September 29, 2021

A Space Odyssey author Arthur C. Clarke predicts modern technology in 1976 interview

Arthur C. Clarke accomplished a lot in his life. Aside from his contributions to satellite...

Clarke, firmly grounded in the 1970s thanks to a wood-paneled interview backdrop.

Arthur C. Clarke accomplished a lot in his life. Aside from his contributions to satellite technology, space travel, and underwater archaeology, Clarke is best known for writing essential works of science fiction such as Childhood’s End and 2001: A Space Odyssey (he also co-wrote the screenplay for the 1968 movie). Given the amount of time he spent thinking about what humanity would look like in the years to come, it isn’t surprising that a video of Clarke predicting the future of communications from the ‘70s would get so much right. He basically provided a broad summary of how we use the internet today.

Resurfacing now thanks to a post at Digg, the clip comes from an interview held during a 1976 MIT and AT&T futurist conference. In it, Clarke runs through some of the developments in communications he believes are likely to occur in the following decades. He outlines the arrival of devices that will allow us to do all sorts of things, like send photos and text to one another easily through tools with HD screens and “a typewriter keyboard.”

Instead of bothering each other when someone’s busy or sleeping, these machines would let us enjoy asynchronous communication—and even call up whole books worth of information about topics that interest us. He also believes we’ll be able to work remotely (which is kind of true now) and that we’ll enjoy a standardized, global time zone (something that exists but hasn’t really caught on). Basically, he describes the kinds of things we now take for granted thanks to the internet.

Not every futurist made predictions as accurate as Clarke’s—probably because he thought more about practicality than how sweet it would be to have a bipedal robot house cleaner. If you’d rather feel smug about how wrong other people were instead of appreciating his foresight, luckily there’s no shortage of those out there, too.

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