Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Notable Predictions Gone Wrong

Did you ever notice that many people like to make bold predictions? It’s just in our nature. But we should remember The Future rarely consults with us, and is not particularly influenced by our firm and confident declarations.

Here are some predictions, made by knowledgeable and respected people, that went spectacularly wrong:

In high school, Elvis Presley’s music teacher said he had no aptitude for singing. (Elvis? Elvis who? Did he ever end up doing anything notable?)
In 1955, Variety magazine wrote, “Rock n’ roll? It will be gone by June.” (Well, to be fair, they didn’t say June of which year.)

In 1962, after listening to an audition by the Beatles, the head of Decca Records, Dick Rowe, explained why he had no interest in signing the group: “The Beatles have no future in show business.” (Yeah, that sounds about right, other than the 600 million albums they’ve sold.)

In August, 1914, right after World War I began, Kaiser Wilhelm told the German troops, “You will be home before the leaves have fallen from the trees.” (Maybe he meant they’d be home in coffins.)

In 1861, Lt. Joseph Ives, after leading his soldiers to the Grand Canyon, said, “Ours has been the first expedition, and doubtless the last, to visit this profitless locality.” (I went there a few years ago, and somebody made a profit off me, that’s for sure.)
In 1903, the president of the Michigan Savings Bank advised Henry Ford’s lawyer, Horace Rackham, not to invest in the Ford Motor Company, by telling him, “The horse is here to stay, but the automobile is only a novelty, a fad.” (He was partially right because horses are still around. Somewhere. I think.)

In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell tried to sell his invention to Western Union, whose president, William Orton, replied, “This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication.” (I think Western Union wanted to wait for the iPhone to be released.)

Speaking of the iPhone, in 2007 the CEO of Microsoft, Steve Ballmer, said “There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance.” (By the way, I looked up this quotation on my iPhone.)

In 1916, two years into his career as a movie actor, Charlie Chaplin said this about motion pictures: “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.” (Maybe the cinema is a fad, after all, since everyone stays home and watches Netflix now.)

In 1998, Edmund DeJesus, the editor of popular computer magazine, Byte, wrote, “Y2K is a crisis without precedence in human history.” (I think that article is what prompted me to load up my basement with cases of Spam. Two decades later, I’m finally down to my last case.)
In November, 2016, New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize winner in economics, Paul Krugman, wrote that Donald Trump’s election to the presidency would cause an immediate global recession “with no end in sight.” (On the other hand, I’ve personally lived through at least six recessions, and we are way overdue. So, the Times’ opinionated “stopped clock” eventually will be kind of right, and then, of course, CNN will laud him as a brilliant visionary.)

Well, everybody likes to consider themselves an expert, and we enjoy making bold predictions. Just remember that most predictions, even by the so-called experts, are about as accurate as tossing a dart while blindfolded and wearing boxing gloves. But more importantly, who wants to stop by for my 400th and final Spam Party?

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