Arthur C. Clarke Predicts in 2001 What the World Will Look By December 31, 2100


“Clarke sm” by Amy Marash. Licensed under Pub­lic Domain via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

When you want a vision of the future, I very much doubt you turn to Read­er’s Digest for it. But Arthur C. Clarke did once appear in its small-for­mat pages to pro­vide just that, and when Arthur C. Clarke talks about the future, you’d do well to lis­ten. Last year, we fea­tured a 1964 BBC doc­u­men­tary in which the sci­ence-fic­tion lumi­nary pre­dict­ed the inter­net, 3D print­ers, and trained mon­key ser­vants. Today, we’d like to link you up to his Read­er’s Digest pre­dic­tions from the com­par­a­tive­ly recent year of 2001 — one in which, for obvi­ous rea­sons, Clarke made the media rounds — which you can read in full at Some high­lights of his spec­u­la­tive time­line from 2001 to 2100:

  • By 2010, com­mer­cial nuclear devices, house­hold quan­tum gen­er­a­tors, and ful­ly re-engi­neered auto­mo­bile engines will have end­ed the Fos­sil Fuel Age. We’ll have seen the first acknowl­edged human clone and seen off the last human crim­i­nal.
  • By 2020, we’ll have dis­cov­ered a 76-meter octo­pus, fly on “aero­space-planes” (one of which will car­ry Prince Har­ry), and trade in “mega-watt-hours” instead of any now-known cur­ren­cies, and tsunamis caused by a mete­or will wreck the coasts of Green­land and Cana­da (prompt­ing the devel­op­ment of new mete­or-detect­ing tech­nolo­gies).
  • By 2030, arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence will have reached human lev­el, we’ll have land­ed on Mars, com­put­er-gen­er­at­ed DNA will make pos­si­ble a real-life Juras­sic Park, and the neu­ro­log­i­cal “brain­cap” will allow us the direct sen­so­ry expe­ri­ence of any­thing at all.
  • By 2040, the “uni­ver­sal repli­ca­tor” will allow us to cre­ate any object at all in the com­fort of our own homes, result­ing in the phase-out of work and a boom in arts, enter­tain­ment, and edu­ca­tion.
  • By 2050, Buck­min­ster Fuller-style self-con­tained mobile homes become a real­i­ty, and humans scat­tered as far as “Earth, the Moon, Mars, Europa, Ganymede and Titan, and in orbit around Venus, Nep­tune and Plu­to” cel­e­brate the cen­te­nary of Sput­nik 1.
  • By 2090, Hal­ley’s comet will have returned, and on it we’ll have found life forms that vin­di­cate “Wick­ra­mas­inghe and Hoyle’s cen­tu­ry-old hypoth­e­sis that life exists through space.” We’ll also start burn­ing fos­sil fuels again, both as a replace­ment for the car­bon diox­ide we’ve “mined” from the air and to fore­stall the next Ice Age by warm­ing the globe back up a bit.
  • By 2100, we’ll have replaced rock­ets with a “space dri­ve” that lets us trav­el close to the speed of light. And so, Clarke writes, “his­to­ry begins…”

You’ll notice, of course, that we’re already behind Clarke’s vision, accord­ing to which many a still-improb­a­ble devel­op­ment also lies ahead in the near future. In any case, though, the end of crime, the begin­ning of pri­vate space trav­el, and the era of the Dymax­ion home must come soon­er or lat­er, must­n’t they? And as Clarke him­self admits, one plays a mug’s game when one pre­dicts, even when one does it with uncom­mon astute­ness. “In 1971 I pre­dict­ed the first Mars Land­ing in 1994,” he remem­bers in the pre­am­ble to his list. “On the oth­er hand, I thought I was being wild­ly opti­mistic in 1951 by sug­gest­ing a mis­sion to the moon in 1978. Neil Arm­strong and Buzz Aldrin beat me by almost a decade.”

But to this day, Clarke’s score­card looks bet­ter than most of ours: “I take pride in the fact that com­mu­ni­ca­tions satel­lites are placed exact­ly where I sug­gest­ed in 1945, and the name “Clarke Orbit” is often used (if only because it’s eas­i­er to say than ‘geo­sta­tion­ary orbit’).” Who knows what he could tell us to watch out for now if, as he pre­dict­ed in 2001, he’d lived to see his hun­dredth birth­day aboard the Hilton Orbiter Hotel?

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Arthur C. Clarke Nar­rates Film on Mandelbrot’s Frac­tals; David Gilmour Pro­vides the Sound­track

Isaac Asi­mov Pre­dicts in 1964 What the World Will Look Like Today — in 2014

Free Sci­ence Fic­tion Clas­sics on the Web: Hux­ley, Orwell, Asi­mov, Gaiman & Beyond

Bet­ter Liv­ing Through Buck­min­ster Fuller’s Utopi­an Designs: Revis­it the Dymax­ion Car, House, and Map

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture as well as the video series The City in Cin­e­ma and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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