely to increase. Even within the disciplines there is increasing fragmentation. In my own discipline there is much less communication among specialists than there was 20 years ago.

What I am saying, I realize, is a prediction. I believe that we will continue to talk about the need for interdisciplinary programs such as 'core curriculum,' the introduction of students to the great ideas and systems of thought which are our common heritage. I also believe that we will do an increasingly bad job of translating this objective into reality.

Despite this bleak pessimism I believe the world will continue to benefit from the creative thought of various individuals who despite the benighted system which is institutionalized education, will provide us with great literature and with fresh ideas to titillate even such a jaundiced observer as the writer of this dreary prognostication. You will note that I am expecting to be around in 2003 to see the vindication of my powers of prophecy.


John S. Galbraith

September 20, 1983

I write this on September 20, 1983, less than three weeks after the Soviet air attack on Korean Airlines Flight 007 near Sakhalin Island.

The incident has aroused poisonous tensions between the superpowers. Our relations with the Soviet Union are as bad as at any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1963. The current ugly mood reinforces my apprehensions about the era we live in. There are no effective vehicles of world government, no commitments between East and West on international peacekeeping, very little agreement between the superpowers on arms control. The pulse beat of our times is the constantly escalating arms race with the danger it brings of plunging the world into nuclear disaster by error or inadvertance.

Accordingly, my most fervent prayer for those who open this time capsule in 2003 is that the world will still be there in essentially the form bequeathed to us through the centuries by our forebears who created western civilization.

Since the Middle Ages, universities have been the key institutions involved with the definition and perpetuation of these ideas of civilization. If we survive, it will be (I now predict) because of powerful intellectual and psychological initiatives originating in universities in the study of conflict resolution and dispute settlement. Toward the end of this century research will have to be devoted increasingly to studies of human conflict and methods of conflict resolution. My thought is that this work is now growing in American universities, principally in social science faculties and law schools. Early signs of the trend are visible in widespread concerns expressed about the explosion of litigation in the U.S., and the proliferating search for alternatives to open conflict among nations which are being sponsored by the courts, research centers and by several major universities. Rapid development of this work is crucial to our future well-being.

Science, engineering, and medicine have dominated American universities for most of the period since World War II. I see no sign of retreat from or dilution of this effort during the last quarter of the 20th century. The technological wonders that science and engineering have brought us have generated standards of health and a style of life in the U.S. unmatched in the history of the world. What is missing in today's university are equally high standards applied to the manifold cultures, languages, and irrationalities of man. The anti-intellectualism of the Counter Culture during the 1960s was a reaction to the stern discipline and value-free character of western scientific thought. It was also a warning of a recrudescence of mysticism in American life. We need to consider the often anti-intellectual and mystical sloganeering of today's peace movements in relation to that history.

Peacekeeping will not be advanced by slogans. It is a subtle discipline acknowledging human weakness but building institutions for restraining violence. It is an intellectual not an emotional process. If I am still alive in 2003 (it is possible; I would be 81), I want to believe that universities will have made a serious beginning in the study of human conflict and conflict resolution during the intervening years.

William J. McGill

President-Emeritus Columbia University

Chancellor, The University of California, San Diego, 1968 - 1970


W.D. McElroy

By the year 2003, Scripps scientists will have demonstrated that much of the methane and hydrogen coming from the geothermal vents is due to microbial activity.

Major ocean platforms will be in place to handle air and ship transportation to San Diego. Aquatic farms will be in place to supply food for people living in underwater homes associated with the platforms.

Major space stations will be in place with permanent occupants handling communication and support for human travel in space.

Genetic engineering techniques will be advanced to a point so that most inherited metabolic disease in man can be corrected.

The feasibility of nuclear fusion will be established and a pilot plant will be under construction to demonstrate this unlimited source of energy.

World-wide communication will be in place with appropriate computer programs to translate languages. News will be distributed to homes on computer screens at the will of the viewer.

Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will be approaching 500 parts per million leading to a world-wide agreement to limit further atmospheric pollution. Nuclear, electric or hydrogen cars will become common.

The world oil supply will start to diminish leading the petrochemical industry to use biomass and fermentation technology to produce various pharmaceutical and chemical products essential to man.

Genetic understanding of the immune system will be at a point so that most cases of cancer can be prevented or cured.

An international agriculture revolution will be underway which will be needed to feed the population of the world which will almost double by 2003.

The Chargers will have played in five Super Bowls and the Padres will win their fourth World Series.

The second Republican convention and the first Democratic convention will have met in an expanded convention center on the waterfrort.

UCSD will have a student population of 30,000. The research budget of Scripps, the School of Medicine, and the Arts and Science campus will be near a billion dollars. There will be numerous new high technology companies built near the University. San Diego County will have a population of over three million people.

W. D. McElroy

September 29, 1983