Some Really Stupid Things Uttered By Some Really Smart People

Some Really Stupid Things Uttered By Some Really Smart People
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"Remain calm, all is well."

--Kevin Bacon, "Animal House"

History is littered with very smart people saying very stupid things.

Here are some examples of quotes that their authors would like to take back:

* Irving Fisher (economics professor at Yale University in 1929): " Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau."
* Albert Einstein: "There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will."
* The president of Michigan Savings Bank urging Henry Ford not to invest in The Ford Motor Company:  "The horse is here to stay but the automobile is a novelty, a fad."
* Ken Olsen (president of Digital Equipment and MIT graduate): "There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home." 
* Tom Watson, IBM chairman (1943): "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."
* Bill Gates (2004): "Two years from now spam will be solved."
* You Tube Founder Steve Chen: "(I am worried that) there's just not that many videos people want to watch."
* Robert Metcalfe (inventor of ethernet): "I predict the Internet will soon go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse."
* Darryl F. Zanuck (founder of 20th Century Fox studio): "People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night."
* Clifford Stoll (astronomer and author of Silicon Snake Oil (1995): "Nicholas Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Lab, predicts that we'll soon use books and newspapers straight over the Internet. Uh, sure!"
* And another head scratcher From Bill Gates: "No one will need more than 637KB of memory for a personal computer. 640KB ought to be enough for anybody."  
* Linus Torvalds (founder of Linux): "Really, I'm not out to destroy Microsoft. That will just be a completely unintentional side effect." 
* Steve Ballmer, former Microsoft CEO (2007): "There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance."
* Steve Jobs (2008) in discussing Amazon Kindle: "The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don't read any more."
* New York Times (1936): "A rocket will never be able to leave the earth's atmosphere."
* Henry Morton, president of Stevens Institute of Technology on Thomas Edison's light bulb (1880): "Everyone acquainted with the subject will recognize it as a conspicuous failure." 
Variety passing judgment on rock 'n roll (1955): " It will be gone by June."
* Book publishing executive writing to J.K. Rowling (1996): " Children just aren't interested in witches and wizards anymore."
* Astronomer Simon Newcomb (1888): "We are probably nearing the limit of all we can know about astronomy."
* Newsweek predicting where popular holidays will be in the late 1960s: "And for the tourist that really wants to get away from it all, safaris in Vietnam."
* Senator James Inhofe (R-Ok) in 2004: "God's still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we human beings would be able to change what HE is doing in the climate is to me outrageous."

And over a decade ago we had some unique pearls of wisdom from...

Dumb

"All this time I've been going through such pain and personal ANGUISH ... SUCH HELL, for NOTHING!"

"Life is a fragile thing, Har. One minute you're chewin' on a burger, the next minute you're dead meat."

--Lloyd, "Dumb and Dumber"

Dumb: Ben Bernanke, the former Federal Reserve chairman, who famously made the following statements shortly before The Great Recession during the 2005-07 period: 

"We've never had a decline in house prices on a nationwide basis. So, what I think what is more likely is that house prices will slow, maybe stabilize, might slow consumption spending a bit. I don't think it's gonna drive the economy too far from its full employment path, though." (July, 2005)

"With respect to their safety, derivatives, for the most part, are traded among very sophisticated financial institutions and individuals who have considerable incentive to understand them and to use them properly." (November, 2005)

"Housing markets are cooling a bit. Our expectation is that the decline in activity or the slowing in activity will be moderate, that house prices will probably continue to rise." (February, 2006)

"At this juncture, however, the impact on the broader economy and financial markets of the problems in the subprime market seems likely to be contained. In particular, mortgages to prime borrowers and fixed-rate mortgages to all classes of borrowers continue to perform well, with low rates of delinquency." (March, 2007) 
 
And to cap all these extraordinarily stupid quotes over the years, on Tuesday at a presentation in England we got:

"Would I say there will never, ever be another financial crisis? ... You know, probably that would be going too far, but I do think we're much safer and I hope that it will not be in our lifetimes and I don't believe it will be."

 --Janet Yellen

I don't know whether I should laugh or cry.

Doug Kass is president of Seabreeze Partners Management Inc. This essay originally appeared at TheStreet.com.  

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