The human capacity for closemindedness is unsurpassed.
Or maybe it’s just some people’s inherent cynicism and their need to denigrate anything new and innovative.
Or, quite possibly, some people really are just stupid and landed in certain positions because of luck or the Peter Principle that posits people rise to the level of their incompetence.
All of which were thoughts I had reading an amusing story over the weekend about a series of dead-wrong assertions mouthed by people who should have known better.
There was, for instance, Rear Admiral George W. Melville, the engineer-in-chief of the U.S. Navy back in 1901. Mr. Melville, being in a position that one would hope demands a willingness to think big, penned a laughable article about the ridiculousness of pursuing manned flight.
“Outside of the proven impossible,” the Rear Admiral wrote, “there probably can be found no better example of the speculative tendency carrying man to the verge of the chimerical than in his attempts to imitate the birds, or no field where so much inventive seed has been sown with so little return as in the attempts of man to fly successfully through the air.”
Two years later, in 1903, The New York Times picked up on the theme with an article under the headline, “Flying Machines Which Do Not Fly.” The writer announced, with definitive certainty, that “it might be assumed that the flying machine which will really fly might be evolved by the combined and continuous efforts of mathematicians and mechanicians in from one million to ten million years.”
No small irony that the Wright brothers achieved manned flight just nine weeks later.
And then there came the famous astronomer William H. Pickering. In 1908, he noted that “a popular fantasy is to suppose that flying machines could be used to drop dynamite on the enemy in time of war.”
And two years later he wrote that, “the popular mind often pictures gigantic flying machines speeding across the Atlantic and carrying innumerable passengers in a way analogous to our modern steamships … Even if a machine could get across with one or two passengers, the expense would be prohibitive to any but the capitalist who could own his own yacht.”
More modern times, 2007, brings me to my overall winner of the World’s Smallest Mind award: Matthew Lynn, an economist.
Now, I don’t know why I think an economist should be a big thinker…most aren’t. But when it comes to writing about the future, I want my economists to open their minds to the possibilities. Otherwise, you’re not helping anyone adequately prepare for what tomorrow might bring.
Few products have been launched with such a blizzard of publicity as Apple Inc.’s iPhone.
To its many fans, Apple is more of a religious cult than a company. An iToaster that downloads music while toasting bread would probably get the same kind of worldwide attention.
Don’t let that fool you into thinking that it matters. The big competitors in the mobile-phone industry such as Nokia Oyj and Motorola Inc. won’t be whispering nervously into their clamshells over a new threat to their business.
The iPhone is nothing more than a luxury bauble that will appeal to a few gadget freaks.”
Within short order, the iPhone was the world’s #1 smartphone.
As for Nokia and Motorola, one might jocularly suggest they might have been better off “whispering nervously into their clamshells over a new threat to their business.”
All of this I tell you because here at the end of the story I have one thing to say: NFTs.
These non-fungible token cryptocurrencies have exploded onto the scene over the last year.
They started out as nothing more than digitized and pixelated art. They have since transformed into the public face of crypto companies and projects with tremendous utility.
These projects have the potential to transform entire sections of our economy. And in many cases, we can get early access to these projects, and even an income from them, by buying their associated NFTs.
And yet…so many alleged big thinkers in the mainstream media continue to shun, mock, and belittle NFTs.
Don’t believe them.
The point is, sometimes the future can sound ridiculous…
Flying machines transporting people on mass sounded preposterous to William Pickering.
Today, lots of people find it preposterous that pictures of cartoon monkeys and whales and robots could hide behind them the future of business.
But it’s often just a hop, skip, and a jump from the seemingly ridiculous to our new reality.