Futurists, scientists, and academics aim to predict and advise leaders on trends, scenarios, emerging market opportunities, and risk management. They may offer their wisdom with respect to human society or of life on earth in general.
As one might imagine, predicting the future with any certainty (in the legitimate sense) is not a trivial task. With that in mind, take a look at the following predictions and statements from the history books that ended up being unequivocally false.
About… the use of television
“While theoretically and technically television may be feasible, commercially and financially I consider it an impossibility, a development of which we need waste little time dreaming.”
– Lee DeForest, American radio pioneer, 1926.
About… the telephone
“Well informed people know it is impossible to transmit the voice over wires,and that were it possible to do so, the thing would be of no practical value.”
–Editorial in the Boston Post, 1865
“That virus is a pussycat.”
— Dr. Peter Duesberg, molecular-biology professorat U.C. Berkeley, on HIV, 1988
“Your cigarettes will never become popular.”
– F. G. Alton, 1870, cigar maker,turning down Mr. John Player
“I see no good reasons why the views given in this volume should shock the religious feelings of anyone.”
– Darwin (writing in Origin of Species), 1859
“The so-called theories of Einstein are merely the ravings of a mind polluted with liberal, democratic nonsense which is utterly unacceptable to German men of science.”
– Dr. Walter Gross, 1940
About… Japanese cars
“With over 50 foreign cars already on sale here, the Japanese auto industry isn’t likely to carve out a big slice of the U.S. market.”
— Business Week,August 2, 1968.
About… the need for oil
“Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You’re crazy.”
— Workers whom Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist to his project to drill for oil in 1859.
About… germ theory
“Louis Pasteur’s theory of germs is ridiculous fiction.”
— Pierre Pachet,Professor of Physiology at Toulouse, 1872.
“Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value.”
— Marechal FerdinandFoch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre.
Bonus: About… invention and innovation
“Everything that can be invented has been invented.”
— Charles H. Duell,Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899
Adapted from Listverse.com