Friday, April 8, 2016

Deferred futures, unvanished cities and bent spoons -- pre-blogging an Arthur C. Clarke thread

This mid-Sixties clip discussing what the world will be like in the early 21st Century is fascinating on its own but it also fits in with a number of running threads.

For Ddulites, the Sixties was a pivotal era, arguably the last period when technological and scientific progress was outpacing expectations virtually across the board. Most of Clarke's predictions outside of telecommunication seem overly optimistic, but in 1964, they were entirely reasonable extrapolations of the trends of the Post-war Era.

The technology that comes closest to living up to the predictions is not surprisingly in one of Clarke's areas of expertise, telecommunications. Among other things, he largely called the internet but incorrectly predicted that telecommuting would kill cities. Though the utopian urbanists would have a different explanation, I suspect this misstep is also mainly due to Clarke's 1964 outlook. The balance of power between labor and management was very different fifty years ago, particularly for employees with technical backgrounds or pretty much any kind of advanced degree. These days employers are used to getting the person they want at the location they want for the period they want.

Though not directly relevant to in the video, Clarke is an excellent case to start with when digging into the complex and shifting attitudes of the Twentieth Century scientific community towards the paranormal. In the middle of the century, it seems to have been fairly credulous (even Einstein was open to telepathy); by the end, belief among the serious seems to have dried up entirely (This certainly sped the  decline). The Clarke of 1964 was well on his way to being a true believer. He'd be hanging out with Uri Geller ten years later, then declaring himself a total skeptic by the early Nineties.

More on these threads soon (I know I always say that but this time I really mean it).

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