It is very hard to get away from the media message of the moment that the world’s economy truly is going to Hell in a Handbasket. It screams from the TV, the Internet, newspapers (if you still read those!), magazines, and anywhere else you look- like those TV monitors in high-rise office building elevators and ads whizzing by on the sides of buses . . .
It is easy, so easy to get carried away by ‘experts’ ability to predict things that will happen in the future. So easy, in fact, that it is a pleasant, if not, often hilarious, diversion to occasionally look back on some predictions, taken quite seriously in their time, that history has proven to be absolutely, flat, dead-in-the-water, wrong. It may also help distract you from those unopened envelopes showing that your 401k has now shrunk down to a 101k!
"The more important fundamental laws and facts of physical science have all been discovered, and these are now so firmly established that the possibility of their ever being supplanted in consequence of new discoveries is exceedingly remote…. Our future discoveries must be looked for in the sixth place of decimals."
— Albert. A. Michelson, German-born American physicist, 1894
"The abolishment of pain in surgery is a chimera. It is absurd to go on seeking it . . . knife and pain are two words in surgery that must forever be associated in the consciousness of the patient."
–Dr. Alfred Velpeau, French surgeon, 1839
"Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons."
–Popular Mechanics, 1949
“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home."
— Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977
"The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?"
— Business people, in turning down David Sarnoff’s urgings to invest in the radio during the 1920s.
"Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible."
— Lord Kelvin, President, Royal Society, 1895.
"Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil down there? You’re crazy."
–Drillers and others who turned down Edwin L. Drake when he pitched them his project to drill for oil in 1859.
"… good enough for our transatlantic friends … but unworthy of the attention of practical or scientific men."
–British Parliamentary Committee, on Edison’s light bulb, 1878
Last, but not least, is my own personal favorite:
“By 1920, London will be buried under a 20-foot deep layer of horse droppings.”
–The Panel of true Geniuses who conducted a the late 19th Century study of the future of street congestion and maintenance in London, troubled by increasing volumes of horse-drawn traffic, but who totally missed the coming invention of the internal combustion engine and the fact that, in the coming world of the 20th Century, the volume of urban, horse-drawn traffic would diminish to nothing at all.
Ironically, on this same theme, the President of Michigan Savings Bank told Horace Rackham, Henry Ford’s lawyer, in 1903 that: "The horse is here to stay, the automobile is only a fad." Showing wonderfully independent judgment, Rackham promptly ignored his banker’s advice, invested $5,000 in Ford Motor Co.’s stock and later sold it for $12.5 million!
So, in the coming weeks and months, let us all resist being drawn into the spell cast so earnestly cast by the Gloom and Doom-sayers in making their wonderfully reliable and accurate predictions of the future, because, some of those ‘expert’ predictions just may not prove to be so accurate!