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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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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