Tag Archives: conjecture

Wholesale returns of conjecture

A new year has dawned and, once again, we’re hearing a lot about trends and about how things will look in the future.

I hold with what Mark Twain said about spotting and predicting trends:

In the space of one hundred and seventy-six years the Lower Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles. That is an average of a trifle over one mile and a third per year. Therefore, any calm person, who is not blind or idiotic, can see that in the Old Oolitic Silurian Period, just a million years ago next November, the Lower Mississippi River was upwards of one million three hundred thousand miles long, and stuck out over the Gulf of Mexico like a fishing-rod. And by the same token any person can see that seven hundred and forty-two years from now the Lower Mississippi will be only a mile and three-quarters long, and Cairo and New Orleans will have joined their streets together, and be plodding comfortably along under a single mayor and a mutual board of aldermen. There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact. (from Life on the Mississippi)

If Twain were alive today, I think he’d raise an eyebrow at some things that are being touted as surefire trends. Continue reading