Born almost 100 years ago, Arthur C. Clarke showed an interest in space travel and futuristic ideas from a very early age, which later manifested into predictions that captivated the general public. He began writing science fiction as a teenager, and his works became immensely popular as his career progressed, culminating with the 1964 screenplay 2001: A Space Odyssey, largely considered his most popular work. Throughout his career, Arthur C. Clarke made many futuristic predictions about life and technology, an astounding number of which have come true and are now considered essential to life in the 21st century.
In a 1964 BBC interview titled “Horizon,” Clarke admitted that it was difficult and virtually impossible to accurately predict the future, but that any prediction that did not seem astounding could not possibly be true. He went on to predict that, by the year 2000, communication satellites (what we now call satellite internet) would make it possible for people to communicate instantaneously, regardless of their distance or exact location. He believed telecommunication would make travel and commuting unnecessary for business, except for cases of pleasure, and might even allow a doctor in England to perform surgery on a patient in New Zealand.
Clarke also predicted that this global telecommunication would be highlighted by receiving and transmitting devices that would be so minute every person could carry one in their pocket and believed that one day everyone would be reachable anywhere in the world by simply dialing a sequence of numbers (sound familiar yet?). Clarke even predicted that with global positioning systems, no one would ever need to be lost again. He felt that one day all this information, and more, would be instantaneously available at anyone’s fingertips.
Clarke went on to predict the invention of the replicator, which would be able to produce a copy of anything almost instantaneously. This is especially chilling given the recent rise of 3D printing and how prominent it is becoming as a major technological breakthrough. Today, 3D printers are allowing people to download and print hundreds of thousands of items, ranging from very simple to extremely complex – like food.
Clarke believed that one day artificial intelligence would surpass biological intelligence. Although he believed that organic evolution may be nearing its end, inorganic evolution would rise thousands of times more rapidly than anything produced biologically. He predicted the invention of a machine that would directly record information to the brain, allowing users to learn languages overnight, become skilled laborers in an instant, or relive forgotten memories from long ago. Although this has not yet come to pass, many scientists now believe that the rise of artificial intelligence will be something humanity must deal with within the next generation.
With regard to space travel, Clarke believed that people could be cryogenically frozen in order to travel long distances in space. He was adamant that one day man would be capable of terraforming Mars, and eventually colonize new planets to the point that humans would no longer need need to live in isolated habitats.
Clarke admitted and emphasized the inability of anyone to make completely accurate predictions about the future, and many of his own predictions have not yet come to pass, including super chimpanzees or men colonizing the moon. However, given how many of his predictions have been true, one can only wonder how many of his “failed” predictions are simply on the edge of the horizon. The first human stepping foot on Mars could be only a few years away, and his predictions of terraforming may not be far behind. However viewed, his technological foresight is undeniable and the accuracy of his predictions can only be viewed in the light of the future.
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