The Rushmore Report – 15 Worst Predictions of All Time

There is an old saying that goes, “Predicting the future is easy; getting it right is the hard part.” As we look back on American history, we find all sorts of Nostradamus-wannabes who tried to predict how the future of technology would play out. Below are 15 such predictions that are among the worst predictions ever made.

1876: “The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys.” (William Preece, British Post Office)

1876: “This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication.” (William Orton, President of Western Union)

1889: “Fooling around with alternating current (AC) is just a waste of time. Nobody will use it. Ever.” (Thomas Edison)

1903: “The horse is here to stay; the automobile is only a novelty – a fad.” (President of the Michigan Savings Bank advising Henry Ford’s lawyer, Horace Rackham, to not invest in the Ford Motor Company)

1921: “The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to no one in particular?” (Multiple sources)

1946: “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.” (Darryl Zanuck, 20th Century Fox)

1955: “Nuclear powered vacuum cleaners will probably be a reality within ten years.” (Alex Lewyt, President of the Lewyt Vacuum Cleaner Company)

1959: “Before man reaches the moon, your mail will be delivered within hours from New York to Australia by guided missiles. We stand on the threshold of rocket mail.” (Arthur Summerfield, U.S. Postmaster General)

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, Federal Communications Commission commissioner)

1966: “Remote shopping, while entirely feasible, will flop.” (Time Magazine)

1981: “Cellular phones will absolutely not replace local wire systems.” (Marty Cooper, inventor)

1995: “I predict the Internet will soon go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse.” (Robert Metcalfe, founder of 3Com)

2005: “There’s just not that many videos I want to watch.” (Steve Chen, CTO and co-founder of YouTube, explaining why his venture would have little success)

2006: “Everyone’s always asking me when Apple will come out with a cell phone. My answer is, ‘Probably never.'” (David Pogue, The New York Times)

2007: “There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share.” (Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO)

About the Author

Robert J. Szczerba is a contributor to Forbes.

Rushmore Report: How the World Will Look in 100 Years

In 1900 an American civil engineer named John Elfreth Watkins made a series of predictions for how the world would be 100 years later. Many of his prophecies came true. Now two futurologists have come up with their own ideas for life 100 years from now. These are ten ways Ian Pearson and Patrick Tucker say the world will be different in 100 years.

1. We will be able to communicate through thought transmission.

Transmission will be just as easy as other forms of brain augmentation. Picking up thoughts and relaying them to another brain will not be much harder than storing them on the net.

2. We will be able to control the weather.

There is already some weather control technology for mediating tornadoes and making it rain. New methods will be developed to head off severe weather conditions.

3. Antarctica will be open for business.

The area seems worth keeping as a natural wilderness, but large areas will be used commercially for resources. It should be possible to do so without harming nature.

4. There will be one world currency.

We are already seeing electronic currency that can be used anywhere, and this trend will continue. By 2050, most national currencies will be phased out.

5. There will only be three languages in the world.

As the world becomes one, these are the only languages that will endure: English, Spanish, and Mandarin. Minor languages are dying at a rapid pace already.

6. California will exit the United States.

There are already some indications that the liberal state wants to split off from the rest of the country. The emerging political divide will foster this effort.

7. Marriage will be replaced by an annual marriage contract.

While traditional marriage will remain an option, many will choose this new route. As lives are lived longer, being married to the same person for 70 years will lose its appeal in a secularized society.

8. One world government may evolve.

Sovereign nation states will become increasingly dependent on larger, more powerful nations. This could lead to one world government – as far fetched as it appears right now.

9. War will be fought by remote control.

This will especially be true in the West. There will be no more “boots on the ground.”

10. We will be wired to computers that will make our brains work faster.

We can expect this as soon as 2050 for many people. By 2075 most people in the developed world will use machine augmentation of some sort for their brains and, by the end of the century, pretty much everyone will.

About the Authors

Ian Pearson and Patrick Tucker are futurists, published by the BBC.





Back to the Future

It happened 60 years ago today. November 5, 1955 is the date referred to by Marty McFly in the iconic movie, Back to the Future. It was 30 years ago that the movie hit the theaters, received by overwhelming acclaim. McFly, played by Michael J. Fox, was sent back in time to 1955, where he met his future parents in high school and accidentally became his mother’s romantic love interest. Marty had to repair the damage to history by causing his parents-to-be to fall in love, and with the help of eccentric scientist Dr. Emmett “Doc” Brown, he had to find a way to return to 1985.

What if you could go back in time? What year would you pick, and where would you go? I might choose the Ford Theater in Washington, D.C. on the night of April 14, 1865, where I could have warned President Lincoln to not go to the play that night. I may choose to be in Dallas, on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository Building at 12:30 on November 22, 1963. Had I been there, I could have stopped Lee Harvey Oswald from shooting President John F. Kennedy. And I could testify to the truth – that Oswald acted alone.

More likely, I’d take the ride back to the future to the Polo Grounds in New York City. The date was September 29, 1954, and the New York Giants were hosting the Cleveland Indians in Game 1 of the World Series. With the score tied 2-2 in the top of the 8th inning, Vic Wertz was batting for the Indians with two runners on base. he launched Don Liddle’s fourth pitch 420 feet to deep center field. Then the greatest player of all time, Willie Mays, turned his back to the field and sprinted back, making a spectacular catch while running toward the wall. Spinning around, he threw the ball back to the infield, holding the runners on base. The Giants would go on to win the game and the World Series. I would have loved to have been there.

The problem is, you can go back in time only in the movies. Lyndon Johnson said, “Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.” You can live in the past, but it won’t do you much good. Paul said today is the day of salvation, and to redeem the time. You can think of the past, remember the past, and learn from the past. But you must live in the future. It’s is God’s personal gift to you.