Predicting the future is always a precarious business. But one of the things we rely on industry experts for is their ability to foresee trends. This influences the technology we invest in (RIP, cassette tapes and Betamax) and even the career paths we choose. And it works because sometimes experts get things right…
And sometimes they get things spectacularly wrong.
Here are six times where experts couldn’t have been more wrong if they tried.
1. Time Magazine predicts online shopping will fail
This one is a doozy. Time Magazine ran an essay in 1966 that discussed “remote shopping.” That’s a cool prediction, and they should have just left things there. But no. They predicted “remote shopping” would fail because “women like to get out of the house.”
I mean, really? I’m placing my Instacart order as we speak.
2. Recorded music is a menace
John Philip Sousa is famous for his marches. He also wrote an article in 1906 that predicted mechanical music would essentially be the fall of civilization, or close to it. He lamented the loss of real instruments because “automatic music devices are usurping their places” and said, “it will simply be a question of time when the amate*r disappears entirely.”
We still have music, right?
3. AC power is a waste of time
Thomas Edison is famous for inventing useful things like the light bulb, and he used direct current (DC) as his power source of choice. Nikola Tesla was working at the same time on alternating current (AC). Edison’s take on AC? “Fooling around with alternating current is just a waste of time. Nobody will use it, ever.”
Today, AC is the type of current used by most power plants and power distribution systems.
4. All women will be six feet tall
In 1950, the Associated Press distributed an article with predictions about life in 2000. Editor Dorothy Roe predicted that women would be six feet tall. Roe said the woman of the future will “have shoulders like a wrestler and muscles like a truck driver.” She’ll also have a perfect figure:
Her proportions will be perfect, though Amazonian, because science will have perfected a balanced ration of vitamins, proteins and minerals that will produce the maximum bodily efficiency, the minimum of fat.
Well, women today are a little taller than they were in 1950, so there’s that?
5. Einstein got nuclear power wrong
Albert Einstein got a lot of things right. His famous equation E=mc^2 was critical to the development of nuclear weapons. But even though he urged President Roosevelt to research atomic energy, he did not foresee our ability to use it as a power source. He said, “There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will.”
6. Television won’t last
Daryl Zanuck was a famous producer with 20th Century Fox. By the time TVs were becoming commonplace, he had more than 100 movies under his belt. Zanuck didn’t think the whole TV thing would work out, though.
“[Television] won’t be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night,” he said.
Yeah, about that …