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September 11, 2003
A bit from my forthcoming book...Brain Wave: Our Emerging Neurosociety
People do a very poor job of predicting the future. Take Lord Kelvin, the physicist and president of the British Royal Society, who in 1895 insisted, Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible. Or Ken Olson, President of Digital Equipment Corporation who in 1977 proclaimed, There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home.
Inventors also dont usually understand the potential of their technologies. The phonograph
is not of commercial value, Thomas Edison declared after he had invented it in 1880. And its not just inventors or high tech executives that get it wrong. People who are supposed to be on the cutting edge of cultural consciousness predict just as poorly, as a Decca Recording Company executive showed in 1962 after turning down the Beatles, We dont like their sound. Groups of guitars are on the way out.
Even as teams of highly educated professionals we often miss the mark. A severe depression like that of 1920-1921 is outside the range of probability, stated the Harvard Economic Society on November 16th 1929, just weeks before the Great Depression began. Not even the computer scientists working on the Internet in the early 1970s could imagine that it would become a medium of global commerce by the end of the century.
If forecasting a specific event or new technology is difficult, then how is it possible to try to predict where human society will go next?
| Category: NeuroWave 2050
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