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The Future: Bad Predictions

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Frederick The Monk
317556.  Wed Apr 16, 2008 9:10 am Reply with quote

Question: Predicting the future is not easy of course and sometimes people get it a little wrong so fingers on buzzers for our quick fire, wide-of-the-mark round:

a/. In 1955 Variety magazine predicted what would be “gone by June.”

b/. In 1964 United Artists rejected which actor on the grounds that he “doesn't have that presidential look.”

c/. In 1880 Henry Morton said “Everyone acquainted with the subject will recognize it as a conspicuous failure” What was he talking about.

d/. In 1977 Ken Olson of the Digital Equipment Company said “There is no reason anyone would want a...” what in their home?

e/. What Nuclear-powered household device was predicted to be a reality within ten years by Alex Lewyt, in 1955?

Forfeits:

Answer:
a/. Rock and Roll

b/. Ronald Reagan

c/. Edison’s Lightbulb

d/. A computer

e/. The nuclear vacuum cleaner

Notes:

a/.

b/. United Artists rejecting Ronald Reagan as lead in 1964 film The Best Man written by Gore Vidal. Henry Fonda and Cliff Robertson took the leads as two candidates for presidential nomination.

c/. Henry Morton, President of the Stevens Institute of Technology, made the statement about Edison's incandescent lamp (c.1880). Morton was a scientist, benefactor and friend of Andrew Carnegie. he was one of the founders of Philadelphia Dental college, attempted a translation of the Rosetta Stone, recorded total eclipses and was a member of the US Lighthouse board.

d/. This is one of the very few 'daft' technology statements allegedly made by now famous figures in the field which is true. Digital Equipment Corp. founder Ken Olsen made the comment in a 1977 address to the World Future Society in Boston.

e/.At the conclusion of W.W.II, the Brooklyn-based Lewyt Corporation, manufacturer of industrial components, under the direction of President Alex Lewyt, entered the vacuum industry with a vacuum product they had been manufacturing for the Navy during the war. From 1947 - 1948, Lewyt sold over 100,000 units, joining the 20 other manufacturers competing for market share. Lewyt launched an aggressive advertising program utilizing radio, television, newspapers, magazines, and billboards, all selling the new Lewyt cleaners. Realizing vacuums must be demonstrated to be sold, he introduced a demonstration display unit called the Market Place. It included carpeting for demonstration and shelving to hold attachments, and artificial dirt used in the presentation. In 1955 he confidently predicted in the New York TImes the advent of the nuclear vacuum cleaner, but just five years later he sold the vacuum company to Shetland Floor Polisher Company.

ADDITIONAL CARD
Predictions that Never Were
MYTH: In 1899, Charles H. Duell, Director (or Commissioner) of the US Patent Office told Congress that “Everything that can be invented has been invented,” and promptly resigned his office.

THE "TRUTH": Neither gentleman - or any other Patent Office official - ever said any such thing. Ellsworth did report to Congress that “the advancement of the arts, from year to year, taxes our credulity and seems to presage the arrival of that period when human improvement must end.”

MYTH: The chairman of IBM, in the early days of the computer industry, famously said that “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”

THE "TRUTH": This turns out not to be quite the legendarily poor business prediction which it is generally held up as. It seems that when Thomas Watson said this in 1953, he was referring to one specific model - “IBM’s first production computer designed for scientific calculations” - and they eventually sold 18 of them.

MYTH: A 19th century Member of Parliament predicted that, given the rate of growth of traffic, London would be six feet deep in horse manure by 1910.

THE "TRUTH": The details vary with almost every telling: the doom-merchant is a politician, scientist, city planner, or journalist; the doomed town is London, or various cities in the USA, or a particular famous street such as the Strand; the predicted date of the catastrophe ranges from the turn of the century to 1950; and the depth of the dung goes from knee-level upwards. American conservatives, sceptical about the dangers of global warming and pollution, are especially fond of the dung parable. One detail is invariably missing from this story: the name of the failed seer.

Links to:

Sources:
Christopher Cerf and Victor Navasky 'The Experts Speak'. New York 1984
http://www.ideafinder.com/history/inventions/vacleaner.htm

Pictures/Props: Movie still from The Best Man, Edison lightbulb, Ken Olsen/ very old computer, Mad vacuum cleaner plans.


Last edited by Frederick The Monk on Fri Apr 18, 2008 8:56 am; edited 3 times in total

 
Flash
317623.  Wed Apr 16, 2008 10:00 am Reply with quote

Maybe we should include a couple of debunks:

1) there's nothing left to invent post 307571

2) there's a world market for maybe 5 computers post 307572

3) the streets of London are going to be full of horse manure post 307575

ie things that are reported as bad predictions but that weren't actually made. Someone on the panel is bound to mention at least one of them and Stephen should be ready to knock them into the long grass.

 
Frederick The Monk
317743.  Wed Apr 16, 2008 11:12 am Reply with quote

Absolutely - there's no evidence for the Bill Gates remark about 640k being enough for anyone. Will work the above into the notes.

 
Frederick The Monk
319263.  Fri Apr 18, 2008 8:57 am Reply with quote

Updated and trimmed 18/4

 
Flash
319333.  Fri Apr 18, 2008 11:13 am Reply with quote

Quote:
MYTH: In 1899, Charles H. Duell, Director (or Commissioner) of the US Patent Office told Congress that “Everything that can be invented has been invented,” and promptly resigned his office.

THE "TRUTH": Neither gentleman - or any other Patent Office official - ever said any such thing. Ellsworth did report to Congress ...”

Ellsworth seems to have been left out of the miff.

 
vonxxx
847513.  Sat Sep 17, 2011 1:06 pm Reply with quote

'In this column for years, i have constantly laboured these points: Hitlers horoscopes is not a war horoscope.....If and when war comes, not he but others will strike the first blow.'

R.H. Naylor, British Astrologer for the London Sunday Express 1939

 
bobwilson
847693.  Sat Sep 17, 2011 9:12 pm Reply with quote

Quote:
Question

a/. In 1955 Variety magazine predicted what would be “gone by June.”
d/. In 1977 Ken Olson of the Digital Equipment Company said “There is no reason anyone would want a...” what in their home?


Forfeit
a/. Rock and Roll
d/. A computer

Explanation
a/.
d/. This is one of the very few 'daft' technology statements allegedly made by now famous figures in the field which is true. Digital Equipment Corp. founder Ken Olsen made the comment in a 1977 address to the World Future Society in Boston.


Am I missing something?

 
Bondee
847878.  Sun Sep 18, 2011 12:04 pm Reply with quote

bobwilson wrote:
Am I missing something?


Yeah, b, c and e.

 
CB27
847928.  Sun Sep 18, 2011 1:41 pm Reply with quote

Ha :)

It would be interesting to know what the answer was because the quote is linked to Rock & Roll on so many sites, but I can't find the original source.

 

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