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Ooops I really blew it! 10 of the worst predictions ever


Predicting the future is easy. Getting it right, not so much. Of course the best way to be deadly accurate with your predictions, as in the case of Nostradamus, is to be extremely vague and have your audience attach meaning after the fact. When you give specifics you increase your chances of failure. Well there you have my list of worst predictions of all time. 

In the late 1980’s through the early 1990’s I hosted a radio show dedicated to debunking psychic phenomena, called The Minddog The Magnificent Show. As the Minddog, I was extremely accurate in making predictions like March would be a windy month and the coming year would have twelve full Moons, all visible with the naked eye. It was all tongue in cheek but surprisingly the call-in lines were always lit up with people waiting for me or one of my so-called “psychic” guests to provide insight into their future. I predicted accurately that I would hang up on many of them.

My own incredible successes at predicting the obvious aside, most of the psychics failed horribly whenever they dared attempt specific detail. Surprisingly enough to me, I found that scientists were often equally unable to make accurate predictions, even with a plethora of data and statistics. Today we often rely on computer modeling and it appears machines can be as fallible as humans when it comes to the art of foreseeing. In this article, I hope to provide some humor as I detail my bottom ten list of predictions that just missed it by that much.

10. “There’s Just Not That Many Videos I Want To Watch”

Sometimes making a wrong prediction can be costly. Steve Chen co-founded YouTube and soon realized it was going nowhere. He looked into his crystal ball and saw that people just wouldn’t want to watch videos of people cooking, or hurting themselves for entertainment, or singing karaoke, or getting their cat to play the piano. So, before investing anymore of his time into an enterprise doomed to fail, he sold his shares to Google. The most recent estimates have the net worth of YouTube at approximately $40 billion. Oops indeed!

9. “Dewey Defeats Truman”

Here’s a tip: If you’re going to make a wrong prediction, try not to put it on the front page of a newspaper hours before the world can verify the wrongness of it. To be fair, managing editor of the Chicago Tribune, J. Loy “Pat” Maloney, had a lot of help in making one of the worst call in publishing history. On Nov. 2nd 1948 all the polling data indicated that Thomas Dewey would defeat Harry Truman in the Presidential race and there was a printers strike that forced the paper to go to press hours before it normally would. Still, as if having your botched call in big bold print on display for an entire city to see wasn’t bad enough, the next day Truman holding that mistake high for all the world to see graced the front of publications worldwide.

8. “Y2K Is A Crisis Without Precedent In Human History”

And the award for spreading mass panic with a dumb proclamation goes to Byte magazine editor Edmund DeJesus. In 1998, with the new century upon us, there was concern that computer clocks would see the year 2000 as 1900 and predictions ran wild about the havoc it was cause to banking systems, government databases and personal computers. It was doomsday and chicken little was everywhere. Ironically, sometimes the people making wrong predictions can benefit from them and in this case, the people that identified the pending disaster, computer programmers, created massive opportunity in their field. Perhaps there’s a lesson to be learned in there for some entrepreneur with a creative mind to create a doomsday scenario that they alone have the power to avert.

7. “We Will Be Able To Feel And Smell Whatever Is On Our Television Sets.”

In 1992, Nicholas Negroponte, then director of M.I.T.’s Media Lab was probably watching an old Bugs Bunny Cartoon where Elmer J. Fudd predicted “Smellovision”. You here M.I.T. and you think smart. This guy was a director there. Jeez Louise how did that happen? I don’t know about you but I’m glad I can’t smell or feel what’s on TV. One episode of Jackass could send millions of people to the emergency room. Although, the does make pornography a little more interesting. I’m sure if it were possible, the porn folks would be the first to monetize it.

6. “I See No Good Reasons Why The Views Given In This Volume Should Shock The Religious Sensibilities Of Anyone.”

Not foreseeing how you might piss people off is a risk you take when making predictions. Charles Darwin may have been a brilliant man but the argument against his “Origins Of Species” can be found in the books foreword. If the man failed to see the probable repercussions of what he was stating, why should anyone trust his observations? 157 years after making the claim that his “theory” would not spark controversy, his book is still one of the biggest flame throwers in the debate that divides science and religion.

5. “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.”

The gold standard for genius undoubtedly belongs to Albert Einstein. Yet, he was not immune to making dumb predictions and this was arguably his worst. Often the most shocking aspect of a bad prediction is the timing of it. Uncle Al didn’t make this prediction early in his career but in 1932, just 10 years before 1942 the first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction and 13 years before the first use of an atom bomb in war.

4. “Everything that can be invented has been invented.”

It’s quite possible the bitch slap was invented for Charles H. Duell , who was Commissioner of the United States Patent and Trademark Office in 1899 when he proclaimed that invention itself had reached a pinnacle. Maybe someone should have explained to him that his job depended on new inventions, otherwise he was obsolete. Luckily for him he was wrong and managed to hold the job for another 21 years.

3. “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”

It’s strange how many of these bad predictions seem to undermine the goals and aspirations of the person making the prediction. You would think that Ken Olson, who was president, chairman, and co-founder of Digital Equipment Corp. (DEC), in 1977 would want to encourage the idea of home computers. Turns out bad predictions and the people who make them are often…unpredictable.

2. “We don’t like their sound and guitar music is on the way out.”

Apparently Dick Rowe’s parents made an accurate prediction when they named him because when he was a grown man and and A&R executive at Decca records he passed on the Beatles. Not only did he pass on the biggest selling act of all time, he also wrongly predicted that guitar music was on the way out.

1. Judgement Day

Most people who predict the end of the world are at least smart enough to set the date far enough in the future so as not to be around when proven wrong. No so for Harold Egbert Camping who made a habit out of predicting doomsday in very measurable terms. Listen, I’m no psychic but I can safely predict that anyone with the middle name Egbert is not someone you want to follow. Still, millions of people not only followed Camping, they continued to send him money as a spiritual leader through his radio pulpit. To his credit he later stated that his attempt to predict a date was “sinful”, and that his critics had been right in emphasizing the words of Matthew 24:36: “of that day and hour knoweth no man”. Maybe he should have checked with the Mayans. They likely would have advised him to push the date back a couple of thousand years to avoid the ridicule.

Matthew Nappo

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