#rsrh QotD, Paul Krugman’s Deliciously Ironic Archived Idiocy edition.

Remember: Nobel. Laureate.

It’s multivalued irony, too.  From a 1998 article where Paul Krugman apparently took to task poor technological prophesying:

The growth of the Internet will slow drastically, as the flaw in “Metcalfe’s law”–which states that the number of potential connections in a network is proportional to the square of the number of participants–becomes apparent: most people have nothing to say to each other! By 2005 or so, it will become clear that the Internet’s impact on the economy has been no greater than the fax machine’s.

…Are we at the point yet where we have to explain to the younger generation what a fax machine is?

Via… somebody on Twitter, sorry.  The social media conversation moved too quickly for me to do more than get a website browser tab up for me to blog about this later.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to set up a streaming video on my TV for my youngest to watch while I use Skype to record a phone interview with a US House candidate in another time zone; said interview will later be turned into a Youtube video that can be embedded into third-party websites – and hopefully generate a decent amount of national awareness (and online fundraising) for the candidate in question.

Try doing that with a fax machine, Paul Krugman.

Moe Lane



  • Skip says:

    He does get one of his predictions more or less right. ” Sometime in the next 20 years, maybe sooner, there will be another ’70s-style raw-material crunch: a disruption of oil supplies, a sharp run-up in agricultural prices, or both. And suddenly people will remember that we are still living in the material world and that natural resources matter.” But he forgot the obvious corollary – that Democrats will do everything they can to keep us from using those natural resources.

  • Finrod says:

    Heh, this one’s right up there with the president of DEC in the 1970s saying how he couldn’t imagine anyone wanting a computer of their own when they could just buy time on a mainframe, or Voltaire responding to Isaac Newton’s analysis that people would some day travel at 50 miles per hour based on the biblical passage about people going to and fro throughout the Earth, by saying “See what doddering fools the Bible makes of men! Anyone knows that if you try to travel at 50mph, you’ll die!”

  • NotSoBlueStater says:

    @Finrod: I had that quote as my sig file years ago. It was the late Ken Olsen, who in 1977 said: “There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.” He claimed he was taken out of context, but it is undeniable that DEC suffered mightily from the fact that its forays into PC were mostly failures. I work in tech. It’s rare for ANY company to get multiple waves of technology right.

  • BCochran1981 says:

    Btw, the fax machine did have an economic impact on certain industries. Take the one I work in for example. We are a small commercial construction sub contractor. Pre-fax, all bids to be submitted had to be either mailed, meaning you had to complete your pricing and get it out days in advance, or hand delivered. That’s extremely inefficient and time consuming. Faxes meant that bids could be sent the day they were due, instantaneously, and allowed you to spend a great deal more time “on task.” Hence, you can bid more work because you’re not spending time hand delivering things. Or, the company is operating more cost-efficiently because we don’t have to pay a delivery service. It also allows for more potential jobs to be more widely dispersed.

  • BigGator5 says:

    That comment about faxes ranks right up there with President Obama’s infamous ATM Machines Costing Jobs moment.

  • Murgatroyd says:

    To build on what BCochran1981 wrote, fax machines also have been credited with helping to bring down the old Soviet Union. They were both a means of communication and also unlicensed printers for samizdat. (Remember, back in those days their Xerox-style copiers had to be licensed, and copies had to be approved and accounted for.)

    But this just means that Krugman was doubly wrong, doesn’t it? Because he obviously meant to imply that fax machines were of negligible importance.

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