Arthur C. Clarke Predicts the Future in 1964 … And Kind of Nails It

In 1964, Sir Arthur C. Clarke, the futur­ist and sci-fi writer best known for his nov­el 2001: A Space Odyssey, peered into the future, to the year 2000, and described what he saw. And a pret­ty good guess it was. Ours would be a world in which…

We could be in instant con­tact with each oth­er, wher­ev­er we may be, where we can con­tact our friends any­where on earth, even if we don’t know their actu­al phys­i­cal loca­tion. It will be pos­si­ble in that age, per­haps only 50 years from now, for a man to con­duct his busi­ness from Tahi­ti or Bali just as well as he could from Lon­don.… Almost any exec­u­tive skill, any admin­is­tra­tive skill, even any phys­i­cal skill, could be made inde­pen­dent of dis­tance. I am per­fect­ly seri­ous when I sug­gest that one day we may have brain sur­geons in Edin­burgh oper­at­ing on patients in New Zealand.

By 2001, Cal­i­for­nia doc­tors were already con­duct­ing vir­tu­al surgery on patients in Rome. And, by 2005, Thomas Fried­man pub­lished his best­seller, The World is Flat, which pret­ty much told us that us that Clarke’s imag­ined world had arrived — with, of course, one big excep­tion. Cities? They’re still stand­ing…

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

Mar­shall McLuhan: The World is a Glob­al Vil­lage

Arthur C. Clarke Presents the Col­ors of Infin­i­ty

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Comments (21)
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  • criolle johnny says:

    If you think cities are still stand­ing, take a good look at Detri­ot, spelling intend­ed.
    Clarke would not rec­og­nize cities as they exist today. Nor would he rec­og­nize sub­urbs exurbs or malls.

  • And this is why we are all telecom­mut­ing today!

  • John says:

    » with, of course, one big excep­tion. Cities? They’re still stand­ing…

    Tell that to Detroit.

  • Cap says:

    …and just a reminder, this is the man that has been cred­it­ed for the con­cept of the com­mu­ni­ca­tions satel­lite. He most cer­tain­ly based his prophe­cies on the premise that there would be com­mu­ni­ca­tions satel­lite net­work in place by then.

  • Felix says:

    “Cities? They’re still stand­ing…”

    Yes, they do, but
    “the tra­di­tion­al role of a city as a meet­ing place for men would have seized to make any sense”
    is true for inter­net mon­keys like myself and maybe you too…

    55 years ago — Clarke was way ahead of his time. Great mind…

  • RalfLippold says:

    “Comm-” — a behav­ior of the present and the future

    Present — com­mute

    Future — COMMUNICATE

    … BTW the future already is tak­ing place while I am writ­ing this or you are read­ing this!

    PS.: I talked to India, Italy, Aus­tria, Cal­i­for­nia, Ugan­da, Ger­many, Eng­land the last two days — and did not have to move my but a mile out of the vicin­i­ty of Dres­den, one of the most beau­ti­ful places I can imag­ine.

  • Ronan L says:

    Clarke was right about the end of cities as cen­tres of pro­duc­tion for their pop­u­la­tions. What is sur­pris­ing many though is how robust they are as cen­tres as con­sump­tion. Not that sur­pris­ing, though, when we remem­ber our evo­lu­tion as a social ani­mal…

  • Carol A says:

    In “Impe­r­i­al Earth” he even pre­dicts the tablet com­put­er! Every­one has a gad­get the size of an IPad which allows inter­net access and com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

  • Jimbob says:

    Now that’s what I call fore­sight. Eat your heart out Nos­tradamus!

  • James says:

    This was not real­ly a pre­dic­tion see­ing as how he was cer­tain this would hap­pen.

    In Novem­ber of 1965 the first civil­ian use of a com­mu­ni­ca­tion satel­lite took place to inform my grand­fa­ther, who was in Africa with Mar­garet Meade, that my moth­er was born (in Flori­da). So, he was speak­ing per­haps a year before…

  • Bruce Long says:

    Per­haps time trav­ellers have turned up and are with us! Who was Clarke’s grand­fa­ther?

  • Bruce Long says:

    Seri­ous­ly, though. Claude E. Shan­non devel­oped the Math­e­mat­i­cal The­o­ry of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions in 1948 while work­ing for Ma Bell. The ARPANET was devel­oped in the late 60s.

  • Bruce Long says:

    The last guess about the remote surgery is, how­ev­er, a bit scary. It would have be hard to guess that. He think that the sur­geons would be doing remote work. That would be very hard to see that ear­ly in the his­to­ry of robot­ics and net­works.

  • Thorn daCosta says:

    The cities of today are Forced
    Con­structs. Kept by social and eco­nom­ic neces­si­ty rather than being vibrant and pos­i­tive con­tri­bu­tions to our world as they once were. If that’s a jux­ta­po­si­tion it’s a sad­ly poing­nient one of our times. Just my opin­ion.

  • David says:

    “The cities of today are Forced Con­structs. Kept by social and eco­nom­ic neces­si­ty rather than being vibrant and pos­i­tive con­tri­bu­tions to our world as they once were.” How are the social and eco­nom­ic ben­e­fits of city life any­thing but pos­i­tive ben­e­fits? I’m liv­ing in a city by choice. How is that “Forced”?

  • Peter Vollan says:

    There are a lot of jobs that can be done from any­where, but employ­ers still have the “indus­tri­al rev­o­lu­tion” men­tal­i­ty that you have to show up and punch a time clock. We’ve got a ways to go yet before we can stop com­mut­ing

  • Jd says:

    Pret­ty sure Detroit is actu­al­ly doing great now. Come check it out

  • WRStark says:

    The dis­agree­ment seen in these com­ments can be tak­en as a mea­sure of the understanding/misunderstanding of ACC’s com­ments.

  • Yancat says:

    Asi­mov did a nice job Of see­ing where we are head­ed in 1954 his nov­el Caves of Steel. The aliens and colonists out­side of Earth cities are dis­ease free and must san­i­tize every­thing an Earth­er liv­ing in a megac­i­ty touch­es. Also nailed beyond meat..refers to it as yeast sub­sti­tute for real food, a real chick­en leg is a lux­u­ry. Sci­fi has always been about irra­tional human behav­iors in hypo­thet­i­cal sit­u­a­tions. …glad I was raised by sci­fi fans and do not lump mag­ic and vam­pires in the genre

  • Cathy says:

    Seems to be quite a bit of “nail on the head” pre­dic­tions. Of course they had plen­ty of time and imag­i­na­tion to think those things. Which are two things we seem to be short on these days. Every­thing is becom­ing more instant grat­i­fi­ca­tion. So that being said I’d pre­dict our future as much less patient, less real human con­tact and last but not least… mon­ey, pol­i­tics and mis­un­der­stand­ings rule our part of the world. Wait.…..nevermind that’s the present. I feel like the gen­er­a­tion before us. Guess I’ll just say “Good Luck” and “Hold On To Each oth­er” to my kids when my turn to be a spec­ta­tor is over. What a wild ride so far. 1960- we’ll see.:)

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