Blockchain and the humor of bad predictions

The pitted history of innovation is fraught with bad information, poor advice, and unstable experts. The overly enthusiastic to the sorely pessimistic — listen for a balanced tone.

One expert is right. One expert is wrong.

Swimsuit or raincoat?

How accurate are predictions? Every day we have plans. Even if that plan is to do nothing. At some point understanding the weather becomes a factor in the decision of what to do, where to go or what to wear. A product manager at Minitab answered a question we have wondered about. How accurate are those weather forecasters?

There are three main forecast periods: 10-day, five-day and next-day. The experiment recorded 10-day, five-day, and next-day weather forecasts. Over 30 days, the rolling forecast and the actual weather was recorded. Some days were more accurate than others. Not surprising, the 10-day forecast was less accurate than the five-day forecast, and the five-day was less accurate than the next-day forecast.

As the prediction date moved closer to the actual date, less variability was observed in the prediction. Usually, we’re talking about the standard deviation of defects, whether in the technological or manufacturer space. However, in our case, we’re talking about the extent which one weather forecaster would agree with another. Do experts mostly agree or mostly disagree? A low standard deviation isn’t always good, and a high isn’t always bad. Standard deviation is a factor of the observation data spread. In our case, how close one weather forecaster is to another in their predictions to the actual forecast.

The standard deviations varied based on the forecast period. The 10-day forecast had a standard deviation of 6.2 degrees, with the high temp off as much as 8 degrees and the low temp off by as much as 17 degrees. The standard deviations of the five-days (4.3 degrees) and the next-days (2.1 degrees) were less pronounced.

Source: minitab

Does any of this even matter? What if we weren’t talking about weather forecasters? What if we were talking about experts predicting the lack of impact of blockchain on business or experts predicting the impact of new innovative technologies? Think about the business impact of blockchain in 10 years, five years and one year.

Brilliant innovations or dreadful embarrassments?

It depends on which expert you ask. Television, radio, telephone, transportation, computers, space exploration and medicine are riddled with renowned experts who offered horrible predictions. The most humorous were the most pessimistic. Keep that in mind as experts offer ridiculously pessimistic outlooks on the impact of blockchain technologies on the business, the economy, and the world.


Television won’t be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.

– Darryl F. Zanuck, Head of 20th Century-Fox, 1946.

20th Century-Fox, started in 1949 with shows on ABC and CBS, later evolving into the Fox Television Network.


Radio has no future.

– Lord Kelvin, British mathematician and physicist, ca. 1897

As of Oct. 22, 2016, the market capitalization of Sirius XM Holdings was $20.2 billion.


This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a practical form of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.

– Western Union internal memo, 1878

Verizon, the largest player in the wireless market wireless, saw operating income margin at 32.7% for FY 2015 on revenues of $131.6 billion – not bad for a market that is of “no value.”


What can be more palpably absurd than the prospect held out of locomotives traveling twice as fast as stagecoaches?

– The Quarterly Review, England, 1825

Yahoo Finance reports that the market capitalization of the railway industry at $317,948 billion in 2016.


“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”

– Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977

The personal computer industry is about $24 billion, not bad considering that smartphones have shifted the PC market. Adding smartphones (iPhone, Android) dramatically raises this growth estimates. Global revenue from smartphones exceeded $400.7 billion in 2015.

Space exploration

There is no hope for the fanciful idea of reaching the moon because of insurmountable barriers to escaping the Earth’s gravity.

– Dr. Forest Ray Moulton, University of Chicago astronomer, 1932

In 1959, the Soviet Union made the first spacecraft landings on the lunar surface with Luna 2 and Luna 3. The United States reached the moon in 1964 and 1965 with Ranger 7 and Ranger 8.


The abdomen, the chest and the brain will forever be shut from the intrusion of the wise and humane surgeon.

– Sir John Eric Ericson, Surgeon to Queen Victoria, 1873

In 1967, a South African physician, Dr. Christiaan Barnard, performed the world’s first human-to-human heart transplant at Groote Schuur Hospital, Cape Town.

What did each of these individuals have in common? They all were among the most renowned industry experts of their times, and each offered horrible advice. It’s comical to think about big innovations ignored by experts occurring 100 or 200 years ago.

What are the innovations in experimentation today that experts have dismissed? Telsa? Airbnb? Next-generation sequencing (NGS)? VR headsets (sports, shopping, therapy)? Blockchain?

Peter B. Nichol, empowers organizations to think different for different results. You can follow Peter on Twitter or his personal blog Leaders Need Pancakes or Peter can be reached at pnichol [dot]

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Peter is a technology executive with over 20 years of experience, dedicated to driving innovation, digital transformation, leadership, and data in business. He helps organizations connect strategy to execution to maximize company performance. He has been recognized for Digital Innovation by CIO 100, MIT Sloan, Computerworld, and the Project Management Institute. As Managing Director at OROCA Innovations, Peter leads the CXO advisory services practice, driving digital strategies. Peter was honored as an MIT Sloan CIO Leadership Award Finalist in 2015 and is a regular contributor to on innovation. Peter has led businesses through complex changes, including the adoption of data-first approaches for portfolio management, lean six sigma for operational excellence, departmental transformations, process improvements, maximizing team performance, designing new IT operating models, digitizing platforms, leading large-scale mission-critical technology deployments, product management, agile methodologies, and building high-performance teams. As Chief Information Officer, Peter was responsible for Connecticut’s Health Insurance Exchange’s (HIX) industry-leading digital platform transforming consumerism and retail-oriented services for the health insurance industry. Peter championed the Connecticut marketplace digital implementation with a transformational cloud-based SaaS platform and mobile application recognized as a 2014 PMI Project of the Year Award finalist, CIO 100, and awards for best digital services, API, and platform. He also received a lifetime achievement award for leadership and digital transformation, honored as a 2016 Computerworld Premier 100 IT Leader. Peter is the author of Learning Intelligence: Expand Thinking. Absorb Alternative. Unlock Possibilities (2017), which Marshall Goldsmith, author of the New York Times No. 1 bestseller Triggers, calls "a must-read for any leader wanting to compete in the innovation-powered landscape of today." Peter also authored The Power of Blockchain for Healthcare: How Blockchain Will Ignite The Future of Healthcare (2017), the first book to explore the vast opportunities for blockchain to transform the patient experience. Peter has a B.S. in C.I.S from Bentley University and an MBA from Quinnipiac University, where he graduated Summa Cum Laude. He earned his PMP® in 2001 and is a certified Six Sigma Master Black Belt, Masters in Business Relationship Management (MBRM) and Certified Scrum Master. As a Commercial Rated Aviation Pilot and Master Scuba Diver, Peter understands first hand, how to anticipate change and lead boldly.