Technology is a distinctive marker of development. When we think about the future, we often imagine a world where every task is simplified by machines, and where robots who are smarter than human beings rule. Several years ago, several predictions were made concerning technology—how human interactions will be made better by technological advancements, and how the advent of machines will make digital interfaces a lot like telepathy. While some of those predictions were fairly accurate, others still have us waiting. Here is a list of the 25 biggest false predictions concerning technology.
In a Western Union internal memo issued in year 1876, it was published—“This telephone has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.” More than a century since this statement was first published; there is no denying that it was a failed prediction. The telephone has been one of the most important inventions to have ever been introduced in the modern world, and even now that mobile phones are more widely used, the value of telephones in the corporate world can never be underrated.
Mr. Lord Kevin, the former president of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, argued in 1833—“X-rays will prove to be a hoax.” Back then, x-ray technology was just discovered by Rontgen. Little did Lord Kevin know that a century after, this invention would be deemed as among the most valuable discoveries in the field of science. X-rays today are generally used for digital imaging, where bone and organ structures are examined to identify infirmities.
A British writer famous for his writings in the science fiction genre, H.G. Wells once stated his view of submarines—“ I must confess that my imagination refuses to see any sort of submarine doing anything but suffocating its crew and floundering at sea”. While submarines today are used to perform specialized functions both in expeditions and military operations, it was a total mistake for Wells to deem it useless.
Sometime in 1959, multinational technology and consulting corporation IBM released a statement saying that “The world potential market for copying machines is 5000 at most .It had no market large enough to justify production”. Today, photocopying machines are among the most valuable machines that cannot be absent in any business setting. One can never imagine a school, a commercial or government office operating while devoid of a photocopier.
Renowned actor, producer and comedienne Charlie Chaplin claimed in 1916, “The cinema is little more than a fad. It’s canned drama. What audiences really want to see is flesh and blood on the stage”. Stage plays used to be the most popular, but since the dawn of cinemas, going to movie houses have outshone watching theaters as a form of recreation. And the fad over cinemas is never as fleeting as Chaplin thought it would be. Until today, more and more people discover the fun in watching their favorite actors on the silver screen.
Irish scientific writer Dionysius Lardner, the one who popularized science and technology, once made a prediction that travelling through rail would be impossible—“Rail travel at high speed is not possible because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia”. Since the dawn of the 18th century, however, several rail systems that provide passenger transport service to people have become so popular because of their speed and the convenience that they provide to commuters.
Audion inventor Lee De Forest claimed in 1926–“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”. In 1962, Neil Armstrong and two others were the first men to step on the moon and come back to the earth alive.
American inventor and businessman Thomas Edison, in his aim to mock rival George Westinghouse, remarked in 1889–“Fooling around with alternating current is just a waste of time. Nobody will use it, ever”. Years after, his statement proved to be a fallacious one, since alternating current (AC) is now the form of electric power widely used in the distribution of energy to businesses and residences.
Two decades ago, Sir William James Erasmus Wilson, a British physician and a professor at Oxford University, foretold, “When the Paris Exhibition closes, electric light will close with it and no more will be heard of it”. Back then, over six million visitors would come to Paris to witness the spectacular event where the colourful lights flooding the city were among the major attractions. Today, one can never imagine the world without electricity.
American radio and television pioneer David Sarnoff was once asked to create a music box. In 1921, he remarked–“The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to no one in particular?”.Sarnoff never realized at the time that there could ever be no end to ways through which sound could actually travel. By the 20th century, people have gone so gaga over wireless devices.
Sometime in 1932, renowned German theoretical physicist and inventor Albert Einstein claimed–“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”. Today, the obtainment of nuclear energy is used in the creation of nuclear energy, medicine, and even weapons of war. Also, nuclear power is used today in heat and electricity generation.
New York Governor Martin Van Buren wrote to the US President in 1830–“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”. Today, railroads are among the most convenient modes of transportation of the modern man, and they can ride them without breaking their bones.
In 1977, Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) president, chairman and founder Ken Oslon issued his statement against computers saying–“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” Today, nearly every home has a computer in it, and one can only imagine how difficult life would turn out to be without computers and the internet, both for students and employees, individuals and families.
Once in 1902, the chief of the Michigan Savings Bank advised the lawyer of Henry Ford, the developer and manufacturer of the first affordable automobile, “The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty – a fad”. He advised Ford never to invest his money in the creation of automobiles since according to him, they were just a whim that would soon pass. But it is far-fetched to imagine modern-day thoroughfares dominated by horses and not cars.
An engineer of multinational aerospace and defense corporation Boeing once remarked “There will never be a bigger plane built,” just right after he got off from his first flight of 247, a double engine plane that can accommodate up to ten passengers. Today, airplanes come in a variety of sizes and are among the most popular means of both domestic and international transportation. A mini plane called airbus can hold a minimum of 60 people.