I’ve put together a list of some of the worst predictions ever made in the history of prediction making. I don’t want you to think I’m having a go at the people who made the predictions, it’s not their fault. If you ever claim something definitely will or certainly won’t happen you are asking for trouble.
It’s OK if you’re just talking to your mates down the pub because once you’re proved wrong you can either pretend you never said it or swear blind you said the opposite. But these quotes are all from famous people, and unfortunately that means people write down what you’ve said and there’s no way to escape.
We all make stupid predictions every day, and it normally turns out we’re wrong. Even experts within their field mess it up. And that’s because history is a fickle and unpredictable mistress. Look, I’ll show you.
2007 – Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft – “There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance”
Woops. The iPhone, as some of you may have noticed, has done pretty darned well for itself. It’s sold more than 120 million handsets this year alone. Steve may be a little embarrassed about that statement, but I think the fact that he has around $18 billion in the bank probably comforts him somewhat.
1966 Time Magazine – “Remote shopping, while entirely feasible, will flop — because women like to get out of the house, like to handle merchandise”
UK Internet shopping alone now nets around £586.6m per week. I get what they are saying though, I used to feel the need to see the physical item before I purchased it. Until I realised that shopping while you were sitting down in your house cut out the need to rub shoulders and queue for hours with the general ming mongs.
1977 – Ken Olson, president Digital Equipment Corp – “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home”
Ken dropped this clanger at the World Future Society meeting in Boston, probably the worst place he could have said it. He now recants and says it was taken out of context but it’s too late for back tracking… as I type on my home computer.
1924 – Eddie Rickenbacker, WWI pilot and hero – “Within the next two decades autos will be made with folding wings”
I’m as gutted as Eddie that this one didn’t come true.
1995 – Robert Metcalfe – “I predict the Internet in 1996 will catastrophically collapse”
Robert was the co-inventor of the Ethernet so he was at the head of his field at that time. So it just goes to show, it doesn’t matter how clued up you are you can still fail hard. He eventually went on to literally eat his words by mixing his column in a blender with some liquid and eating it on stage. So at least he didn’t try and crawl out of it. He took it like a man.