Just say no to C, X and Q
As the markets crash rumbles on, it is time for a little fun with forecasting. Of course I have to begin with the traditional quotation that “It’s tough making predictions, especially about the future.” I believe that came from the philosopher Yogi Berra. Today on the BBC’s Business Daily I heard ex-Chancellor Norman Lamont quoting a statistician who said “the past had its own uncertainty, though on the whole, it wasn’t as great as that of the future”. That is because statistics about the past also change and come with their own uncertainties.
But I would like to turn to the Ladies Home Journal December 1900 issue which ran an article by John Elfreth Watkins, Jr. titled “What May Happen in the Next Hundred Years”. I heard about this in a lecture by Peter Norvig, Google’s Director of Research, about the quality of predictions.
Many of the predictions came out close, for example, that “Trains will run two miles a minute, normally”, “There will be air-ships” and “Photographs will be telegraphed from any distance”. Some are sad because they once were true but are now slipping away: “A university education will be free to every man and woman”. And others are worrying because they might come true – “There will be no wild animals except in menageries” – although at the time the prediction was made as an advance waiting to happen.
But my firm favorite is:
There will be No C, X or Q in our every-day alphabet. They will be abandoned because unnecessary. Spelling by sound will have been adopted, first by the newspapers. English will be a language of condensed words expressing condensed ideas, and will be more extensively spoken than any other.
It is time for this prediktion to kome true!