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Future Blind

Every now and then some one seemingly knowledgable about a particular field of study makes a prediction about the future that turns out to be horribly wrong. Whilst we acknowledge that numerous predictions for the future don’t come true, we believe it is more dangerous to be saying something most definitely won’t happen.

We’ve used the term ‘future blind’ to mean ‘being blinded to what COULD happen in the future’. We suggest they are 'future blind' because they refuse to look and see.


"Everything that can be invented has been invented."
Charles H Duell. Commissioner of the US Office of Patents in a recommendation to US President McKinley, 1899.
For more: "The Impossibility of Invention"


"In 1865 a newspaper editor told his readers that 'Well informed people know that it is impossible to transmit the voice over wires and that, were it possible to do so, the thing would be of no practical value.' Barely a decade later, the telephone erupted from Mr. Bell's laboratory and changed the world." (Toffler; P.199)

"This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means to communication. The device is inherently of no value to us."
Western Union internal memo, 1876. (Philipson)


"the phonograph … is not of any commercial value."
Thomas Edison remarking on his own invention to his assistant Sam Insull, 1880. (Barker, Page 88)


"The radio craze will die out in time."
Thomas Edison, 1922 (Philipson)

"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 1920's. (Morgan)


"Flight by machines heavier than air is unpractical and insignificant, if not utterly impossible."
Simon Newcomb, an astronomer of some note, 1902. (Barker, Page 89)

"Heavier than air flying machines are impossible"
Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895 (Philipson)

"On the very day that the Wright brothers took wing, newspapers refused to report the event because their sober, solid, feet-on-the-ground editors simply could not bring themselves to believe it had happened." (Toffler, Page199)

"A 1910 edition of Scientific American proclaimed that "to affirm that the aeroplane is going to 'revolutionize' naval warefare of the future is to be guilty of the wildest exaggeration." (Blanchard and Waghorn, Page 175)

"Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value."
Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre. (Morgan)


"X-rays are a hoax"
Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895 (Philipson)


"The abdomen, the chest and the brain will forever be shut from the intrusion of the wise and human surgeon."
Sir John Eric Ericksen, British surgeon, appointed Surgeon-extraordinary to Queen Victoria, 1873 (Philipson)

"Louis Pasteur's theory of germs is ridiculous fiction."
Pierre Pachet, professor of physiology at Toulouse, 1872 (Philipson)


"The horse is here to stay, but the automobile is only a novelty - a fad."
Bank President advising Horace Rackman (Henry Ford's lawyer) not to invest in Ford Motor Company, 1903. (Hewitt-Gleeson, Page 212)

"It is an idle dream to imagine that automobiles will take the place of railways in the long distance movement of passengers."
American Road Congress, 1913. (Barker, Page 89)


"Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You're crazy."
Drillers who Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist to his project to drill for oil in 1859. (Morgan)

Talking Movies

"Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?"
Harry Warner, Warner Brothers Pictures, 1927. (Barker, Page 89)

The Atom

"There is no likelihood man can ever tap the power of the atom.."
Robert Millikan, Nobel Prize winner in physics, 1920. (Barker, Page 89)

"Rutherford, himself, the discoverer of the atom, who said in 1933 that the energy in the atom's nucleus would never be released. Nine years later: the first chain reaction." (Toffler, Page 199)

Space Travel

"Space travel is utter bilge."
Richard van der Riet Wooley, British Astronomer Royal, 1956. (Philipson)

"The odds are now that the United States will not be able to honor the 1970 manned-lunar-landing date set by Mr. Kennedy."
New Scientist, April 30, 1964. (Barker, Page 89)


"... the general consensus was that the world market for computers would be quite a meager one. One British pioneer thought that the entire needs of the UK could be easily served by one big computer." (Evans, Page 48)

"I think there is a world market for about five computers."
Thomas J. Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943 (Barker, Page 89)

"Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons."
Popular Mechanics magazine, 1949. (Philipson)

"I have travelled 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. (Philipson)

"But what… is it good for?"
Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, 1968, commenting on the microchip (Morgan)

"There is no reason for any individal to have a computer in their home."
Ken Olsen, president of Digital Equipment Corporation, 1977. (Barker, Page 89)

"640K ought to be enough for anybody."
Bill Gates (Philipson)


"While theoretically and technically television may be feasible, commercially and financially I consider it an impossibility."
Lee de Forest, Inventor of the Audion Tube, 1926 (Philipson)

"In 1991, a senior executive from CBS told a congressional committee that digital television "defies the laws of physics". (Blanchard and Waghorn, P. 175)

The Atomic Bomb

"The Bomb will never go off, and I speak as an expert in explosives."
Admiral William Leahy, advising President Truman on the US atom bomb project, 1945. (Philipson)

Relativity Theory

"By 1940 the relativity theory will be considered a joke."
George Francis Gilette, US engineer, 1929.


• Joel Arthur Barker; "Paradigms: The Business of Discovering the Future"; Harper Business; New York; 1993.
• Ken Blanchard and Terry Waghorn, Mission Possible, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1997, Pages 94-5.
• Christopher Evans; The Micro Millenium; Washington Square Press, Pocket Books; New York; 1979.
• Dr. Michael Hewitt-Gleeson; Newsell; Wrightbooks Pty. Ltd.; Brighton, Victoria, Australia; 1990.
• Michael Morgan, "Making Innovation Happen", Business Publishing, Warriewood, NSW, Australia, 2000, Page 24-5.
• Graeme Philipson, "Gazing at tomorrow through a hi-tech crystal ball", The Age, August 15 2000.
• Alvin Toffler; Future Shock; Pan Books; London; 1971.

Your Contribution

If you know of any more examples of 'future blind', email them to us and we will add them to the list with an acknowledgement of the source. We're also interested in current examples where predictions have been made for the future that may prove to be examples of being blind to the future. (


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