While the above predictions are all well and good, it's worth it to take a look at Arthur C. Clarke's own track record before we begin to giggle with glee the Universal Replicator and Quantum Generators. The following is a list of predictions made by him in his 1963 book Profiles of the Future. A similar chart appears in the back summarizing his beliefs in the events of the future. The chart differs from the one above mainly in the broadness and generality of its ideas; some of the events mentioned above are almost guaranteed to occur (for instance, the return of Halley's Comet, the Cassini space mission, etc.) On the other hands, some of the other events in the timeline are just sad reminders of the doddering state of Arthur C. Clarke's intelligence, and his further decent into senility. For some unknown reason, in several recent interviews, he seems convinced that cold fusion exists and that small cold fusion generators are widely used in homes across Russia.

Nevertheless, here's Arthur C. Clarke's timeline of the future, from 1970 to 2100.

Transportation

1970-1980
Space Lab
Lunar landing
Nuclear Rocket
1980-1990
Planetary Landings
1990-2010
Colonizing Planets
2010-2020
Earth probes (i.e into the earth's core)
2020-2030
Interstellar Probes
2030-2050
Not much happens
2050-2060
Gravity Control
"Space Drive"
2060-2080
Near-light speeds
2080-2090
Interstellar flight
2090-2100
Matter transmitter
Meeting with extra-terrestrials

Communication

1970-1980
Translating machines
1980-1990
Personal Radio (essentially a cellphone)
1990-2000
Artificial Intelligence
2000-2010
Global Library
2010-2020
Telesensory devices
2020-2030
Logical languages
Robots
2030-2050
Contact with extra-terrestrials
2050-2060
Memory playback
Mechanical Educator
2060-2080
Coding of artifacts
2080-2090
Machine intelligence exceeds man's
2090-2100
World brain

Materials Manufacturing

1970-1980
Efficient electric storage
1980-2000
Fusion power
2000-2010
Wireless energy
Sea mining
2010-2020
Weather Control
2020-2040
Space mining
2040-2050
Transmutation
2050-2070
Planetary engineering (i.e. terraforming)
2070-2080
Climate Control
2080-2090
Replicator
2090-2100
Astronomical engineering

Biology and Chemistry

1970-1980
Cetacean languages
1980-2000
Exobiology
Cyborgs
2000-2010
Time and Perception enhancement
2020-2030
Control of heredity.
2030-2040
Bioengineering.
2040-2050
Intelligent animals.
2050-2060
Suspended animation.
2060-2070
Artificial Life
2090-2100
Immortality

Physics

1970-1990
Gravity Waves
2000-2010
Sub-nuclear structure
2020-2030
Nuclear catalysts
2060-2070
Space and time distortion


It's quite clear how many of the predictions Clarke made have not yet occurred -- things such as fusion power, nuclear rockets, and artificial intelligence. On the other hand, such things as the global library and bioengineering exist far before his predicted date. This is a sign of how difficult making accurate predictions is.

To some extent, this is also a continuing example of our inability to learn from our mistakes. Or: Nothing succeeds as planned. Or: Every Change is for the Worse. Meaning: we are all acquainted with the stories of predictions gone terribly awry. 640K is good enough for everyone, there's a world market for only 5 computers, No machine heavier than air will ever fly, etc. In the past 50 years, as a way to stop repeating these mistakes from the past, prognosticators just did the opposite -- instead of healthy pessimism, we were brimming with dumb-faced optimism. Flying cars! Nuclear fusion! Super-intelligent laser-monkey-slaves! While the first half of the century was a time of exceeded expectations, it seems safe to say that the second half was one of unfulfilled expectations. Try to keep that in mind next time you're gushing about the latest futuristic, wireless, virtual reality, genetically modified universe you've read about in Wired or Popular Science.

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