Posted by: Didapper PJ19 OCT 2011
I just?might have wasted my time writing this page because the world was due to end yesterday, according to doomsday forecaster Harold Camping, founder of the US-based Family Radio network. Mind you, Mr Camping has a poor record for end-of-the-world prophesies, since 21 October was his third effort this year alone, after a number of earlier failed forecasts dating back to 1988.
Camping’s latest prediction will of course have proved wrong, like all the many doomsday forecasts over the centuries, a fascinating account of which can be found at www.religioustolerance.org/end_wrld.htm.
As the physicist Niels Bohr is famously said to have said, “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future” (a quotation that has also been variously attributed to other cynical scientists, along with assorted philosophers, politicians and wits, not to mention sundry celebrities renowned for their verbal mishaps).
While the vast majority of predictions turn out to be hopelessly wrong, conversely many major events can happen without anyone having managed to forecast them at all. A prime example of this is the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
More recent unforeseen events include this year’s “Arab spring” uprisings against apparently stable regimes in North Africa and the Middle East.
A major factor in these more recent rebellions has been public protests organised rapidly through internet-based social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. The facility for speedy contact with many thousands of other people has become an important feature of the internet.
It is now hard to envisage life without the internet, which must be ranked as one of mankind’s most outstanding inventions. But the internet’s development is itself perhaps the greatest global event that no one managed to predict.
Bohr was surely right.