Posted December 20 2010, 4:07 AM PST by Geoff Wood

December Perspective: Looking ahead

Posted in Windermere by Geoff Wood

In December of 1900, The Ladies Home Journal published an article titled “What May Happen in the Next Hundred Years.”  It is fascinating.  The author, John Elfreth Watkins, interviewed the “wisest and most careful men in our greatest institutions” and arrived at 29 predictions they felt would happen by 2001.

One of their predictions was titled “Man Will See Around the World.” It read, in part:
“Persons and things of all kinds will be brought within focus of cameras connected electrically with screens at opposite ends of circuits, thousands of miles at a span.”

To me that sounds like the Internet.

It is December again, and beyond all of the holiday festivities it is also prediction season.  It’s that time of year when prognosticators everywhere wax eloquent on what might happen next year and beyond.  Looking back, history is full of predictions from silly to bizarre, and from incredibly wrong to amazingly correct.

Of course, the economy is continually predicted to implode, explode, crash and skyrocket — sometimes in the same year.  In early 1929, a Yale economics professor said, “Stocks have reached a permanently high plateau.” Oops.

Then there was William Thomsen, who was the Royal Society President in the late 1890s. He hit the prediction trifecta: “Radio has no future.” “X-Rays are clearly a hoax.” “The aeroplane is scientifically impossible.”

So history has proven that it’s a tricky business to predict anything. Yet much has been written this year about the housing industry and its demise. As someone who works in this industry, I do not believe the naysayers.  In fact, I have history on my side.


As this year winds down and we look ahead, I think about the famous Kierkagaard quote:  “Life must be understood backwards; but… it must be lived forward.”  Predictions will always be just that. But if you study history, you can usually find data that will help you understand the future.

After all, history does repeat itself.