We Consistently Over-Estimate the Impact of Technology in the Short run, and Under-Estimate its Long Term Impact
As I prepare for a plenary speech at the upcoming 2016 ICIET Conference in Los Angeles in January, I am reviewing the history of utterly failed predictions about what will NOT come to pass with advancing technologies. I think they lend an eye-opening context to the dialogue I will present.
A lot of supposedly informed experts have predicted the failure of one technology after another, and been absurdly incorrect.
In the meanwhile, modern information technology continues to rapidly and radically alter one after another industry: music, publishing, transportation services, communications, advertising, the hotel industry, etc., etc.
How will technology ultimately impact education? We might just want to keep these off-base, head-in-the-sand, wrong-headed prognostications in mind when we ponder that question.
- “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.
- “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
- “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.
- “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” – Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943.
- “While theoretically and technically television may be feasible, commercially and financially it is an impossibility.” – Lee DeForest, inventor.
- “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
- “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.
- “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
- “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.)
- “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” – Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977.