Last week science fiction author, inventor, and futurist Sir Arthur C. Clarke passed away at his home in Sri Lanka at the age of 90. Best known for developing 2001: A Space Odyssey with Stanley Kubrick, Clarke was very involved with the study and practice of space exploration. In 1989 he became first Chancellor of the International Space University and in 1998 he was knighted. As an inventor, he was known for his work with radar and satellite communications. As a fiction and non-fiction writer he wrote more than 100 books, and helped shaped our ideas about science fiction. He also starred in several British television series with themes of technology and scientific exploration, including a program in the 80's called Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World, then World of Strange Powers in 1985, and Mysterious Universe in 1994. On his birthday in December of 2007 he recorded a video for his fans and for posterity, with some prescient remarks on the current state of space exploration and technology, his desire to know extra-terrestrial life, the importance of renewable energy, and advocating peace in Sri Lanka.
Things are also changing rapidly in many other areas of science and technology. To give you just one example, the world's mobile phone coverage recently passed 50%, or 3.3 billion subscriptions. This was achieved in just a little over a quarter of a century since the first senator network was set up. The mobile phone has revolutionized human communications and is turning humanity into an endlessly chattering global family. What does this mean for us, as a species? Communications technologies are necessary, but not sufficient, for us humans to get along with each other. This is why we still have many disputes and conflicts in the world. Technological tools helps us to gather and disseminate information, but we also need qualities like tolerance and compassion to achieve greater understanding between peoples and nations. I have great faith in optimism as a guiding principle, if only because it offers us the opportunity of creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. So I hope that we've learned something from the most barbaric century in history, the Twentieth. I would like to see us overcome our tribal divisions, and begin to think and act as if we were one family. That would be real globalization.
Clarke was an avowed atheist and requested that there be no religious
rites whatsoever at his funeral. He stated a bias against religion in
an interview with Alan Watts called "A dialogue on man and his world
and in later interviews, saying that he could not forgive religion for
its history of causing ideological wars. Clarke suffered from
post-polio syndrome and was wheelchair-bound for the later period of
his life, but he continued his life lived in fiction and the
imagination. His most recent book, The Last Theorem, with Frederik
Pohl, will be published later this year. He also leaves behind a legacy
in the Arthur C. Clarke awards for contributions to space exploration
efforts, and the Arthur C. Clarke foundation.
Image used under Creative Commons courtesy of actiondatsun.
Tristan Gulliford is a writer, dreamer, and aspiring myth-keeper who makes electronic music under the name "Dreamcode". He is currently attending the University of Colorado at Boulder.