Monday, November 12, 2007
Bad Predictions about the Future
«... good enough for our transatlantic friends ... but unworthy of the attention of practical or scientific men.»
British Parliamentary Committee, referring to Edison's light bulb, 1878.
«Such startling announcements as these should be deprecated as being unworthy of science and mischievous to its true progress.»
Sir William Siemens, on Edison's light bulb, 1880.
«Everyone acquainted with the subject will recognize it as a conspicuous failure.»
Henry Morton, president of the Stevens Institute of Technology, on Edison's light bulb, 1880.
«The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty, a fad.»
The president of the Michigan Savings Bank advising Henry Ford's lawyer not to invest in the Ford Motor Co., 1903.
«That the automobile has practically reached the limit of its
development is suggested by the fact that during the past year no
improvements of a radical nature have been introduced.»
Scientific American, Jan. 2 edition, 1909.
«The ordinary "horseless carriage" is at present a luxury for the
wealthy; and although its price will probably fall in the future, it
will never, of course, come into as common use as the bicycle.»
Literary Digest, 1899.
«Flight by machines heavier than air is unpractical (sic) and insignificant, if not utterly impossible.» - Simon Newcomb; The Wright Brothers flew at Kittyhawk 18 months later. Newcomb was not impressed.
«Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.»
Lord Kelvin, British mathematician and physicist, president of the British Royal Society, 1895.
«It is apparent to me that the possibilities of the aeroplane, which
two or three years ago were thought to hold the solution to the [flying
machine] problem, have been exhausted, and that we must turn
Thomas Edison, American inventor, 1895.
«Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value.»
Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre, 1904.
«There will never be a bigger plane built.»
A Boeing engineer, after the first flight of the 247, a twin engine plane that holds ten people.
«Where a calculator on the ENIAC is equipped with 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighs 30 tons, computers in the future may have only 1,000 vacuum tubes and weigh only 1.5 tons.»
Popular Mechanics, March 1949.
«There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.»
Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp. (DEC), maker of big business mainframe computers, arguing against the PC in 1977.
«I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won't last out the year.»
The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957.
«But what... is it good for?»
IBM executive Robert Lloyd, speaking in 1968 microprocessor, the heart of today's computers.
«We will bury you.»
Nikita Krushchev, Soviet Premier, predicting Soviet communism will win over U.S. capitalism, 1958.
«Everything that can be invented has been invented.»
Charles H. Duell, an official at the US patent office, 1899.
«I see no good reasons why the views given in this volume should shock the religious sensibilities of anyone.»
Charles Darwin, in the foreword to his book, The Origin of Species, 1869.
«Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.»
Irving Fisher, economics professor at Yale University, 1929.
«If anything remains more or less unchanged, it will be the role of women.»
David Riesman, conservative American social scientist, 1967.
«It will be gone by June.»
Variety, passing judgement on rock 'n roll in 1955.
«Democracy will be dead by 1950.»
John Langdon-Davies, A Short History of The Future, 1936.
«A short-lived satirical pulp.»
TIME, writing off Mad magazine in 1956.
«And for the tourist who really wants to get away from it all, safaris in Vietnam»
Newsweek, predicting popular holidays for the late 1960s.
«Four or five frigates will do the business without any military force.» -– British prime minister Lord North, on dealing with the rebellious American colonies, 1774.
«In all likelihood world inflation is over.»
International Monetary Fund Ceo, 1959.
«This antitrust thing will blow over.»
Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft.
«Remote shopping, while entirely feasible, will flop - because women
like to get out of the house, like to handle merchandise, like to be
able to change their minds.»
TIME, 1966, in one sentence writing off e-commerce long before anyone had ever heard of it.
«They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist-»
Last words of Gen. John Sedgwick, spoken as he looked out over the parapet at enemy lines during the Battle of Spotsylvania in 1864.
«Our country has deliberately undertaken a great social and economic experiment, noble in motive and far reaching in purpose." -– Herbert Hoover, on Prohibition, 1928.
«It will be years - not in my time - before a woman will become Prime Minister.»
Margaret Thatcher, future Prime Minister, October 26th, 1969.
«Read my lips: NO NEW TAXES.»
George Bush, 1988.
«You will be home before the leaves have fallen from the trees.»
-– Kaiser Wilhelm, to the German troops, August 1914.
«This is the second time in our history that there has come back
from Germany to Downing Street peace with honor. I believe it is peace
for our time.»
-– Neville Chamberlain, British Prime Minister, September 30th, 1938.
«That virus is a pussycat.»
-– Dr. Peter Duesberg, molecular-biology professor at U.C. Berkeley, on HIV, 1988.
«The case is a loser.»
-– Johnnie Cochran, on soon-to-be client O.J.'s chances of winning, 1994.
«Reagan doesn't have that presidential look.»
-– United Artists Executive, rejecting Reagan as lead in 1964 film The Best Man.
«Capitalist production begets, with the inexorability of a law of nature, its own negation.»
«Sensible and responsible women do not want to vote.»
Grover Cleveland, U.S. President, 1905.
«Man will not fly for 50 years.»
Wilbur Wright, American aviation pioneer, to brother Orville, after a disappointing flying experiment, 1901 (their first successful flight was in 1903).
«I am tired of all this sort of thing called science here... We have
spent millions in that sort of thing for the last few years, and it is
time it should be stopped.»
Simon Cameron, U.S. Senator, on the Smithsonian Institute, 1901.
«The Americans are good about making fancy cars and refrigerators,
but that doesn't mean they are any good at making aircraft. They are
bluffing. They are excellent at bluffing.»
Hermann Goering, Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe, 1942.
«With over fifteen types of foreign cars already on sale here, the
Japanese auto industry isn't likely to carve out a big share of the
market for itself.»
Business Week, August 2, 1968.
«The multitude of books is a great evil. There is no limit to this
fever for writing; every one must be an author; some out of vanity, to
acquire celebrity and raise up a name, others for the sake of mere
Martin Luther, German Reformation leader, Table Talk, 1530s(?).
«Ours has been the first [expedition], and doubtless to be the last, to visit this profitless locality.»
Lt. Joseph Ives, after visiting the Grand Canyon in 1861.
«There is no doubt that the regime of Saddam Hussein possesses
weapons of mass destruction. As this operation continues, those weapons
will be identified, found, along with the people who have produced them
and who guard them.»
General Tommy Franks, March 22nd, 2003.
«Radio has no future.»
Lord Kelvin, Scottish mathematician and physicist, former president of the Royal Society, 1897.
«The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to no one in particular?»
Associates of David Sarnoff responding to the latter's call for investment in the radio in 1921.
«Lee DeForest has said in many newspapers and over his signature that it would be possible to transmit the human voice across the Atlantic before many years. Based on these absurd and deliberately misleading statements, the misguided public ... has been persuaded to purchase stock in his company ...»
a U.S. District Attorney, prosecuting American inventor Lee DeForest for selling stock fraudulently through the mail for his Radio Telephone Company in 1913.
«There is practically no chance communications space satellites will be used to provide better telephone, telegraph, television, or radio service inside the United States.»
T. Craven, FCC Commissioner, in 1961 (the first commercial communications satellite went into service in 1965).
«Space travel is utter bilge.»
Richard Van Der Riet Woolley, upon assuming the post of Astronomer Royal in 1956.
«Space travel is bunk.»
Sir Harold Spencer Jones, Astronomer Royal of the UK, 1957 (two weeks later Sputnik orbited the Earth).
«To place a man in a multi-stage rocket and project him into the controlling gravitational field of the moon where the passengers can make scientific observations, perhaps land alive, and then return to earth - all that constitutes a wild dream worthy of Jules Verne. I am bold enough to say that such a man-made voyage will never occur regardless of all future advances.»
Lee DeForest, American radio pioneer and inventor of the vacuum tube, in 1926
«We stand on the threshold of rocket mail.»
-– U.S. postmaster general Arthur Summerfield, in 1959.
«... too far-fetched to be considered.»
Editor of Scientific American, in a letter to Robert Goddard about Goddard's idea of a rocket-accelerated airplane bomb, 1940 (German V2 missiles came down on London 3 years later).
«A rocket will never be able to leave the Earth's atmosphere.»
New York Times, 1936.
Atomic and Nuclear Power
«The basic questions of design, material and shielding, in combining a nuclear reactor with a home boiler and cooling unit, no longer are problems... The system would heat and cool a home, provide unlimited household hot water, and melt the snow from sidewalks and driveways. All that could be done for six years on a single charge of fissionable material costing about $300.»
–- Robert Ferry, executive of the U.S. Institute of Boiler and Radiator Manufacturers, 1955.
«Nuclear-powered vacuum cleaners will probably be a reality in 10 years.»
-– Alex Lewyt, president of vacuum cleaner company Lewyt Corp., in the New York Times in 1955.
«That is the biggest fool thing we have ever done [research on]... The bomb will never go off, and I speak as an expert in explosives.»
Admiral William D. Leahy, U.S. Admiral working in the U.S. Atomic Bomb Project, advising President Truman on atomic weaponry, 1944.
«Atomic energy might be as good as our present-day explosives, but it is unlikely to produce anything very much more dangerous.»
Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister, 1939.
«The energy produced by the breaking down of the atom is a very poor kind of thing. Anyone who expects a source of power from the transformation of these atoms is talking moonshine.»
Ernest Rutherford, shortly after splitting the atom for the first time.
«There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will.»
Albert Einstein, 1932.
«There is no likelihood man can ever tap the power of the atom.»
Robert Millikan, American physicist and Nobel Prize winner, 1923.
«Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?»
H. M. Warner, co-founder of Warner Brothers, 1927.
«The cinema is little more than a fad. It's canned drama. What audiences really want to see is flesh and blood on the stage."
-– Charlie Chaplin, actor, producer, director, and studio founder, 1916.
«This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.»
A memo at Western Union, 1878 (or 1876).
«The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys.»
Sir William Preece, Chief Engineer, British Post Office, 1878.
«It's a great invention but who would want to use it anyway?»
Rutherford B. Hayes, U.S. President, after a demonstration of Alexander Bell's telephone, 1876.
«A man has been arrested in New York for attempting to extort funds from ignorant and superstitious people by exhibiting a device which he says will convey the human voice any distance over metallic wires so that it will be heard by the listener at the other end. He calls this instrument a telephone. Well-informed people know that it is impossible to transmit the human voice over wires.»
News item in a New York newspaper, 1868.
«Television won't last. It's a flash in the pan.»
Mary Somerville, pioneer of radio educational broadcasts, 1948.
«Television won't last because people will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.»
Darryl Zanuck, movie producer, 20th Century Fox, 1946.
«While theoretically and technically television may be feasible, commercially and financially it is an impossibility, a development of which we need waste little time dreaming.»
Lee DeForest, American radio pioneer and inventor of the vacuum tube, 1926.
«Dear Mr. President: The canal system of this country is being threatened by a new form of transportation known as 'railroads' ... As you may well know, Mr. President, 'railroad' carriages are pulled at the enormous speed of 15 miles per hour by 'engines' which, in addition to endangering life and limb of passengers, roar and snort their way through the countryside, setting fire to crops, scaring the livestock and frightening women and children. The Almighty certainly never intended that people should travel at such breakneck speed.»
Martin Van Buren, Governor of New York, 1830(?).
«What can be more palpably absurd than the prospect held out of locomotives traveling twice as fast as stagecoaches?»
The Quarterly Review, March edition, 1825.
«Rail travel at high speed is not possible, because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia.»
Dr Dionysys Larder (1793-1859), professor of Natural Philosophy and Astronomy, University College London.
«Transmission of documents via telephone wires is possible in principle, but the apparatus required is so expensive that it will never become a practical proposition.»
Dennis Gabor, British physicist and author of Inventing the Future, 1962.
«[By 1985], machines will be capable of doing any work Man can do.»
Herbert A. Simon, of Carnegie Mellon University - considered to be a founder of the field of artificial intelligence - speaking in 1965.
«The world potential market for copying machines is 5000 at most.»
IBM, to the eventual founders of Xerox, saying the photocopier had no market large enough to justify production, 1959.
«I must confess that my imagination refuses to see any sort of submarine doing anything but suffocating its crew and floundering at sea.»
HG Wells, British novelist, in 1901.
«X-rays will prove to be a hoax.»
Lord Kelvin, President of the Royal Society, 1883.
«Very interesting Whittle, my boy, but it will never work.»
Cambridge Aeronautics Professor, when shown Frank Whittle's plan for the jet engine.
«The idea that cavalry will be replaced by these iron coaches is absurd. It is little short of treasonous.»
Comment of Aide-de-camp to Field Marshal Haig, at tank demonstration, 1916.
«Caterpillar landships are idiotic and useless. Those officers and men are wasting their time and are not pulling their proper weight in the war.»
Fourth Lord of the British Admiralty, 1915.
«What, sir, would you make a ship sail against the wind and currents by lighting a bonfire under her deck? I pray you, excuse me, I have not the time to listen to such nonsense.»
Napoleon Bonaparte, when told of Robert Fulton's steamboat, 1800s.
«The phonograph has no commercial value at all.»
Thomas Edison, American inventor, 1880s.
«If I had thought about it, I wouldn't have done the experiment. The literature was full of examples that said 'you can't do this'.»
Spencer Silver on the work that led to the unique adhesives for 3-M "Post-It" Notepads.
«Fooling around with alternating current is just a waste of time. Nobody will use it, ever.»
Thomas Edison, American inventor, 1889 (Edison often ridiculed the arguments of competitor George Westinghouse for AC power).
Top 87 Bad Predictions about the Future
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