Paths for freedom and progress
Predictions from 60 years ago
Sir Arthur C Clarke CBE FRAS (16 December 1917 – 19 March 2008) was an English science fiction writer, science writer, futurist, inventor, undersea explorer, and television series host. Clarke's science fiction writings earned him the moniker "Prophet of the Space Age". Clarke emigrated to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) in 1956 where he lived until his death.

His books on space travel usually included chapters about other aspects of science and technology, such as computers and bioengineering. He predicted the internet, smart phones, telecommuting, remote surgery, information overload, genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and 3D printing.

His many predictions culminated in 1958 when he began a series of magazine essays which eventually became Profiles of the Future, published in book form in 1962. A timetable up to the year 2100 describes inventions and ideas including such things as a "global library" for 2005.


In a 1959 essay, Clarke predicted global satellite TV broadcasts that would cross national boundaries indiscriminately and would bring hundreds of channels available anywhere in the world. He also envisioned the smart phone, a "personal transceiver, so small and compact that every man carries one". He wrote: "the time will come when we will be able to call a person anywhere on Earth merely by dialing a number." Such a device would also, in Clarke's vision, include means for global positioning so "no one need ever again be lost". Later, in Profiles of the Future, he predicted the advent of such a device taking place in the mid-1980s.

Clarke described a global computer network similar to the modern World Wide Web in a 1964 presentation for the BBC's Horizon programme, predicting that, by the 21st century, access to information and even physical tasks such as surgery could be accomplished remotely and instantaneously from anywhere in the world using internet and satellite communication.

In a 1974 interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the interviewer asked Clarke how he believed the computer would change the future for the everyday person, and what life would be like in the year 2001. Clarke accurately predicted online banking, online shopping, and distance working. Responding to a question about how the interviewer's son's life would be different, Clarke responded: "He will have, in his own house, not a computer as big as this,[points to nearby computer], but at least, a console through which he can talk, through his friendly local computer and get all the information he needs, for his everyday life, like his bank statements, his theatre reservations, all the information you need in the course of living in our complex modern society, this will be in a compact form in his own house ... and he will take it as much for granted as we take the telephone."

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