I read an interesting comment on a blog recently, although I can’t remember where, that made the point that as the pace of technology accelerates, we’re going through massive shifts more and more quickly, such that it becomes exceedingly difficult to predict the future beyond a certain point, and that point is coming closer and closer as time progresses.
A writer in 1850 could easily imagine out 100 years. They might not be right about what society would be like, but they could imagine. Writers in the early 1900s were imagining out about 75 years, and midcentury writers 50 years, and so on.
I’m writing now, and I enjoy the act of grounding my society in hard predictions, and it’s hard to go out beyond about 25 years because pending changing in the technology landscape are so radical (artificial intelligence, nanotechnology) that it’s really hard to conceive of what life will be like in 50 or 100 years from now, and still have it be an extrapolation of current trends, rather than just wild-ass guesses, e.g. a fantasy of the future.
If it really is harder to extrapolate trends out any sort of meaningful distance, I wonder if that exerts a subtle effect on what people choose to write.