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Science fiction and man’s future

December 20, 2010 ・ Blog
2001: A Space Odyssey

Perhaps conspicuously absent from my post on the need for a bit of magic in technology was Arthur C. Clarke’s famous edict, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” I think it kinda supports my point, adding the one that technology and magic aren’t so dissimilar as technology’s relationship with science and magic’s relationship with mysticism might suggest.

Anyway, it also reminds me that I recently listened to an incredible group discussion that was held in May 1970 between Clarke, sociologist Alvin Toffler, who was about to publish Future Shock, and cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead. It’s called 2001: Science Fiction Or Man’s Future?

Though based on the recent release of the film of Clarke’s book, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Clarke’s preoccupation with the effects of space travel on society now sounds naive, while the other two sound brilliantly prescient. Toffler expounds his visions of a intensely participatory future and Mead worries about the aged being increasingly disenfranchised in a society that is continually going through rapid technological change.

Then, though, Clarke was focused on what society must have assumed was humankind’s future, while Toffler and Mead must have seemed boringly preoccupied by decidedly earthly concerns. Just shows how far we’ve come - well, in the sense that we’ve gone comparatively nowhere.

Incidentally, for those who are also fascinated by the past’s visions of the future, you’ll enjoy the excellent Paleo-Future Blog. Go!