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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Arthur C. Clarke: A Guest Post by Elizabeth Eckhart

I am very excited to welcome Elizabeth Eckhart back to A Bookish Affair. Today, she will be talking about Arthur C. Clarke, one of the giants of Science Fiction!







Arthur C. Clarke and His Most Profound Predictions

In a writing career that spanned six decades, Arthur C. Clarke etched his name into the worlds of both science fiction writing and science fact. His most iconic work, 2001: A Space Odyssey became a 1968 Stanley Kubrick directed film classic, with Clarke writing the script. The huge popularity of this work eventually led to three subsequent efforts looking at the Odyssey in 2010, 20161 and 3001.

That original work may actually be supplanted someday by the remarkable insight into the future that Clarke displayed when it came to the future of technology. Below are five areas where his clairvoyance was something to behold:

In May of 1945, Clarke foresaw global communication entities using space satellites, such as satellite internet, television, and the recently popularized satellite radio. The satellites would also be capable of sending rockets into space. Both would become realities within 15-20 years. Clarke’s predictions came just weeks after the end of the European portion of World War II, where he believed that the technology advances by German scientists could be used for more serene purposes than world domination.

Other thinkers derived inspiration from Clarke’s work. Hoard Hughes began work with NASA that yielded the Telstar program in the sixties, which yielded the world’s first transatlantic television broadcast via satellite. That venture ultimately yielded not only satellite tv (details here: http://www.space.com/19756-telstar.html), but also satellite internet (more info here: hughesnetplans.com/satellite-internet). But not only did Clarke help establish the conceptual groundwork for satellite internet as early as 1945, but he also managed to predict the role that the internet would play in a few decades. During a 1974 broadcast on Australian television, Clarke stated that by the year 2000, people would have at their fingertips the capability to do their banking online or make reservations without needing a phone. In truth, the Internet had its origins in the late 1960’s, but it would take nearly another quarter century before the general public would be able to use it in any real capacity. Both of those items Clarke noted were available for much of society 26 years later.

In that same TV appearance in Australia, Clarke made his comments in a room filled with large computers. He indicated that by the time the year 2000 arrived, people would have access to their own private computer that could not only perform the aforementioned tasks, but would also be able to allow for communication with others. In the latter case, that vision foresaw the arrival of such things as e-mail and other message-related aspects that allow a person with their own computer a wider array of opportunities.

And while it might seem impressive that Clarke managed to predict that the technological interfaces themselves would become more compact, would you believe that he had predicted the iPad (not by name, mind you). One decade before predicting the internet, Clarke appeared on a BBC program related to the New York World's Fair and stated that by the turn of the century, people would be able to be in instant contact with others, wherever they may be. During the litigious battle between Apple and Samsung over who created iPhone technology, Samsung attempted to claim that the concept evolved from the Newspads used in his famed novel 2001: A Space Odyssey. One portion of the book actually describes space travelers heading away from earth while being able to look at any newspaper headline, something the iPhone has made commonplace.

The need for traveling to an office either nearby or across the world was something that Clarke’s 1964 comments indicated would be eliminated. Saying that people would be able to do business wherever they wanted is something that’s come to pass. The best evidence comes from the huge growth in people working from their own home, as well as the rapid growth of videoconferencing. In that situation, businesses have no need to transport workers long distances for meetings that can be handled in their own board rooms over a widescreen device.

While Clarke’s predictions didn’t all come true (such as bio-engineered super chimpanzees which sound more than a little terrifying), the scope of his accurate projections are enough to recognize him for his brilliant contributions to the future.

About the author:

Elizabeth Eckhart is an entertainment and film blogger for Directstartv.com, who finds nothing more compelling than a good story, no matter its medium.


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