More than that, we completely miss the Big Events--the current recession being a good example.
It is the American condition, however, that being bad at something doesn’t stop us from doing it, and doing it enthusiastically.
With this in mind, I’ve been watching the swirl over Twitter, Facebook, the future of search, Second Life, radio, the music industry, the electric automobile and television. Not only is the debate about our technology future downright confusing, it’s downright nasty. Technology has become our new religion, our new politics. To say you support “open source” in certain cocktail settings is like saying you would like to see a socialist President, or suggesting that only Christians can get into heaven. It’s nasty out there.
The “Just Don’t Get It” Forecast. In 1879, Sir William Preece, the chief engineer of the British Post Office, testified before the House of Commons about the telelphone: “I fancy the descriptions we get of its use in
The "Get It Even Less If That’s Possible” Forecast. Joseph Gurney Cannon, the future Speaker of the United States House, describing the phone in 1878: “A damned old Yankee notion (a piece of wire with two Texas steer horns attached to the ends with an arrangement to make the concern bleat like a calf) called a telephone.”
The “Get It Too Much” Forecast. General Carty, the Chief Engineer of AT&T, predicted the advent of international telephony, forecasting that it would bring peace on earth: “Someday we will build up a world telephone system making necessary to all peoples the use of a common language. . .which will join all the people of the earth into one brotherhood.”
The “Technology Assists Evil” Forecast. A muckraking article in the 1907 Cosmopolitan Magazine reported that “Every one of the estimated four thousand pool rooms throughout the
The “In-Love with Current Technology” Forecast. Elisha Grey of Western Union could probably have invented the telephone a year before
A Grand Sociological Forecast. By 1910 it was hard not to find a forecast that didn’t predict the phone (and the auto) would break the killing isolation of farm life, encouraging children to take up their parents’ trade and stay on the farm. Needless to say, the 20th century saw one long, unbroken exodus from the American farm.
Lesson #9: When everyone agrees it’s time to worry.
So the question is: Was anyone, anywhere, at any time, able to create a balanced, credible forecast for the telephone? You bet. And it happened right off the bat.