Robert J. Sawyer's description of 2009 was fairly accurate, although there are a number of things that he got wrong. Thus far, several predictions about 2030 have been disproven as well.
Interestingly, most of the negative events he describes in 2009 are of fictional places and people. For instance, he mentions a fictional insurance company going bankrupt and a fictional philosopher gives a talk that the main character dislikes.
Incorrect Predictions About 2009
CERN’s Large Hadron Collider was new: it had been authorized in A.D. 2004 and completed in 2006. (Chapter 1)
Due to construction setbacks, the Large Hadron Collider was actually completed in September 2008, but initial testing was delayed to November 2009 (after the start of the novel).
The flatscreen computer monitor in front of her showed the familiar Windows 2009 three-dimensional desktop. (Chapter 1)
There was a version of Windows called "Windows Embedded POSReady 2009", but since that is for cash registers and such, it would not be used at an office. And unless the Aero interface counts as 3D, Windows Vista and Windows 7 did not have a three-dimensional desktop.
Cineplex/ Odeon, a large movie-theater chain, has announced free tickets for all patrons who were attending movies during the Flashforward. (Chapter 8)
The Cineplex Odeon Corporation merged with Loews Theatres in 1998. Eventually, the Canadian operations became the company Cineplex Entertainment LP, and the Loews Cineplex chain in the US was acquired by AMC.
The Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal has issued a press release, pointing out that although we don’t yet have an explanation for the Flash-forward, there is no reason to invoke supernatural causes. (Chapter 8)
In 2006, The Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal shortened its name to "The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry".
Amtrak in the U.S., Via Rail in Canada, and British Rail have reported huge increases in passenger volume. No trains operated by those companies crashed during the Flashforward. (Chapter 10)
While Amtrak and Via Rail continue to be operational well past 2009, British Rail stopped passenger services in August 1997 and ceased operations under that name in 2001.
This [Chapters bookstore] still devoted about half its space to actual pre-printed books that were for sale: guaranteed bestsellers by Stephen King, John Grisham, and Coyote Rolf. But the rest of the facility was taken up by individual display copies of titles that could be printed on demand. It took only fifteen minutes to produce a single copy of any book, either in mass-market paperback or as an octavo hardcover. (Chapter 18)
Neither Chapters bookstores, nor any other bookstores I am aware of, have facilities for printing books in as little as 15 minutes, nor do they devote half their space to promoting that. Instead, I think this niche of books on demand was pretty much taken by eReaders (the Amazon Kindle, one of the first to gain widespread popularity, was first sold in November 2007).
- The event where the Large Hadron Collider was used occurred on April 21, 2009, but as stated above, the LHC was not operational at that time.
- The hypothetical Higgs boson particle was proven to exist in the novel during 2009, but in real life it was proven to exist in 2012.
- When Theo wants to learn about the (fictional) author who won the 2009 Nobel prize for Literature, he logs on to Britannica Online to learn who he is. I suspect that in the real 2009, he would have logged on to Wikipedia, which was not founded until two years after the book was released.
Disproven Predictions About Events between 2009 and 2030
A cure for AIDS was found in 2014 or 2015. (Chapter 15)
No cure for AIDS has been found, although there are better treatments available.
George Lucas still hadn’t finished his nine-part Star Wars epic. (Chapter 15)
The final three episodes of the nine-part Star Wars are likely to be released, with Episode VII released in December 2015. Technically, George Lucas isn’t finishing it though, as Disney is.
In 2017, at the age of ninety-one, Elizabeth II, Queen of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Canada, the Bahamas, and countless other places, died. Charles, her son, at that time sixty-nine, was mad as a loon, and, with some prodding from his advisors, chose not to ascend to the throne. William, Charles’s eldest son, next in line, shocked the world by renouncing the throne, leading Parliament to declare the Monarchy dissolved. (Chapter 15)
The year 2017 has come and gone, and Queen Elizabeth II is alive and well. Furthermore, Charles' mental health is not in question at this time. There is a line of succession following William, including his firstborn son George, so William choosing not to ascend would not necessarily mean the monarchy is dissolved.
It had been known since the 1960s that Earth’s sun was, for some reason, disgorging only half as many neutrinos as it should— the famous “solar-neutrino problem.” […]
[T]he solar-neutrino problem seemed to be evidence that the universe was indeed taking pains to foster the existence of such observers. (Chapter 28)
The solar-neutrino problem involved scientists only observing half as many massless neutrinos as expected from the Sun, and this turns out to be a key event in the explanation for why the FlashForward happened.
In fact, the solar-neutrino problem was disproven in 2001. Neutrinos had been proven in 1998 to have mass, and by 2001 neutrinos that had changed type had been detected. Thus there were no “missing” neutrinos, they had simply changed to a form not previously detected.
Surprisingly Correct Prediction
One major prediction for 2009 that proved true was as follows:
Pope Benedict XVI has announced a grueling schedule of international visits.
Joseph Ratzinger took the name Pope Benedict XVI in 2005, six years after the novel was written, and remained the current Pope in 2009.
To my knowledge, the Pope Emeritus has never stated that he has read the novel. His official statement on why he chose the name says the following:
I wanted to be called Benedict XVI in order to create a spiritual bond with Benedict XV, who steered the Church through the period of turmoil caused by the First World War.
For what it's worth, it was a reasonable guess that a new pope would take the name Benedict. Out of all the papal names, it is the third most common. John is the most common, but it has only been used once in the last 500 years (and is considered by some to be bad luck). If Sawyer figured a common name would be chosen, it was a fair guess that it would be either Gregory or Benedict. (For reference, the current pope, Pope Francis, is the only pope to take that name).