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  #1  
Old 05-13-2010, 05:40 PM
gitfiddle gitfiddle is offline
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What are things that people once thought impossible/inevitable (politically, technologically, etc.)

I'm looking for encouragement.

What are things that people in previous generations had either thought to be impossible (a black president, heart transplants, etc.) or inevitable (a dissolution of the union as a result of the Civil War, a less-than-Cold War).

I'm not looking for situations where things looked bad and then everything worked out in the end. In many ways, we're still dealing with the Cold War (even the Civil War). I'm essentially asking for quotes and references to situations where people were in the thick of a certain conflict or facing a daunting task, and they didn't believe that the conclusions would be generally positive.

Also, I'm not looking for instances where people might not have been able to imagine a certain situation. For example, I'm not interested in the fact that people a hundred years ago might not have been able to imagine me typing on a computer and sending information over the internet. More along the lines of people 15 years ago saying that this whole Internet thing is overhyped.
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  #2  
Old 05-13-2010, 05:54 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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Here's a list of folks who ought to have known better making such wrong predictions. My favorite is A. A. Michelson saying that all the fundamentals of physics were known, and that therefore "Our future discoveries must be looked for in the sixth decimal place." This, when an experiment done by Michelson himself ended up paving the way for an entirely new fundamental field of physics.
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Old 05-13-2010, 05:54 PM
Zsofia Zsofia is offline
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Well, we never had a Malthusian crisis because of the Green Revolution. Is that the sort of thing you're looking for?
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  #4  
Old 05-13-2010, 05:58 PM
griffin1977 griffin1977 is offline
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Margret Thatcher famously said that anyone who believed the ANC would ever rule South Africa was “living in cloud-cuckoo land”.
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Old 05-13-2010, 06:11 PM
ChrisBooth12 ChrisBooth12 is offline
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I once saw a book my great grandmother still had about the moon. I think it was written sometime in the late 1880s, it talked about the moon and how little was known but one passage I read said "Although man will never be able to walk on the moon..."

My great grandmother. Saw the invention of the Airplane, computers, nuclear power, cell phones.

I wonder what I will see. All the tech around me seems to just be refining old tech to make it faster/smaller. I want transporters, I want trains that travel in a vacuum under the sea and get me to NY to London in a half hour.

I do not think I have seen any "NEW" inventions just refined ones, although I am still young a lot can come. One for sure that I think I will see is the mixing of humans and computers. We can already see peoples dreams and have them control remote arms with their brain
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Old 05-13-2010, 06:28 PM
DrFidelius DrFidelius is offline
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I want my flying car. I want to dress in togas and wander around art-deco cityscapes. I want a household robot, food pills (or replicators), and computers that can talk. I want Venus as a tourist destination. I want industry moved to orbital O'Neill colonies. I want the earth to be a giant parkland. I want to be able to talk with dolphins and friendly space aliens.

I do not want civilization to collapse, with the survivors fighting each other in the wreckage over the scraps of our world. I do not want genetically-engineered slaves. I do not want another Ice Age, or a disease that kills all species of grass, or to have the Arabs, or Japanese, or whomever buy up all of America.

These are just some of the things we expected back when the world and I were young.
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Old 05-13-2010, 06:35 PM
ChrisBooth12 ChrisBooth12 is offline
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Originally Posted by DrFidelius View Post
I want my flying car. I want to dress in togas and wander around art-deco cityscapes. I want a household robot, food pills (or replicators), and computers that can talk. I want Venus as a tourist destination. I want industry moved to orbital O'Neill colonies. I want the earth to be a giant parkland. I want to be able to talk with dolphins and friendly space aliens.

I do not want civilization to collapse, with the survivors fighting each other in the wreckage over the scraps of our world. I do not want genetically-engineered slaves. I do not want another Ice Age, or a disease that kills all species of grass, or to have the Arabs, or Japanese, or whomever buy up all of America.

These are just some of the things we expected back when the world and I were young.
The flying car is currently impractical. I see high speed mass transit to be the future.

Food pills may be ok but there are links to depression and not eating a balanced diet I have read. The protein intake may be hard with a pill as well. I am waiting for gene therapy. Make my body not need certain vitamins and chemicals

Nasa wanted to do a manned Venus flyby in the 70s but it cost to much

Talking to dolphins and even meerkats may not be to hard. With the meerkats we already know what basic sounds mean for danger, human, even gun if I recall correctly. Dolphins defiantly have a language
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Old 05-13-2010, 06:37 PM
gitfiddle gitfiddle is offline
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Originally Posted by Zsofia View Post
Well, we never had a Malthusian crisis because of the Green Revolution. Is that the sort of thing you're looking for?
Exactly. Thanks!
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Old 05-13-2010, 06:55 PM
Sunspace Sunspace is offline
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Originally Posted by Zsofia View Post
Well, we never had a Malthusian crisis because of the Green Revolution. Is that the sort of thing you're looking for?
The word to add here is "yet".

The Green Revolution (assuming you mean the one involving fertilizers to increase crop output) merely made us dependent upon oil as part of the food-growing process. We are now as vulnerable as our oil supply, and there are more of us. We need to get back to living within the carrying capacity of the land and sea (which is ultimately dependent on the input of energy from the sun), rather than relying on non-renewable inputs.
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  #10  
Old 05-13-2010, 06:55 PM
gitfiddle gitfiddle is offline
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Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
Here's a list of folks who ought to have known better making such wrong predictions. My favorite is A. A. Michelson saying that all the fundamentals of physics were known, and that therefore "Our future discoveries must be looked for in the sixth decimal place." This, when an experiment done by Michelson himself ended up paving the way for an entirely new fundamental field of physics.
That's great!
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  #11  
Old 05-13-2010, 07:04 PM
gitfiddle gitfiddle is offline
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Originally Posted by Sunspace View Post
The word to add here is "yet".

The Green Revolution (assuming you mean the one involving fertilizers to increase crop output) merely made us dependent upon oil as part of the food-growing process. We are now as vulnerable as our oil supply, and there are more of us. We need to get back to living within the carrying capacity of the land and sea (which is ultimately dependent on the input of energy from the sun), rather than relying on non-renewable inputs.
I sat there staring at that one thinking about this. In the end, I decided that, though the Green Revolution caused serious problems, the point is that just as Malthus didn't forsee* new/different technologies/practices significantly changing the accuracy of his predictions, maybe we don't either (I say this with great hesitation as someone who studies climate change and agriculture).

Like I said in the OP, the point isn't necessarily that what happens is a solution to a problem (but I'm particularly interested in those cases), but that it is a significant divergence from what was predicted by people "in the know."

* I haven't read his writing so, please correct me if I'm wrong.
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Old 05-13-2010, 07:15 PM
RealityChuck RealityChuck is offline
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Originally Posted by ChrisBooth12 View Post
The flying car is currently impractical. I see high speed mass transit to be the future.
Just as impractical -- and made so by the car.

Except in major cities, it is next to impossible to create routes that service all the population and even come close to breaking even financially.
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  #13  
Old 05-13-2010, 07:44 PM
Peter Morris Peter Morris is online now
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Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
Here's a list of folks who ought to have known better making such wrong predictions.
These lists are usually copied from one another and rarely checked with an original source. Several of the ones on that list are debunked urban legends, misquotes, or taken out of context. I'm not really inclined to trust any of them.
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  #14  
Old 05-13-2010, 07:55 PM
Lemur866 Lemur866 is online now
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Originally Posted by ChrisBooth12 View Post
The flying car is currently impractical. I see high speed mass transit to be the future.
Flying cars will always be impractical unless we invent a way to control gravity. And the reason is, anything that flies isn't a car, it's an aircraft. You can have an aircraft that can drive on surface streets and take off and land from a roof, but only with severe compromises on the aircraft's ability to fly. This vehicle is possible from a technical standpoint, but it's going to cost a bundle, and it's not something a typical suburban dad is qualified to use to commute to work every day.
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  #15  
Old 05-13-2010, 08:24 PM
Mijin Mijin is online now
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Originally Posted by ChrisBooth12 View Post
We can already see peoples dreams...
I'd love this to be true, but I don't think we're there yet.
AFAIK we can detect the difference between someone imagining a cube or imagining a face, say, but we can't actually see someone's imagination.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lemur866
Flying cars will always be impractical unless we invent a way to control gravity. And the reason is, anything that flies isn't a car, it's an aircraft. You can have an aircraft that can drive on surface streets and take off and land from a roof, but only with severe compromises on the aircraft's ability to fly. This vehicle is possible from a technical standpoint, but it's going to cost a bundle, and it's not something a typical suburban dad is qualified to use to commute to work every day.
Agreed.
I think flying car is a misleading name. Usually people don't mean "A driving machine, that can also fly", I think they mean more "A flying machine, that can take the role of the family car(s)" -- something like the cars that fly along paths in the sky in Star Wars, The Fifth Element et al.

And I agree with the rest of your point and I think it's impractical without new physics and/or a much cheaper, more concentrated power source than we can practically harness right now (e.g. a mass-produced lightweight nuclear engine).

Last edited by Mijin; 05-13-2010 at 08:26 PM..
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  #16  
Old 05-13-2010, 08:44 PM
ChrisBooth12 ChrisBooth12 is offline
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Yeah I would not want to get into an accident in a flying car. We could roll out high speed rapid transit if we wanted to. Just tell everyone to quit driving and make it law to use busses, although it is one of those things that would have to be done all at once.
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  #17  
Old 05-14-2010, 12:20 AM
panache45 panache45 is offline
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As a kid in the 50s, I remember that some very reputable scientists believe space travel to be impossible . . . because in a vacuum, a space ship would have nothing to push against.
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  #18  
Old 05-14-2010, 02:31 AM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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Not reputable scientists; an op-ed writer for the New York Times.
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  #19  
Old 05-14-2010, 07:26 AM
Mangetout Mangetout is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
Here's a list of folks who ought to have known better making such wrong predictions. My favorite is A. A. Michelson saying that all the fundamentals of physics were known, and that therefore "Our future discoveries must be looked for in the sixth decimal place." This, when an experiment done by Michelson himself ended up paving the way for an entirely new fundamental field of physics.
That quote is sometimes (I believe falsely) attributed to Lord Kelvin, but he did make a few other pronouncements that turned out to be shortsighted.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William...en_to_be_false
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Old 05-14-2010, 07:32 AM
Koxinga Koxinga is offline
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I think the idea of mass starvation due to overpopulation has been pretty much discredited, hasn't it? It seems most of the articles I've run across recently predict a stabilized global population followed by population decrease some time by the end of this century.

ETA: Similar to what was said about Malthus above, but looking at the other part of the equation -- not only are we producing more food, but there's a limit on how many people we're going to have to produce it for.

Last edited by Koxinga; 05-14-2010 at 07:34 AM..
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  #21  
Old 05-14-2010, 08:19 AM
Lunar Saltlick Lunar Saltlick is offline
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I don't have any quotations or cites, but I'm willing to bet that many people predicted great things for air travel when the Concorde was rolled out 50 years ago. Three hours from New York to Paris in 1960? We'll have it down to thirty minutes by 2000, they must have said. Little did they know we'd be back up to 6.5 hours. Air travel has to be the only technology that has gone light years backward in the past 50 years. Oh, I know, flight engineers consider that we've gone light years forward in every conceivable way. I've heard it all before...but when all 6 feet+ of me is stuffed into a minuscule seat at 3 am over the Atlantic, it's hard for me to appreciate the great strides they've made.

I mean, imagine you go to buy a computer tomorrow, and instead of neat little notebooks, laptops, iPads and sharp $150 monitors, the salesman shows you a hulking olive-green monstrosity in the backroom and says: She's a beaut! Lemme turn on a couple more fans so the tubes don't overheat, here. Only $2M, and it's got something new: 2 KB of what we call Random Access Memory. Unbelievable stuff -- you're gonna love it!
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  #22  
Old 05-14-2010, 08:48 AM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is offline
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I agree with Peter Morris that that list of quotations isn't trustworthy. I have seen several of them in the book The Experts Speak, and know that many have been found to be spurious. Skeptical Inquirer, for instance, ran two articles debunking the quotation from the Patent Office that "everything has been invented" -- no such claim was ever made by the office or its director. And I've recently seen this one questioned:

Quote:
"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."
-- Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943

This isn't to deny that people don't make absurd claims or bad extrapolations -- there are more than enough of them to go around. But when you see someone claim that the president of the foremost manufacturer of computers saying that there's essentially no market for them, or the director of the patent office saying that there's no more need for it, your BS-meter should be pegging. Not only are they in talking about their area of specialization, but the statements are against their own interest -- especially their own economic interest. If they really did believe what they were supposed to have said, I think I'd expect them to lie and say the opposite.
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Old 05-14-2010, 09:11 AM
robby robby is offline
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Originally Posted by Lunar Saltlick View Post
I don't have any quotations or cites, but I'm willing to bet that many people predicted great things for air travel when the Concorde was rolled out 50 years ago. Three hours from New York to Paris in 1960? We'll have it down to thirty minutes by 2000, they must have said. Little did they know we'd be back up to 6.5 hours. Air travel has to be the only technology that has gone light years backward in the past 50 years. Oh, I know, flight engineers consider that we've gone light years forward in every conceivable way. I've heard it all before...but when all 6 feet+ of me is stuffed into a minuscule seat at 3 am over the Atlantic, it's hard for me to appreciate the great strides they've made.
Air travel today is far cheaper and more accessible than it was in 1960, though, even though the first jet airliner (the Boeing 707) was introduced the year before. Back then, most people didn't fly. Domestically, they most likely drove a car. (Passenger train travel was in serious decline by 1960.) However, air travel (especially overseas) was still primarily for the wealthy.

From here:

Quote:
But by the 1960s, air travelers were still mostly wealthy people and business people on expense accounts, who flew repeatedly. Most Americans could not afford to fly, to see their loved ones in other cities, or visit exciting vacation spots. We saw airplanes as part of daily life, from the ground.
What changed air travel was the establishment of airlines like Southwest (founded in 1971). I flew four members of my family from Boston to Baltimore last Christmas for less than $50 per person each way, for example.

Last edited by robby; 05-14-2010 at 09:16 AM..
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  #24  
Old 05-14-2010, 09:55 AM
gitfiddle gitfiddle is offline
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Originally Posted by CalMeacham View Post
This isn't to deny that people don't make absurd claims or bad extrapolations -- there are more than enough of them to go around. But when you see someone claim that the president of the foremost manufacturer of computers saying that there's essentially no market for them, or the director of the patent office saying that there's no more need for it, your BS-meter should be pegging. Not only are they in talking about their area of specialization, but the statements are against their own interest -- especially their own economic interest. If they really did believe what they were supposed to have said, I think I'd expect them to lie and say the opposite.
The more I read through it, I found myself thinking the same thing. Now I really want to know which ones are true.
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  #25  
Old 05-14-2010, 10:07 AM
Peter Morris Peter Morris is online now
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Originally Posted by CalMeacham View Post
I agree with Peter Morris that that list of quotations isn't trustworthy. ... And I've recently seen this one questioned:

"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."
-- Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943

I've seen a piece examining that quote too. According to what I read he wasn't talking about computers overall, but was referring to one specific model. He wasn't too far out, they actually sold 15 of them. The thing I read didn't cite it's source, or even identify which model. So you can take that as doubtful accuracy too. But it is somewhat more plausible that the legend.
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Old 05-14-2010, 10:13 AM
gitfiddle gitfiddle is offline
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I just remembered some good foreign policy prognostications, including
Quote:
"If we do nothing, I can guarantee you that within a decade, a communist Chinese regime that hates democracy and sees America as its primary enemy will dominate the tiny country of Panama, and thus dominate the Panama Canal, one of the world's most important strategic points."

—Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), Dec. 7, 1999
And some 2008 presidential campaign ones, and this little tidbit about the dismal effectiveness of pundits:
Quote:
He studied pundits and discovered they were, to a rough approximation, always wrong when making predictions. He took 284 pundits and asked them questions about the future. Their performance was worse than chance. With three possible answers, they were right less than 33 per cent of the time. A monkey chucking darts would have done better. This is consoling. More consoling still is Tetlock's further finding that the more certain a pundit was, the more likely he was to be wrong.
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  #27  
Old 05-14-2010, 10:17 AM
Lunar Saltlick Lunar Saltlick is offline
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Originally Posted by robby View Post
Air travel today is far cheaper and more accessible than it was in 1960, though, even though the first jet airliner (the Boeing 707) was introduced the year before. Back then, most people didn't fly. Domestically, they most likely drove a car. (Passenger train travel was in serious decline by 1960.) However, air travel (especially overseas) was still primarily for the wealthy.

From here:



What changed air travel was the establishment of airlines like Southwest (founded in 1971). I flew four members of my family from Boston to Baltimore last Christmas for less than $50 per person each way, for example.
Oh, I know, I know. And I don't disgaree. My post was somewhat tongue-in-cheek. I just wish we were hoppin' onto the fifth-generation Concorde by now, and standing up, shoulder-to-shoulder, cause we didn't want to pay $30 for a seat, since it was only going to take 20 minutes to get to Paris anyway. ;-)

Of course, if planes were like computers... ;-)
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  #28  
Old 05-14-2010, 10:50 AM
Mr. Excellent Mr. Excellent is offline
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Flying cars will always be impractical unless we invent a way to control gravity. And the reason is, anything that flies isn't a car, it's an aircraft. You can have an aircraft that can drive on surface streets and take off and land from a roof, but only with severe compromises on the aircraft's ability to fly. This vehicle is possible from a technical standpoint, but it's going to cost a bundle, and it's not something a typical suburban dad is qualified to use to commute to work every day.
To elaborate a bit:

A machine that can drive for any sort of distance at speed on a surface road needs shock absorbers. It needs bumpers. It needs crumple zones, and all the other assorted features that make a car crash-worthy. It needs to be *rugged*, in all the ways that airplanes normally aren't, because we expect cars to take a level of abuse in day-to-day operation that would ground an ordinary airplane for safety inspection at the very least.

All this ruggedness adds weight. More weight means you need a more powerful engine. A more powerful engine means, all else being equal, that there's a greater risk some idiot will do something stupid in his over-powered Flying Station Wagon. And of course, it adds to both the cost and mechanical complexity of the flying car.
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Old 05-14-2010, 11:00 AM
pravnik pravnik is offline
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The sub-four minute mile was long thought physically impossible, until Roger Bannister broke the four minute barrier in 1954.

ETA: inspirational photo.

Last edited by pravnik; 05-14-2010 at 11:03 AM..
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  #30  
Old 05-14-2010, 11:06 AM
Tom Tildrum Tom Tildrum is offline
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Originally Posted by Mangetout View Post
That quote is sometimes (I believe falsely) attributed to Lord Kelvin, but he did make a few other pronouncements that turned out to be shortsighted.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William...en_to_be_false
So his predictive success was nearly -- "Absolute Zero"?!?

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  #31  
Old 05-14-2010, 12:33 PM
Quartz Quartz is offline
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and it's not something a typical suburban dad is qualified to use to commute to work every day.
It's actually this last - qualification - that's the biggie. James May went into it on one of his TV shows last night. There is in fact a flying car - not Moller - but to fly it in America you not only need a driving licence, but also a pilot's license, a license to carry passengers in an aeroplane, and because the trailer with the disassembled fuselage and wings is so long, you need a haulage license too. Who's going to bother with all that? And the car itself is a pokey little thing, not very comfortable at all.
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Old 05-14-2010, 12:48 PM
Lemur866 Lemur866 is online now
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Well, at that point, why not just drive your normal car to the airport, get in your Piper Cub, fly wherever you want, and rent a car when you get there?

There are plenty of light airplanes and helicopters that you can fly out of your local dinky airport, the only problem with them is that you won't have a car waiting for you at your desitination unless you arrange one.

Well, so what? Is the nightmare of not having a waiting car so great that you'll essentially pack a crappy car into your airplane? You could just carry around a moped in the back if it's such a nightmare.
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Old 05-14-2010, 01:22 PM
chappachula chappachula is offline
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Back to the OP: here's an "inevitable" prediction that didn't quite work out :

In the 1950's there were serious concerns about a terrible new social problem about to erupt in American society, that we were not prepared to handle: excess leisure time.

The logic was simple: the average person was working fewer and fewer hours due to modern technology. In factories, the old 6-day work week was replaced by an easier 5 days. In the home, the old ways of homekeeping were replaced by new, time-saving methods (refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, supermarkets)
Obviously, at this rate, the average factory worker would soon work only 4 days a week, and then only 3.And his wife would only have to cook once a week to feed the family.

So society was soon going to have to be radically re-organized to adapt to the new psychology, in which work was a minor part of life, and most of your time was devoted to leisure activities.
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  #34  
Old 05-14-2010, 01:40 PM
Lemur866 Lemur866 is online now
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They invented a cure for excess leisure time. It was called "TV".
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  #35  
Old 05-14-2010, 01:52 PM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is offline
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Originally Posted by Lemur866 View Post
They invented a cure for excess leisure time. It was called "TV".
And "the Internet" (or more specifically for our purposes, "the Dope").

Most people at the dawn of the Space Age saw space exploration as an inevitable climb to the next big project. Because of politics, budget crunches and the end of the Cold War, we now know that's not so. No Moonbase, no manned mission to Mars, no orbital hotel etc. for the foreseeable future. We're nowhere near the level of technological sophistication that Kubrick and Clarke foretold in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

If you want to predict the future, at least keep your bet modest: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon-Ehrlich_wager
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  #36  
Old 05-14-2010, 02:00 PM
EdwardLost EdwardLost is offline
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I do not think I have seen any "NEW" inventions just refined ones, although I am still young a lot can come. One for sure that I think I will see is the mixing of humans and computers. We can already see peoples dreams and have them control remote arms with their brain
I've been trying to think of what genuinely "new" technology was developed in the 20th century - things not possible to imagine in the 19th century. I think electronics fits this; a scientist from 1900 would have a hard time wrapping his head around a video game on a laptop.

Our world-wide communication grid *almost* fits; wireless communication was known but I don't know if they could imagine the extent to which it's been taken.

Knowing nothing of DNA and the genome, genetic engineering would have been inconceivable, but I wouldn't count it because it's not a "technology" yet. In a hundred years we may have designed organisms doing all sorts of things. It's just *hard*, not *unimaginable*.

AI is also hard but imaginable.

Things that would require unimaginable technology are interstellar travel, teleportation, mind reading, time travel, anti-gravity....
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Old 05-14-2010, 02:04 PM
Suburban Plankton Suburban Plankton is offline
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My Google-fu is failing me, but wasn't it once thought that railroad travel would be impossible because the human body could not survive the blistering speeds (upwards of 40 mph)?

Or is that just another myth?
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Old 05-14-2010, 02:09 PM
Suburban Plankton Suburban Plankton is offline
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Our world-wide communication grid *almost* fits; wireless communication was known but I don't know if they could imagine the extent to which it's been taken.
One could argue that the Internet fits the description in the OP. Certainly the idea of a global (or larger) communications network was known, but it was strictly a concept of science fiction.

Think The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, or the Star Trek computer network. Both consisted of a 'universal' repository of known things, which could be accessed at will from anywhere in the galaxy. Sounds great for a sci-fi story...very futuristic.

But not quite as functional as my Blackberry.

Last edited by Suburban Plankton; 05-14-2010 at 02:10 PM.. Reason: grammar
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  #39  
Old 05-14-2010, 02:39 PM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is offline
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Originally Posted by Suburban Plankton View Post
My Google-fu is failing me, but wasn't it once thought that railroad travel would be impossible because the human body could not survive the blistering speeds (upwards of 40 mph)?

Or is that just another myth?
I vaguely remember a Time magazine essay from the early 1980s that quoted that dire prediction, but haven't been able to find it online. I did find this, however: http://www.snopes.com/language/document/vanburen.asp
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  #40  
Old 05-14-2010, 03:46 PM
drachillix drachillix is online now
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Originally Posted by Quartz View Post
It's actually this last - qualification - that's the biggie. James May went into it on one of his TV shows last night. There is in fact a flying car - not Moller - but to fly it in America you not only need a driving licence, but also a pilot's license, a license to carry passengers in an aeroplane, and because the trailer with the disassembled fuselage and wings is so long, you need a haulage license too. Who's going to bother with all that? And the car itself is a pokey little thing, not very comfortable at all.
To be fair we should consider that it's a matter of policy, not physical capability here. If Mollers dream came true tomorrow and we had $50k VTOL daily use vehicles, it would take getting used to, but would be no more cataclysmic than the introduction of the first automobiles. Some people would crash and die, same as today. Some would fall from the sky into day care centers and hospitals. When cars were first introduced there was no effective way to manage them either, we adapt, more effective methods develop. We trade a few thousand lives for expanding our reach in ways almost unimaginable. Living in rural desert areas and commuting 30 min to a major city 80 miles away.
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Old 05-14-2010, 04:38 PM
YogSosoth YogSosoth is online now
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I think Bill Gates once mocked the idea that anyone would need more than 640KB of memory.
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  #42  
Old 05-14-2010, 04:53 PM
Quintas Quintas is offline
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Have I jumped through the looking glass? A majority of posts on this thread are adding to ignorance and repeating old urban myths.
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  #43  
Old 05-14-2010, 05:09 PM
Hampshire Hampshire is offline
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I think a lot of financial experts believed that while housing prices may at some time peak, there was absolutely no way they would ever fall.
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  #44  
Old 05-14-2010, 10:59 PM
t-bonham@scc.net t-bonham@scc.net is offline
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Originally Posted by RealityChuck View Post
Just as impractical -- and made so by the car.

Except in major cities, it is next to impossible to create routes that service all the population and even come close to breaking even financially.
Do you think cars break even financially?

Hardly! Here in my state, taxes on cars & gas don't even pay for a third of the cost of the roads -- the rest is subsidized by the general fund of the state. And that's just the basic cost of building & maintaining the roads themself, to say nothing about the many auxiliary services like the cops to patrol them, hospital emergency rooms to help auto accident victims, courts to deal with driving offenses, electricity to run traffic lights, etc.

Frankly, I don't think there are any transportation systems that break even -- they are all subsidized. And have been all through history, as far back as the Roman Empire using chain gangs to build the cobblestone roads that all led to Rome.
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Old 05-14-2010, 11:18 PM
t-bonham@scc.net t-bonham@scc.net is offline
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Originally Posted by CalMeacham View Post
Quote:
"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."
-- Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943
...
But when you see someone claim that the president of the foremost manufacturer of computers saying that there's essentially no market for them, or the director of the patent office saying that there's no more need for it, your BS-meter should be pegging. Not only are they in talking about their area of specialization, but the statements are against their own interest -- especially their own economic interest.
But IBM was NOT the foremost manufacturer of computers, in 1943. They sold mainly punch card equipment (and punch cards) -- the digital computer was a threat to their cash cow business.

Rather like asking the head of a landline phone company how big a market they foresee for these new 'cellular' phones.
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Old 05-15-2010, 03:28 AM
asian_riff asian_riff is offline
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Originally Posted by robby View Post
Air travel today is far cheaper and more accessible than it was in 1960, though, even though the first jet airliner (the Boeing 707) was introduced the year before. Back then, most people didn't fly. Domestically, they most likely drove a car. (Passenger train travel was in serious decline by 1960.) However, air travel (especially overseas) was still primarily for the wealthy.

From here:



What changed air travel was the establishment of airlines like Southwest (founded in 1971). I flew four members of my family from Boston to Baltimore last Christmas for less than $50 per person each way, for example.
According to this site:

http://www.catchoursmile.com/myweb/Highlights.htm

in 1958, you could fly from Los Angeles to San Francisco on PSA Airlines for $11.81. Apparently a lot of Southwest's business model was based on what PSA had already done.
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Old 05-15-2010, 01:40 PM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is offline
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But IBM was NOT the foremost manufacturer of computers, in 1943. They sold mainly punch card equipment (and punch cards) -- the digital computer was a threat to their cash cow business.

Rather like asking the head of a landline phone company how big a market they foresee for these new 'cellular' phones.
Actually, in 1943 there weren't any manufacturers of computers. But saying that computers was "a threat to their business" is absurd -- they were the most likely to become computer manufacturers, and did so.

Even if they were only punch card manufacturers and didn't go on to computers, computers used a LOT of punch cards until the mid-1970s. That's not a threat to their business, it's a BOON.
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Old 05-15-2010, 02:13 PM
Zoinks Zoinks is offline
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Originally Posted by asian_riff View Post
According to this site:

http://www.catchoursmile.com/myweb/Highlights.htm

in 1958, you could fly from Los Angeles to San Francisco on PSA Airlines for $11.81. Apparently a lot of Southwest's business model was based on what PSA had already done.
This historical currency converter says that would be $88.94 in present US money. I've never flown on any small regional airlines in the US, does that amount sound the same? Does it include airport fees and the other bullshit stuff tacked on to the price of the ticket?
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Old 05-15-2010, 03:23 PM
groo groo is offline
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There's the old standard -- the student who
Quote:
... arrived late for a graduate level statistics class and found two problems written on the board. Not knowing that they were examples of unsolved statistics problems, he mistook them for part of a homework assignment, jotted them down, and solved them.
Steves Wozniak and Jobs had their "personal computer" rejected by HP, then started Apple Computer. I'm entertained by the fact that college dropouts like Wozniak, Jobs and Bill Gates eventually found gainful employment. Per the OP, I think the mindset of people you're looking for is expressed thusly:
Quote:
When Steve Wozniak was in high school in the mid-1960s, he dreamed of owning a computer. His father told him that computers cost as much as the down payment on a house. "Then I'll live in an apartment," Wozniak said.
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Old 05-15-2010, 06:49 PM
asian_riff asian_riff is offline
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Originally Posted by Zoinks View Post
This historical currency converter says that would be $88.94 in present US money. I've never flown on any small regional airlines in the US, does that amount sound the same? Does it include airport fees and the other bullshit stuff tacked on to the price of the ticket?
That would be about the same as the current Southwest fare. However, they do have advance-purchase, non-refundable net fares now from time to time that are considerably lower. Consider, though, that service is much poorer now and conditions are far more cramped and uncomfortable.
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