Clarke (1970). The Future Isn’t What It Used To Be.

Clarke, A. C. (1970). The Future Isn’t What It Used To Be. Engineering and Science, XXXIII(7), 4–9.

“… technical developments which make any discussion of the future meaningless. … The second is development of ultra-intelligent machines.” (p 5)

“… the 1890’s are an interesting period … The elements of that revolution are piped water, indoor plumbing, gas cooking and heating, electric light, and the telephone. The only comparable technological advance in the 1,000 years before was the introduction of glass windows.” (p 5)

“‘What about this latest device these ingenious Yankees have invented, the telephone? Do you think this has any applications in England?’ Whereupon the chief engineer of the post office, no less, replied, ‘No, sir. The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys.’ Now, this is what I call a ‘failure of imagination.’ He obviously failed to see in the telephone anything more than a substitute for messenger boys.” (p 6)

“Ultimately this device will be plugged in to a global electronic library, and scholarship will be revolutionized. Another generation, which will take this for granted, will be unable to imagine how we were able to function without this information grid.” (p 7)

“These television cable systems will be connected to the communications satellite system, and all mankind will be involved in an electronic nervous system.” (p 7)

“The Indian government thinks the only way they may be able to solve their twin problems of population growth and improved educational techniques will be through the use of educational TV programs broadcast directly to the villages.

“On the educational level there have been some interesting studies of direct-broadcast satellites. For example, it has been estimated that we can provide 12 channels of color television to every school in a country like Brazil or Mexico. (Latin American countries are particularly promising because there are only one or two languages to deal with.) The cost works out at about $1.00 per pupil per year. No other method of getting information is remotely comparable in cheapness. These communications satellites may drag the whole world out of the Stone Age.” (p 7)

“… the modern United States was created by two inventions a hundred years ago. … the railroad and the electric telegraph.” (p 7)

“… this is the first generation to be reared by three parents. All future generations are going to be reared by three parents, and I know which is going to be the most influential in some families — that little box in the corner. Future generations will learn their vocabularies from it; in many countries they’re going to learn their main language from it.” (p 8)

“One is to abolish sleep; it’s never been proved to be necessary. It may be a bad habit we picked up a billion or so years ago.” (p 8)

“Face-to-face contact will be necessary really only for social occasions. This means, amongst other trivia, that the city is doomed.

“The city was necessary because it was the only way that men could get together to exchange ideas and do business. The communications explosion will render this obsolete.” (p 8)

“There will also be university towns, even in the age of teaching machines and televised lectures. But the vast congregations that have blighted so much of this planet for the last two centuries will slowly fade away.” (p 8)

“The greatest single industry of the future is education. The second greatest industry will be entertainment. And the two, despite the beliefs of some educators, are not necessarily incompatible.” (p 9)

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