Sir Arthur C Clarke 1917 - 2008

Sri Lankabhimanya Sir Arthur Charles Clarke, CBE (16 December 1917–19 March 2008) was a British science fiction author, inventor, and futurist, most famous for the novel 2001: A Space Odyssey, written in collaboration with director Stanley Kubrick, a collaboration which also produced the film of the same name; and as a host and commentator in the British television series Mysterious World.

Clarke served in the Royal Air Force as a radar instructor and technician from 1941-1946, proposed satellite communication systems in 1945 which won him the Franklin Institute Stuart Ballantine Gold Medal in 1963. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1994. He was the chairman of the British Interplanetary Society from 1947-1950 and again in 1953. Later, he helped fight for the preservation of lowland gorillas. He won the UNESCO-Kalinga Prize for the Popularization of Science in 1961.

Clarke emigrated to Sri Lanka in 1956 largely to pursue his interest in scuba diving, and lived there until his death. He was knighted by the United Kingdom in 1998, and was awarded Sri Lanka's highest civil honour, Sri Lankabhimanya, in 2005.

Sir Arthur C Clarke: 90th Birthday Reflections

Arthur C. Clarke formulated the following three "laws" of prediction:

When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right.When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Origin of Three Laws

The first of the three laws, previously termed Clarke's Law, was proposed by Arthur C. Clarke in the essay "Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of
Imagination", in Profiles of the Future (1962).

The second law is offered as a simple observation in the same essay; its status as Clarke's Second Law was conferred on it by others.

In a 1973 revision of his compendium of essays, Profiles of the Future, Clarke acknowledged the Second Law and proposed the Third in order to round out the number, adding "As three laws were good enough for Newton, I have modestly decided to stop there." Of the three, the Third Law is the best known and most widely cited.

Clarke's Third Law codifies perhaps the most significant of Clarke's unique contributions to speculative fiction. A model to other writers of hard science fiction, Clarke postulates advanced technologies without resorting to flawed engineering concepts (as Jules Verne sometimes did) or explanations grounded in incorrect science or engineering (a hallmark of "bad" science fiction), or taking clues from trends in research and engineering (which dates some of Larry Niven's novels). Accordingly, the powers of any future superintelligence or hyperintelligence which Clarke often described would seem astonishing.

But in novels such as The City and the Stars and the story "The Sentinel" (upon which 2001: A Space Odyssey was based) Clarke goes further; he presents us with ultra-advanced technologies developed by hyperintelligences limited only by fundamental science. In Against the Fall of Night the human race has mysteriously regressed after a full billion years of civilization. Humanity is faced with the remnants of its past glories: for example, a network of roads and sidewalks that flow like rivers. Although physically possible, it is inexplicable from their perspective. Clarke's Third Law explains the source of our amazement as our limitation, rather than the impossibility of the technology.

In his 1999 revision of Profiles of the Future, published in London by Indigo, Clarke added his Fourth Law: "For every expert there is an equal and opposite expert."