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Arthur C. Clarke’s eccentric and influential predictions (rossdawson.com)
94 points by Hard_Space on Dec 21, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 5 comments

Many people under the age of 40 will probably not realize what an incredibly insightful prediction this was for 1976:

"You can call in through [a console] any information you want: airline flights, price of things at the supermarket, books you’ve always wanted to read…

News, selectively; you can tell the machine I’m interested in such and such items, sports, politics and so forth, and the machine will go to the main central library and bring all this to you, selectively – just what you want; not all the junk that you have to get when you buy the two or three pounds of wood pulp which is the daily newspaper."

It's sometimes hard for me to articulate to others why I read so much science-fiction, especially to those who see it as just another form of juvenile fantasy. Articles like this serve to illustrate that the writers who are carefully plotting out the future today may end up influencing the future of technology and culture more than they imagined. Clarke, Asimov, PKD, Gibson, they are all accepted as good writers, but I think some day a selection of such writers may be seen as visionaries who not only predicted much of what was to come but significantly influenced the course of that history. Personal computers were widely dismissed in the early days as impractical and unnecessary, yet I suspect it was those engineers who had been exposed to some of the possibilities science fiction writers were imagining for such devices that saw where they might end up. Once the idea of a globally connected network of computers became entrenched in enough people's minds, it was only a matter of time before the problems would be solved. TCP, DNS and HTTP were all important milestones in that path, but we could have converged on another set of protocols if things had been different. Good writers can lay out a vision of the potential in such a system in a way that private business and government usually can't, because they operate on a very different time horizon where they can look past the limitations of what's possible today and imagine what it might become.

I like the inclusion of his "no more cities" idea in this. A short story of his from the 40s, Rescue Party, includes this concept, where everyone lived far apart and flew around in their helicopters.

This is also the story where "a thousand points of light" originated. My conjecture has always been that one of Bush Sr's speech writers cribbed the phrase from Clarke, but it might just be a coincidence.

Saw this on reddit the other day and was very impressed from how much on point his prediction was about modern computers/internet https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bXxyCyDEaEg

Which Arthur C Clarke books would you recommend? Is there a preferred order?

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