Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Why You Shouldn't Predict The Future...

It's always bad practice to predict the future. After all, there are pretty much unlimited possibilities as to what could happen and your prediction is only one of those multitudes. Ergo, it's a good chance you'll not only not happened to have picked the one of all possible futures correctly, but even likely you'll be hilariously wrong.

Nowhere does this seem to be more true than with technology. You either say it will be able to do everything we could ever dream of and you look like an anachronistic fool, or you say it will never become anything and you look like a Luddite troglodyte.

Take, for example, this Newsweek article from 1995 explaining why this newfangled "internet" will never become anything. Here's my favorite chunks of wisdom from someone who we can't forget was paid good money to come up with this stuff:

How about electronic publishing? Try reading a book on disc. At best, it's an unpleasant chore: the myopic glow of a clunky computer replaces the friendly pages of a book. And you can't tote that laptop to the beach. Yet Nicholas Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Lab, predicts that we'll soon buy books and newspapers straight over the Intenet. Uh, sure.

You're totally right -- no one will ever purchase or read things over the internet, and there will most assuredly not be a crisis in the newspaper industry in little over a decade from the time this piece is written. Not to mention laptops will certainly never be so thin as to have their weight measured in ounces. Or how about this nugget:

Then there's cyberbusiness. We're promised instant catalog shopping—just point and click for great deals. We'll order airline tickets over the network, make restaurant reservations and negotiate sales contracts. Stores will become obselete. So how come my local mall does more business in an afternoon than the entire Internet handles in a month? Even if there were a trustworthy way to send money over the Internet—which there isn't—the network is missing a most essential ingredient of capitalism: salespeople.

This one's even better -- it's a good thing we never figured out how to send money over the internet, or else those malls sure would be in trouble. And if there's one thing I think whenever I'm online, it's "man, this sure would be a better experience if some minimum-wage idiot were asking me if I was looking for anything in particular rather than just letting me shop in peace."

So please learn your lesson from this, kids. Predicting the future almost always makes you look like an idiot. Especially if you discount something that will become one of the most integral aspects of our lives within 5 years of your article being published...

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