If we have learned one thing from the history of invention and discovery, it is that, in the long run – and often in the short one – the most daring prophecies seem laughably conservative. - Arthur C. Clarke
Today one of the great big thinkers passed on. Arthur C. Clarke is, and will always be, one of my favorite authors and prognosticators of the future.
Few authors or business people possess the ability to look towards the future and predict the technologies that would change the world in the way that Clarke did. In 1945, Clarke wrote about communication satellites – before they existed. Clarke suggested that the telegraph allowed for the growth and existence of the United States as a coast-to-coast country in the nineteenth century. He predicted that communications satellites and instant communications would allow for the growth of a united planet someday. He also suggested – in the same breath – that he hoped the growth of a united planet would be "less bloody."
Seth Godin at Seth's Blog sums up his experience working with Clarke in this post.
As a science fiction junkie, I traveled on the Endeavor to catch Rama and the ape-monolith scene in the movie 2001 worked better in the book. A recent work, The Light of Other Days, with Stephen Baxter, was set around a new technology that allowed light through wormholes and eventually through time. With "worm" one could watch Christ at Galilee, figure out who killed Kennedy once and for all or, as Clarke posits what would become the human race's chief use of the technology, use it to spy on your friends and neighbors.
He said that one of his proudest moments was when he met astronauts who told him that they became astronauts because of his fiction. He was quoted on his 90th birthday in 2007: "I have had a diverse career as a writer, underwater explorer and space promoter. Of all these I would like to be remembered as a writer."