Flashback: Dec 2000 Newspaper Said ‘the Internet May Be Just a Passing Fad’
Technology has a tendency to completely revolutionise the way the world works. At any given time, “experts” speculate about whether a particular technological innovation is likely to succeed. Most often they get it wrong, sometimes spectacularly. Will today’s forecasts about crypto suffer a similar fate?
Forecasts are Difficult
If innovation followed a predictable and linear path, forecasts would be easy. The reality is that innovation tends to be exponential and unexpected. Notwithstanding, it can be fun looking back at some of the more egregious examples in recent history.
Forecasts about the internet proved to be inaccurate at best, but this newspaper headline from December 2000 probably tops the list.
To this day, few will let Nobel laureate and former White House economic adviser Paul Krugman forget his comments made about the internet in 1998.
Misguided technology forecasts are not limited to the internet; they are pervasive throughout history relating to all sorts of innovations:
1966: “Remote shopping, while entirely feasible, will flop” – Time magazine
1981: “Cellular phones will absolutely not replace local wire systems” – Marty Cooper, inventor
1995: “I predict the Internet will soon go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse” – Robert Metcalfe, founder of 3Com
2005: “There’s just not that many videos I want to watch” – Steve Chen, CTO and co-founder of YouTube, expressing concerns about his company’s long-term viability
2007: “There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share” – Steve Ballmer, former Microsoft CEO
How Will Today’s Forecasts About Crypto Look in the Future?
Crypto has always had sceptics questioning its utility, energy use and volatility. Many critics claim it is a scam, or that it is otherwise in a bubble. Of course, there are also constant cries to ban crypto. Unsurprisingly, the banning argument has often been used by the failing incumbents:
Yet somehow these attacks don’t appear to derail the industry, perhaps highlighting what risk analyst Nassim Taleb would describe as its “antifragility”.
It is well documented by now that Bitcoin has been declared dead by the mainstream media at least 420 times. It’s also worth noting that within the past couple of years, countless major financial institutions managing billions of dollars have completed a full 180 when it comes to their views on industry.
Given there are literally thousands of coins and tokens within the crypto ecosystem, not to mention the innovation around DeFi, NFTs, Stablecoins and CBDCs, one would expect the majority of projects within these areas to fail.
The exciting part right now is speculating what will succeed. Only time will tell. Hopefully, our views won’t appear too foolish in hindsight.