Nope this isn’t a post about my predictions for 2011 this is instead about predictions in the past that have become busts:
It is always entertaining to look at predictions from the past, and see how far off they were. In the 1920s, the assumption was that by the 1950s, we would all be getting around in flying cars. Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward describes how by the year 2001, capitalism would have completely disappeared (at the instigation of the capitalists, who would see the advantages of socialism), replaced with a democratic socialism where everyone ate in common mess halls, owned everything in common, and there was almost no violence anymore.
Clayton then links to this list of predictions of environmental catastrophes that weren’t and concludes thus:
When scientists make apocalyptic predictions based on claims of science, I expect them to hit their marks, or have a darn good explanation for why not.
The problem being these days that huge amounts of cash ride on these predictions and the right way of looking at things can be the difference between a well-funded grant keeping you in champagne for decades to teaching chemistry at a community college. More importantly with the amounts of money involved any challenge to the orthodoxy becomes not so much a scientific debate as a threat to a person’s standard of living requiring a strong and sometimes devastating counter.
The whole Global Warming bit has become basically a giant 21st century version of The Sting with the taxpayers of the western world as the mark. I predict that when it fails there will be a new version with a new prediction and a new urgency that will drive media coverage and funds for NGO to keep them in caviar for another decade or two.