Tuesday, December 13, 2005

"Wrong expert prediction" site starts with fake quote of Duell

The first quote is

Charles H. Duell, Office of Patents, 1899
Everything that can be invented has been invented.

which quote is an urban legend.

What can you say?

Recall the post on IPBiz of March 2:

Peter Coffee at eWeek wrote:

-->I'd hate to be remembered for a dumb prediction that I didn't even make, but that's the posthumous predicament of Charles Duell. Commissioner of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 1899, Duell never actually said that "everything that can be invented has been invented," notwithstanding 10,000 Web pages claiming that he did.

I'd planned to begin this column by quoting that widely cited misprediction. I wanted to talk about areas of IT that are often said to be near their limits but where likely breakthroughs could disrupt that conventional wisdom.

I quickly discovered, though, that Duell's dictum was a myth. An archivist's study debunked the story in 1940, suggesting that it might have stemmed from an 1843 statement by then-Commissioner of Patents Henry Ellsworth. "The advancement of the arts, from year to year, taxes our credulity," Ellsworth said in his report that year to Congress, "and seems to presage the arrival of that period when human improvement must end."<--

I was surprised that Coffee did not reference a quote by a certain physicist.

Coffee does raise the issue that one can find all sorts of false information on the internet. But one can do the same thing with law reviews.

Coffee mentions other technology:

-->For example, the latest Nikon digital cameras offer "face priority" focusing, using algorithms from the biometrics vendor Identix to spot the faces in a frame and make them sharp. Who would have thought to ask for this until someone offered it? But it will demand more CPU than cameras ever "needed" before.<--

Coffee also mentions HP's crossbar technology:

-->As for any imminent repeal of Moore's Law, silicon transistors aren't the only switches in town. The crossbar latch technology disclosed this month by Hewlett-Packard extends the size of switching devices down to single-digit nanometers, compared with the tens of nanometers where current transistors play. We'll have the CPU cycles that we need.<--

Although there was a recent press release, crossbar technology has been disclosed in HP patents long prior to 2005.

The fake quote of Duell appears in
the Patently-O blog as well as in Joseph Hosteny's article in the May 2005 issue of Intellectual Property Today (pp. 28-29). I had discussed the history of the fake quote in detail in
a post on IPBiz on May 27, 2005.

The use of the fake quote of Duell is amusing. The use of the fake patent grant rate of 97% in law review articles in 2005 is not so amusing. The use of a number, both retracted and criticized, to justify arguments in later law review articles is poor scholarship and is as inexcusable as the failure to Shepardize a case. That this type of thing goes on in 2005 suggests that the writing in law review articles does comprise a vast wasteland.

***See also posts on dontheideaguy.


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