Beyond Future Imperfect – Part 6: Arts and Entertainment No One’s Going to Be Interested

We’re down to the final installment as we speak. Luckily, for us this is the fun post in this series since it pertains to the arts and entertainment, which is a pretty big range. You have sports and games, which is a rather unpredictable realm since people tend to bet on sports. And you never know which game is going to be popular. You have media like newspaper and magazines as well as radio, TV, and Internet. You have TV which is used for news, shows, and seeing the world as your heart desires without leaving your living room. You have literature and books that have shaped the course of generations. You have movies that are among the most popular forms of entertainment for generations which explains why TCM appeals to multiple demographics. And finally, you have music which always existed but with the Edison phonograph, it’s huge business. Nevertheless, these art forms always had their critics and people who thought such breakthroughs were fads that’ll be gone in a short time. But they were wrong. So for the last time this series, I bring you my final installment of Beyond Future Imperfect.

Sports? You’ve Been Hit in the Head Too Many Times


Yes, basketball is just another new game. Of course, never mind that it’s one of the most popular sports in the world with professional leagues. And the fact that people do brackets on March Madness every year.

“Poor build. Very skinny and narrow. Ended the ’99 season weighing 195 pounds and still looks like a rail at 211. Looks a little frail and lacks great physical stature and strength. Can get pushed down more easily than you’d like. Lacks mobility and ability to avoid the rush. Lacks a really strong arm. Can’t drive the ball down the field and does not throw a really tight spiral. System-type player who can get exposed if he must ad-lib and do things on his own.” — Tom Brady’s scouting report for the 2000 NFL Draft (Guess who helped the Patriots win 4 Super Bowls. Nevertheless, he’s still a jerk.)

“Possesses minimal football knowledge and lacks motivation.” – early scouting report on NFL coach Vince Lombardi. (Today the Super Bowl trophy is named after him.)

“Taking the best left-handed pitcher in baseball and converting him into a right fielder is one of the dumbest things I ever heard.” — Tris Speaker, baseball hall of famer, talking about Babe Ruth, 1919. (Apparently, Babe Ruth’s batting record made him a larger than life figure in the 1920s. And his record stood for 34 years until broken by Hank Aaron.)

“Huh. Another new game.”—-Frank Mahan, upon hearing of Basketball (You mean a game that will become one of the most popular sports on the entire planet?)

“Just so-so in center field.” – New York Daily News, after the premiere of Willie Mays, 1951. (Willie Mays is one of the best baseball players of all time.)

Games? Got No Time for That

“Why would anyone want to play a game that has no winner?” –Publisher who rejected Dungeons & Dragons (which is a rather popular game among fantasy nerds.)

“People won’t want to play these electronic games for more than a week, not once we start selling pinball machines for the home,” – Gus Bally, Arcade Inc., 1979. (Uh, newsflash, video games are now a multi-billion dollar industry in the 21st century.)

Print Media? Who Cares?

“A short-lived satirical pulp.”– TIME, writing off MAD magazine in 1956. (MAD Magazine is still around and is about half a century old.)

“Come on, Stan, people hate spiders. They’re creepy. And everybody knows that teenagers are sidekicks, not superheroes. This Spider-Man idea just won’t sell.” — Martin Goodman, founder of Marvel Comics (paraphrased by Stan Lee), 1962. (Spiderman would become one of the most famous and popular Marvel superheroes ever. Cue 54 years later, and he’s still enormously popular around the world.)

Web Media? Seriously, There’s an App for That?

“The subscription model of buying music is bankrupt. I think you could make available the Second Coming in a subscription model and it might not be successful.” Steve Jobs — Rolling Stone, Dec. 3, 2003 (Uh, Steve, have you ever heard of Netflix? So maybe the subscription model doesn’t work for music.)

“Think about it: You cannot pay the rent posting videos on YouTube.” — Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone, 2007. (Maybe not, but it’s made a shitload of money for advertisers.)

Books? Who Reads Them?


Seems like children weren’t very into witches and wizards. So how JK Rowling managed to publish a series of books about a kid in a wizarding school that attracted a generation of fans is beyond me. Actually it’s not.

“If you believe it is a work of genius, then you may lose a thousand pounds.” — Stanley Unwin, giving permission to publish a work that everyone in the publishing house feared would lose money. (His son believed the same thing but wanted to publish it anyway. The work was Lord of the Rings.)

“Children just aren’t interested in witches and wizards anymore.”-an anonymous publishing executive to J.K. Rowling in 1996. (Yeah, despite that what this executive just turned down is the first book in the Harry Potter series. A series which consisted of 7 books, 8 movies, and millions of merchandise and royalties.)

“The style of his tale is in places disfigured by mad (rather than bad) English; and its catastrophe is hastily, weakly, and obscurely managed…We have little more to say in reprobation or in recommendation of this absurd book…Mr. Melville has to thank himself only if his horrors and his heroics are flung aside by the general reader, as so much trash belonging to the worst school of Bedlam literature — since he seems not so much unable to learn as disdainful of learning the craft of an artist.”— Henry F. Chorley, reviewing Moby-Dick (Boy, did this guy underestimate one of the greatest works in American literature.)

“I’m sorry, Mr Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.” – The San Francisco Examiner, rejecting a submission by Rudyard Kipling in 1889. (Kipling is one of the most famous authors of the English language of all with works like The Jungle Book, Kim, “Gunga Din,” “Rikki Tikki Tavi,” and The Man Who Would be King.)

“You’ll never make any money out of children’s books” – Advice to JK Rowling from Barry Cunningham, editor at Bloomsbury Books, 1996. (She made a shitload of money off Harry Potter.)

Television? Just a Box of Plywood and a Screen


Some said that television was impossible. Others said it was only a fad that wouldn’t last. So how did we get from those old fashioned TVs to this then? My point.

“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, inventor. (Commercially and financially it’s the ultimate juggernaut.)

“Television won’t last because people will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.” – -Darryl Zanuck, movie producer, 20th Century Fox, 1946 (Today TV is very much alive and well as we all see.)

“TV will never be a serious competitor for radio because people must sit and keep their eyes glued on a screen; the average American family hasn’t time for it.” from the New York Times, 1939. (Logical, but completely wrong.)

“Television won’t last. It’s a flash in the pan.” — Mary Somerville, pioneer of radio educational broadcasts, 1948. (Uh, some flash in the pan television turned out to be since it’s still around.)

“Television? The word is half Latin and half Greek. No good can come of it.” C. P. Scott. (Oh, yes it can.)

“I will believe in the 500-channel world only when I see it.” – Sumner Redstone, Chairman, Viacom and CBS, 1994. (Man, does he have any idea on how many channels there are nowadays?)

Movies? Just a Fad


Sure Gary Cooper is happy that Clark Gable got the lead in Gone With the Wind and not him. Still, why MGM didn’t ask Gable to play Rhett Butler first is my question since he was born to play that role. Nevertheless, this film earned millions at the box office, won several Oscars, and is seen as movie classic people still watch multiple times. You have to love this movie.

“Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?” — H. M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927. (Ironically, Warner Brothers was the company that released The Jazz Singer later that year, which changed the motion picture industry forever. Sound movies have been made ever since. Nevertheless, the transition wasn’t as easy as most people think it is.)

“I’m just glad it’ll be Clark Gable who’s falling on his face and not Gary Cooper.” — Gary Cooper on his decision not to take the leading role in “Gone With the Wind.” (To be fair, Cooper was right to turn down the role of Rhett Butler but not for the reasons he thought at the time. Most people agree Clark Gable was essentially born to play Rhett Butler, a role of a lifetime that gave him everlasting fame that he’s still remembered to this day. As for Gone With the Wind, well, it’s one of the most successful and critically acclaimed movies of all time that continues to be adored by people all over the world over generations.)

“Can’t sing, can’t act, slightly bald – can dance a little.” – Talent agent on Fred Astaire. (Astaire had that guy’s report framed and put over a fireplace in his mansion. Yes, he became an iconic song and dance man as well as one of Hollywood’s biggest stars.)

“While Daniel’s reportedly making close to three hundred thousand dollars for the first movie, it’s been speculated that he’ll rake in close to fifteen million dollars, if the sequels are successful.” – Katie Couric on Daniel Radcliffe’s earnings on the Harry Potter franchise. (Keep in mind that Radcliffe made $53 million on the last two movies alone.)

“Time travel movies don’t work. They just don’t work.” – Executive who passed on Back to the Future (which is a 1980s classic, by the way.)

“No Civil War movie ever made a nickel!” — Louis B. Mayer to David O. Selznick on Gone with the Wind. (Boy, was Mayer wrong, especially since he was alive when Birth of a Nation came out {which was a huge hit, but it’s a racist piece of shit}.)

“You better get secretarial work or get married.” –Emmeline Snively, advising would-be model Marilyn Monroe in 1944. (Later she’d be an actress and the first woman to pose nude for Playboy. Today she’s an American cultural icon.)

“Movies are a fad. Audiences really want to see live actors on a stage.”—Charlie Chaplin (Pretty good guess for what would become an incredibly important medium of entertainment for generations to come as well as an industry earning millions of dollars. And yes, you helped create that.)

“If we put out a screen machine, there will be a use for maybe about ten of them in the whole United States. With that many screen machines, you could show the pictures to everyone in the country — and then it would be done. Let’s not kill the goose that lays the golden egg.” — Thomas Edison on movie projectors (At the time, Edison had a thriving business making viewing devices called Kinetoscopes, which showed movies to one person at a time. Other people will improve this invention and would soon make full fledged movies.)

“I wouldn’t give a dime for all the possibilities of [motion pictures with sound]. The public will never accept it.” — Kodak founder George Eastman (Oh, yes, the public will. And they did.)

“…[S]ound is a passing fancy. It won’t last.”— MGM exec Irving Thalberg, after seeing “The Jazz Singer” in 1927. (They’re still with us in 2016. In fact, most movies made are talkies that sound departments are now the most underrated people in Hollywood. Some passing fancy that turned out to be.)

“I do not believe that black and white will disappear entirely. It will still be the ideal medium for certain subjects, not merely for newsreels and shorts, but for full-length pictures.”— Rouben Mamoulian, director of one of the first three-strip Technicolor movies, “Becky Sharp” (Nowadays most movies are in color because it’s cheaper. However, some films are made in black and white for artistic purposes.)

“Films made expressly for theatrical distribution should not be funneled into television, nor should big-name personalities be encouraged to appear too frequently on video, because the public will tire of seeing them and thus their pictures will suffer at the box office.” — A group of thirty Hollywood producers and cinema owners, 1951. (Turns out that putting celebs on Leno, Letterman, or Conan actually helps ticket sales. And then there’s the teleplay that was later made into a movie called Marty that won a slew of Academy Awards. Not to mention, nowadays, they even have movie networks like TCM which is fairly popular. Also, a movie has to be out on home media long enough to be broadcast on TV where it’s edited for commercials and censorship {save on TCM, PBS, and Premium Cable}.)

“I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone.” — Jack Valenti, 1982. (Within a decade of that statement, studios were making more money from home video than from movie ticket sales. So if your indie film didn’t do well at the box office. Just hope it comes out on DVD.)

“…[W]ithout even knowing what’s happening, audiences might gradually absorb that the digital images they’re watching in theaters are no different than what they see at home, that they’re actually just watching TV with more people. And that could be the end of movies as we know them.” — Variety film critic Todd McCarthy, writing about digital projection in 1999. (Nowadays, everything’s digital).

“…Digital technologies can enable a level of piracy that would undermine our capacity to produce films and entertainment, undermine deployment of broadband networks, undermine the digital television transition, and ultimately result in fewer choices and options for American consumers.”— Disney chairman Michael Eisner, speaking to Congress in 2002.(Eisner neglected to note that digital technologies can also radically reduce Disney’s costs of distributing content to consumers and to theaters. Also: at the time, Disney movies were not available legally on the Internet, and today, most of the Disney catalog is still available only on DVD. Who exactly is presenting consumers with fewer choices and options? Hint: It’s not Disney.)

“There are great cinematographers who’ll shoot on film for the next twenty years.” — Bob Beitcher, chief executive of Panavision, 2006.  (Though Panavision has been a pioneer of digital cinematography with cameras like the Genesis, its bigger business is renting high-end film cameras.)

Music? That’s Not Going to Last


So Decca turned down these 4 Liverpudlian mop tops because they hated their music and guitar stuff was on the way out. Meanwhile these guys signed with 2 other companies, produced a shitload of albums and songs, appeared in 3 movies and Ed Sullivan, and experienced a dramatic break up.

“We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.” — Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962. (This is probably the worst business decision Decca ever made, which certainly went back to bite them in the ass. Columbia and Apple were I bet the person who made the decision was fired over this.)

“It’ll be gone by June.” – Variety Magazine on Rock n’ Roll, 1955 (Sorry, but Rock n’ Roll is here to stay and shows no signs of fading out anytime soon.)

“The phonograph is not of any commercial value.”— Thomas Alva Edison, 1880 (Edison has no idea what he just invented like a way to record sound that can be listened to later. This would lead to all kinds of developments as well as the birth of the recording industry.)

“Far too noisy, my dear Mozart. Far too many notes.”— Emperor Ferdinand of Austria, 1786 (Obviously, he knew nothing about music.)

“”Weird Al” Yankovic, your fifteen minutes are up.” – a review of UHF, 1980s. (Nevertheless, Weird Al is one of the most enduring and popular musical artists because he continues to parody music. He’s never went anywhere.)

“Stick to driving a truck, because you’ll never make it as a singer.” – Eddie Bond rejecting Elvis Presley, 1954. (Elvis would release his first few hits a month later.)

“Guitar is a good hobby, John, but you’ll never make a living of it.”—John Lennon’s Aunt Mimi when he was a teenager. (In 1964, a group of fans had that quote on a plaque and sent to her.)

“He’s not going to go far, is he? He’s just not star material.” – Rock journalist Judy Willis on David Bowie. (I’m sure she eventually underestimated the power of Ziggy Stardust and Major Tom.)

“Male vocal in the 1968 feeling—thin, piercing voice with no emotional appeal…dreary songs…one-key singer…pretentious material.” — A panel review of a BBC audition in 1968 of Sir Elton John to promote his first single, “Lady Samantha.” (He’d get much better after a few years.)

“I’ve heard they have beautiful lights but they don’t sound like nothing.” – Jimi Hendrix on Pink Floyd. (Boy, would he be wrong about them. I mean the group’s The Wall and Dark Side of the Moon have become iconic albums in their own right.)

“Home Taping Is Killing Music” — A 1980s campaign by the BPI, claiming that people recording music off the radio onto cassette would destroy the music industry. (No, it wouldn’t since it’s kind of impossible since the music changes so often. My parents just recorded stuff on cassette from records and CDs during the 1980s and 1990s.)

“The singer [Mick Jagger] will have to go; the BBC won’t like him.”— First Rolling Stones manager Eric Easton to his partner after watching them perform. (Sorry, but Mick Jagger is still the lead singer for the Rolling Stones and shows no sign of slowing down.)

“The Beatles have no future in show business.”— Dick Rowe, Decca Records executive, rejecting The Beatles (Makes me wonder whether he ended up fired sometime after this. I mean he’s basically made one of the worst decisions in music history.)

“Next Christmas the iPod will be dead, finished, gone, kaput.” – Sir Alan Sugar, 2005. (It’s still around and was a massive success.)

Beyond Future Imperfect – Part 5: Politics, War, and Medicine What Are They Good For? Absolutely Nothing

We now move on to politics, war, and medicine which kind of go together in regard to subject matter. For one, politics is essential in governing a nation, especially when it pertains to starting or preventing a war. In fact, most conflicts in history usually have economic or political causes, if not all. And since wars usually have a shitload of people killed or injured, medicine will be essential. Not to mention, it’s usually the part of the government to decide whether a nation should have universal healthcare. If you live in the United States, then the answer is no which is so fucking unfair because healthcare is a basic human right and nobody should be denied medical treatment for being poor. Call it Socialism but I call universal healthcare a basic human decency and morally non-negotiable. Healthcare is not a commodity, America. Okay, sorry about that, but I have very strong opinions on this subject. Same with war and guns which I hate because they tend to inflict carnage that preventable and unnecessary. Anyway, without further adieu, I give you my fifth installment of predictions that never came true in the realm of governing, war, and health.

Politics? Quit Your Whining


And they said this guy wouldn’t win a single primary against Hillary in 2008. Man, that guy must be quite a long shot, whatever happened to him? Oh, wait, he became President.

“It will be years — not in my time — before a woman will become Prime Minister.” — Margaret Thatcher, 1974. (Thatcher would become Britain’s first and only female prime minister 5 years later and would remain so until 1990.)

“Reagan doesn’t have that presidential look.” – United Artists executive after rejecting Reagan as lead in the 1964 film The Best Man (Apparently, the Republican party and legions of voters thought otherwise in 1980.)

“Democracy will be dead by 1950.”–John Langdon-Davies, A Short History of The Future, 1936. (Democracy still exists though it exists with a lot corruption. But it’s here.)

“Our country has deliberately undertaken a great social and economic experiment, noble in motive and far reaching in purpose.” -– Herbert Hoover, on Prohibition, 1928. (Yes, noble in motive. But far reaching in purpose, not so much. Besides, Prohibition was an economic heyday for moonshiners, bootleggers, speakeasies, and organized crime. Also led to an explosion of alcoholism in women, which wasn’t a big problem before Prohibition since women then were mostly social drinkers.)

“Read my lips: NO NEW TAXES.” –George H. W. Bush, 1988. (Of course, he later had to do the fiscal conservative thing for a war that he had to raise taxes. At least he was sensible.)

“This is the second time in our history that there has come back from Germany to Downing Street peace with honor. I believe it is peace for our time.” -– Neville Chamberlain, British Prime Minister, September 30th, 1938. (To be fair, Chamberlain knew what he was getting into and that peace between Britain and Germany wasn’t going to last since he started planning for war {on Baldwin’s advice}, just to stay on the safe side. And he certainly didn’t underestimate Hitler {and knew he was a danger since 1935}. It was the public who did and they didn’t want to go to war. He just went for appeasement in order to buy more time, look good for the media, as well as the fact it was the only acceptable political option. This was more or less a speech for the cameras and he knew it. But he also knew if he wanted to sell the war later, he couldn’t reject diplomacy. The Brits fell for it.)

“Sensible and responsible women do not want to vote.” –Grover Cleveland, U.S. President, 1905. (Uh, yes, they do you sexist prig who married a trophy wife you raised, which is incredibly creepy. Yes, sensible and responsible women do want the vote. That’s why Wyoming granted universal suffrage in the 1880s.)

“Anyone who thinks it is going to run the government of South Africa lives in cloud-cuckoo land.”- Margaret Thatcher on the African National Congress, 1987. (This party has run the South African government since the 1990s.)

“When the president does it ,that means it is not illegal.”— Richard Nixon, 1977 (Nixon, you still haven’t learned from Watergate, have you?)

“Left-handed incumbents have never been re-elected…so look for a one-term Clinton Presidency.” – TIME, 1992. (Clinton served two terms and so did Obama. So your argument is invalid.)

“If [Hillary Clinton] gets a race against John Edwards and Barack Obama, she’s going to be the nominee. Gore is the only threat to her, then. Barack Obama is not going to beat Hillary Clinton in a single Democratic primary. I’ll predict that right now.” – William Kristol, Fox News, Dec. 17, 2006. (Okay, for one, Gore didn’t run for president in 2008. Second, Barack Obama was elected president that year, which I think explains how that Democratic primary turned out.)

War? Please, Stop Overreacting


Apparently, some expert in explosives says that the atom bomb will never go off. Excuse can anyone tell me why an image of this scares the hell out of people? Should we tell him what happened at Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

“The bomb will never go off. I speak as an expert in explosives.” — Admiral William Leahy, U.S. Atomic Bomb Project. (Guess this guy spoke too soon, didn’t he? Because the atomic bombs did go off in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and it basically annihilated them in the process. This is nuclear war is so scary. Some expert in explosives Admiral Leahy turned out to be.)

“Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value.” — Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre. (Tell that to the Red Baron and all the other WWI pilots in their Fokkers and Sopwith Camels.)

“No, it will make war impossible.” – -Hiram Maxim, inventor of the machine gun, in response to the question “Will this gun not make war more terrible?” from Havelock Ellis, an English scientist, 1893 (Havelock Ellis was right because machine guns have made war much more horrific. Hiram Maxim had no idea what his invention would entail.)

“The idea that cavalry will be replaced by these iron coaches is absurd. It is little short of treasonous.” — Comment of Aide-de-camp to Field Marshal Haig, at tank demonstration, 1916 (Modern militaries no longer use cavalry which were already on their way out after the American Civil War.)

“Four or five frigates will do the business without any military force.”-– British prime minister Lord North, on dealing with the rebellious American colonies, 1774. (Uh, I think you might need some more frigates and a military force.)

“They couldn’t hit an elephant at this dist-“ — Last words of Gen. John Sedgwick, spoken as he looked out over the parapet at enemy lines during the Battle of Spotsylvania in 1864. (Spoke too soon, didn’t you?)

“You will be home before the leaves have fallen from the trees.” -– Kaiser Wilhelm, to the German troops, August 1914. (Seems like the Kaiser was way off since WWI lasted for 4 years. Then again, he didn’t say which year.)

“The Americans are good about making fancy cars and refrigerators, but that doesn’t mean they are any good at making aircraft. They are bluffing. They are excellent at bluffing.”–Hermann Goering, Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe, 1942. (Uh, Goering, you might want to take that back.)

“There is no doubt that the regime of Saddam Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction. As this operation continues, those weapons will be identified, found, along with the people who have produced them and who guard them.” –General Tommy Franks, March 22nd, 2003. (This one never gets old. Seriously, there were no weapons of mass destruction. And the US came into Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein for nothing.)

“Has there ever been danger of war between Germany and ourselves, members of the same Teutonic race? Never has it even been imagined.”— Andrew Carnegie, 1913 (Guess who the US went to war with 4 years later. Also, in 1941.)

“War between Japan and the United States is not within the realm of reasonable possibility. …A Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor is a strategic impossibility.”— Major George Fielding Eliot, 1938 (Thanks, you just gave Admiral Yamamoto a way to bomb Pearl Harbor 3 years later.)

“The machine gun is a much overrated weapon; two per battalion is more than sufficient.”— General Douglas Haig, 1915 (Two machine guns per battalion isn’t enough for WWI.)

“I do not consider Hitler to be as bad as he is depicted. He is showing an ability that is amazing and he seems to be gaining his victories without much bloodshed.”— Mahatma Gandhi, 1940 (Uh, Gandhi, we don’t consider Hitler that bad because he gains victories without much bloodshed. It has more to do with the rounding up of millions of Jews and other undesirables to concentration camps and having them killed for no reason. You know, genocide.)

“I also lay aside all ideas of any new works or engines of war, the invention of which long-ago reached its limit, and in which I see no hope for further improvement…-“- Sextus Julius Frontinus, governor of Britania, 84 C.E. (I see plenty since I no longer live at a time where most people fight with swords, spears, and shields.)

“…transport by railroad car would result in the emasculation of our troops and would deprive them of the option of the great marches which have played such an important role in the triumph of our armies.”– Dominique Francois Arago (1786-1853) (As we found out in the American Civil War, railroads actually made moving supplies and troops much easier.)

“I do not myself think that any civilized nation will torpedo unarmed and defenceless merchant ships.”–Charles Cooper Penrose-Fitzgerald, Admiral Royal Navy, Strand Magazine, July, 1914, page 20. (Guess what happened in both world wars. Also see what happened to the HMS Lusitania.)

“Atomic energy might be as good as our present-day explosives, but it is unlikely to produce anything very much more dangerous.” Winston Churchill, 1939. (Uh, Winston, you might be shitting your pants upon seeing a mushroom cloud in the movie newsreels 6 years later.)

“No matter what happens, the U.S. Navy is not going to be caught napping.” – U.S. Secretary of Navy, December 4, 1941. (So what were you doing at Pearl Harbor 3 days later? You know, before the Japanese surprised you by bombing it?)

“Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.” – Dick Cheney August 26, 2002. (Really, Cheney? Because US Intelligence never found any. Iraq was a mistake.)

“[The Joint Intelligence Committee] concludes that Iraq has chemical and biological weapons, that Saddam has continued to produce them, that he has existing and active military plans for the use of chemical and biological weapons, which could be activated within 45 minutes, including against his own Shia population, and that he is actively trying to acquire nuclear weapons capability.” – Tony Blair, 2002. (For one, Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction by then. Second, how could he have plans to use them if he didn’t have them in the first place?)

Medicine? Sorry, There’s Nothing We Can Do About That


So, Lord Kelvin, you tell me that X-Rays are a hoax. Nevertheless, can you tell me what this is and how it was produced? I think x-rays have something to do with it but I’m not sure.

“Louis Pasteur’s theory of germs is ridiculous fiction.” — Pierre Pachet, Professor of Physiology at Toulouse, 1872. (Someone get this guy a microscope. Because Pasteur’s theories on germs are scientific gospel.)

“The abdomen, the chest, and the brain will forever be shut from the intrusion of the wise and humane surgeon.” — Sir John Eric Ericksen, British surgeon, appointed Surgeon-Extraordinary to Queen Victoria 1873. (Obviously, he had no idea that 20th century would see development in chest splitting and brain surgery that we have a board game based on it.)

“If excessive smoking actually plays a role in the production of lung cancer, it seems to be a minor one.” – -W.C. Heuper, National Cancer Institute, 1954 (“Minor” in that smoking is the #1 cause of lung cancer that has killed millions of people. Nevertheless, tobacco is known to kill a third of its users each year.)

“That virus is a pussycat.” -– Dr. Peter Duesberg, molecular-biology professor at U.C. Berkeley, on HIV, 1988. (HIV is the farthest thing from a pussycat as we speak since it destroys your immune system before it kills you.)

“The abolishment of pain in surgery is a chimera. It is absurd to go on seeking it today.”—Dr. Alfred Velpeau, surgeon professor, Paris Faculty of Medicine, 1837 (Obviously, hasn’t seen the development of anesthesia and my Uncle Marty’s profession, anesthesiologist.)

“X-rays will prove to be a hoax.” — Lord Kelvin, President of the Royal Society, 1883. (Apparently, some scientists didn’t think so and they were right.)

“A certain Liquor which they call Coffee…which will soon intoxicate the brain.” — G. W. Parry (1601) (Coffee is a caffeinated drink. It’s not a liquor. Unless you’re talking about Four Loko which has alcohol and caffeine.)

Beyond Future Imperfect – Part 4: Society, Travel, Business and Economics? Seriously, You Got to Be Kidding Me

Now we’re halfway through. So while my previous posts focused on science and technology, in this installment, we move away from that. Rather, in this edition we’ll focus more on the social development in our history. In many ways, our society is always changing even if it can be hard for some people and institutions to accept it. For instance, in 2007, many people thought that Americans would never elect a black guy as their president. Given that African Americans were treated as slaves and second class citizens who were segregated to the crap parts of town. And the enduring racism in this country that’s embedded in the American culture. But in 2008, that’s exactly what happened with the election of Barack Obama. Another thing Americans didn’t imagine in 2007 was the nationwide legalization of gay marriage. The Republican dominated Supreme Court did just that 8 years later and there was much rejoicing. Nevertheless, gay marriage has become substantially less controversial in recent years and it’s a relatively easy issue to get behind. Then you have travel which pertains to places that some thought were of little tourist value like the Grand Canyon and the Effiel Tower. Finally, we have business and economics which people tend to get the wrong idea about that it’s often been politicized. Seriously, back in August of 2014, I wrote a blog post on the Federal Reserve to explain why Ron Paul’s call to “End the Fed” was an incredibly stupid idea. So without further adieu, here is my next installment of Beyond Future Imperfect for your reading pleasure.

Society? Sorry, Never Gonna Change


Yes, I’m sure women have been traditionally seen as housewives and stay-at-home moms. But I’m positive that women have made plenty of contributions outside the home, since, well, ever. Nevertheless, at least feminism helped make that much more acceptable by the 1970s. Still, look at this WWII poster for yourselves. Doesn’t look like a housewife to me.

“I see no good reasons why the views given in this volume should shock the religious sensibilities of anyone.” — Charles Darwin, The Origin Of Species, 1869. (Well, he wasn’t totally wrong as I do believe God did play a role in the evolution of life through the process of natural selection, which was probably His divine intention anyway. Besides, there’s the story of Jacob breeding goats so he could trick his father-in-law into giving him the greater share of the flock. Not to mention, Christians have long considered the Genesis creation story as an allegory long before Darwin even developed his theory of evolution. For instance, Saint Augustine believed that everything was created by God in the same instant and not in 6 days as Genesis would require. Also, there’s the fact that many people lived on farms at the time who are familiar breeding livestock and crops. However, Darwin wasn’t counting the notion of Biblical literalists who believe in the Young Earth Creationism.)

“If anything remains more or less unchanged, it will be the role of women.” –David Riesman, conservative American social scientist, 1967. (Well, as far as sexual reproduction is concerned. Other than that…women’s roles will certainly change and be beyond the role of housewife.)

“The multitude of books is a great evil. There is no limit to this fever for writing; every one must be an author; some out of vanity, to acquire celebrity and raise up a name, others for the sake of mere gain.”–Martin Luther, German Reformation leader, Table Talk, 1530s(?). (Sorry, Martin Luther, but books are a great good. And no, not everyone writes to become a celebrity.)

“Not one man I have spoken to likes a woman in mini skirts.” – Coco Chanel, 1969. (Coco has obviously not been around the right kind of men. Of course, men like women in miniskirts. Well, a lot of them anyway.)

“Visionaries see a future of telecommuting workers, interactive libraries and multimedia classrooms. They speak of electronic town meetings and virtual communities. Commerce and business will shift from offices and malls to networks and modems. And the freedom of digital networks will make government more democratic. Baloney.”– Clifford Stoll in “Newsweek”, 1995. (This is happening now as we speak.)

“Assuming then my postulata as granted, I say, that the power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man. Population, when unchecked, increases in a geometrical ratio.” – Thomas Malthus, who, in 1798, argued that population growth would outpace agricultural production. (Today we have agricultural industrial complex which can feed way more people than whatever Malthus’s world had in the 1790s.)

Travel? Nobody’s Going to See That


Yeah, I’m sure this majestic natural wonder is certainly a “profitless locality.” Never mind that it’s the #1 reason why people flock from all over the world to visit Arizona. Why the hell is it called “The Grand Canyon State” then?

“Ours has been the first, and doubtless to be the last, to visit this profitless locality.” — Lt. Joseph Ives, after visiting the Grand Canyon in 1861. (Too bad this guy knew nothing about tourism. Today, the Grand Canyon is the #1 tourist destination in Arizona as well as a national icon for the state. Hell, they don’t call Arizona, “the Grand Canyon” state for nothing.)

“And for the tourist who really wants to get away from it all, safaris in Vietnam” – -Newsweek, predicting popular holidays for the late 1960s. (Thanks but no thanks, Newsweek, but I’d stay the hell out of Vietnam, especially in the late 1960s when it’s a complete hellscape thanks to the Viet Cong and American GIs. Sorry, but safaris in Vietnam in the late 1960s aren’t going to happen.)

“We, writers, painters, sculptors, architects and passionate devotees of the hitherto untouched beauty of Paris, protest with all our strength, with all our indignation in the name of slighted French taste, against the erection … of this useless and monstrous Eiffel Tower … To bring our arguments home, imagine for a moment a giddy, ridiculous tower dominating Paris like a gigantic black smokestack, crushing under its barbaric bulk Notre Dame, the Tour Saint-Jacques, the Louvre, the Dome of les Invalides, the Arc de Triomphe, all of our humiliated monuments will disappear in this ghastly dream. And for twenty years … we shall see stretching like a blot of ink the hateful shadow of the hateful column of bolted sheet metal.” – excerpt of a protest letter on the Eiffel Tower sent to Charles Alpand who was Minister of Works and Commissioner of the 1889 World’s Fair. (They had no idea that the Eiffel Tower would become the symbol of Paris and would attract a lot of tourism from all over the world.)

“The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here…”—Abraham Lincoln, “The Gettysburg Address” (the most famous speech in American history) (Yeah, really underestimated that one, especially since people know “The Gettysburg Address” by heart.)

Business and Economics? That Won’t Pay Off


Let’s just say, whoever started this company shouldn’t have gotten a C on his term paper proposing an overnight delivery service. Because all this shows that it was a very good idea.

“The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a ‘C’, the idea must be feasible.” — A Yale University management professor in response to Fred Smith’s paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service. (Smith went on to found Federal Express Corp. We can now determine that the ‘C’ he got from his Yale management professor was undeserved.)

“A cookie store is a bad idea. Besides, the market research reports say America likes crispy cookies, not soft and chewy cookies like you make.” — Response to Debbi Fields’ idea of starting Mrs. Fields’ Cookies. (Thankfully, Mrs. Fields had the business sense to ignore this response and found a company that survives to this day.)

“Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.” — Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics, Yale University, 1929. (Come October and Irving Fisher would be eating his own words when the stock market crashed and the Great Depression later ensued.)

“Remote shopping, while entirely feasible, will flop – because women like to get out of the house, like to handle merchandise, like to be able to change their minds.”–TIME, 1966, in one sentence writing off e-commerce long before anyone had ever heard of it. (TIME really had no idea what it was talking about. Because online shopping is incredibly popular right now.)

“We will bury you.” –Nikita Krushchev, Soviet Premier, predicting Soviet communism will win over U.S. capitalism, 1958. (Sorry, Kruschev, but US capitalism would win over the Soviet Union instead. Yet, I’m not so sure about US democracy would win over whatever Russia has though. Because Putin has been in power there for a very long time.)

“In all likelihood world inflation is over.”–International Monetary Fund CEO, 1959. (Inflation is still going on and is happening all the time.)

“This antitrust thing will blow over.”–Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft. (No, it won’t, Bill, but it will drag on until 2001.)

“Capitalist production begets, with the inexorability of a law of nature, its own negation.”-Karl Marx. (Sorry, Karl, but capitalism is still alive and well thanks to government regulations, trade unions, and consumerism.)

“Your cigar-ettes will never become popular.”— F. G. Alton (cigar maker, turning down Mr. John Player), 1870 (Yes, they did, unfortunately. And there’s a lot of lung cancer to prove it.)

“By the year 1982 the graduated income tax will have practically abolished major differences in wealth.” – Irwin Edman, professor of philosophy Columbia University, 1932. (The graduated income tax is still around and has never abolish major differences in wealth.)

Crime, Law, and Order? What’s That a Show?

“The case is a loser.” -– Johnnie Cochran, on soon-to-be client O.J.’s chances of winning, 1994. (It should’ve been, but thanks to Johnnie Cochran’s thing about the glove, it wasn’t.)

Environment? C’mon, This is Nonsense

“By 1985, air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half … ” – Life magazine, 1970. (Not really, except maybe in China. Not to mention, this didn’t take climate change into account.)

“(The world will be) 11 degrees colder in the year 2000.” – Kenneth Watt, 1970. (Sorry, but it was warmer by the 2000s as I recall. Because you know, climate change.)

Disasters? Dream On

“The deliverance of the saints must take place some time before 1914.”— Charles Taze Russell (founder of Jehovah’s Witnesses), 1914 (Apocalypse predictions always never come true.)

“The deliverance of the saints must take place some time after 1914.”— Charles Taze Russell (founder of Jehovah’s Witnesses), 1923 (Now that’s a little better.)

” … civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind,” George Wald, Harvard University, 1970 (As of 2016, it’s still going strong. Still, Apocalyptic prophecies never come true.)

“The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.” – Paul Ralph Ehrlich, 1970. (46 years later and that many people isn’t dying of starvation.)

Beyond Future Imperfect – Part 3: Science, Technology, and Space Travel? You’re Crazy

As you’ve seen so far, you notice that a lot of a lot of these bad predictions pertain to science and technology. After all such ideas tend to shape our lives. Yet, back when scientific theory was being formulated, there were many critics who dismissed such ideas. Sure some of it had to do with religion which usually gets blamed nowadays, particularly when we talk about certain Christian groups not wanting their kids to be taught about evolution in public schools (though as a practicing Catholic, I do believe in evolution through natural processes and divine intervention. Not sure what role God played in this, but then again, the Lord works in mysterious ways.) However, when it comes to criticizing science, it’s not always about religion. Rather it might be the fact that the theory in question seems so crazy to some people that it absolutely makes no sense to them whatsoever. Technology is also changing as well and you’ve seen a lot of how people dismissed big breakthroughs as flops, fads, or failures. One of these breakthroughs in science and technology was space travel that was originally seen as something straight out of Jules Verne. So for your reading pleasure, I now bring you my third installment of Beyond Future Imperfect.

Science? You Mean Bullshit


Yes, I know that Galileo’s condemnation by the Catholic Church tends to serves as an example of how science and religion don’t tend to get along. However, we tend to forget that the a lot of scholars secular and otherwise didn’t think heliocentrism made a lot of sense. Mostly because they couldn’t wrap their heads around the idea of an earth in motion while everything in their world remained in place. After all, if the earth moves, you should be able to feel it.

“I am tired of all this sort of thing called science here… We have spent millions in that sort of thing for the last few years, and it is time it should be stopped.”–Simon Cameron, U.S. Senator, on the Smithsonian Institute, 1901. (And you thought the Republicans’ war on science was a new thing since so many of them deny climate change as a manmade thing that’s happening as we speak.)

“People give ear to an upstart astrologer who strove to show that the earth revolves, not the heavens or the firmament, the sun and the moon… Whoever wishes to appear clever must devise some new system, which of all systems is of course the very best. This fool wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy; but the sacred scripture tells us that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, not the earth.”— Martin Luther, 1540 (Seems like he wasn’t a big fan of Copernicus, a Polish priest who was proven right about heliocentrism by the way.)

“I can accept the theory of relativity as little as I can accept the existence of atoms and other such dogma.”— Professor Ernst Mach (as in speed-of-sound measurement), 1913 (So how is this guy a scientist? I can understand Einstein’s relativity theory with him. But atoms?)

“The most important fundamental laws and facts of physical science have all been discovered, and these are now so firmly established that the possibility of their ever being supplemented by new discoveries is exceedingly remote.”— Forest Ray Moulton, Astronomer, 1935 (There’s still more to be discovered, man. Just watch PBS on Wednesday night.)

“Mathematics is inadequate to describe the universe, since mathematics is an abstraction from natural phenomena. Also, mathematics may predict things which don’t exist, or are impossible in nature.”- Ludovico delle Colombe, 1633 (Uh, you might want to reconsider.)

“Animals, which move, have limbs and muscles. The earth does not have limbs and muscles; therefore it does not move.”- Scipio Chiaramonti [Professor of philosophy and mathematics at University of Pisa, arguing against the heliocentrc system, 1633] (Uh, just because something doesn’t have limbs and muscles doesn’t mean it doesn’t move. For instance, the earth moves around the sun by invisible forces like gravity. Reminds me of the witch sketch from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.)

“Just as in the microcosm there are seven `windows’ in the head (two nostrils, two eyes, two ears, and a mouth), so in the macrocosm God has placed two beneficent stars (Jupiter, Venus), two maleficent stars (Mars, Saturn), two luminaries (sun and moon), and one indifferent star (Mercury). The seven days of the week follow from these. Finally, since ancient times the alchemists had made each of the seven metals correspond to one of the planets; gold to the sun, silver to the moon, copper to Venus, quicksilver to Mercury, iron to Mars, tin to Jupiter, lead to Saturn.

From these and many other similar phenomena of nature such as the seven metals, etc., which it were tedious to enumerate, we gather that the number of planets is necessarily seven… Besides, the Jews and other ancient nations as well as modern Europeans, have adopted the division of the week into seven days, and have named them from the seven planets; now if we increase the number of planets, this whole system falls to the ground… Moreover, the satellites are invisible to the naked eye and therefore can have no influence on the earth, and therefore would be useless, and therefore do not exist.”– Francesco Sizzi, astronomer at Florence. [Arguing against Galileo’s 1610 announcement of his discovery of four moons of Jupiter.] (Someone get this guy a telescope. Because that’s how Galileo discovered them. Also, there are way more than 7 metals.)

“It is difficult to deal with an author whose mind is filled with a medium of so fickle and vibratory a nature…; We now dismiss…the feeble lucubrations of this author, in which we have searched without success for some traces of learning, acuteness, and ingenuity, that might compensate his evident deficiency in the powers of solid thinking…”- Henry Brougham. [Criticizing Thomas Young’s wave theory of light.] (Let me guess who’s right here. Uh, Thomas Young.)

“Buildings and the earth itself would fly off with such a rapid motion that men would have to be provided with claws like cats to enable them to hold fast to the earth’s surface.” — Libertus Fromundus, Anti-Aristarchus, 1631 (I don’t think this guy understands how planetary motion works.)

“If we concede the motion of the earth, why is it that an arrow shot into the air falls back to the same spot, while the earth and all the things on it have in the meantime moved very rapidly toward the east? Who does not see that great confusion would result from this motion?” — Polacco, Anticopernicus Catholicus, 1644 (Uh, how about gravity?)

“There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now; All that remains is more and more precise measurement.” – Lord Kelvin, 1900. (Einstein’s Theory of Relativity is a start as far as he’s concerned.)

Technology? That’s Science Fiction


And IBM thought the founders of Xerox could only sell 5,000 of these things. Today, the word Xerox is now synonymous for “photocopier.” So the joke’s on IBM.

“If I had thought about it, I wouldn’t have done the experiment. The literature was full of examples that said you can’t do this.” — Spencer Silver on the work that led to the unique adhesives for 3-M “Post-It” Notepads. (Boy, this guy didn’t know what he just accomplished with “Post-It” Notepads.)

“You want to have consistent and uniform muscle development across all of your muscles? It can’t be done. It’s just a fact of life. You just have to accept inconsistent muscle development as an unalterable condition of weight training.” — Response to Arthur Jones, who solved the “unsolvable” problem by inventing Nautilus. (And people have been using that ever since.)

“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. (Apparently, drilling for oil ended up becoming one of the most profitable enterprises ever. Hell, this world basically runs on oil drilling which isn’t helping our fossil fuel dependency.)

“The world potential market for copying machines is 5000 at most.” — IBM, to the eventual founders of Xerox, saying the photocopier had no market large enough to justify production, 1959 (Today, these are at almost every office building, school, or business you can think of. And Xerox is now synonymous with photocopier.)

“Inventions reached their limit long ago and I see no hope for further development.”— Julius Sextus Frontinus, prominent Roman engineer (c. 40-103 AD) (I can see plenty after the first century AD, thank you very much.)

“In my own time there have been inventions of this sort, transparent windows, tubes for diffusing warmth equally through all parts of a building, short-hand which has been carried to such a pitch of perfection that a writer can keep pace with the most rapid speaker. But the inventing of such things is drudgery for the lowest slaves; philosophy lies deeper…”- Roman poet Lucius Annaeus Seneca (4 B.C.E.-65 C.E.) (Seems like the Romans weren’t fans of scientific innovations.)

“There is a young madman proposing to light the streets of London—with what do you suppose—with smoke!”– Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) [On a proposal to light cities with gaslight.] (Gas would be the dominant source of lighting throughout the late 19th and early 20th century.)

“Theological: It is an intervention in God’s order, which makes nights dark…

Medical: It will be easier for people to be in the streets at night, afflicting them with colds…

Philosophical-moral: Morality deteriorates through street lighting. Artificial lighting drives out fear of the dark, which keeps the weak from sinning.” –The Kölonische Zeitung [Köln, Germany, 28 March 1819] on why there shouldn’t be street lighting. (I can give you plenty of good reasons for it. For one, it keeps you safe. Second, it helps you navigate through the area. Third, it helps you determine where to avoid the horseshit.)

“Given a compact power source…the house of the future would have no roots tying it to the ground. Gone would be water pipes, drains, power lines; the autonomous home could therefore move, or be moved, to anywhere on earth at the owner’s whim. The time may come, therefore, when whole communities may migrate south in the winter, or move to new lands whenever they feel the need for a change of scenery.” Arthur C. Clarke describing 2001 in 1966. (Nice way to picture the future which didn’t happen yet, especially in 2001.)

“Printed books will never be the equivalent of handwritten codices, especially since printed books are often deficient in spelling and appearance.” – Trithemius in his treatise, “In Praise of Copying.” (Actually printed books are better in appearance and spelling, thanks to Johannes Gutenberg in the 1400s.)

Space Travel? Seriously, You’re Delusional


And there were so many people who didn’t think this moment on July 20, 1969 wouldn’t be possible. But it happened and Buzz Aldrin is still alive to tell the tale. There were 5 other landings after that with 9 other men on the moon ever since. Unfortunately, despite it being televised, many people believed that the moon landing was faked in Arizona.

“That Professor Goddard with his ‘chair’ in Clark College and the countenancing of the Smithsonian Institution does not know the relation of action to reaction, and of the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react–to say that would be absurd. Of course, he only seems to lack the knowledge ladled out daily in high schools.” — 1921 New York Times editorial about Robert Goddard’s revolutionary rocket work. The remark was retracted in the July 17, 1969 issue. (Yeah, I can see where the New York Times would regret that one. Because rockets have been sent to space since the 1950s.)

“A rocket will never be able to leave the Earth’s atmosphere.” — New York Times, 1936 (Man, it seems like the NYT is really stuck with the impossibility of rockets in space thing. Wonder how that worked out.)

“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. Craven, FCC Commissioner, in 1961 (the first commercial communications satellite went into service in 1965). (Boy, that’s sure going to bite him in the ass 4 years later. And yes, we do use commercial satellites nowadays.)

“To place a man in a multi-stage rocket and project him into the controlling gravitational field of the moon where the passengers can make scientific observations, perhaps land alive, and then return to earth – all that constitutes a wild dream worthy of Jules Verne. I am bold enough to say that such a man-made voyage will never occur regardless of all future advances.” — Lee DeForest, American radio pioneer and inventor of the vacuum tube, in 1926 (Note: This was how Apollo 11 pulled it off the moon landing in 1969.)

“There has been a great deal said about a 3000 miles high angle rocket. In my opinion such a thing is impossible for many years. The people who have been writing these things that annoy me have been talking about a 3000 mile high-angle rocket shot from one continent to another, carrying an atomic bomb and so directed as to be a precise weapon which would land exactly on a certain target, such as a city.

“This foolish idea of shooting at the moon is an example of the absurd length to which vicious specialization will carry scientists working in thought-tight compartments. Let us critically examine the proposal. For a projectile entirely to escape the gravitation of earth, it needs a velocity of 7 miles a second. The thermal energy of a gramme at this speed is 15,180 calories… The energy of our most violent explosive–nitroglycerine–is less than 1,500 calories per gramme. Consequently, even had the explosive nothing to carry, it has only one-tenth of the energy necessary to escape the earth… Hence the proposition appears to be basically impossible.”– W. A. Bickerton, Professor of Physics and Chemistry at Canterbury College (Christchurch, New Zealand), 1926. (Yet, somehow NASA seemed to pull this off in 1969.)

“There is not in sight any source of energy that would be a fair start toward that which would be necessary to get us beyond the gravitative control of the earth.”– Forest Ray Moulton (1872-1952), astronomer, 1935. (How about a fancy type of gasoline called rocket fuel?)

“Space travel is utter bilge.”– Dr. Richard van der Reit Wooley, Astronomer Royal, space advisor to the British government, 1956. (Apparently, Sputnik would orbit the following year. I’d like to see his reaction.)

Beyond Future Imperfect – Part 2: Energy, Computers, and Communication, How Absurd

So we’re off to a good start. As you may see, sometimes the future is never what we imagine it. And sometimes what we think was impossible is made possible. And none of that can be emphasized than in this post. In this edition of Beyond Future Imperfect, we go over what people initially surmised about energy, computers, and communication. To people who lived before these caught on, they would’ve thought such things were the stuff of science fiction. For instance, before the late 1800s, nobody would imagine lights being powered by electricity. Then the light bulb was invented and it took a savvy inventor named Thomas Edison to popularize it. And before WWII, nobody thought nuclear power was possible, even Albert Einstein. Yes, that Einstein. Then there’s the development of computers which people in your grandparents’ generation wouldn’t dream of having due to them being incredibly expensive and the tendency to take up a whole room. But the development of the microchip changed all that which led to the rise of Silicon Valley as well as the emergence of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and the Internet. And there’s communication which before the Industrial Revolution, hadn’t seen much development since Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press and movable type in the 1400s. Yet, messages were still delivered through horse, coach, and messenger. But the Industrial Revolution saw the development of the telegraph which led to the telephone. Later on, you then had the invention of radio and television. And in the 1980s and 1990s, you had the Internet, whose development for the massses was funded by the US government in a bill passed through Congress that was sponsored by a little known Senator named Al Gore. So without further adieu, I now bring you my second post in the series of Beyond Future Imperfect.

Electricity? Just a Phase


Sure Edison didn’t really invent the light bulb and he knew it. But it was his light bulb that turned out more practical, long lasting, and commercially viable among the masses. And they said electricity was just a phase. Well, his idea of direct current, that is.

“Everyone acquainted with the subject will recognize it as a conspicuous failure.” – -Henry Morton, president of the Stevens Institute of Technology, on Edison’s light bulb, 1880 (Boy, he had no idea that Edison’s lightbulb would help bring electricity into people’s homes and that it’s still around to this day. Some failure that turned out to be.)

“When the Paris Exhibition [of 1878] closes, electric light will close with it and no more will be heard of it.” – Oxford professor Erasmus Wilson (Seems like Professor Wilson is sorely mistaken, since everyone in industrialized world uses electric lights to this day.)

“There is no plea which will justify the use of high-tension and alternating currents, either in a scientific or a commercial sense.”— Thomas Alva Edison, 1889 (We still use the alternating current today. Direct current, on the other hand….)

“Such startling announcements as these should be deprecated as being unworthy of science and mischievous to its true progress.”— Sir William Siemens (on Edison’s announcement of light bulb), 1880 (Clearly this guy has no idea how the light bulb will change the world.)

“Do not bother to sell your gas shares. The electric light has no future.” —Professor John Henry Pepper, Victorian-era celebrity scientist, sometime in the 1870s (Yes, it has a future like you wouldn’t believe. Seriously, we still use it in the 21st century.)

Nuclear Power? Forget It


And Einstein thought this wouldn’t be possible in the 1930s. Guess that’s one of the few things he was definitely wrong about. Nevertheless, would I say it’s safe? No freaking way.

“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.” — Albert Einstein, 1932. (This is probably one of the few instances in the history of science where Einstein is wrong. Seriously, splitting the atom was done in his own lifetime for God’s sake. And yes, nuclear energy does exist for that.)

“There is no likelihood man can ever tap the power of the atom. The glib supposition of utilizing atomic energy when our coal has run out is a completely unscientific Utopian dream, a childish bug-a-boo. Nature has introduced a few fool-proof devices into the great majority of elements that constitute the bulk of the world, and they have no energy to give up in the process of disintegration.”— Robert Millikan, Nobel Prize winner in physics, 1920 (Man, he’s going to be in for a shock come the 1940s.)

“All the waste in a year from a nuclear power plant can be stored under a desk.”— Ronald Reagan, 1980 (Seriously, can someone please school Ronald Reagan on how nuclear energy works. Tell him how much waste a nuclear plant generates a year. It’s a matter of tons.)

“The energy produced by the breaking down of the atom is a very poor kind of thing. Anyone who looks for a source of power in the transformation of the atom is talking moonshine.”— Ernest Rutherford, 1936 (He won’t be saying this by 1945.)

Nuclear-powered vacuum cleaners will probably be a reality in 10 years.” -– Alex Lewyt, president of vacuum cleaner company Lewyt Corp., in the New York Times in 1955. (Thank the Lord this didn’t happen. Noisy vacuum cleaners are bad enough. Radioactive vacuum cleaners are the stuff of nightmares.)

“There is little doubt that the most significant event affecting energy is the advent of nuclear power…a few decades hence, energy may be free—just like the unmetered air….-“- John von Neumann, scientist and member of the Atomic Energy Commission, 1955. (Uh, no, it won’t. Seriously, people receive electric bills. Also, nuclear power isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.)

Computers? You Mean These Useless Magic Machines?


Back in the day, it was said that computers in the future would weight 1.5 tons and that there would be a market for 5 of them. Guess they weren’t betting on the invention of the microchip.

“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” — Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943. (Today there’s a market for countless computers.)

“Where a calculator on the ENIAC is equipped with 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighs 30 tons, computers in the future may have only 1,000 vacuum tubes and weigh only 1.5 tons.” — Popular Mechanics, 1949.  (Today’s computers are made with no vacuum tubes and can fit on a desk, lap, or palm in your hand.)

“I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won’t last out the year.” — The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957. (Well, data processing is alive and well because it’s used in practically everything.)

But what…is it good for?” — Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, 1968, commenting on the microchip. (Well, for making computers more accessible, affordable, smaller, more useful, and more powerful. And basically changing computers as we know them.)

“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” — Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977. (Yes, this is as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs showed them and got rich over it.)

“Get your feet off my desk. Get out of here. You stink. And we’re not going to buy your product.”—Joe Keenan, President of Atari, responding to Steve Jobs’ offer to sell him the rights to Apple (Atari just made a very dumb mistake.)

“It would appear that we have reached the limits of what is possible to achieve with computer technology, although one should be careful with such statements, as they tend to sound pretty silly in five years.”— John von Neumann, computer inventor, 1949

“We have reached the limits of what is possible with computers.”— John Von Neumann, 1949 (Just wait until the microchip is invented.)

“We will never make a 32 bit operating system.” — Bill Gates (Oh, yes, you will, Bill. Yes, you will.)

“The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don’t read anymore.”—Steve Jobs discussing the Kindle (Newsflash: they do.)

“I’m sorry… but really? This is really what you think the iPad will cause? What we have now with this tablet craze is a trend, like Pogs. (…) I don’t know how anyone can possibly think that the iPad will be some sort of paradigm shift.”— moocat commenting on this Gizmodo article about the iPad being the future. (Sorry, but the he iPad is a hit that they’ve made other computer tablets as well. In fact, I have an LG Tablet from Verizon which I got for Christmas.)

“For the most part, the portable computer is a dream machine for the few … On the whole, people don’t want to lug a computer with them to the beach or on a train to while away hours they would rather spend reading the sports or business section of the newspaper.” – Erik Sandberg-Diment, The New York Times, 1985. (Clearly this guy has never foreseen laptops, Kindles, or iPads.)

Communication? Come Back to Reality


Wonder why Western Union turned down Alexander Graham Bell’s offer of $100,000 for his telephone company? Seriously, isn’t transmitting voices better than Morse Code? Oh, well, their loss.

“This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.” — Western Union internal memo, 1876. (Of course, telephones made wire communication much easier due to a speaker and receiver you can talk into and hear through. Sure beats Morse code. Phones are still around to this day. Western Union, on the other hand is not.)

“The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys.” — Sir William Preece, chief engineer of the British Post Office, 1876. (I’m sure messenger boys aren’t as efficient as communicating through wires.)

“The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?” — David Sarnoff’s associates in response to his urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920s. (Uh, a lot of people since David Sarnoff knew what he was doing and he got rich on it.)

“The radio craze…will die out in time.”— Thomas Alva Edison, 1922 (No, it won’t, Mr. Edison.)

“The Internet will catastrophically collapse in 1996.”— Robert Metcalfe, internet inventor (date unknown) (The Internet is still around and it’s 20 years after 1996.)

“The Internet? We are not interested in it.” –Bill Gates, 1993. (Really, Bill? Think you’d better start.)

“It is impossible to transmit the human voice over wires as may be done with dots and dashes of Morse code, and that, were it possible to do so, the thing would be of no practical value.” – Boston newspaper, 1865. (Guess what happened within the next decade.)

“Radio has no future.”– Lord Kelvin (1824-1907), British mathematician and physicist, ca. 1897. (Once again, Lord Kelvin is wrong. Dead wrong.)

“What use could this company make of an electrical toy?”— William Orton, Western Union President, turning down Alexander Graham Bell’s offer to sell his telephone company for $100,000 (As a matter of fact, the $100,000 for that electric toy was worth it.)

“[Apple’s iPhone] is the most expensive phone in the world and it doesn’t appeal to business customers because it doesn’t have a keyboard which makes it not a very good e-mail machine…”–Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s CEO, 2007. (Meanwhile, Steve Jobs just earned Apple millions of dollars and is laughing his way to the bank.)

“The telephone is a curious device that might fairly find place in the magic of Arabian Tales. Of what use is such an invention?”—A newspaper reporter, 1876. (Uh, talking to people over long distances.)

“The coming of the wireless era will make war impossible, because it will make war ridiculous.”–Guglielmo Marconi, pioneer of radio, Technical World Magazine, October, 1912, page 145. (Just because something makes war ridiculous doesn’t make it impossible. Also, guess what happens 2 years later.)

“The truth is no online database will replace your daily newspaper, no CD-ROM can take the place of a competent teacher and no computer network will change the way government works.” – Clifford Stoll, 1995. (Maybe not, but the Internet is changing everything as we speak. Ever heard of Amazon?)

Beyond Future Imperfect – Part 1: Transporation? You’re Not Going Anywhere

Foresight is never 20/20. Anyone who’s seen the weatherman get the forecast wrong on the news would know that. But that doesn’t stop people from guessing what the future would be like. And people in the past were no different. And it’s not expected to get these predictions wrong as you may well know from weather forecasts. However, when it comes to the weather, the predictions usually center on the immediate future like this week or the next 24 hours. And the weatherman’s predictions usually make some sense even if they turn out to be wrong. But this isn’t a series for weather predictions because they’re boring. This a series about the stuff people predicted about the future and getting it horribly wrong. In this edition, I’ll cover transportation which really has changed a lot in since the Industrial Revolution. For a long time in history, the primary modes of transportation were by foot, by horse, and by wooden ship. But the Industrial Revolution changed all that with railways and steamships as well as paved the way for cars, aviation, submarines, an more. But not everyone imagined it this way, as you can see. Thus, for your reading pleasure, here are some bad predictions about transportation.

Aviation? Nah, That Won’t Fly


And they said that manned flight was impractical or impossible. Seems like somebody forgot to tell these two bicycle shop owning brothers from Dayton, Ohio. And just look what they did on December 17, 1903 near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

“There will never be a bigger plane built.” — A Boeing engineer, after the first flight of the 247, a twin engine plane that holds ten people. (I guess this guy would later be fired. Because planes today hold way more than 10 people.)

“Man will not fly for 50 years.” –Wilbur Wright, American aviation pioneer, to brother Orville, after a disappointing flying experiment, 1901 (their first successful flight was in 1903). (Guess Wilbur was off by 48 years.)

“I have not the smallest molecule of faith in aerial navigation other than ballooning.”— Lord Kelvin, President of Royal Society, 1890 (Guess what happened in 1903.)

“Flight by machines heavier than air is impractical and insignificant, if not utterly impossible.”— Simon Newcomb, astronomer, 1902 (Guess what happened the next year.)

“…no possible combination of known substances, known forms of machinery, and known forms of force, can be united in a practical machine by which man shall fly long distances through the air…”- Simon Newcomb (1835-1909), astronomer, head of the U. S. Naval Observatory (Somehow the Wright brothers managed to pull this off in 1903.)

“If man were meant to fly, God would have given him wings.” – Bishop Milton Wright, father of the Wright brothers. (The brothers who, you know, would be the first to fly their own plane at Kitty Hawk. Yes, that was their father.)

“Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.” — Lord Kelvin, British mathematician and physicist, president of the British Royal Society, 1895. (Apparently, two brothers in Dayton, Ohio didn’t think so. And look what they did in North Carolina 5 years later.)

“Hence, if it requires, say, a thousand years to fit for easy flight a bird which started with rudimentary wings, or ten thousand for one which started with no wings at all and had to sprout them ab initio, it might be assumed that the flying machine which will really fly might be evolved by the combined and continuous efforts of mathematicians and mechanicians in from one million to ten million years–provided, of course, we can meanwhile eliminate such little drawbacks and embarrassments as the existing relation between weight and strength in inorganic materials.” The New York Times, Oct 9, 1903, p. 6. (Guess what two guys from Dayton did in North Carolina that year.)

“It would fill the world with innumerable immoralities and give such occasion for intrigues as people can not meet with. You would have a couple of lovers make a midnight assignation upon the top of the monument and see the cupola of St. Paul’s covered with both sexes like the outside of a pigeon house. Nothing would be more frequent than to see a beau flying in at a garret window or a gallant giving chase to his mistress like a hawk after a lark.”- Joseph Addison. [Concerns about where manned flight might lead (1713)] (What the hell does he imagine the future being like? Aladdin? Seriously, there’s a reason flying contraptions aren’t as available for consumers as skateboards.)

“Before Man reaches the moon, mail will be delivered within hours from New York to California, to Britain, to India or Australia by guided missiles. We stand on the threshold of rocket Science.”—George Summerfiled (Yes, that sounds awesome. But the US landed on the moon in 1969 and we still don’t have rocket mail. We have drones and Internet instead, which is so much better.)

“Automobiles will start to decline almost as soon as the last shot is fired in World War II. The name of Igor Sikorsky will be as well known as Henry Ford’s, for his helicopter will all but replace the horseless carriage as the new means of popular transportation. Instead of a car in every garage, there will be a helicopter…. These ‘copters’ will be so safe and will cost so little to produce that small models will be made for teenage youngsters. These tiny ‘copters, when school lets out, will fill the sky as the bicycles of our youth filled the prewar roads.”– Harry Bruno, aviation publicist, 1943. (I’m sure every family had their own helicopter after WWII. Not really. Seriously, there are no such things as privately owned helicopters unless one is stinking rich. I guess the brown acid was around in the 1940s.)

Cars? Are You Nuts?


And they thought this wouldn’t replace the horse. Well, guess they didn’t bet on Henry Ford’s Model T assembly line in Detroit. Did they? Available only in black.

“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. (Businessweek severely underestimated how well the Japanese made cars that are affordable and reliable with Honda, Toyota, Mazda, Isuzu, Nissan, Mitsubishi, and Subaru.)

“The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty—a fad.” – -The president of the Michigan Savings Bank advising Henry Ford’s lawyer not to invest in the Ford Motor Co., 1903 (Obviously, Michigan Savings Bank had no idea what they were dealing with. Nowadays, cars are everywhere and horses are no longer seen as a mode of transportation.)

“It is an idle dream to imagine that automobiles will take the place of railways in the long distance movement of passengers.”— American Railroad Congress, 1913 (But it did happen as we know now because Amtrak isn’t doing so well these days.)

“The Edsel is here to stay.”— Henry Ford II, 1957 (Sorry, but the Edsel was one of the biggest flops in automotive history.)

“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, January 2, 1909. (I’m sure there are plenty of ways to improve a car. Because nobody drives a Model T these days.)

“A new source of power… called gasoline has been produced by a Boston engineer. Instead of burning the fuel under a boiler, it is exploded inside the cylinder of an engine.

The dangers are obvious. Stores of gasoline in the hands of people interested primarily in profit would constitute a fire and explosive hazard of the first rank. Horseless carriages propelled by gasoline might attain speeds of 14 or even 20 miles per hour. The menace to our people of vehicles of this type hurtling through our streets and along our roads and poisoning the atmosphere would call for prompt legislative action even if the military and economic implications were not so overwhelming… [T]he cost of producing [gasoline] is far beyond the financial capacity of private industry… In addition the development of this new power may displace the use of horses, which would wreck our agriculture.”– U. S. Congressional Record, 1875. (Yeah, right. Nowadays, because of gas, the oil industry is one of the most important and most profitable. Also, gasoline didn’t wreck our agriculture.)

“Within the next few decades, autos will have folding wings that can be spread when on a straight stretch of road so that the machine can take to the air.” — Eddie Rickenbacker, ‘Popular Science,’ July 1924 (Yeah, I can see that but only in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.)

Railroads? That Train Ain’t Gonna Come


And they thought nobody would pay to travel by rail if they already had a horse. Yet, this soon became a dominant mode of transportation by the end of the 19th century.

“Rail travel at high speed is not possible because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia.” – Dr. Dionysius Lardner, 1830 (I’ve been on a high speed rail at Disney World and suffered no such problems.)

“No one will pay good money to get from Berlin to Potsdam in one hour when he can ride his horse there in one day for free.” – King William I of Prussia, on trains, 1864 (Oh, yes, they will because it would be cheaper and easier. Also, had no idea why liveries existed in the first place. Or what it takes to care for a horse.)

“I should say that no railway locomotive ought to exceed 40 miles per hour on the most favorable gradient, but on a curved line the speed ought not to exceed 24 or 25 miles per hour.”— George Stephenson, 1841 (They go more that 40 mph now.)

“Dear Mr. President: The canal system of this country is being threatened by a new form of transportation known as ‘railroads’ … As you may well know, Mr. President, ‘railroad’ carriages are pulled at the enormous speed of 15 miles per hour by ‘engines’ which, in addition to endangering life and limb of passengers, roar and snort their way through the countryside, setting fire to crops, scaring the livestock and frightening women and children. The Almighty certainly never intended that people should travel at such breakneck speed.” — Martin Van Buren, Governor of New York, 1830(?). (Well, railroads were dangerous since they killed more people than some wars. However, 15 mph is certainly breakneck speed, for a turtle.)

“What can be more palpably absurd than the prospect held out of locomotives traveling twice as fast as stagecoaches?”–The Quarterly Review, March, 1825. (I can name a lot of things but not that. Actually, trains may travel more than twice as fast as stagecoaches.)

Maritime? That Ship Ain’t Gonna Sail


Ships powered by steam? Such nonsense! How’s that going to catch on? Oh, wait, it did. In fact, Mark Twain worked on one of these.

“How, sir, would you make a ship sail against the wind and currents by lighting a bonfire under her deck? I pray you, excuse me, I have not the time to listen to such nonsense.” — Napoleon Bonaparte, when told of Robert Fulton’s steamboat, 1800s (Seems like Napoleon had no idea on how a steam engine worked. Too bad for him.)

“I must confess that my imagination refuses to see any sort of submarine doing anything but suffocating its crew and floundering at sea.” — HG Wells, British novelist, in 1901 (Thankfully, Jules Verne thought otherwise since 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea features nuclear subs. Still, he has no idea how submarines work.)

“The Titanic is well able to withstand almost any exterior damage and could keep afloat indefinitely after being struck.”— P. Franklin, Vice President, White Star Line, April 15th 1912 (Does 3 hours after hitting an iceberg count?)

”I cannot conceive of any vital disaster happening to this vessel. Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that.”—Captain Edward J. Smith of the Titanic before its maiden voyage in 1912. (How about sinking for 3 hours after being hit by an iceberg?)

”There is no danger that Titanic will sink. The boat is unsinkable and nothing but inconvenience will be suffered by the passengers.”– P. Franklin, Vice President, White Star Line, April 15th 1912 (Inconvenience? I think the passengers suffered more than inconvenience when it sank after hitting an iceberg. That’s putting it mildly.)

“I. A Voyage to Asia would require three years.

II. The western Ocean is infinite and perhaps unnavigable.

III. If he reached the Antipodes he could not get back.

IV. There are no Antipodes because the greater part of the globe is covered with water, and because St. Augustine said so.

V. Of the five zones, only three are habitable.

VI. So many centuries after the Creation, it is unlikely that anyone could find hitherto unknown lands of any value.”– Report of the committee organized in 1486 by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain to study Columbus’ plans to find a shorter route to India. (Well, they were right about the impossibility or a shorter route to India. They were wrong about the other points but the first one for the time.)

“Men might as well project a voyage to the Moon as attempt to employ steam navigation against the stormy North Atlantic Ocean.”– Dr. Dionysus Lardner (1793-1859), Professor of Natural Philosophy and Astronomy at University College, London. (Later on, humanity accomplishes both.)