One of the more pointless aspects of human nature is the enjoyment that most of us get out of trying to predict the future, whether we're any good at it or not.
Don't think so? Ever invested in the stock market? Tried to guess which Miss America contestant would win the crown? Bet on the Super Bowl? Wondered if that cute girl in accounting would go out with you? Or whether that guy in the black SUV would cut you off right before his lane ends?
And if we're wrong much of the time, that's no reason for us to be disheartened. Even so-called "experts" have made more than their share of misguided predictions. Consider some of these:
"Everything that can be invented has been invented."
- an official at the U.S. Patent Office, in 1899.
"I'm just glad it'll be Clark Gable falling on his face and not Gary Cooper."
- Gary Cooper, after turning down the lead role in Gone with the Wind, 1938.
"No matter what happens, the U.S. Navy is not going to be caught nap ping."
- Secretary of the Navy, Dec. 4, 1941.
"I think there's a world market for about five computers."
- Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943.
"We don't like their sound. Groups of guitars are on the way out."
- Decca executive explaining why his record label wouldn't sign the Beatles, 1962.
The other day I read a set of predictions for the coming century, published by an organization called the World Future Society. These predictions, which were made by a distinguished group of scientists, researchers, and scholars, certainly got me to thinking. See what you think of their Top 10 forecasts for the future:
10. Human population will level off by 2035, while pet populations will increase dramatically.
Guess those of us who are left will have to be more careful where we step when we're out for a walk in the park.
9. Water scarcity could threaten 1 billion people by 2025.
Finally, an excuse to brush our teeth with beer.
8. Ninety per cent of the world's 6,000 languages could be extinct by 2100.
And men and women still won't know what each other are talking about most of the time.
7. The worldwide consumption of meat will double by 2050.
And, amazingly, the size of fast-food burgers will continue to shrink.
6. Farmers will become genetic engineers, growing vaccines as well as food.
Maybe they'll come up with a cure for brussels sprouts.
5. The next century could see widespread infertility and falling birthrates.
And the makers of Pampers will try to persuade us that we should put diapers on all those pets we'll have running around in the future.
4. Tiny electronic microchips implanted in a person's forearm could transmit messages to a computer that controls the heating and light systems of intelligent buildings.
And when that person rolls up his sleeves, the computer will crash.
3. Exercise will promote mental well-being as well as a healthier body, helping people fight chronic pain, depression, chemical dependence, and even schizophrenia.
Silly me. I thought exercise did that now.
2. By 2010, biomonitoring devices that resemble wristwatches will provide wearers with up-to-the-minute data about their health status.
"Hey, buddy, got the time?" "No, but my cholesterol level looks pretty good today."
1. The number of centenarians worldwide will increase from 135,000 to 2.2 million people by 2050.
If I can somehow survive all this other stuff, maybe I'll even be one of them.