If Only They’d Had Predictive Analytics
Predicting the future is tricky business – there’s always the risk that time will exposure your folly. But with every new year, pundits and authorities continue to step out on thin ice and announce their predictions for the future.
While chance alone will favor some forecasts, there are always those that are far off the mark. Take, for instance, these famously false predictions on the future of technology:
1876: This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. — from an internal Western Union memo.
1880: Everyone acquainted with the subject will recognize it as a conspicuous failure. — Henry Morton, President of the Stevens Institute of Technology, passing judgment on Thomas Edison’s light bulb.
1895: Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible. — Lord Kelvin, President of the British Royal Society, mathematical physicist and engineer.
1909: 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, 1909.
1923: There is no likelihood man can ever tap the power of the atom. — Robert Millikan, winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics.
1926: 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 De Forest, U.S. inventor and radio pioneer commenting on the future of television.
1936: A rocket will never be able to leave the Earth’s atmosphere. — The New York Times.
1943: I think there is a world market for maybe five computers. — Thomas Watson, Chairman of IBM.
1961: 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.A.M. Craven, U.S. Federal Communications Commissioner.
Predictive Power: Then and Now
How could so many experts in their field be so sure and yet so wrong? To be fair, many of the sources quoted above were speaking in terms of what was likely in their present (or, at least, their near-term future.) And all of them pre-date the powerful new possibilities for predictive insight available to today’s businesses.
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