Some very smart people have made very accurate predictions of the future, these are not them. Today we look back at some of the most short-sighted predictions to ever come from a reliable source. So sit back and giggle at how wrong some people can be.
On April 30th of 2007 Steve Ballmer, former CEO of Microsoft said “There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share.” in USA Today. Obviously he was very wrong, the iPhone has proven to be a market leader.
In 1909 the forward thinking people at the Scientific American declared “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.” This has proven to be very wrong, with all of the advancements in automobiles it’s hard to even compare a modern car to one that was around in 1909.
The inventor of the vacuum tube, Lee De Forest, had to get his hat in the ring of poor predictions. In 1957 he said “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.” So four years after his statement NASA launched Alan Shepard into space, proving Mr. De Forest wrong.
Speaking of poor space predictions, in 1920 an editorial in the New York Times said “A rocket will never be able to leave the Earth’s atmosphere.” They were oh so wrong, but at least they corrected their error, they just corrected it as Apollo 11 was on its way to the moon.
In the October 1912 issue of Technical World Magazine the radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi said about the future, “The coming of the wireless era will make war impossible, because it will make war ridiculous.” To be fair, it has made it very ridiculous, but that isn’t stopping anyone from starting wars. The wireless technology is showing just how futile war is and yet there will always be people out there that want what someone else has, be it oil or property.
In 1968 the magazine Businessweek showed just how little they know about business when they printed “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.” Oh boy were they wrong, the automotive industry may not be the most welcoming place for new companies but when the Japanese car companies made themselves known they did so with a quality product and some serious marketing.
In his 1936 book A Short History of the Future author John Langdon-Davies announced “Democracy will be dead by 1950.” Now, to be fair there aren’t many true democracies out there but it’s present enough for this statement to be horribly off.
Ken Olson, co-founder of the company Digital Equipment Corporation, was at a speaking at the 1977 Wold Future Society in Boston when he said “There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.” When he was confronted with his statement later he elaborated saying that they took him out of context and he was really talking about a household computer that would control your house. Even that statement is outdated as the future seems to lean towards houses being controlled by computers.